By MARK EDWARD HORNISH
PASADENA, Calif – If anyone wanted to assess where American soccer stands in comparison to European football, they need not look at the lopsided result on the scoreboard at the Rose Bowl, where the LA Galaxy hosted international giants Manchester United on a warm Wednesday night.
A glance into the stands would tell all. The Red Devils red souvenir shirts outnumbered Galaxy white by at least 10-1. And most of the fans wearing Man United colors, and singing Man United songs, were speaking with American accents.
Man United humbled the LA Galaxy, 7-0, before an announced crowd of 86,432, most of them supporting visitors. Wayne Rooney put the Galaxy on its heels with a first-half brace. Rooney converted a penalty kick to double the Man United lead in the 26th minute, and then enjoyed a gift goal on a horrid Galaxy back line blunder shortly before the half to put the game beyond reach.
Danny Welbeck opened the scoring for the Red Devils in the 13th minute with a muscular left-footed blast from 30 yards out that deflected off the post and beat Galaxy goal keeper Jaime Penedo.
With MLS All-Star defender Omar Gonzalez in street clothes for the match, the Galaxy back line was exposed early and often. Rooney’s penalty came after a beaten A.J. DeLaGarza attempted a slide tackle to recover on a run from Welbeck. Welbeck’s cross hit DeLaGarza’s hand, and referee Baldomero Toledo pointed to the spot.
The worst was yet to come for LA. In the waning minutes of the half, the Galaxy were pushing numbers forward hoping to get back into the game. They got caught out, and Juan Mata found a wide open Welbeck sprinting alone down the right flank. Welbeck’s cross rolled under the lumbering Leonardo, and Galaxy center back Tommy Meyer whiffed on the clearance to allow a wide open Rooney to walk in on a helpless Penedo and tap home another.
“I have nothing but the greatest respect for the show that Man United put on. A bunch of guys out there fighting for jobs, and it looked that way. They punished us on every mistake” Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said after the match. “It was a real lesson for a lot of our players. You talk a lot about some of the things that happened tonight, but you very rarely see it.
“Tonight, being on the field and getting punished for mistakes, and really getting a lesson on speed of play, it was there. It was all out there for them. So I think that we can actually use this as a positive.”
New signing Ander Herrera looked impressive for the Red Devils in the central midfield, dictating play with crisp passing, and winning multiple challenges as well. Herrera had a hand in at least four of the Man United goals, and played the full 90 minutes in his first effort to attempt to impress new manager Louis van Gaal.
The second half saw both sides sub on their entire junior rosters, and the differences in depth between the two franchises became painfully apparent. United scored four more times, on a brace from Reece James and a late pair of goals from Ashley Young.
“I think always the results, they do matter,” Van Gaal said. “7-0, it was for a me a surprise. But they were all beautiful goals. We scored out of beautiful attacks.”
By the time the flood gates opened, most fans not wearing red were streaming toward the exits. If the LA Galaxy, and the MLS, hoped to establish some legitimacy in the eyes of the international football community, they failed miserably tonight. Galaxy captain Robbie Keane did not mince words.
“Of course it’s embarrassing,” Keane said. “The score line doesn’t reflect on how good of a team we are. You look at the three goals in the first half – all three, mistakes, every one of them. We actually played well in the first half. Pressed them. Made it hard for them. Kept the ball well at times. But when you give opportunities to good teams, they’re going to punish you. And that was the case.
“The sooner we move on from this game, the better. Because the most important thing is the league” continued Keane. “Our bread and butter is on Monday against Seattle.”
Man United continues their North American tour in Denver against Roma on Saturday, followed by a matchup against Inter Milan on Tuesday in Washington DC, before closing against Real Madrid in Michigan.
The Galaxy get the weekend off to lick their wounds, then travel to Seattle to face Clint Dempsey and the MLS-leading Sounders on Monday night.