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Boys from Brazil spark Galaxy victory

Juninho's second-half goal breaks a tie and recently acquired defender David Junior Lopes solidifies a previously shaky defense in a 3-1 victory over the Portland Timbers.

April 15, 2012|By Kevin Baxter
  • David Beckham slides on his knees to celebrate his goal in the second half of the Galaxy's 3-1 victory over Portland on Saturday night at the Home Depot Center.
David Beckham slides on his knees to celebrate his goal in the second half… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )

If you were to combine Juninho and David Junior Lopes and divide by two, you'd wind up with two average-sized soccer players — not to mention an even number of names for both.

Taken as they are, the 5-foot-7 Juninho and his 6-foot-3 Brazilian countryman were the largest and smallest of the Galaxy's outfield players Saturday.

And together they played the biggest roles in a 3-1 victory over the Portland Timbers before an announced crowd of 22,143 at the Home Depot Center.

Juninho's contribution came on offense, where his goal in the 83rd minute snapped a 1-1 tie and helped give the slumping Galaxy only its second win of the season. To get it, the diminutive midfielder had to first battle Darlington Nagbe for control of the ball just outside the 18-yard box, then spin away from the Portland forward and drive a hard shot into the back of the net.

Lopes, acquired in a trade with Chivas USA on Tuesday, made his mark on the other half of the field, where he plugged a gaping hole in a defense that has proved to be the most porous in the Western Conference without the injured Omar Gonzalez.

"He was possibly the man of the match," said midfielder David Beckham, whose insurance goal in bonus time accounted for the final score. "He was fighting for the ball, winning balls. He's a great addition to the team."

But Lopes also gave Beckham someone to shoot at on set plays — something he has lacked since the 6-5 Gonzalez tore up a knee. And twice in the second half Lopes narrowly missed scoring on corner kicks.

On the first chance, the ricochet of a Beckham corner appeared to surprise him in front of an open net, bouncing off his body and beyond the end line.

"That was really bad luck on that one," Lopes said. "Sometimes it's harder to miss than to make it."

Minutes later another corner kick found him in better position, but midfielder Franck Songo'o made a spectacular save of his driving header.

"David's a big target. He's not afraid to put his head on the ball," Beckham said.

Despite all that, Portland led for much of the first half on Kris Boyd's goal in the 23rd minute — one the Galaxy argued should have been disallowed because Portland was offside.

The play started with forward Nagbe gaining possession of the ball in the Galaxy end and sending it ahead to Eric Alexander, who in turn fed Boyd streaking up the left wing. From there Boyd had little trouble beating Galaxy keeper Josh Saunders to the far post.

Landon Donovan's goal, after some work by Robbie Keane, tied it in the 44th minute.

The Galaxy, which didn't manage a shot on goal in its road loss to Kansas City a week ago, was an offensive juggernaut by comparison Saturday, peppering Portland keeper Troy Perkins with 11 shots, beginning in the ninth minute when Chad Barrett sent a low left-footed shot across the front of the goal that keeper Perkins got a hand on.

Moments later Mike Magee sent a soft chip shot on the net that Perkins pulled into his chest and then in the 14th minute Perkins had to leap to bat away a scorching Beckham free kick from just outside the 18-yard box.

In the second half defender Sean Franklin sent a pair of hard shots over the top of the net.

"Just moving as a team, that made the difference," Beckham said of the Galaxy, which controlled possession for most of the game. "We haven't done that all season."

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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