The electricity at Red Bull Arena for the first leg of the Western Conference semi-final against LA Galaxy was amazing on the day after a strange snowstorm covered the north east and quickly melted away.
The night before the game, the ground crew got a snow plow and removed the huge wet snow that covered the field tarp but unfortunately did scrape some parts of the pitch. When the match began, you saw some slippage from the players on both sides.
But the big slip up came from the New York Red Bulls as they tried to cover a free kick around midfield in the 18th minute. David Beckham sent a long ball into the area where Robbie Keane and another player were in an offside position. Unfortunately the Red Bulls failed to mark Mike Magee who came into the area in an on-side position and ripped a hard shot inside the near post as the Red Bulls looked stunned that the flag wasn’t raised by the near side assistant.
After that it was all Josh Saunders to stop the Red Bulls from getting any goals whatsoever. He made several spectacular saves at the start of the second half as he stopped Dane Richards on a point blank shot with his right hand. Another big save on Joel Lindpere happened when the Estonian had a great chance to tuck it inside the near post, but this time it was the right hand of Saunders that swiped the ball away and over the crossbar. The tall keeper along with Donovan Ricketts will make it hard for the Galaxy in the off-season to let one of them go.
But unfortunately we have to discuss the fireworks that started once referee Alex Prus blew the final whistle that ended in a one goal aggregate advantage for the Galaxy. Rafa Marquez picked up the ball at the near side touch line and threw it at Landon Donovan.
Adam Cristman who came on as a second half sub went towards the Mexican national team captain and started to shove him, then Marquez shoved back to start the brawl. Stephen Keel came in as a peacemaker to end the scuffle until he got an elbow to the mouth from Juninho.
An MLS spokesman came into the Red Bulls locker room and informed the media that both Rafa Marquez and Juninho received red cards and are both suspended for the second leg on Thursday night at the Home Depot Center.
What was a fantastic game with so much excitement and a lot of attacking soccer sadly was marred by this terrible event that was created by Marquez. Once again a great player when he puts his mind to it can be brilliant, but when he has a moment of immaturity, Marquez has failed the fans of the club and the league.
But one thing is for sure on Thursday night at the Home Depot Center, we can expect more fireworks from these two sides as this will not be the last moment in this two legged semi-final.