Wednesday, August 22, 2007

LA Beckhams vs. Red Bull: WOW!

Having just regained consciousness, here's a few quick notes and postgame links from the thrilling 5-4 Red Bull victory over the L.A. Galaxy before over 65,000 screaming fans at the Meadowlands on Saturday night.

  • Play It Again, Sam -- We've been singing the praises of Juan Pablo Angel and Jozy Altidore and Saturday night was merely an affirmation of their individual and collective brilliance. Angel figuratively claimed the mantle of Undisputed Leader of the Red Bull when he literally waved off his rival teammates and grabbed the spot-kick before blasting the ball past Joe Cannon for the opening score. Juan Pablo cemented this position by opportunistically pouncing on a rebound and once again firing the ball through the hapless Cannon's paws for the game-winner. Jozy was Jozy, too big, too strong and too fast for opposing defenders, maneuvering around them with steely grace and authoritatively finishing in the box. Even Beckham was impressed.

  • Who Are Those Guys? -- The Galaxy probably expected problems with Jozy and Angel, but were ill-prepared to deal with the rejuvenated Clint Mathis and emerging Dane Richards. Mathis scored a cracker (making MetroStar-Red Bull history) and instigated the victory with a scorching shot destined to deflect off Cannon and find Juan Pablo's thankful boot. In between, he pushed the issue throughout the match, refusing to turn the ball back to the defense, instead insisting on going forward, pressing the Galaxy defense with pressure, pressure pressure. He also got stuck in on every tackle available (Joe Vide and Seth Stammler were refreshingly greedy with most of them) and took the time to shake hands and chat with Becks after knocking him down. Classy Cletus. Love it. Richards had his best game as a Red Bull, causing havoc on the wings and keeping the Galaxy defenders on their heels. Prediction: If and when Richards learns how to use his left foot and how and when to shoot the ball, he will be a Major League Soccer All-Star.

  • Grumpy Old Men -- Remind me, why are Dave Van den Bergh and Ronald Waterreus on the Red Bull? Seriously, what service do they provide? Because other than absorbing a Beckham free-kick rocket in the melon while manning the wall, all Ven den Bergh did on Saturday night was virtually pass the ball to Cannon on pure sitters twice, TWICE! which would've definitively iced the game. His contributions beyond that were nil. He jogged after the ball while Mathis, Vide, Stammler and Richards were scrambling and he offered nothing offensively. And Wattereus, frankly, is worse than Tony Meola on crosses, hurt all the time and an extremely over-rated passer of the ball. Cutoffs Conway is an upgrade.

  • The Cletus vs. Captain America -- Right now, Clint Mathis is so much better than Claudio Reyna in the middle of the field that Bruce Arena will have a hard time looking his players in the eye if he stubbornly tries to replace the feisty, offensive sparkplug (YouTube) with the subdued, make-no-mistakes plodder. This is not hating on Claudio, who we've long admired, but merely an acknowledgement of a simple fact the Red Bull can ill afford to ignore: Clint provides more energy, more fight and more goals than Claudio. Period.

  • The Ambassador -- David Beckham, though visibly limited due to injury and the Giants Stadium turf, is an instant on-the-field difference maker for the Galaxy. And not just with dead balls. True, the first corner and free he took both ended up in the back of the net via the head of Carlos Pavon, but Beckham's distribution of the ball during the run of play cannot be overlooked. For the second time in two matches, he absolutely carved open the opposition with a perfect ball directly to Landon Donovan's foot, right in stride. Unlike the goal scored against DC (YouTube), this time Donovan was forced to square the ball only for Alan Gordon to botch the tap in, but Beckham's ability to find the open man is already without peer in MLS. Donovan and the Galaxy should be delighted. | USA Today | Soccernet | Times UK | | Newsday
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