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GALAXY 2, D.C. UNITED 2

Galaxy's season gets off to ragged start in 2-2 tie

Landon Donovan scores twice against D.C. United, but kinks are obvious and the officiating draws some criticism.

March 23, 2009|Grahame L. Jones

Landon Donovan, who led Major League Soccer with 20 goals last season, scored twice in the final 10 minutes Sunday afternoon as the Galaxy salvaged a 2-2 tie with D.C. United in a curiously unsatisfying game at the Home Depot Center.

It was the MLS season opener for both teams, and the players showed that there are still plenty of kinks to be worked out.

The officiating was equally ragged, with referee Jair Marrufo awarding two penalty kicks, one to each team, and not being at the top of his game, either.

The first call was against Galaxy midfielder Dema Kovalenko, who was somewhat harshly judged to have been holding D.C. United's Christian Gomez, who scored on the resulting spot kick moments before halftime.

The call was made not by Marrufo but by assistant referee Fabio Tovar.

The second was a handball call against D.C. United defender Rodney Wallace, who clearly blocked a cross with his thigh, not his hand. This time, Marrufo made the call and Donovan scored on the resulting kick in the 80th minute.

"Either penalty kick, I think both teams could debate whether they were penalties or not," said Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena.

Tom Soehn, D.C.'s coach, was more upset about Marrufo not stopping play after United players Devon McTavish and Greg Janicki clashed heads in a brutal aerial collision.

"The referee has got to use a little bit better judgment," Soehn said.

"They've talked about [players] not kicking the ball out of bounds [to stop play] and that it's the referee's discretion when to stop a game. You could hear that clash from where I was. You've got to use common sense and stop a game. I mean, you've got two guys lying down with bleeding heads."

The incident occurred in the 76th minute, with D.C. United ahead, 2-0. Both injured players left the field and D.C. United had to play two men down because it failed to get substitutes on quickly enough.

Janicki needed stitches but eventually returned. McTavish did not.

Donovan's penalty-kick goal came while D.C. United was still shorthanded, and it cut the deficit in half for Los Angeles. When Donovan headed home a deep cross from Kyle Patterson in the 85th minute, it tied the game and earned the Galaxy a point.

"I think we come away disappointed," Soehn said. "I thought we deserved a little bit more. In the opening games of the season, there's turmoil and you never know what to expect.

"Ultimately, L.A. never quit, give them credit for that, they fought until the end and came out with a point."

The second D.C. United goal, which should have secured the team the victory, came when former UC Santa Barbara forward Chris Pontius of West Covina curled a 19-yard shot into the net in the 62nd minute after the Galaxy defense failed to close him down.

"We didn't do well on that play," Arena said. "There was a lack of communication [and] a lack of understanding."

Still, Arena praised his team's overall effort.

"Maybe at the end of the day the result is fair," he said. "We could be better in every area. . . . So far it's OK. It's certainly not good enough, but it's OK at this point."

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grahame.jones@latimes.com

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