Brandon Farris photographed LA Galaxy for the second week running in Portland. We’re sending him to Colorado this weekend, while the Editor takes in his first Los Angeles derby.
But will Robbie Keane be playing in it? Farris looks at his reaction to the non award of a goal in the dieing seconds of LA’s 1-0 loss in Oregon and wonders if the Irishman’s palpable frustration crossed a line.
In stoppage time in Portland, a controversial call cost the Galaxy a point in the Western Conference standings, a point that they may need for what is turning into a very tight playoff race in the Western Conference.
The Galaxy won a free kick about 25 yards from the goal, from almost an identical place that they had wasted several the previous weekend.
With this kind of kick of course, you put everyone in a line in hopes that someone can flick it into the net for the equalizer. Landon Donovan was missing last week when Laurent Courtois, Jose Villarral and others wasted several free kicks from almost an identical position against Seattle.
In the Galaxy’s defence, they did score from a similar situation against Seattle and the score was ruled out for a negligible amount of contact Tod Dunnivant made with a Seattle defender. In addition, both goalscorer Eddie Johnson and Jhon Hurtado clearly fouled Omar Gonzalez on Seattle’s goal, where the Los Angeles Designated Player was prevented from marking Johnson.
Had the referee got either of those calls correct, LA Galaxy would have won the match. He didn’t. They drew, and they traveled north to Oregon already harbouring a sense of injustice even though the quality of their atrocious free kicks were solely their own responsibility.
Fortunately for the Galaxy, Donovan was back. He had a poor game in Portland but he delivered a near perfect free kick into the box to an awaiting Robbie Keane who headed it home, only to be undone by Assistant Referee Eric Boria’s raised flag.
It was this play that aroused the week’s biggest controversy in MLS.
Before Ismail Elfath blew his whistle to allow Donovan to take the restart, Keane was already lining up in an offside position. This is legal and a normal striker’s tactic to try and coax a defender out of breaking their straight line.
When the whistle was blown and Donovan began his run up, Keane tried to regain his position level with the defensive line.The problem is he failed to get his entire body back behind the last defender and his shoulder (and more) was still beyond a disciplined back four, therefore making him ‘active’ and an ineligible player to touch the ball.
Replays showed this to be the correct call on the officials’ part and as upset as Keane and Bruce Arena may have been at the time, they will realize that it was in fact the correct call.
Keane’s fury was unleashed on both referee and Assistant Referee Eric Boria. It seemed to surpass his normal level of rage and his physical intimidation of Boria was not exactly easy to watch.
Keane hared over to the official to plead his case and shoved the official’s hand with the flag in it down.
This could have been a straight red for putting his hand on the officials, and maybe would have been had he touched Boria rather than just the flag.
Some would say the intent is the same but Elfath was, probably wisely, lenient.
Still Boria felt compelled to stick his left hand out to protect himself from Keane’s charge which no official should ever have to do.
Finally Elfath waved Keane away to have a conference with his AR about the call and get clarification. This did not serve LA Galaxy’s interest as the clock was ticking down on any remaining opportunity to get the game restarted and find an equalizer.
At this point Keane returned to the officials and continued to make his point, once more risking a card, and once more elongating the discussion.
A few minutes later the final whistle was blown.
Several Galaxy players along with Keane and Arena went after the official and started yelling at him to the point that field security felt compelled to appear.
It was unedifying. The MLS Disciplinary Committee will meet this week where you may see at least a fine if not a match ban delivered to Keane, and perhaps Arena, for his actions on Sunday in what was the correct call.
On television, an ‘F Bomb’ uttered by head coach Bruce Arena forced the announcers to issue an apology.
Given MLS’s determination to clamp down on one expletive in one chant by supporters, it seems to leave them no leeway not to impose some sanction on the highly respected Galaxy head coach..
To add to LA Galaxy’s discontent, San Jose Earthquakes poached a late winner the following night back at the Stubhub.
The Quakes were down to ten men and about to surrender their already faint chances of post-season football. With Vancouver tossing away a supposedly easy three points at home to a weakened RSL, Galaxy had maintained a four point gap over 6th place with games running out and a home game with Chivas to come. They weren’t playing well but no-one was taking advantage.
Instead, the Quakes reduced the gap with the Galaxy to just one point with the two Californian rivals set to meet one more time. That is now beginning to look like a game LA Galaxy cannot afford to lose, especially if they fail to win this weekend’s derby.
Whether they have Robbie Keane available or not though is still to be determined.