SAN DIEGO -- David Beckham got his first game action of the preseason and set up a goal, and Landon Donovan scored one in a 90-minute performance, but maybe the best thing from the Galaxy's friendly Wednesday night against Club Tijuana was the Xoloitzcuintles' local hero.
Joe Corona, the 20-year-old winger out of National City and San Diego State, was superb in a 2-2 draw at the University of San Diego's Torero Stadium, and Bruce Arena noticed.
The Galaxy coach was asked afterward who he liked from the Xolos, and gushed about Corona.
“I think their No. 15,” he said. Told that No. 15 was from San Diego, had played at SDSU (as well as Sweetwater High School and for the lauded Nomads club), Arena was taken aback.
“He's a San Diego kid? Wow. Amazing,” he said. “Can we get him for the Galaxy? He's a good player.”
Tijuana might not want to give him up. He made a favorable impression as the Xolos romped to the second-tier Liga de Ascenso title in the fall, has been even better in the spring season and ought to be a pivotal figure on the team if it wins promotion to the Primera Division -- the league with America, Guadalajara, Cruz Azul and the like -- come May.
The notion of playing for L.A. doesn't sound too awful to Corona.
“That would be a great opportunity for me to play a different style of soccer,” he said. “It's always great we have these types of games, because we can show our talent, and we should have them more often. Because there's a lot of kids from down in Mexico that can come here and play, that have good quality soccer.”
A DRAW OR A LOSS?: Beckham played 73 minutes for the Galaxy -- a decent run-out after just a week or so in training -- and delivered a few nice balls, none finer than a corner kick that defender Omar Gonzalez nodded home in the 41st minute. That was two minutes after Armando Pulido fired Tijuana ahead after taking a feed from Gilberto Mora, dribbling past goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts and slipping the ball into an empty net.
Donovan, one of three players to go the distance -- Gonzalez and backline partner Leonardo were the others -- gave the Galaxy a 75th-minute lead from Chris Birchall's chip after a defender fell. Tijuana pulled even six minutes later on Luis Orozco's penalty kick.
A penalty-kick tiebreaker followed, and Adrian Zermeño made two saves as Tijuana prevailed, 4-3. Josh Saunders stopped Sergio Rosas, with the Xolos' first attempt, but the next four shooters hit the net, and Javier Yacuzzi's cheeky little chip made the difference.
HOMECOMING BLUES: If you want to lay blame for the loss, or the draw -- for not winning -- take it out on the local products. Frankie Hejduk, from Cardiff-by-the-Sea (with, he said, about 50 family and friends in the stands), gave Tijuana the tying goal when he stuck his foot out as Antonio Madueña chased a ball into L.A.'s box.
What was Hejduk thinking?
“I don't know,” he said. “Who knows? Just reaction. … And obviously, he just kicked the ball about 15 yards past the end line, so I think the referee should know that if he has a chance to get the ball, it's a PK. If he doesn't -- if it hits the wall behind the goal -- it's not probably a PK, right?”
Well, there are different interpretations of the rule, but this one was a clear penalty -- Madueña probably would have caught up with the ball, although what he might have done with it at so sharp an angle, to the left of the net, isn't clear.
Orozco's conversion brought about the tiebreaker, and the Galaxy was done when Jovan Kirovski, who commutes to Carson from Escondido -- that's almost or more than 100 miles, depending on his path -- took a weak shot on L.A.'s fifth try. It was no challenge for Zermeño, and the winning shot followed for the Xolos.
FORMATIONS: The Galaxy started in a 4-2-3-1, with Juninho and Birchall in front of the back four and Beckham, rookie Paolo Cardozo and Donovan behind solo striker Juan Pablo Angel.
They went with a 4-4-2 in the second half, with Chad Barrett joining Angel and later Mike Magee up top.
More important than the result was getting match fitness in a game with a paying crowd.
“A good game against a good team,” Arena said. “[It] pushed us in terms of our fitness, helped me evaluate some players, so it was good. I'm real happy we played this game tonight.”
Donovan, probably the Galaxy's best player, called the outing “pretty good.”
“I think we've got to figure out problems a little bit quicker on the field. Tactially, figure things out a little faster,” he said. “They certainly had some stretches where they had a lot of the ball and put a little pressure on us, but overall it was OK. I think our fitness was pretty good, and two weeks out [from the March 15 Major League Soccer opener at Seattle], I think we feel pretty close to there.”
BECKS SAYS: Beckham, who joined Galaxy camp last week after training for seven weeks with Tottenham in London, said he felt good.
“Obviously, my first game back, and I felt pretty good at times, and I think the fitness side is good to get out of the way …,” he said. “You need to get your first game out of the way, and then you can move on.”
BEAUTIFUL T.J.: A Tijuana-based reporter asked Beckham if he has ever visited Tijuana. “No, I've never been there before, but I've heard it's beautiful, and maybe one day I'll go,” he replied.
Well, David, now that you're so near, might you not visit soon? “Maybe, maybe. It's possible. I'll speak to my wife, and we'll see if we can get a little vacation there.”
WORTH NOTING: The defensive play of the game came from Todd Dunivant, the left back in the second half. Ricketts came out of his box to knock away a dangerous ball, but he didn't get all of it, and Corona delivered a brilliant dipping chip from 25 yards that was headed for the upper-right corner. Dunivant, on the goal line, leaped to head the ball over the crossbar. … Beckham tested Zermeño in the 26th minute, but the keeper dived to his left to keep the blast out of the net. … Donovan's goal was his second of the preseason and his first from the run of play. … Teen striker Jack McBean made his first real Galaxy appearance, watching from the bench. He'll practice with the team for the first time Thursday. … Players who played little or no time Wednesday are expected to play in Friday's game against Canada's under-23 national team at Home Depot Center.
Galaxy 2, Club Tijuana (Mexico) 2
(Tijuana wins on penalties, 4-3)
at Torero Stadium, University of San Diego
Goals: L.A. -- Omar Gonzalez (David Beckham) 41, Landon Donovan (Chris Birchall) 75; Tijuana -- Armando Pulido (Gilberto Mora) 39, Luis Orozco pen. 81.
Penalty kicks: L.A. -- Landon Donovan G, Mike Magee G, Miguel Lopez S, Chad Barrett G, Jovan Kirovski S; Tijuana -- Sergio Rosas S, Alejandro Molina G, Luis Orozco G, Oscar Otreras G, Javier Yacuzzi G.
Galaxy: Donovan Ricketts (Josh Saunders, 65); Sean Franklin (Frankie Hejduk, 62), Omar Gonzalez, Leonardo, A.J. DeLaGarza (Todd Dunivant, 46); Chris Birchall (Jovan Kirovski, 87), Juninho (Mike Magee, 87); David Beckham (Michael Stephens, 74), Paolo Cardozo (Chad Barrett, 46), Landon Donovan; Juan Pablo Angel (Miguel Lopez, 82).
Club Tijuana: Adrian Zermeño; Richard Ruiz (Antonio Madueña, 71), Javier Gandolfi (Oscar Otreras, 46), Alejandro Molina, Javier Yacuzzi; Felix Ayala (Jesus Gutierrez, 46), Fernando Santana; Joe Corona (Bruno Piceno, 67), Gilberto Mora (Miguel Almazan, 46), Armando Pulido (Gerardo Galindo, 46); Mauro Gerk (Luis Orozco, 46).
Misconduct: Yellow cards -- Leonardo 27, Ayala 28.
Referee: Ramon Hernandez. Att.: 6,124.
GALAXY 2011 PRESEASON (4-1-3)
Feb. 4 vs. Loyola Marymount at HDC: W 7-1 (goals by Birchall 2, Angel, Berhalter, Juninho, Kirovski, Cardozo)
Feb. 8 vs. Portland Timbers at HDC: T 1-1 (Cardozo)
Feb. 10 vs. San Jose Earthquakes at HDC: T 1-1 (Magee)
Feb. 16: vs. Colorado Rapids at Tempe, Ariz.: L 2-4 (Donovan, Cristman)
Feb. 18: vs. U.S. U-18s at Tempe, Ariz. (50 mins.): W 1-0 (Magee)
Feb. 21: vs. Vancouver Whitecaps at Tempe, Ariz.: W 2-0 (Birchall, Angel)
Feb. 22: vs. Vancouver Whitecaps at Tempe, Ariz.: W 2-0 (Cristman, Barrett)
March 2: vs. Club Tijuana at San Diego: T 2-2 (Gonzalez, Donovan), Tijuana wins on penalties, 4-3
March 4: vs. Canada U-23 at HDC
March 9: vs. UCLA at HDC