Landon Donovan started the LA Galaxy’s game against the Columbus Crew on the bench. Robbie Keane didn’t dress. David Beckham didn’t even make the trip to Ohio. No matter – late substitute Chad Barrett stunned Columbus with a goal in the third minute of stoppage time to give the Galaxy a 1-0 win.
The victory puts LA (17-3-10, 61 points) 10 points ahead of Real Salt Lake atop the Western Conference and in firm control of the race for the Supporters’ Shield. The Crew (11-11-8, 41), meanwhile, missed an opportunity to move into first place in the East after the Houston Dynamo won at FC Dallas on Saturday. Columbus sit one point behind Houston.
Josh Saunders kept Los Angeles in the game with eight saves, including three stellar ones in the final five minutes to preserve the shutout.
The late fireworks seemed a pipe dream during a lifeless first half, but the action escalated in the 48th minute when Crew central defender Chad Marshall, returning after missing a game because of hip flexor strain, headed a corner kick by Josh Gardner. The 10-yard flick was knocked off the goal line by LA midfielder Michael Stephens to prevent Marshall’s first goal of the season.
Gardner had his own try seven minutes later from 20 yards but his strong strike was easily stopped by Saunders before the Crew’s first sellout of the year (21,203).
Emilio Renteria’s insertion into the game in the 65th minute gave the Crew a jolt, and in the 85th minute he fed Andres Mendoza for a shot that Saunders stopped. Saunders came up big again a moment later when Renteria found an open Rogers.
Columbus’ inability to find the net proved costly in the 93rd when Donovan, who replaced Chris Birchall in the 62nd minute, took a flighted ball from Omar Gonzalez on the right side of the penalty area and fired a hard shot on goal.
Though goalkeeper William Hesmer saved Donovan’s venomous strike, the rebound came to Barrett, an 84th minute entrant, who blasted it home for the win.
The win gave LA a 5-0-1 record in their last six. The Galaxy have an important CONCACAF Champions League Group A match at home against Mexico’s Morelia on Wednesday. LA currently hold third place in the Group, three points behind Alajuelense and Morelia with two matches left. The top two finishers in the group advance.
The result on Saturday was yet another blow to the struggling Crew, who are 0-4-1 in their last five. Columbus’ next match comes on Wednesday against Sporting Kansas City. Both Sporting and the Crew are equal on points.