Steven Gerrard marked his Major League Soccer debut with a goal as he inspired Los Angeles Galaxy to a come-from-behind 5-2 victory over San Jose Earthquakes. Watched by former Galaxy star David Beckham at StubHub Center, the ex-Liverpool and England captain scored one and had a hand in two of Robbie Keane’s three goals to help the hosts win the ‘California Clasico’ and go top of the Western Conference.
Quincy Amarikwa, on his second MLS start for the Earthquakes, bagged a quick-fire brace to give the visitors a 2-0 lead but Keane and Gerrard led the fightback which secured their side a fourth successive home league win. Amarikwa grabbed his first goal for his new club in the 22nd minute, collecting Sanna Nyassi’s ball from the right and firing home first time from the edge of the area.
Three minutes late Amarikwa doubled his tally when he slotted past Brian Rowe after being picked out from Matias Perez Garcia’s free-kick. Galaxy hit back on the half-hour mark when Gerrard was caught by Tommy Thompson’s elbow in the penalty area and Republic of Ireland skipper Keane made no mistake from the resulting penalty.
Gerrard levelled the game eight minutes before the break with his first Galaxy goal. Sebastian Lletget’s deflected cross from the right fell kindly for the 35-year-old at the back post and he swept home confidently before racing off to celebrate with his new fans. And the hosts took the lead in the 64th minute when Gerrard’s drilled free-kick from the left was flicked in at the near post by Keane.
Keane completed his second successive MLS hat-trick with another penalty, following David Bingham’s foul on Bagio Husidic, and, after Gerrard had been substituted to a standing ovation, Lletget rounded things off in stoppage time with his fifth goal in eight appearances.
“It was very pleasing to get off the mark,” Gerrard told a press conference. “I was quite disappointed in the previous two games (an International Champions Cup friendly and a US Open Cup match) not to get goals – I had two good chances. I’m starting to feel a little bit sharper, I’m very close to full fitness. (Head coach) Bruce (Arena) was shouting ‘how you doing?’ from about 60 (minutes) but I was pretending I couldn’t hear him and kept looking away.
“I felt like a kid out there again. I don’t want to come off – I want to play as much football as I can. One of the reasons why I’ve come to this team was to start all the games and play as many minutes as possible. I was determined not to become a squad player. I still feel like I’ve got energy, I still love the game, I’m enjoying training and I’m settling in pretty nicely.”
On his relationship with Keane, he added:
“We had that chemistry in Liverpool. When you’re playing with good players, it’s easy to connect. Robbie’s on the wavelength – he’s a very intelligent player. We’ve got a great understanding. I’m sure that relationship is only going to get stronger. When we add (Giovani) Dos Santos into the mix as well, we could have a formidable front line moving forward.”
If Gerrard can stay healthy, it will take a brave man to bet against them retaining the MLS Cup this season. The bigger question might be that with the addition of Gerrard and Dos Santos could the Galaxy become the first MLS side to win the CONCACAF Champions League? If they do that, we could be looking at the best MLS side ever.