Steven Gerrard enjoyed a dream MLS debut for the LA Galaxy on Friday night, winning a penalty, setting up a Robbie Keane goal and scoring himself in a 5-2 win over archrivals San Jose Earthquakes at the StubHub Center.
The Galaxy were 2-0 down within 25 minutes after Quincy Amarikwa netted twice in quick succession but soon rallied thanks to the combination of Gerrard and former Liverpool teammate Keane.
The 35-year-old midfielder drew a 30th-minute penalty which his skipper duly converted, before opening his MLS account seven minutes later in bagging the equaliser, finishing off Baggio Husidic’s cross after starting off a well-worked team move from his own half.
Bruce Arena’s men proceeded to dominate the game from there, as Keane put them in front in the 64th-minute after latching onto Gerrard’s free-kick at the near post, before completing his hat-trick with another spot-kick 10 minutes from the end after Husidic was brought down in the box.
Former West Ham United midfielder Sebastian Lletget then iced the result in stoppage-time with a header from left-back Robbie Rogers' cross, making it the third time in four league home games that the MLS Cup holders have put five past their opponents.
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After two previous 45-mintue run-outs, Gerrard managed to last 88 minutes into his league bow before going off for Edson Buddle and, despite taking a six-week break following the end of the 2014-15 Premier League season, looks well ahead of schedule in fitness terms.
“I can feel my fitness getting there,” he told the Galaxy’s official website after the match. “With 88 minutes under my belt, I’m really pleased. I’m starting to feel a little bit sharper, so yeah, I’m very close to full fitness.
“Performance-wise, you’re all the experts so you can judge me, but I’m pleased with how it went. I’m obviously very happy with the win.
“I was disappointment not to score in the previous two games but I have belief in myself that, if I keep getting in the right positions, they’ll come and I was very pleased to get off the mark.
“I’m even more pleased to help Robbie get his hat-trick. I don’t smile much in and around the place because I’m always focused and looking forward to the next job but I’m really happy with the level shown by the team tonight.”
Galaxy fans and others were certainly impressed by what they saw from Gerrard, as they took to Twitter during the match to hail his California Clasico performance.