The Los Angeles Galaxy looked well on their way to another ugly loss. Two early goals gave Real Salt Lake a nice lead and more than 22,000 in attendance at Rice-Eccles Stadium must have figured they were going to see another home blowout like the 4-0 drubbing of D.C. United.
That was before David Beckham put on his Superman cape and began blasting away from distance. His two long-range goals tied the game up before halftime and gave the Galaxy a boost of confidence that was sorely needed.
SBI Correspondents Scott McAllister and Nathan Henderson-James took in the action on Saturday and share their takes with us:
Mixed results for RSL as Beckham Circus passes through
By SCOTT McALLISTER
Say what you will about the US Open Cup and whether teams take it seriously, Real Salt Lake showed up Wednesday night with complete intentions of winning, and they did just that. Winning is never a forgone conclusion for supporters of Real Salt Lake, so we’ll cherish each one we get.
While descending upon Salt Lake City from the north and viewing the thick, dark clouds over the city I was glad that I made an extra stop at home on the way from work to grab my coat and scarf – both were well needed on Wednesday. The conditions were only brisk and breezy at first, but then the snow began to fall partway through the second half. Breaking out the orange ball is starting to be an annual occasion for April matches at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Wearing green kits to promote “Green Awareness” completely dominated the visiting San Jose Earthquakes in every facet of the game. The sight was extremely encouraging to the few thousand who braved the late spring blizzard. Kyle Beckerman picked up where he left off in his last home performance, netting his second brace in as many matches in Salt Lake.
It’s an obvious observation, but Beckerman is the linchpin that holds this RSL team together. This group plays together well as a unit, so most of players see a lot of the ball, but it’s Beckerman that usually keeps things together, either by keeping the possession in Salt Lake’s favor with a clever pass or by winning the ball back after a giveaway. Historically, he has not been a prolific goal scorer, but he has shown – at least in the DC and San Jose matches at home – that he can produce goals when needed.
On Saturday the Beckham Circus came to town and with it a record crowd at Rice-Eccles. There was a time when I would have been annoyed with all the fair-weather celebrity watchers coming to watch the team that I religiously support and rarely miss a game. But, for some reason the sight of the throngs ascending the hill to the stadium was welcome. Record setting crowds are good for the team and good for the league. And when the roar of the crowd was that much louder after the RSL goals it was great for everyone there.
Good things happen when Javier Morales has the ball in RSL’s attacking third. With his two assists on Saturday he is now tied with Beckham for the most in the league. Morales’ crosses into Fabian Espindola and Kenny Deuchar were perfection, and it helps to have a variety of threats that can finish those off.
I was especially glad for Deuchar to score his second of the season, because know he can properly be known as Dr. Goals, rather than just Dr. Goal which sounds funny.
The concerning part of the match against the Galaxy on Saturday was how RSL responded to Beckham’s brace. After the Englishman’s goals the Galaxy were understandably fired up and closed down the passing lanes for Salt Lake in the midfield. The problem is that Salt Lake didn’t adjust to the added pressure. It wasn’t that they didn’t create chances to win the game, but none of them were as clean cut as Landon Donovan’s point blank header in the 73rd minute. If not for an insane save from Nick Rimando the Gals would have walked away with three points.
Here’s to hoping that some of those 25,500 were impressed enough with the first 20 minutes on Saturday that they’ll come back for another game before the Beckham Tour comes back around.
Galaxy shows grit and heart in comeback
By NATHAN HENDERSON-JAMES
The great part about my alma mater’s annual weekend volunteer training session is the free booze and catering. The bad part about the annual-weekend-volunteer-training-session free booze is trying to get MLSNet.tv to work on the library computers while just a wee bit schnozzled. So I kinda missed both Real Salt Lake goals.
Last year if I had tuned in to a game with 18 minutes gone and the Galaxy down by two, I would have settled in for a long night of spiritless futbol and fan frustration. I have to admit that when I saw the score and the amount of time gone, my heart sank. We all know the deficiencies in the Galaxy back-line and here they have been exposed twice in 20 minutes. RSL’s continuing upgrade project is slowing paying dividends, so I settled in to see the worst.
The Galaxy midfield then did its best to live down to my expectations. Lots of chasing, lots of space allowed for RSL players, lots of easy giveaways. Until about the 28th minute or so. Slowly the G’s started closing down space in the midfield. 50-50 balls went their way. Passing got a bit crisper and then – BLAM! Beckham scores on a beauty of a shot into the upper left corner that left Rimando with no chance. Four minutes later he follows with a free kick of power and elegance that was un-saveable. Suddenly, the G’s weren’t down 2-0, they were tied 2-2.
And that is the difference between 2008 and 2007. In 2007 it took the Galaxy almost the entire season to learn to play with grit and heart. Part of that was a nagging uncertainty about where their goals were going to come from, but that never excused the wilting and lack of determination that characterized games like the 2-3 home debacle they dropped to a 10-man Columbus team last June.
Watching this game (played on that horrific surface at Rice-Eccles; I am so ready for the stadium in Sandy to be done already) I was ready for a replay from last year, but, instead, I watched the Beckham investment pay off.
Last week I was down on Steve Cronin a bit, but this game I thought he did very well, all things considered. He made a number of saves that bailed out his back line and had practically no chance on either RSL strike (I watched the game archive later – Javier Morales served up two amazing balls). I’m still not sold on Alan Gordon as anything more than a 20-minute substitute, but he was pleasingly not awful this game and set up Becks nicely on the first goal. And I have to give props to Chris Klein for his overlapping run on the right that kept the RSL defenders from collapsing on Beckham while he wound up for his scoring shot.
I’m not sure how long it will be before I shake off the lingering effects of Battered Galaxy Fan Syndrome and start to believe that this team will never quit on a game because they believe in themselves too much to let it happen. I think it will probably take at least a couple things: winning an away match, and no longer having Landon Donovan and David Beckham involved in 90 percent of the scoring.
But until those days arrive, I’m going to find road games in which this team comes back from a deficit to steal a point to be very satisfying indeed.
And, man, do I love watching David Beckham play!