Donovan sensed a quiet confidence among his Los Angeles Galaxy teammates that they were not out of the game. He shared that feeling, figuring the Galaxy had the right players to make some special plays.
“Even though they scored those two goals, we didn’t feel bad about how we were playing,” Donovan said. “The energy was still good. The commitment was still there.”
Donovan led the charge. The U.S. national team star scored a goal in each half to fuel a rally from a two-goal deficit and lift Los Angeles to a 3-2 victory over Salt Lake on Wednesday night for its second consecutive win.
Mike Magee also scored for the Galaxy, who had three unanswered goals to knock off the Western Conference leaders.
Kyle Beckerman and Alvaro Saborio each scored first-half goals for RSL, which saw its seven-game unbeaten streak snapped in stunning fashion. It was also the first time in franchise history Salt Lake (10-4-2) lost an MLS game after building a two-goal lead.
Salt Lake attacked the Galaxy (5-8-2) early and it paid off. The hosts put Los Angeles on its heels defensively and the Galaxy struggled to find methods for containing RSL’s main playmakers.
“We hung in there,” coach Bruce Arena said. “We were a little unlucky to be behind 2-0 and that had all the makings of a disaster.”
When Donovan took charge, that all changed.
Los Angeles got back into the game in the 29th minute. Donovan intercepted a lazy pass from Tony Beltran and beat goalkeeper Nick Rimando with a left-footed shot, cutting the lead to 2-1. The goal snapped a personal 280-minute shutout streak for Rimando.
The Galaxy evened the score in the 50th minute. Magee cut around Jamison Olave on the left flank and fired a shot at the opposite goalpost. The ball banged off the right post and inside the net to make it 2-2.
Donovan struck again in the 68th minute with the winner. Rimando came out to meet him on a breakaway. Donovan sidestepped the veteran keeper and fired the ball into an empty net.
Galaxy midfielder David Beckham said that once they figured out how to split the RSL defense with their passing, they opened up space and created enough gaps to make plays. Beckham said the whole team felt confident it would eventually gain an advantage.
“We still felt confident at 2-0 down,” Beckham said. “We still felt we were capable of breaking them down and I think we did that. That’s why they made mistakes. When you pressure a team like we did, it makes them make mistakes.”
It marked the second time this season Los Angeles scored three consecutive goals after trailing early. The Galaxy also did it April 14 for a 3-1 victory over Portland.
Real grabbed a 1-0 lead when Fabian Espindola saved the ball from going over the end line and flicked it to Beckerman at the top of the 6-yard box. Beckerman fired the ball into the middle of the net in the 9th minute.
Espindola stepped into the playmaker role again in the 24th minute. This time, he crossed the ball deep into the box toward Saborio. With a defender blanketing him, Saborio managed to get a toe on the ball and flicked it into the corner of the net to make it 2-0.
It mattered little in the end. RSL lost its composure in the face of the Galaxy attack and failed to salvage even a point.
“We tried to push to go for the win because that’s what we do at home,” RSL defender Nat Borchers said. “We’re always going to try to win. And they punished us.”