The bliss for soccer fans when Real Madrid, or any team of such caliber, comes to visit -- not that that list is a lengthy one -- has nothing to do with whether the friendlies are competitive (the more so the better, of course) nor some desire to see how our local boys can stand up to so mighty a force.
It's in watching in amazement at the things these players can do.
David Beckham has brilliant touch -- nobody plays a better ball over distance -- and Thierry Henry remains a regal figure with sublime skill and instinct, but games like Saturday's at the Coliseum, in which Real Madrid throttled the Galaxy, 4-1, are a reminder of how far Major League Soccer still must go to be considered a first-class league.
Consider: Real had been training all of four days before facing L.A. Two sessions every day. Yet not only were the Merengues vastly more talented, more dynamic -- more everything, really -- than MLS's No. 1 club, they were sharper and in better form, which they shouldn't be this early in their preseason.
The difference is, quite simply, quality. The Galaxy have one aging world-class star (Beckham), one player who could be a star in Europe in the right situation, such as Everton (Landon Donovan), and a defender with a decade and a half's worth of experience on Europe's fields (Gregg Berhalter), which shined through on several of Real's repeated forays into L.A.'s box.
Most impressive for the Galaxy were Josh Saunders and Brian Perk, the Nos. 2 and 3 goalkeepers, who each played for a half. Both made big saves -- the best: Saunders laying out to parry Marcelo in the 36th minute, Perk knocking Mesut Özil's blast wide in the 70th -- and did well on balls into their box. Without them, maybe this ends 7-1 or 8-1.
Cristiano Ronaldo's class was clear in his splendid goal -- great run, great dribble, tight angle to the near post -- just eight minutes into the second half. His Portuguese countryman Fabio Coentrão, just in from Benfica, was simply spectacular, forever probing the Galaxy defense, using his pace to open space, creating chances on the dribble or through combination play. Marcelo twice turned nothing into dangerous shots. Kaká's ability to penetrate. The constant peril Jose Callejon brought L.A.'s backline.
Best of all, how they work together, how they orchestrate their attack, how their shape and movement always plays into an advantage. This is the highest standard the game knows -- this and Barcelona, Spain's national team, maybe Manchester United. And we're only going to see it on these summer tours.
WORTH NOTING: Rookies Hector Jimenez, Dan Keat and Ryan Thomas plus recent arrival Kyle Davies made their debuts for L.A.'s first team as second-half substitutes. All have played in the MLS Reserve League, and Jimenez and Davies were on the 18-man roster last weekend vs. Chicago. ... Defender A.J. DeLaGarza and midfielder Chris Birchall were the only players to go the full 90. Birchall is suspended from the next two MLS matches. ... Next weekend's foe, Manchester City FC, topped Mexican power America on Saturday in San Francisco. Ryan McGivern and Shaun Wright-Phillips scored first-half goals in the Blues' 2-1 victory.
Coliseum (Los Angeles)
Galaxy 1, Real Madrid (Spain) 4
RM -- Jose Callejon (Kaká) 31
RM -- Joselu (Marcelo) 40
RM -- Cristiano Ronaldo (Mesut Özil) 53
RM -- Karim Benzema (Fabio Coentrão) 59
LA – Adam Cristman 67
Galaxy: Josh Saunders (Brian Perk, 46); Sean Franklin (Bryan Jordan, 46), A.J. DeLaGarza, Gregg Berhalter (Ryan Thomas, 77), Todd Dunivant (Kyle Davies, 61); Chris Birchall, David Beckham (Jovan Kirovski, 62), Juninho (Dan Keat, 71); Landon Donovan (Hector Jimenez, 46); Juan Pablo Angel (Adam Cristman, 46; Chad Barrett, 77), Miguel Lopez (Paolo Cardozo, 71). Unused subs: Kevin Guppy, Dustin McCarty.
Real Madrid: Iker Casillas (Antonio Adan, 46); Sergio Ramos (Alvaro Arbeloa, 46), Ricardo Carvalho (Raphael Varane, 46), Pepe (Raul Albiol, 46), Marcelo (Nacho, 46); Fabio Coentrão (Jorge Casado,75), Esteban Granero (Xabi Alonso, 46), Sami Khedira (Cristiano Ronaldo, 46); Kaká (Mesut Özil, 46), Jose Callejon (Jese, 64), Joselu (Karim Benzema, 46). Unused subs: Jesus Fernandez, Tomas Mejias.
Yellow card: Lopez 38.
Referee: Jorge Gonzalez. Att.: 56,211.