Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Saunders leaps above a group of players to grab the… (Doug Pensinger / Getty Images )
The strange thing about turning points is you don't often know they've taken place until weeks, sometimes months, later.
Just don't say that too loudly around the players on the Galaxy, though, because they're trying to convince themselves they've already experienced the moment when their luck began to change for the better. It came last week in Colorado, a minute into stoppage time, when a controversial foul call gave the Rapids' Omar Cummings a chance to extend the Galaxy's winless streak on the road with a penalty kick.
But Josh Saunders' diving stop not only saved the game, it also may have helped save the season.
"You never know how things shake out, but it could mean the difference between a playoff spot or not," captain Landon Donovan said. "It could potentially be a Supporters' Shield-saving moment. That's a big save."
Whether any of that proves true won't be known for months, of course. But what is certain is that Saunders' save changed both the mood and the confidence of his teammates heading in Saturday night's rematch with visiting FC Dallas. (For results, go to latimes.com/sports/soccer.)
"The spirit's really good now," Donovan said of the Galaxy, which has won consecutive games for the first time this season, evening its record at 3-3.
Added midfielder David Beckham: "Situations like that can always bring teams together. It can definitely psych a team up and push us into a different level."
And the Galaxy have been anything but level this season, losing three of its first four matches and being held without a shot on goal in its first road game. Then after outplaying the Rapids through regulation, it looked as if it would wind up with another bad result when Cummings lined up for a potentially game-tying penalty kick in stoppage time.
"Saves like that [that] win us the game at the end of the day, they're the kinds of things that obviously you need from your goalkeeper," Beckham said.
Saunders was also involved in the Galaxy's turning-point moment last season. Midway into a June match in San Jose, the team lost starting goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts to a broken arm. Saunders came off the bench but lasted just 19 minutes before going off with a red card, forcing forward Mike Magee to play the entire second half in goal.
Magee made three saves to complete the shutout, and the Galaxy lost just three of its final 15 games to finish with the best record in the league.
"You look at moments like that and you hope that those are the moments that change the season around," said Saunders, who had never stopped a penalty kick in seven previous MLS seasons. "Hopefully that is a little bit of a turning point for us."
For his part, Coach Bruce Arena is holding out for more. Given his team's luck — which Arena insists has been mostly bad — he figures the Galaxy is still running a deficit in the "fortunate breaks" department this season.
"It could be the defining moment," he said. "Hopefully that gives us the kind of momentum we need. [But] these things go in cycles. You'd like to believe it all evens itself out.
"If it evens itself out, we have a few more breaks ahead of us."