Sunday, May 8, 2011

Recap: LA Galaxy vs The New York Red Bulls

It had all the billings of an epic confrontation. Two high profile teams from high profile markets coming together in epic showdown of coaches, players and headlines.  The New York Red Bulls, with the star studded attack made the trek across the nation to face-off against the LA Galaxy.

The LA Galaxy already boast the most recognizable name in soccer with David Beckham, the league hero and US Men’s National Team icon in Landon Donovan, and a veteran striker with EPL experience.  They’re reason enough to tune in. Furthermore, you’ve got New York’s coach Hans Backe facing off with the most influential American coach in recent history: LA’s Bruce Arena. Combine those names with the legendary names on those Red Bull jerseys and you’ve got yourself a recipe for entertainment. Thankfully, despite the 1-1 score line, entertainment was plentiful.

In the opening minutes of the game, New York DP Thierry Henry was able to latch on to the end of a Dane Richards pass and slice the ball past a helpless Donovan Ricketts. This happened just four minutes in. It was exciting. For the first twenty minutes the Red Bulls looked especially dangerous, snuffing out multiple Galaxy attacks. However, a one sided game was not in the cards. Eventually the Galaxy got their act together and pressed hard.

The boys from LA put together some impressive strings of passes, with David Beckham orchestrating multiple chances for the Galaxy. Roughly 25 minutes gone, Juan Pablo Angel curled a header into the net, but it was for not. The play was ruled offside and a replay showed he was just a fraction a step over. It was a bit unlucky because it was a beautiful display of skill. Nonetheless, the referee got it right (and boy has that been a rare phrase this season).

Ultimately it was the Galaxy’s American DP that tied the game. Beckham curled in a corner kick to a curiously open Landon Donovan who made no mistake on his header, burying it in the back of the net. This led to an interesting moment on camera as Donovan appeared to have words with Thierry Henry… but only they know what was said.

While the goals ended there, excitement was in no short supply. Later in the half, Donovan made a brilliant run and did well to control a ball past Bouna Coundoul and sent the ball towards an open net. It was for not though as a desperate Tim Ream used every bit of speed he could muster to recover the ball of the line. Brilliant display by the young American defender to deny his country’s leading scorer.

It would be negligent not to mention the brilliant goalkeeping by both sides. The 27,000 reported fans in attendance were treated to some spectacular saves. Coundoul and Ricketts went save for save, sprawling, stretching and parrying shots from all angles from both teams. One save in particular that comes to mind is Ricketts diving to his left to stop a Dwayne De Rosario shot that came at the end of a particularly impressive run.

Ultimately though, the game ended in a draw. While not many would consider this a positive, there are some excellent points to be taken from this game. First off, no injuries. While this may seem generic, anyone who has been following the league the past two weeks knows that’s a good thing. Secondly, Thierry Henry is showing the skills for which he was signed. The man is just a solid threat in front of the goal. Lastly, Landon Donovan has been relatively quiet this season, at least by his standards. Him finding a quality goal will certainly up his confidence…if it’s not negated by failing to put the ball into an open net.

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It was a brilliant showing by the league’s two Superclubs (or at least Major League Soccer’s version of them). Perhaps the biggest bright spot is knowing they will meet again. Do yourself a favor and check out the video. Cheers. 

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