Work in Sports
LOS ANGELES (Ticker) -- Ezra Hendrickson's goal in the final minute gave the Los Angeles Galaxy a 2-1 victory over the Dallas Burn in the opener of their Western Conference semifinal series.
Hendrickson's tally averted a shootout tiebreaker and pushed the Burn's losing streak in the Rose Bowl to six games. Dallas was limited to one shot on goal.
The Galaxy can reach the MLS Cup for the first time in franchise history by winning Game Two of the best-of-three series Sunday in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, where the Burn is 15-3 this year.
With less than a minute to play in regulation, substitution Simon Elliott launched a long ball to Hendrickson on the right flank. Hendrickson danced further into Burn territory before taking a shot from an impossible angle that managed to worm its way between goalkeeper Matt Jordan and the near post.
LA midfielder Mauricio Cienfuegos scored the game's first goal in the 39th minute. Awarded a free kick just outside of the Burn penalty area for Sergi Daniv's hard tackle of Roy Myers, the Galaxy lined up near the far post. Instead of crossing to his teammates, Cienfuegos hooked the ball sharply toward the near post. His kick barely cleared the two-man wall before homing in on the upper near corner for his third career playoff goal.
Galaxy defenders Greg Vanney and Robin Fraser had the task of keeping 1999 scoring champion Jason Kreis and striker Ariel Graziani under wraps. The duo's tight marking and intelligent positioning short-circuited much of Dallas' offense in the first half, limiting the traffic reaching goalkeeper Kevin Hartman.
Graziani, who registered the game-winning goal in Game Three of the conference semifinals against Chicago on Wednesday, scored another clutch goal in the 75th minute, tying the game.
Second-half substitute Paul Broome launched Ted Eck's pass over his head to Graziani, who was waiting deep inside the penalty area. Collecting the ball with his back to the goal, the Ecuadorian striker quickly turned and beat Hartman low to the near post.