Sporting Kansas City’s shutout streak ended at 545 minutes Saturday at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., where the LA Galaxy also ended the visitors’ five-match unbeaten streak with a 2-0 victory.
The game’s fateful sequence started when Uri Rosell slipped as he tried to gather a pass from Benny Feilhaber near midfield midway through the opening half.
Rosell, who subbed off at halftime with a groin strain, recovered to challenge Galaxy midfielder Marcelo Sarvas for a 50-50 ball, but the Brazilian midfielder won the duel — though replays showed that Sarvas nudged the ball forward with a raised arm when the ball popped into the air.
With no whistle forthcoming, Sarvas played the ball wide for Landon Donovan, who had acres of space in the left channel.
Donovan, who made his second start and third appearance since returning from a self-imposed hiatus, dribbled to the end line before beating Aurelien Collin with a series of chopping cutbacks and centering a pass to an unmarked Sarvas, whose left-footed tap made it 1-0 in the 27th minute.
“It was a terrible call by the referee, and obviously it changed the game,” Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said. “But that’s the way it goes sometimes, and you’ve still got to be able to deal with the situation. But it was a 100 percent hand ball, for sure.”
Sporting KC (4-2-2), which traveled 2,800 miles for the match after beating the Red Bulls on Wednesday, only faced six shots on goal during its 545-minute shutout stretch, which was the fifth-longest streak in MLS history.
Perhaps indicative of travel-weary legs, three of those shots on goal came in the opening 25 minutes against the Galaxy (3-1-2), who outshot Sporting KC 11-9 with five chances on target.
“There’s no doubt we were tired, but LA played well tonight, so you’ve got to give them credit,” Vermes said.
Donovan, whose 109 career assists rank fourth in league history, added his 125th career MLS goal in the 74th minute. He’s third all-time in career goals.
Forward Robbie Keane left Paulo Nagamura in his dust at midfield on a counterattack, drew Jimmy Nielsen off his line as he moved into the box and tapped the ball across the face of goal to Donovan for an uncontested finish.
Neither team took much time feeling out the game in a frenetic first half.
Forward C.J. Sapong and right back Chance Myers tried hopeful shots from near the top of the Galaxy’s penalty box a minute apart, but neither troubled goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini.
The Galaxy’s first chance came in the 11th minute when Mike Magee took a mighty rip 15 yards out that took a small deflection off Myers before Sporting KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen punched it to safety.
The back and forth continued when midfielder Graham Zusi’s free kick from 20 yards away got over the wall but clanged square off the crossbar in the 20th minute.
Nielsen bested Keane in the 25th minute with help from Rosell, who cleared the trickling ball a few yards from the goal mouth.
Feilhaber cleared a purposeful header from Omar Gonzalez off a corner kick in the 40th minute.