Yesterday’s LA Galaxy/DC United match had everything that MLS could want from a match. A full house of passionate fans yelling and chanting the entire match as two possible playoff teams, one with one of the world’s most famous players and the other with a potential U.S. star, played an almost even and intense match. This is the kind of match that garners MLS attention and makes the sporting world take notice of the league.
And of course it was only on Direct Kick.
Regardless, yesterday’s match between two of the league’s premier franchises was a good one, with a little bit of something for everyone. But the defining feature was the physical play, as players were not afraid to make challenges on and off the ball. It was odd in retrospect that only four cards were given out because of the repeated challenges, especially late in the first half. DCU used the “foul Beckham to make him mad” strategy, never missing an opportunity for a small clip or shove off the ball. Beckham, as he does, retaliated and earned a yellow on a tackle on Josh Wolff that arguably could have been a red, leading to him saying words that he may have learned from Wayne Rooney. We’ll get back to that in a minute.
But it was Beckham and his much less celebrated teammate (but almost equally critical) Mike Magee would got the scoring started early in this one on a 14th minute corner kick. Becks did his thing, sending in a perfect ball that a poorly marked Magee headed past Bill Hamid, who was starting for the first time this year in MLS play. From that point, while DCU probed on occasion, LA did a good job controlling the tempo. Despite having Juan Pablo Angel, LA played conservatively in the second half, similar to what they did in Seattle a few weeks ago. They relied on their defense to stonewall the other team’s attack, even adjusting their formation, then hitting on the counter using Beckham, Angel and Magee. DCU, as a note, did not start Davies or Najar, both of whom came on in the second half to spur the home team’s attack.
Controversy ensued very late in the second half. Santino Quaranta was sent off in the 84th minute with a second yellow on a weak tackle, reducing United to ten men. But it was Davies’ speed that kept the home team in the match and what led to their first goal. In the 89th minute, Davies made a run into the box and, upon making contact with Omar Gonzalez, fell to the ground and was awarded a penalty. I never like to accuse players of flopping and I won’t in this case, but it was very weak contact. Davies converted his third PK and the match would end in a draw. After the final whistle Jovan Kirovski was given a straight red for dissent, so I can only imagine what he said that drew a red card after Beckham’s words did not. The anger, however, was understandable.
While the result had to be a disappointment for the Galaxy, their play should be encouraging: they played well enough to get a tough win on the road. For United it was the exact opposite: the result was encouraging but the play was a disappointment. On this night, however, both teams could take home one point.