By MARC SERBER
With a number of starters missing out for both teams, it figures that a rookie would step up to give the Los Angeles Galaxy a crucial late-season victory.
Kofi Opare’s first ever MLS goal was enough to give the Galaxy a 1-0 victory over the Montreal Impact and propel the two-time defending MLS champions into 3rd place in the Western Conference.
The former Michigan Wolverine, playing in place of the injured Omar Gonzalez, tucked the ball home in the 68th minute following a scramble resulting from a Juninho corner. With just two games left, the Galaxy not only strengthened its bid for a fifth consecutive postseason birth, but is just two points behind Portland and New York in the race for the Supporter’s Shield.
Montreal should have opened the scoring in the first minute when Andrew Wenger raced clear of the Galaxy defense only to drag his shot wide. 11 minutes later and Wagner squandered another golden opportunity after missing Marco Di Vio’s well placed cross.
Gyasi Zardes had LA’s best chance of the opening 45 minutes on the stroke of halftime, dicing his way into the box before sending his shot off the outside of the post.
The Galaxy attack came to life in the 60th minute with the introduction of Robbie Keane. The Irishmen had just returned from World Cup Qualifying duty in the afternoon and LA took the lead just eight minutes later. Keane played an integral part by keeping Juninho’s corner alive at the far post resulting in the melee from which Opare would eventually stroke home.
Marcelo Sarvas and Keane both hit the crossbar within the final 10 minutes but the night belonged to Opare. The rookie’s goal is just rewards for the job he’s done filling in at center back first for Leonardo and now Gonzalez.
LA needs just a draw when San Jose visits on Sunday to be absolutely sure of a spot in the postseason. Montreal’s position is a bit more precarious. The Impact is in fourth, but tied on points with fifth placed Chicago and sixth placed Philadelphia. New England is also breathing down the Canadians’ neck, just a further point behind.
The Impact face a preverbal six-pointer against the Union before traveling to Toronto FC for an all Canadian battle. Los Angeles will look to wrap up its playoff spot on Sunday at home versus San Jose before turning its attention to the CONCACAF Champions League with a trip to El Salvador to face Isidro Metapan next Thursday.
The Galaxy finish the MLS regular season four days later, heading to the Northwest to face Seattle in what could be a battle for seeding, or depending on other results, possibly the Supporter’s Shield.
Here are the game highlights: