CARSON, Calif. -- Major League Soccer's biggest showdown yet this season also was among its best encounters, a 1-1 draw Saturday night between the Galaxy and New York Red Bulls that had a little bit of everything.
Except a winner.
Thierry Henry fired New York ahead in the fourth minute, his fourth successive game with a goal, and Landon Donovan nodded home David Beckham's corner kick just before halftime to pull L.A. even, but it was the goals that didn't count -- and the chances that just missed -- that defined this thriller.
“It should probably ended up 3-3, with all the chances from both sides,” Red Bulls coach Hans Backe said. “It's a very intense game. It's a very good game. It's a good level on the game today. Probably the best you can see in MLS at the moment.
“Very entertaining, it must have been. That's two teams that definitely wanted to attack for 90 minutes and go for the winning goal.”
Galaxy striker Juan Pablo Angel, looking plugged in as he hasn't all season, scored against his former team midway through the first half, but the goal was waved off by an offside call that replays indicated was correct.
And Donovan, who has four goals in the last three games, should have had a second just moments after his header. Beckham lofted a ball over the New York backline for Donovan to run onto, and he pushed it past onrushing Red Bulls goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul a good 10 yards outside the box.
That left an empty net, but his roller from 19 yards was way too slow, and defender Tim Ream chased it down, slid and booted it from danger just as it reached the goal line.
Did it cross the line? Replays were inconclusive, but Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said his “take” was “it should have been a goal.”
“Part of that ball was over the line for sure,” Arena said. “Whether all of it was, I sure can't tell from where I am.”
Said Donovan: “It looked like it was in. I think we’re learning this year if we want to score a goal, we really have to score two goals. If we want to score two goals, we have to score three or four. It’s unfortunate. You would hope that at some point you have to think we’ll get the benefit of the doubt, but it hasn’t happened yet.”
A quick look at the Galaxy's draw:
BEST PLAYER: So many good ones -- a really exquisitely played match -- and worth noting that Angel was involved in ways he hasn't been since he arrived in L.A. New York midfielder Dwayne De Rosario caused havoc with his runs in the first half, but best of all was Henry, who is -- we'll say it here -- the greatest talent ever to play in MLS. His highlight: A first-half run down the left flank in which he juggled the ball at least a half-dozen times.
BEST GOAL: Both goals had something going for them. Henry's finish, vs. Sean Franklin after beating goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts from Dane Richards' feed, was pretty sweet. And Donovan's header for the equalizer was nice, even if two Red Bulls defender backed off, giving him a free header.
It was the non-goals that really stood out, however. Angel's header in the 25th minute from Donovan's cross, the offside goal, was a tremendous finish, the kind Galaxy fans have been waiting to see from him. Joel Lindpere tested Ricketts with a bullet late in the first half, a stunning shot and save. And Richards, dangerous most of the night, was unfortunate to hit the left post in the 82nd minute.
BIGGEST STRUGGLE: Both teams could have finished better. Ricketts and Coundoul made some big saves and were fortunate some shots, including a would-be winning header from second-half sub Juan Agudelo in the 78th minute, were just off target.
Donovan certainly should have done better after beating Coundoul just before halftime. After the game he was asked if he should have hit the ball harder.
“Have you ever played at this level,” was his answer.
Uh, no, but we've seen a lot of games at this level, and most players hit the ball harder.
WORTH NOTING: Adam Cristman, who made his official Galaxy debut in Tuesday's Reserve League loss to Chivas USA, was on the 18-man roster for the first time this year. He had been sidelined since opening week following knee surgery. … Fellow forward Miguel Lopez, who missed last week's loss to FC Dallas because of a bruised knee, was a second-half substitute. … New York's other trip to L.A. this year, to play Chivas USA, is on July 16. Same night the Galaxy plays Real Madrid just up the Harbor Freeway.
FINAL JUDGMENT: Game of the year? “Absolutely,” Backe said. “I think this is probably the best you can see in MLS, this level. … And it's a good level, definitely. I can compare it with many leagues in Europe. They would be very happy if they had seen a game like this with the number of chances, and the technical level, the workrate. The whole package was very good.”
NEXT: Wednesday at Philadelphia Union, 4:30 p.m. PT (TV: Fox Sports West)
Home Depot Center (Carson)
Galaxy 1, New York Red Bulls 1
NY -- Thierry Henry (Dane Richards) 4
G -- Landon Donovan (David Beckham) 41
Galaxy: Donovan Ricketts; Sean Franklin, Omar Gonzalez, A.J. DeLaGarza, Todd Dunivant; Landon Donovan, David Beckham, Juninho, Mike Magee (Chris Birchall, 78); Juan Pablo Angel, Chad Barrett (Miguel Lopez, 80). Unused subs: Adam Cristman, Frankie Hejduk, Jovan Kirovski, Josh Saunders, Michael Stephens.
New York Red Bulls: Bouna Coundoul; Jan Gunnar Solli, Rafa Marquez, Tim Ream, Roy Miller; Mehdi Ballouchy, Dane Richards, Dwayne De Rosario, Joe Lindpere; Luke Rodgers (Juan Agudelo, 72), Thierry Henry.
Yellow card: Rodgers 57.
Referee: Edvin Jurisevic. Att.: 27,000.