Goalkeeper Josh Saunders made a triumphant return to the starting lineup making four saves and earning a shutout following a seven-game absence to help the Los Angeles Galaxy beat the Portland Timbers 1-0 on Sunday night.
The victory snapped a seven-game winless streak for the Galaxy in MLS play.
In what was his first league match since April after returning from the league's substance abuse and behavior health program, Saunders made a number of key saves - including one with his face - to give Los Angeles its first shutout of the season. But even though the 31-year-old goalkeeper admitted that the game was ''special'' he approached the match like any other.
''It felt great, we battled through the game,'' said Saunders ''We just kept believing that we're going to start winning some games, we battled, we had some struggles early on and we were able to pull through it and I can't say enough about what the guys did on the field.''
The match was a back and forth affair from the start as both teams traded chances in the first 10 minutes. The first came in the second minute when a Marcelo Sarvas header was stopped by the face of Portland goalkeeper Troy Perkins before Saunders made a stop of his own with his face to prevent a Kris Boyd shot from going into the back of the net.
Saunders' defining moment came in the 26th minute when the goalkeeper was called into action, making a diving stop on Boyd's rocket shot from 35-yards out. With Saunders holding the shutout, the Galaxy were able to find the winning goal in the 61st minute when a David Beckham corner kick found Todd Dunivant far post. The defender then calmly nodded a header past Perkins for the game's only goal.
''David obviously serves in an incredible set piece. He put the ball in the back post. We kind of had talked about it halftime. We'd had a few to the front post and I said to try the back post. I found a little space back there and was able to nod it home.''
However, while the Galaxy were pleased with their performance against Portland, Timbers head coach John Spencer was infuriated with his sides' inability to finish their chances as they slid into the bottom of the Western Conference standings.
''We need to start picking up points; we know that, we ain't dumb. We lost too many games, clicking by and saying, `we should of or could of done this or could have gotten a decision,''' said Spencer. ''I'm sick and tired of hearing the word potential; to be honest with you if I hear it once more then I'm probably going to throw up.
''For me, potential gets you your contract, it gets you on the field then you've got to produce. We've got too many guys right now, not playing and not producing to the best of their abilities.''
While Portland is struggling heading into their Cascadia Cup match-up against the Seattle Sounders next Sunday, the Galaxy hope the victory over the Timbers will provide a lift as they face Real Salt Lake on Wednesday.
''We just have to build on it, simple as that,'' said Beckham. ''Last season we played a lot of games like this where we won 1-nil and we kept the other teams in shutouts. We need more performances like this and were capable of it, so hopefully this will be our springboard.''