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Galaxy finding fine form

Magee, Keane and Donovan score in the first half as defending MLS champions win their third in a row.

June 24, 2012|By Kevin Baxter
  • Landon Donovan scores on a penalty kick in the first half against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Landon Donovan scores on a penalty kick in the first half against the Vancouver… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )

For most of the Major League Soccer season, about the only thing this year's Galaxy team had in common with last year's champions was the uniform.

That appears to be changing.

Saturday night, in its most complete performance of the season, the Galaxy blitzed the Vancouver Whitecaps, 3-0, before an announced crowd of 21,529 at the Home Depot Center. That not only ran the team's season-best winning streak to three games, but it also gave the Galaxy nine points in the last seven days — or eight more than it had earned in the previous seven weeks.

And the results on the scoreboard aren't the only thing different now.

“I think we changed our culture, day in and day out,” said midfielder Mike Magee, who got the rout started in the 16th minute with his second goal in as many games. “We realized that we were doing all the things wrong. All the little things. In preparation. In training.

“We were even treating each other bad as teammates. So we changed all that. And obviously it's been showing.”

It's showing in the Galaxy's style of play, which now features the same combination of suffocating defense and relentless offense that paved the way to an MLS title last year.

“We're slowly becoming a good team,” Coach Bruce Arena said. “And inside our locker room we understand what it takes to become a good team.

“We're moving forward, but we have a long way to go.”

Arena has not used the same lineup in consecutive regular-season games since May 2011. But he might want to keep the one he used Saturday when he moved midfielder Landon Donovan up front to start next to Robbie Keane, back from six weeks with the Irish national team.

Both players responded with first-half scores as the Galaxy matched its 2012 high for goals in the first 41 minutes.

Magee opened the scoring after a wild scramble in front of the net that saw three players — Juninho, David Junior Lopes and Donovan — get a head or a foot on the ball before it landed at Magee's feet near the right post. From there he tapped it in.

Keane doubled the advantage in the 30th minute, taking a soft pass from Donovan at the left side of the box, forcing his way between two defenders and slipping a right-footed shot into the lower right-hand corner of the goal.

After scoring, Keane raced to the bench and grabbed a white Galaxy jersey, holding it before the TV cameras so the message “RIP James Nolan” could be read.

Nolan was an Irish soccer fan who was found dead in a Polish canal last week during the Euro 2012 tournament, the victim of what was ruled an accidental drowning. Keane, captain of the Irish national team, spent part of Saturday talking to Nolan's father.

Keane set up the next goal when Whitecaps captain Jay DeMerit, trying to defend Keane in the box, was called for a hand ball. Donovan calmly converted the penalty kick a minute later, giving the Galaxy a commanding 3-0 lead.

“I thought Landon was absolutely fabulous this week,” Arena said of Donovan, who had two goals in a victory over Real Salt Lake on Wednesday.

Saturday's score was the 120th in regular-season play for Donovan, making him the third player in MLS to do that, after Jeff Cunningham and Jaime Moreno.

And speaking of milestones, the three first-half goals marked the first time the Galaxy scored three times before intermission in more than two years.

With 13 shots by Los Angeles in the opening 45 minutes, the game could have been far more one-sided, but Donovan twice missed the net completely at the end of clean breakaways and midfielder Hector Jimenez also pushed a shot wide to the far side after coming in alone on Vancouver keeper Joe Cannon.

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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