Tuesday, October 4, 2011
GALAXY: Shield will have to wait
By Scott French
Thierry Henry got the better of David Beckham on this play and in Tuesday's game overall.
A weary Galaxy side missing two of its biggest names gave a game but insufficient effort on its trek to New Jersey, and so its hope to head into a badly needed break of nearly two weeks in possession of the Supporters' Shield is dead.
Luke Rodgers and Thierry Henry scored goals and both of them also hit posts as the New York Red Bulls, desperate for a victory, pulled out a 2-0 triumph Tuesday night at Red Bull Arena.
The victory solidified the Red Bulls' playoff bid and left the Galaxy still needing one win -- or for Seattle to not win just once -- to claim MLS's regular-season title for the second straight year and record-tying fourth time. L.A. (18-4-10) can clinch Oct. 16 at Home Depot Center against Chivas USA.
L.A. was without captain Landon Donovan, left home because of a quad strain, and forward Robbie Keane, off with Ireland's national team, among five missing first-choice players, and the Galaxy struggled to create an attack despite plenty of dangerous balls from David Beckham.
But the toll of nine games in 30 days -- and four in the past 11 -- along with travel to and from Mexico and Central America and back and forth across the county was apparent. L.A.'s energy was gone once it fell behind on Rodgers' reaction finish in the 31st minute, and Henry killed the game with a 60th-minute finish from a Rafa Marquez long ball.
“We’re a bit tired after all the games we’ve been playing, but it was disappointing losing, of course,” Beckham told reporters afterward. “We had a hard game over the weekend against Salt Lake, and then, obviously, the travel, the time zones, and all that. It was a quick turnaround.
“A few of the lads are tired, a few of the lads are aching a little bit. We’ve got a few players that are beat up, but we have a long layoff until we play Chivas, and then we’ll see.”
The goal was Henry's 14th of the season, good for a share of the MLS lead with D.C. United's Dwayne De Rosario, a teammate earlier this year. Donovan is third on the list with 12.
A quick look at the Galaxy's defeat:
BEST PLAYER: There's some thought that New York's postseason situation would be far better had Rodgers not been out of action nine weeks because of a heel injury. We think there's merit to that. If Henry provides the Red Bulls' attacking class, it's Rodgers who brings the heart, and his energy up front was informative and infectious.
His goal was a masterclass in poaching, he should have had a second before halftime, and his runs troubled L.A. -- especially A.J. DeLaGarza -- most of the night, opening space that Henry, Dane Richards and Joel Lindpere were able to exploit.
BEST GOAL: Marquez's 40-yard pass to set up Henry's goal was the night's best moment (although Beckham's for Chad Barrett in the 39th was just as nice, just without a finish).
Let's instead give credit to Rodgers, whose reaction time after Ricketts slapped away Jan Gunnar Solli's header couldn't have been more than a fraction of a second -- or a second faster than everybody else.
It came from a Lindpere corner kick that Solli, aligned near the near post, nodded on frame from about eight yards. Ricketts was able to knock it away, but it hung in the air, and Rodgers, standing with DeLaGarza on his back, quickly lifted his leg and volleyed it into the ceiling of the goal.
BIGGEST STRUGGLE: The Galaxy's stock talk when one or another of their stars -- whether Donovan, Beckham or Keane, or Donovan Ricketts, Mike Magee or Gregg Berhalter -- is that the team has two dozen players capable of performing in competition, and one man's absence is another man's opportunity.
Can't argue with the results -- it's among the reasons L.A. is MLS's best club, and its league-best defensive record is all the more impressive given the number of injuries absorbed along the backline and with Ricketts.
This time it did matter. The attack was toothless without Donovan and Keane, and the bigger issue -- fatigue after all these games the past month -- took over once New York went ahead. L.A. clearly was weary, and giveaways led to Henry's goal, both shots that hit posts and a growing sense that this just wasn't going to be the Galaxy's night.
“It wasn't our best night,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “I think we looked like a tired team. Tonight is a culmination of a lot of games over a short period of time, and it showed.”
Had L.A. struck early, it might have been different. Beckham was in good form, delivering some potentially devastating balls, but he and, especially, Barrett never found a connection, and too often the far-post run wasn't made. As the legs grew heavier, the possibilities dried up.
“We created some good chances,” Barrett said. “I think that we definitely missed getting a lot of times where we could have cut the ball back on the left side, and that’s where you miss Mike Magee and Landon Donovan swinging the ball in right-footed and stuff like that.”
WORTH NOTING: Ricketts returned to the nets after missing the previous three games because of a quad injury he suffered after coming back from a broken hand that had sidelined him for eight games. Add in CONCACAF Gold Cup duty in June with Jamaica, and the big netminder was playing in only his third game in the last 17 since late May. ... Rookie winger Hector Jimenez, from Bell Gardens, made his MLS debut, coming on for Miguel Lopez in the 65th minute. He has played for the Galaxy in the CONCACAF Champions League, U.S. Open Cup, MLS Reserve League and friendlies. ... Newcomer Dasan Robinson made his debut on a Galaxy 18-man roster, but he did not play. He figures to make his club debut in Monday's Reserve League game against Chivas. ...
Frankie Hejduk was cautioned for a late tackle on Rodgers in the 13th minute, his fifth yellow card of the season, and will be suspended for the game in 12 days against Chivas USA. ... New York moved ahead of Houston, into ninth overall, on goal difference and moved the playoff points minimum to 43, eliminating Chivas USA and San Jose from the chase. Ten teams are battling for the final seven postseason berths. ... Seattle won its third straight U.S. Open Cup title Tuesday night, beating Chicago, 2-0, in the final before 35,615 at CenturyLink Field.
FINAL JUDGMENT: “Everybody's tired. CONCACAF has taken its toll on us,” Barrett said. “[We're] missing players due to injuries here and injuries there and international duty. That’s gonna happen, we need the other players to step up and do the job, and we’ve been doing that up until now.
“But you slip up for one game, and it’s not the worst thing. This team’s not down. We’re just gonna enjoy our break. Everybody’s going to get to put up their legs, and that’s going to be really important heading into the playoffs.”
NEXT: Sunday, Oct. 16, vs. Chivas USA at Home Depot Center, 6 p.m. (ESPN and ESPN Deportes)
Red Bull Arena (Harrison, N.J.)
New York Red Bulls 2, Galaxy 0 NY -- Luke Rodgers 31
NY -- Thierry Henry (Rafa Marquez) 60
New York Red Bulls: Frank Rost; Jan Gunnar Solli, Stephen Keel, Tim Ream, Roy Miller; Dane Richards (Mehdi Ballouchy, 93+), Rafa Marquez (Dax McCarty, 82), Teemu Tainio, Joel Lindpere; Luke Rodgers, Thierry Henry.
Galaxy: Donovan Ricketts; Frankie Hejduk (Bryan Jordan, 46), Omar Gonzalez, A.J. DeLaGarza, Todd Dunivant; Paolo Cardozo, David Beckham, Juninho (Adam Cristman, 71), Michael Stephens; Miguel Lopez (Hector Jimenez, 65), Chad Barrett. Unused subs: Dan Keat, Jovan Kirovski, Dasan Robinson, Josh Saunders.