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Galaxy postscript: Goalkeeper Josh Saunders, midfielder Juninho ensure L.A. of a winning start

March 16, 2011 | 11:15 am

There were two players who stood out in the Galaxy's 1-0 season-opening win at Seattle on Tuesday night and their names were not David Beckham and Landon Donovan.

Instead, it was goalkeeper Josh Saunders and midfielder Juninho who caught the eye as Los Angeles got the Major League Soccer season off to a positive start in front of a rain-drenched but record crowd 36,433 at Qwest Field.

Juninho_300 Saunders, filling in for injured starter Donovan Ricketts, made half a dozen saves, a couple of them particularly impressive. "He did all right," said Seattle Coach Sigi Schmid. "He came up [big] when he needed to come up."

Saunders' effort was needed because the Galaxy was missing central defenders Gregg Berhalter and Omar Gonzalez, who were sidelined by knee and shoulder injuries, respectively, and Coach Bruce Arena was forced to shuffle the back line.

Also sidelined and thus prevented from making his Galaxy debut was striker Juan Pablo Angel, reportedly suffering from the flu. That left Chad Barrett and Mike Magee as the starting forwards, but neither impressed.

Instead it was Juninho who fired one of only two shots that the Galaxy managed to get on target, this one spinning into the net off the outstretched hands of Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller for the game's only goal.

Juninho's swerving shot from 20-plus yards was the most positive thing the Galaxy managed in attack, although Donovan did crash a long-range shot against the corner of the crossbar and right post that was inches away from going in.

Beckham managed to last the whole 90 minutes, not that that stopped former U.S. international John Harkes, providing color commentary for ESPN, from noting that Beckham "looks tired; I don't know if he has game fitness."

Beckham was fit enough to earn a needless yellow card in the final minute of injury time for a thoughtless foul. Otherwise, the $6.5-million-a-year English midfielder's contribution was limited. His free kicks and corner kicks were nothing out of the ordinary.

The Galaxy struggled to maintain possession, gave the ball away too often, looked vulnerable and a bit flustered on occasion in defense, and apparently was content with escaping Seattle with the one goal and the three points. Not much more can be asked of a season opener.

"When it was 1-0, the objective wasn't to get another goal as much as it was to keep the score 1-0," Arena said. "That's what we had to do. The conditions weren't easy and we were against a team playing in front of a crowd that's supportive. ... You have to be experienced to get out of her with a win and that's what we did."

The interesting statistic of the night was provided by ESPN's match announcer, Adrian Healey, who noted that Seattle's average attendance of 36,173 last season was "better than 19 of 30 Major League Baseball teams."

Next up for the Galaxy is its home opener on Sunday at 5 p.m. against the New England Revolution.


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-- Grahame L. Jones

Top photo: Galaxy goalie Josh Saunders, center, moves to make a stop as Seattle Sounders' O'Brian White and Galaxy's Sean Franklin look on. Credit: Associated Press

Bottom photo: Galaxy midfielder Juninho kicks the ball against Seattle on Tuesday. Credit: Anthony Bolante / Reuters