CARSON, CA (BDCi) – – You knew MLS all-time leading scorer Landon Donovan wouldn’t go quietly in his last play-off run with the Los Angeles Galaxy. But scoring a “hat trick” against one of the premier goalkeepers in the country? Leading a proud team to a thumping over last season’s Western Conference champions? No one, not even LD himself could have predicted it.
Predictions aside, Donovan’s 3 goals along with one each from Robbie Keane and Marcelo Sarvas deep-sixed the Real Salt Lake club 5-0 in front of a full house (27,000) at the Stub Hub Center Sunday.
The barrage of offense started early as Donovan headed in a perfect lob pass from AJ DeLaGarza in the 10th minute. Then it was Donovan’s turn ten minutes later to dish to an open Robbie Keane who jumped on-side just in time to blast a one-touch into the net past keeper Nick Rimando.
The match stayed 2-0 into the second half, but it was Donovan again who handled the dagger. In the 55th minute, Keane found Donovan who zipped past RSL’s Tony Beltran and then went wide around a challenging Nick Rimando and fired in a laser shot from the left side to make the game 3-0. That gave the Ontario-born midfielder two goals, which established him as the only player in MLS history to have 5 multiple-goal games when it matters: play-off time.
As if the game wasn’t getting more and more away from RSL, Marcelo Sarvas out-dueled Ned Grabavoy in the box in the 63rd minute and hit a low shot that somehow Nick Rimando could not stop from hitting the back of the net. L.A. went up 4-0, and the victory party started.
But just to remind the L.A. Galaxy faithful of his flair for the dramatic, Donovan took a beautiful chip cross from Keane in the 72nd minute and drilled the hat-trick-maker past a “violated” Nick Rimando.
The 5-0 defeat is the worst the Real Salt Lake team has experienced in the play-offs and the first time numero cinco has been tattoed on them.
The Galaxy defense, impacted hugely by Brazilians at midfield – Sarvas and Juninho – and Leonardo at center back, only let 4 shots reach their vaunted goalkeeper Jaime Penedo.
Per Coach Bruce Arena after the game, the outcome of the game was not a shock. “We played well. We trained well this week, and we fully expected to win this game. Obviously the result is a little surprising”
When asked if Landon Donovan should reconsider retiring after a performance like this one, Arena didn’t hesitate. “No. It’s the right time. Landon’s prepared himself well to end his career on a high note this season, and go on with the rest of his life.”
With the win by Los Angeles, 3 of the 4 semi-finalists in the MLS have been determined. In the Eastern Conference, the surprising New York Red Bulls will face the dominating New England Revolution.
And in the Western Conference, the Galaxy await Monday’s semi-final match between first place Seattle (playing at home) and FC Dallas; the first leg ended in a tie 1-1.