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DONOVAN, MARTINO LEAD WAY DUO SPARKS L.A. TO CRUCIAL VICTORY GALAXY 2, CHICAGO 0.

Byline: BILLY WITZ

Staff Writer

CARSON -- With its finishers still having a leaden touch and the defense still looking creaky if not leaky, it's hard to draw too many conclusions about the Galaxy's much-needed 2-0 victory Wednesday against the Chicago Fire at Home Depot Center.

Except one: Kyle Martino may be the best diver this country has produced since Greg Louganis.

Twice Martino created space for himself and ventured into the penalty box, whereupon he flailed to the ground with the first feathery touch of a Chicago defender.

On each occasion, referee Brian Hall awarded the Galaxy a penalty kick, and Landon Donovan, returning after a month away with the national team, converted both to account for the difference in the game.

After the second foul, two Chicago players received yellow cards for dissent. Goalie Jon Busch, who was outstanding with six saves, knew what was coming with Martino -- his former teammate in Columbus.

"He gets bumped, he goes down -- that's Kyle," Busch said. "I've got a Chicago shirt on -- of course I'm going to say they weren't a penalty."

Martino wasn't going to make apologies.

"If a guy leaves a foot out or grabs you, that's all it takes to warrant a (penalty)," Martino said. "If he's with you stride for stride, that call is not going to be made that often, but if you get by people or catch them flat-footed you're going to get that call."

Martino earned the Galaxy the lead in the 16th minute when he turned Logan Pause around with a nifty move at the top of the box and then went down as Fire defender Chris Armas came over to help.

After the Galaxy spent much of the night putting the ball into the seats behind the net or the mitts of Busch, Martino earned some insurance in the 86th minute when he again came in from the left wing and went airborne even before Ivan Guerrero made what appeared to be incidental contact.

Against the Fire, it proved more than enough. Chicago has been shut out in five of its past seven games, and rarely threatened what had been a beleaguered defense of late. The Galaxy had surrendered eight goals in its past three games.

The game marked the debut of the Galaxy's two latest additions -- striker Carlos Pavon, a recent signing from Honduras, and midfielder-defender Kelly Gray, who was acquired Tuesday from Houston for Nate Jaqua.

billy.witz@dailynews.com

(818) 713-3621

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Photo:

Landon Donovan, left, celebrates with Abel Xavier after his first-half goal.

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 5, 2007
Words:430
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