There are many fortresses in Major League Soccer that owe their reputation to a seemingly impenetrable home-field advantage.
There's the fortress of Sandy, Utah known as Rio Tinto Stadium, where Real Salt Lake have been particularly tough to beat in.
And there's Jeld-Wen Field, the New Fortress, known for its partisan atmosphere and the fearsome play of the Portland Timbers.
And there are other cathedrals that have their own reputation, such as RFK Stadium, Columbus Crew Stadium and Pizza Hut Park.
In the end, the true fortress of Major League Soccer, at least for the 2011 regular season is...the Home Depot Center. Victoria Street.
“We’ve always said we want to make our stadium somewhere to come that’s hard to win, and I think we’ve done that," midfielder David Beckham told the press. "We’ve worked hard on that, and it’s important that we do that at home. The fans obviously are behind us, we got the support of them, so it’s important that we perform in our own stadium.”
That fact was made very clear when Chad Barrett's 53rd minute goal from an Adam Cristman delivery secured a hard-fought 1-0 victory for Bruce Arena's Los Angeles Galaxy over Robin Fraser's Chivas USA on Sunday night at the Home Depot Center, on an evening where defender/assistant manager Gregg Berhalter was honored for his contributions to the world game.
“It was emotional, it definitely was, just to think that this is my last regular season game in a Galaxy uniform," Berhalter said. "I had a lot of good times here, met a lot of nice people. My teammates are great, the coaching staff, the front office, everyone involve has been great. To know you’re closing an 18-year career is something emotional and I started to feel it, for sure.”
“It was another good win for our team," Arena remarked. "I think in the first half if we were a little sharper we would have gotten a couple of goals, but that’s the way it goes. In the last 10 minutes we did a good job just holding onto the lead and winning the game."
In reality, it could have been, and should have been, worse for the Goats. It should have been 1-0 a few seconds into the first half. It should have been 1-0 a few minutes after. Los Angeles peppered the net with chances that never materialized, and the defense was forced to put on their own clinic late in the match.
It's the same song and dance that have characterized a typical Galaxy home game, or any game involving the Galaxy. Score the first goal, hope for a second, and if that doesn't work, stick to plan B. The B stands for "bunkering."
I am not sure that this is a smart tactic heading into Thursday night's CONCACAF Champions League match with C.D. Motagua, and that is a must-win game.
Barrett agrees with this sentiment.
“It’s a must win," Barrett said. "We’re not looking for a tie. We are going to know what we need to do (Morelia hosts LD Alajuelense on Tuesday). That’s beneficial, but really we need to win, we need to have that mentality, we are going to train with that mentality all week and that’s what we need to do.”
But on the other hand, Arena's decision to give Landon Donovan the night off seemed to be a masterstroke, if only because Barrett was able to finish at least one delivery in LA's attacking third.
“I think the goal was big for him," Arena said of Barrett's game-winner. "He had a couple of chances in the first half. The play that just about opened the game and a couple of others but good to see him come back determined in the second half of the game and get that goal. It was obviously a big goal and it’s going to be a boost for his confidence.”
As for Juan Pablo Angel, the plan, obviously, was to neutralize his playmaking ability and frustrate him every time he touched the ball. It seemed to work, as the back line of Berhalter, A.J. DeLaGarza, Omar Gonzalez and Todd Dunivant made life miserable.
"You don’t want to get a card against them, and if anything we didn’t want him to score," Berhalter said of Angel. "We knew where he likes to go on crosses. He’s still a good player, a clever player, and has really blossomed at Chivas.”
Speaking of blossoms, blooming goalkeeper Josh Saunders proved to the G's boss that it was not a smart move to start wilting Jamaican international Donovan Ricketts against the New York Red Bulls.
Saunders was not as tested compared to his counterpart, Chivas USA's Dan Kennedy, but he still had to make some saves, and make some saves he did.
So, with two trophies in the bag, the push for a third and maybe even a fourth within the span of a few months continues with CONCACAF Champions League play against the Blue Eagles of Motagua. This performance against Chivas may not be a convincing result.
The G's clearly missed Donovan tonight, and when they have him back in the lineup on Thursday, expect a much-improved performance from Los Angeles midweek.
Kickoff between the Los Angeles Galaxy and Club Deportivo Motagua in Tegucigalpa, Honduras is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 20 at 7 p.m. PT/10 p.m. ET and will be televised by FOX Soccer Channel.
As for league action, the Galaxy conclude the regular season on the road against the Houston Dynamo. Kickoff is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 23 at 4 p.m. PT/7 p.m. ET and will be televised by FOX Sports West and Galavision.