After that cesspool of a result in Paris on Wednesday, it is nice to turn our attention to a league where the sportsmen are pure, the referees are beyond reproach and the game is always played with a spirit of manly honor – the MLS. Or something like that.
Sunday’s game will feature the best team in the west this season against the best team in the west right now. The Galaxy may have had the better season, but Real Salt Lake has put all the pieces together when it matters most. Some random thoughts…..
Real Salt Lake has yet to face this Galaxy team. RSL drew the Galaxy at home and beat them away this season. Both games preceded David Beckham’s return from AC Milan, and Landon Donovan missed the game the Galaxy lost while on duty for the USMNT. Their last meeting was all the way back in mid June, and the Galaxy are a significantly different team. With both Beckham and Donovan on the field and Omar Gonzalez a more skilled and confident player in the back, RSL should not draw much confidence form their previous performance against the Galaxy.
The battle of the two Becks. In the game within the game, it is the David Beckham vs. Kyle Beckerman match-up that should be the most intriguing. Holding midfielder Beckerman will be tasked with preventing Beckham from spraying his passes all over the field. The energetic Beckerman will be trying to deny Beckham the ball and harass him into a quick pass when he does get it at his feet. For RSL to win, Beckerman has to deny Beckham space to operate.
The two will also be sporting the worst hair styles in the league. If Beckham retains the mess that sat on his melon against Houston, it will be Beckham’s tribute to 80’s Norwegian band A-Ha vs. Beckerman’s absurd Rasta-do.
It is not just a game; it is also an audition. It is probably a long flight from Denmark to Seattle, but that is OK for Bob Bradley. He has a lot to think about. Where is he going to get upfront speed to replace Charlie Davies? Where is he going to get some midfield presence that can complete a pass? Who is going to toughen up a back line that looks very porous without Gooch? For Robbie Findley, Beckerman and Gonzalez, this game is an opportunity to help Bradley answer some of those questions. If any of them make the team that goes to South Africa next summer, it will be as fringe players, but Bradley is looking at a depth chart that suddenly looks pretty shallow, and he is coming to Seattle to find some more options.
Is this Donovan’s last game with the Galaxy? It very well might be. Donovan is at the height of his powers and put those powers on display this summer in South Africa. He has proved all he can prove in the MLS, and while he may not wind up as the MVP this year, it is hard to argue that Donovan is not the league’s best player. While I think that Germany is not in Donovan’s future, Spain, France or England might be. I understand that Carlos Bocanegra has talked to Donovan about how the French Ligue One may be a perfect compliment for Donovan’s skills, but wherever he goes, Donovan has to find the right fit. He needs a team that will value his speed in their scheme and where he can be, at least a little, assured of getting some important playing time. Wherever he winds up, if this is Donovan’s last game, he will want it to be a memorable one.
Seattle is up for it. Yesterday in Seattle, there was a ceremony as the MLS Cup was carried off a ferry by Sigi Schmidt and paraded into Qwest Field. Last year, when the game was at the Home Depot Center, I think the MLS Cup was ceremoniously dropped off by UPS. The best story in the MLS all year has been the way Seattle has embraced the game and acted as a role model for the rest of the country. With tickets for the final going for hundreds of dollars each on Stub Hub, I expect a boisterous, fun crowd in Seattle, and if Don Garber announced the final was going there again next year, I doubt anyone would fight him too hard on that.
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