BY ADAM SERRANO
The Los Angeles Galaxy wanted to put on a show in front of 89,134 at the Rose Bowl and by taking a 2-0 lead at the end of the first half, they succeeded. Los Angeles impressed before Real Madrid roared back to win 3-2 thanks to a pair of goals by Gonzalo Higuain.
The game served as the final match for Galaxy midfielder Clint Mathis who finished his career in the stadium where it began 12 years prior. Mathis began the game as the Galaxy's captain and played 25 minutes before getting a standing ovation from the crowd. The midfielder nearly scored in the 14th minute off a free kick, but his effort sailed just above the Madrid net. With his journey as a professional player over, Mathis was pleased with his final match.
"It was special and with 90,000 people out there, not many American players get to play in front of crowds like that," said Mathis. "It was a great opportunity for me to finish my career with the same team and in the same stadium where I started, it was an emotional day."
Late in the first half, the Galaxy would strike first when off a free kick, Omar Gonzalez headed a ball into the post. In the ensuing scrum, defender Todd Dunivant was able to get a foot to the ball and give the Galaxy a lead. The Galaxy doubled their lead just moments before halftime when Madrid defender Ricky Drenthe kicked Juninho in the chest while in the box earning a penalty for the Galaxy.
Landon Donovan stepped up and fired a shot past Dudek stunning the crowd and allowing the Galaxy to go into the half with the 2-0 to lead over the Spanish giants. After the club's recent struggles, Galaxy forward Edson Buddle admitted that it was a major plus to see his club leading at the half against one of the World's top clubs.
"We made it hard for them, I'm not sure it was their starting team, but I definitely knew a lot of their players," said Buddle. "They have a lot of quality players and I'm proud of how we played."
Down 2-0 at half, Madrid head coach Jose Mourinho brought on his full compliment of stars including Cristano Ronaldo, Gonzalo Higuain and Xabi Alonso in order to save face in front of the near capacity crowd. From the onset of second half, the Real Madrid first XI put constant pressure on the Galaxy defense as they attempted to get back into the match.
Madrid started their come back in the 52nd when Ronaldo fired in a low cross that beat a diving Gregg Berhalter and ended on the foot of Higuain who buried it into the Galaxy net. The Argentine would level the score ten minutes later burying the equalizer in the top right corner of Galaxy reserve goalkeeper Josh Saunders, who replaced Donovan Ricketts at half time. With the score level, the Galaxy made their own changes replacing the rest of their starting line up.
In the 71st, Madrid would take the lead. After a reaction save by Saunders from an Higuain shot, the ball fell to Alonso who fired a shot that took a deflection off Galaxy midfielder Eddie Lewis and into the net to give the lead that they kept for good.
"You could tell that the coach told them, lets take this more seriously and lets get after them," said Berhalter. "I think we lost a bit of shape, but they were gunning in the second half and they definitely did not want to get embarrassed."
Although it was just a friendly, youngsters like Gonzalez admitted that there is a great deal to learn from facing teams of such a high caliber. The recent U.S. National Team call-up has had experience in these games before, playing against AC Milan and Barcelona last year. For Gonzalez, to play against top club's is always a chance to hone his skills.
""For me, it was just seeing what it is like at that different level and knowing that maybe I can get there one day," said Gonzalez. "I think that it was a big confidence booster for me and I really enjoyed playing."
With their preseason tour of the United States over, Madrid will prepare for the start of their La Liga season which begins August 28th against Mallorca. The Galaxy will restart league play next weekend against the New York Red Bulls. Mathis will be present to be honored at that match as well in front of a New York crowd where the 33-year-old spent four years of his career.
Following the match, Buddle admitted that he hoped that the Galaxy's performance would not only help them on the field, but also in the eyes of the thousands of Angelinos who for the most part supported the Spanish club.
"It was good to see so many come out," said Buddle. "But,I wish that we could strap some Galaxy jerseys on all those Real Madrid jerseys."