Tim Cahill scored on a header off a crossing pass in second half stoppage time, lifting the New York Red Bulls to a 1-0 victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy on Sunday.
It was the fifth win in the last six games for the Red Bulls (7-4-3).
Through the first eight games of the 2013 season, Cahill, one of the team's high-paid designated players at $3.6 million this season, did not find the net. He drew criticism from fans and media, "But he was never criticized here," Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke said
It marked the fourth goal in the last five games for Cahill, who is playing like the dominant offensive force the franchise thought they were getting last year.
"I can't say enough about Tim," Petke said. "Now he's scoring goals and everyone says he's playing great. Well, I always thought he was playing great."
Cahill managed to get behind the wall of Galaxy defenders to perfectly head home a crossing pass from Juninho for the game winner.
"I'm just happy to score," Cahill said. "I knew where Juninho was going to put it, I knew it was going to be dangerous and it was just a matter of getting contact. It's good when you seem to have a chance to produce in big games and I've managed to come up for us lately, so it's nice."
Luis Robles made three saves to record his fourth shutout of the season.
"It was a silly free kick and they played the ball into the box," said Los Angeles goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini, who made two saves, but couldn't stop the game-winner. "Once the ball got into the box, I don't know what happened, because I couldn't see with all the players jumping in front of me."
Cudicini and teammate Landon Donovan were upset after the setback.
"It's disappointing, because I don't think we deserved to lose," Cudicini said. "We had the better chances. It's terrible that we're going home with nothing."
"They made the play that mattered down the stretch," Donovan said. "It wasn't a game of great chances, but we had a few."
In the 76th minute, the Galaxy (5-4-2) had two great chances, both from Gyasi Zardes. On the first attempt, Red Bulls defender Jamison Olave, who had a brilliant all-around game, made a sliding tackle to knock the ball away. Two minutes later, Zardes fired a right-footed blast from 10 yards out that Robles punched aside.
The Galaxy had another great chance, when Zardes' crossing pass went directly to Keane's head, who directed it just wide left of the goal in the 89th minute.
The Red Bulls had two decent opportunities in the early portion of the second half, when Fabian Espindola and Cahill both fired long shots that sailed wide left within four minutes of each other.
Espindola had yet another great chance, but his left-footed shot from 35 yards out bounced once into the arms of goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini.
The Galaxy then dominated play for the next 10 minutes.
Landon Donovan fired a right-footed blast from 19 yards out that sailed over the crossbar in the 61st minute.
The first half was played in a steady rain and featured few scoring chances.
The Red Bulls had the better of the opportunities, both created by Espindola.
In the 27th minute, Espindola perfectly split two defenders to get a clear path to the goal. He went right in on Cudicini and drew the goalie away from the box. But Espindola's soft shot was eventually kicked aside by Galaxy defender A.J. DeLaGarza before it reached the goal line.
Five minutes later, Espindola unleashed a left-footed blast that Cudicini corralled.
The Galaxy had their best chances in the final minute and added time. In the 44th minute, Robbie Keane was brought down from 30 yards out, awarding Los Angeles a direct free kick. Keane took the free kick and the bending high shot was punched aside by Robles.
Two minutes later, Todd Dunivant took a left-footed shot from 10 yards out that Robles secured, keeping the scoreless tie into intermission.
"We had a better understanding in the second half," Petke said. "We came out and took it to them with a little bit of a bite."
Defender Jamison Olave had a sensational day, making several key stops, some even from behind.
"He reads the game and has good catch-up speed," Petke said. "He makes plays, times it and does it well."