GALAXY: First team topples Alajuela
CARSON -- Word came down Thursday: This weekend's game at New York was off, thanks to Hurricane Irene, so all the guys who had the night off were going to be needed after all.
Galaxy coach Bruce Arena, no longer needing to rest a few players for Sunday's Major League Soccer showdown, was able to send out a first-choice lineup for his team's CONCACAF Champions League clash, and the reward was a 2-0 triumph over Costa Rican champion Alajuelense.
David Beckham, who wasn't going to play, was pivotal, crossing in the corner kick that Omar Gonzalez headed home in the 38th minute and piercing Alajuela's backline with pass that led to Chad Barrett's 77th-minute finish as L.A. cemented its spot atop Group A with two wins in two home games.
“That was the goal,” said Galaxy captain Landon Donovan. “We didn't play great ... but we made the plays we needed to win the game, and at the end of all of it, we have six points from our two home games, which we wanted. It's a perfect night for us.”
Well, not quite. L.A. lost defender Gregg Berhalter in the first half to a possible broken foot, saw midfielder Juninho red-carded near the end, and picked up yellow cards -- some deserved, but one of them an utter joke -- that could have a mighty imprint as the tournament proceeds.
Two cautions in group play means a suspension, so Beckham, Donovan and Mike Magee are halfway there after Mexican referee Marco Antonio Rodriguez, in a questionable performance, showed each the yellow card.
“It becomes a factor in the competition,” Arena noted. “You frown sometimes when the cards are wrong. When they're right, you frown. And it adds up, and it distorts the competition if it's not right. Our guys have got to adjust to this kind of officiating. It's all part of it, and we've got to be better about dealing with it.”
Beckham's “very weird” yellow, for wasting time as he tried to take a corner kick in the 31st minute, was astounding. Beckham asked the linesman, Jose Luis Camargo, to move out of his path so he could take the kick. Camargo, Beckham said, “told me where to go,” and Rodriguez raced over to show the Galaxy star the yellow card.
“I expected another yellow card, to be honest, at some point, because that's the way the officiating had gone all night,” Beckham said. “I think it was a disgrace at times. That's something you have to put up with in these competitions. It's unfortunate.”
Rodriguez, who has officiated at the last two World Cups, whistled 36 fouls, and his linesmen flagged 13 plays offside -- a hefty number. Asked about the officiating, Arena said: “It is what it is. You can make your own conclusions to that. We certainly saw him out there. His presence was certainly known tonight.”
Irish forward Robbie Keane, making his second appearance for the Galaxy, said the game “was a bit dead, to be honest with you,” with Rodriguez's constant whistles making for a choppy encounter.
“There was no flow to the game. That was the problem,” Beckham said. “You expect referees, when you've played in competitions around the world, top referees, top officials let it flow. It didn't happen tonight. It says something.
“I think there were some terrible decisions -- for both teams, to be honest. I think Juninho's red card [for a collision with Jhonny Acosta as they battled in the air] was a disgrace. He's gone for the ball, just hit the man at the same time. It's a yellow card, not a red card, but I don't want to complain too much because I'll probably get in trouble, and I'll probably be given a three- or four-game suspension.”
Said Keane: “The referee kept stop-and-starting -- spoiled the game a little bit, to be honest with you. When that happens, frustration kicks in a little bit, you know? You want to keep the game flowing and you get momentum, and we weren't allowed to do that.”
L.A. nonetheless dictated the proceedings from start to finish, spreading the field, moving the ball and maintaining possession -- and, on occasion, turning those advantages into chances. They finished the two best opportunities, and that was enough.
Gonzalez beat Giancarlo Gonzalez at the near post to expertly nod Beckham's free kick inside the far post to provide a first half lead. The second goal was prettier, with Beckham splitting Alajuelense's defense to connect with Sean Franklin, who found Barrett in the middle after Robbie Keane's near-post run dragged two defenders away from the play.
Barrett, playing his first game since July 4 -- he has been sidelined because of a sprained ankle -- needed only to make contact with the ball.
“That's what you want,” he said. “You want a tap-in for your first goal back. Couldn't have worked out better for me.”
WORTH NOTING: Gonzalez and Franklin also weren't going to play Thursday until Sunday's game was canceled. “Bruce phoned me this afternoon,” Beckham said. “I was prepared anyway, like I was playing.” ... Alajuelense (1-1-0) is second in Group A, ahead of Mexico's Morelia (1-1-0) by virtue of winning last week's meeting. ... Morelia clobbered Honduran champ Motagua, 4-0, as Rafael Marquez Lugo, Joao Rojas, Diego Jimenez and Edgar Lugo scored goals. ... Several Alajuela players had their pictures taken with Beckham after the game. ... Berhalter was in a walking boot after the game and said tests Friday would determine the extent of his injury. He said he hurt his right foot just stepping and that he felt a “pop.” ... Rodriguez wouldn't allow the Galaxy's trainers to come onto the field to treat Berhalter, who tried to walk off the field -- in great pain. “I was afraid he was going to give me a yellow,” the veteran defender said.
Home Depot Center (Carson)
Galaxy 2, Alajuelense (Costa Rica) 0
LA -- Omar Gonzalez (David Beckham) 38
LA -- Chad Barrett (Sean Franklin) 77
Galaxy: Josh Saunders; A.J. DeLaGarza, Omar Gonzalez, Gregg Berhalter (Sean Franklin, 27), Todd Dunivant; Landon Donovan, David Beckham, Juninho, Mike Magee; Robbie Keane (Chris Birchall, 91+), Adam Cristman (Chad Barrett, 71). Unused subs: Frankie Hejduk, Miguel Lopez, Brian Perk, Michael Stephens.
Alajuelense: Ivan Garcia; Jose Salvatierra, Giancarlo Gonzalez, Jhonny Acosta, Christopher Meneses; Kevin Sancho, Marcelo Fazzio, Juan Guzman (Cristian Lagos, 82), Allen Guevara; Pablo Gabas (Cristian Oviedo, 84), Alejandro Alpizar (Carlos Clark, 75).
Yellow cards: Beckham 31, Acosta 60, Donovan 68, Magee 77. Red card: Juninho 88.
Referee: Marco Antonio Rodriguez (Mexico). Att.: 9,855.
1. Galaxy 2-0-0 (4-0) 6 points
2. Alajuelense (Costa Rica) 1-1-0 (1-2) 3 points
3. Morelia (Mexico) 1-1-0 (4-1) 3 points
4. Motagua (Honduras) 0-2-0 (0-6) 0 points