Los Angeles Soccer: Manchester United
We're not in favor of either idea. The ASG is a lot of fun, even if it doesn't mean anything, and the MLSers looked pretty good on attack in the first half of Wednesday night's 4-0 loss in Harrison, N.J. (They couldn't defend, but that has more to do with Red Bulls coach Hans Backe's flawed tactics.)
Some would like to see a return to the original format, used in 1996-97, 1999-2001 and again in 2004: East vs. West. Or, as , in '98, MLS's Yanks against its foreigners.
Those were ugly games, mostly, with 6-1, 6-4, 9-4 and 6-6 scorelines included. Non-soccer fans want more goals. Real soccer fans know that too many goals usually means bad game. These weren't just bad, they lacked competition -- the highlight of the early ASGs was Landon Donovan stripping off his jersey after scoring one of his four goals in San Jose 10 years ago to reveal a sports bra, a tribute to San Jose's own Brandi Chastain.
The exhibitions against foreign, mostly British (almost entirely English) clubs, have been good ones, with victories over Guadalajara, Fulham, Chelsea, Celtic and West Ham United. Beating Chelsea was a bit of a surprise -- there's some talent in those Blues -- but the other clubs were perfect: second- and third-tier English sides, all very good, but none of them Manchester United.
It makes little sense to bash a format because one of the three or four best clubs on the planet beat a group of MLS players who had never played together before, but that's just us.
This week's rankings:
Week 19: Sean Franklin's first MLS goal beats Columbus, 1-0; a nice Mike Magee strike ties Manchester City, 1-1, but the Englishmen win the friendly on penalties, 7-6
Remark: With 42 points, Galaxy is just four points from a playoff berth last season. With four extra games this year, they probably need 10 more, but it's inevitable
All-Stars: Midfielders Donovan, David Beckham and Juninho, defenders Franklin and Omar Gonzalez
Next: Saturday at Vancouver, 4:30 p.m. (Fox Soccer Channel and Fox Deportes)
2. SEATTLE SOUNDERS (10-4-8, 38 points), Last week: 2
Week 19: A half-dozen second-half goals surrendered in 7-0 debacle vs. Manchester United; Jeff Parke hand ball costly in 1-0 loss at Panama's San Francisco FC in CONCACAF Champions League preliminary-round opener
Remark: Sigi Schmid empties his bench in the second half, uses 26 players against Man U, calls defeat the biggest embarrassment of his career
All-Stars: Goalkeeper Kasey Keller and midfielder Osvaldo Alonso
Next: Saturday at Houston, 5:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick)
3. FC DALLAS (11-5-6, 39 points), Last week: 3
Week 19: Brek Shea's ninth gives the Hoops a 1-0 win at Toronto FC; Marvin Chavez nets a pair in 2-2 draw at New York
Remark: Milton Rodriguez and Peri Marosevic jettisoned. No big loss
All-Stars: Winger Shea
Next: Thursday in a CONCACAF Champions League preliminary-round first leg at Alianza (El Salvador), 7 p.m. (Fox Soccer Channel); Sunday vs. Chivas USA, 4 p.m. (Galavision)
What a stupid question.
Here's the key to the most famous footballer on the planet: Given the option, he'll never leave the field. So he didn't, going the full 90 -- the only MLS player to do so -- in an “emotional” 4-0 loss to Manchester United, the Galaxy star's beloved original club.
“It was an honor to play today,” Beckham told ESPN sideline reporter Rob Stone when it was over (see the entire interview in the previous post). “I think in the first 10 minutes we had a couple of really good chances. If we had put those away, that would have settled us down. Man United is a team that performs at the highest level, and if you don't capitalize on good chances, they can kill you. And, obviously, they did once they got the first goal. They played the ball around so well, and it's a pleasure to play them tonight.”
Every available MLS All-Star made it onto the field, even goalkeeper Kasey Keller, who had initially withdrawn from the game because Seattle had a CONCACAF Champions League match Tuesday night in Panama. The American legend raced from Central America to New Jersey afterward, arrived in Newark about 4˝ hours before game time and came on to loud applause in the 82nd minute.
Here's our quick take on the four local players who participated:
DAVID BECKHAM (Galaxy): Forced two big saves from starting Man United goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard and repeatedly showed off his renowned abilities passing and crossing the ball. A solid performance in a game that meant more to him than to anyone else in Red Bull Arena.
SEAN FRANKLIN (Galaxy): Got the start at right back and was all right, although Park Ji-Sung, the MVP, turned him something fierce while scoring the second goal.
NICK LABROCCA (Chivas USA): The New Jersey boy's homecoming was terrific -- he brought tremendous energy to the field, made plays at both ends, and came so close to scoring twice -- and would have had the goal of the game had his first-time strike from Jack Jewsbury's feed in the 78th minute been a tad lower and a little bit to the left.
HEATH PEARCE (Chivas USA): Pearce has evolved into the Goats' leader in central defense, but he was back at right back -- the spot he played last season at FC Dallas and started in this season for Chivas -- and was victim to all the space in midfield that United exploited, product of Red Bulls coach Backe's misguided 4-3-3 system. Should have closed down a little better on Danny Welback's strike for the fourth goal.
Galaxy midfielder Juninho is a Major League Soccer All-Star. So is Montclair's Nick Rimando, the goalkeeper for Real Salt Lake. Don't bother looking for either Wednesday.
They were among a half-dozen players selected in a vote among their colleagues for the final slots on the official All-Star list, but none of them are on the game-day roster for the clash with Manchester United at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J.
The collective bargaining agreement between the league and the MLS Players Union mandates 32 all-stars, proportioned by position to resemble a realistic roster, but Red Bulls coach Hans Backe will take only 21 players into Wednesday night's game, which will be televised on ESPN2 and TeleFutura (KFTR/Channel 46). Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. PT.
Backe was allowed a 22-man roster, but Landon Donovan pulled out Sunday with a calf strain, and the coach said Monday he would not replace the Galaxy captain on the roster.
Four others previously chosen for the game-day roster -- Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez, New York defender Rafa Marquez, Seattle goalkeeper Kasey Keller and FC Dallas winger Brek Shea -- pulled out previously with injuries or CONCACAF Champions League conflicts.
The others added to the list Monday were Seattle midfielder Osvaldo Alonso, D.C. United midfielder Dwayne De Rosario, Vancouver forward Eric Hassli and New York winger Joel Lindpere.
Juninho, a 22-year-old Brazilian in his second season on loan from Sao Paulo, has been pivotal in central midfield for the Galaxy, which have the league's best record (11-2-9) heading into the All-Star break.
Rimando (Montclair HS/UCLA), 32, is in the top tier of MLS goalkeepers -- arguably at the top of that tier -- and his exclusion from the game-day roster was one of Backe's more shocking decisions. Rimando hasn't spoken publicly about the snub, but RSL head coach Jason Kreis last week told The Salt Lake Tribune that his star netminder was “deeply hurt.”
MARINA DEL REY -- Bruce Arena has seen how badly Major League Soccer's clubs are being pummeled by European royalty, but in preseason form, during the World Football Challenge series of exhibitions, and his reaction is simple. Who cares?
He talked about it at a sparsely attended news conference in advance of the Galaxy's friendly Sunday afternoon against Manchester City FC at Home Depot Center, making it clear -- if it weren't already -- where this game stands among his team's priorities.
“I don't think it's that important,” Arena said Thursday afternoon. “I think this is an exhibition in a tournament where we've brought some of the great club teams in the world to the United States to play MLS club teams and others, and it's to show these great teams and players. The competition itself is not as important as the ability to bring the clubs here and let our fans see these great players and clubs.”
That's one way to spin the Seattle Sounders' 7-0 loss Wednesday night to Manchester United, or the Galaxy's 4-1 loss last weekend to Real Madrid at the Coliseum. The New England Revolution also lost, 4-1, to Manchester United. In 13 friendlies against European clubs -- two of them, D.C. United's and Portland's losses to Ajax Amsterdam, from May -- MLS clubs are 2-8-1 and have been outscored, 27-9.
The only wins were San Jose's victory July 12 over West Bromwich Albion and Philadelphia's win Wednesday night over Everton, second-or-lower-tier English Premier League clubs, in games that are not part of the WFC.
Vancouver lost Monday to Manchester City, and on Wednesday Houston was beaten by Bolton and Portland lost a thriller to West Brom.
“The results haven't been good, there's no question about that,” Arena said. “I think it's a difficult competition to gauge some of the results. I do believe if we played Real Madrid 10 times, they'd probably beat us 11. I'm not embarrassed by our performance. [Real Madrid] is a very good team.
“I think the purpose of these exhibitions are exhibiting these great teams and players and let both teams play and enjoy the match. To me, the result is not that critical.”
Marvin Iraheta is ready to play at Old Trafford against Manchester United. At least, he'd better be.
The Pasadena teen is among 18 players selected Thursday for the new New York Cosmos' first first-team roster, to go up against the English Premier League champion in Paul Scholes' testimonial match Aug. 5.
Former U.S. national team stars Brad Friedel and Brian McBride also are on the roster, which was put together by Cosmos director of soccer Eric Cantona and honorary president Pelé. Iraheta stars for Cosmos Academy West in Pasadena, part of the club's youth development structure.
The Cosmos, who claim lineage to the great North American Soccer League team of the 1970s and '80s, were formed last year and aim to be Major League Soccer's 20th club. Former Galaxy star Cobi Jones is the club's assistant director of soccer.
Iraheta, 19, an El Salvador native who graduated last month from Blair High School, last year was the U.S. Soccer Development Academy's U-17/18 Player of the Year last year and this season was a first-team All-Development Academy selection.
CARSON -- David Beckham was talking about the first time -- the only time -- he has stepped on a field against Manchester United, the club where he grew up, first found his footing and became a star.
It was only 16 months or so ago, when he was on loan to AC Milan, and it was twice, three weeks apart, in each leg of a UEFA Champions League round-of-16 clash. The second leg, in his old stamping grounds at United's Old Trafford, is the game that resonates with Beckham, and it has nothing to do with the game itself, a 4-0 Man United rout.
It was the experience of being the enemy at home.
“It was very emotional,” said Beckham, who was warmly received by Man United's fans that evening. “It was a real emotional moment to be back at Manchester United for the first time in seven years. It was an emotional time. I was glad I got that one out of the way.”
He'll revisit those passions in not quite a couple of weeks, at Major League Soccer's July 27 All-Star Game in Harrison, N.J., where MLS's best will battle Manchester United. And he's expecting something similar Saturday night when the Galaxy takes on Real Madrid -- another of Beckham's former clubs -- in a World Football Challenge friendly at the Coliseum.
Beckham has a keen sense of his sport's history and the importance of its greatest institutions, and he's humbled that he has had the fortune of playing for (and becoming part of the identity of) two of the world's legendary clubs. Taking them on stirs the emotions.
“I spent four amazing years at Real Madrid ...,” Beckham said earlier this week. “To be facing Real Madrid for the first time since I left, it's emotional. You get attached to a club, you get attached to people at a club.”
On Friday he spoke about his four seasons in Madrid, from 2003 through 2007 -- bridging his time with Manchester United with his Galaxy tenure -- and how exciting it will be to play against another club that resides deep within his heart.
“It's exciting for the fans to see great players like Cristiano [Ronaldo] and Iker [Casillas] and Kaká, the players they've got,” said Beckham, who missed last year's Galaxy-Real Madrid game while rehabilitating a torn Achilles' tendon. “It's going to be a competitive game, I'm sure. Real Madrid don't come over and Jose Mourinho doesn't put a team out that's going to [mess] around. It's going to be a good game.
“Personally, I've got a lot of great memories for playing for Real Madrid, and this is the first time I've played them since I left.”
The best of those memories?
“In the first year, playing with the likes of [Zinedine] Zidane, Ronaldo, Raul, Roberto Carlos, [Luis] Figo -- all these great players. Being able to play with them in the same team. It doesn't get any better than that.”
Landon Donovan, David Beckham and the right side of the Galaxy's backline is headed to Major League Soccer's All-Star Game.
Defenders Omar Gonzalez and Sean Franklin will join L.A.'s superstars in Harrison, N.J., for the July 27 match against Manchester United after their selections to the First XI in balloting by fans. The league announced the list Sunday afternoon.
It's the 11th straight selection for Donovan, the second for Beckham and Gonzalez, and Franklin's first.
Donovan was asked after Saturday's victory over Chicago about what his expected selection would mean, but he appeared unaware of a shift this season from a player/coach/media/fan ballot to strictly fan voting via MLS's website, Twitter and through text messaging.
“For me, it's an honor because the players and coaches vote on it, too,” he said. “If it was fan voting, which it partially is, but if it was only fan voting, it's a little different. Sometimes, more popular teams with bigger fan bases get players in.
“It is something that means a lot to us, and I think we have a lot of guys here who are deserving.”
Donovan is correct about popularity. MLS's two biggest clubs -- the Galaxy and New York Red Bulls -- dominate the First XI, and fan favorites Jack Jewsbury, the Portland Timbers' captain, and retiring goalkeeping legend Kasey Keller, from the Seattle Sounders, also made the list.
The Red Bulls are represented by French forward Thierry Henry, Mexican defender Rafa Marquez and second-year defender Tim Ream. The others are San Jose forward Chris Wondolowski, last year's Golden Boot winner, and FC Dallas winger Brek Shea, who is having an enormous year.
A 12th player -- Sporting Kansas City defender Matt Besler -- was the 12th selection, based on receiving the most text votes.
New York Red Bulls coach Hans Backe, who will guide the All-Stars, is not bound by the vote when he chooses his starting lineup -- these are, true to their name, the first XI chosen for the team. Commissioner Don Garber's two selections will be announced Saturday, and the remainder of the team will be announced July 18. The starters will be determined from the full roster.
Major League Soccer will unveil the All-Star First XI at halftime of ESPN's coverage of Sunday afternoon's Portland Timbers-Seattle Sounders game (1 p.m. kickoff), and we expect to hear a few names we know: Landon Donovan, David Beckham, and maybe Omar Gonzalez and Sean Franklin, too.
This isn't the starting lineup for the MLS side that will take on Manchester United on July 27 in Harrison, N.J., just the “First XI” as chosen in a fan vote. New York Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe can choose his lineup from any player on the roster, which he with help from Commissioner Don Garber will fill, to be announced July 18.
Here's who we'd have in our First XI:
Stefan Frei (Toronto FC): Montclair's Nick Rimando (with Real Salt Lake), Palos Verdes' Kevin Hartman (with FC Dallas) or Colombian Faryd Mondragon (with Philly) are likelier -- and deserving -- choices, but what Swissman Frei, 25, has done under nearly constant siege deserves reward.
Jan Gunnar Solli (New York Red Bulls): Norwegian newcomer is solid defensively, exceptional going forward. Solli, 30, has quickly become the league's premier right back.
Jamison Olave (Real Salt Lake): Big Colombian center back was MLS's Defender of the Year last season, when we would have opted for his partner, Nat Borchers. Olave, 30, has been better even this year.
David Beckham might be the biggest star in the world, but even he gets star-struck.
For instance, last week, when he capped his short trek to England with dinner. With Queen Elizabeth and President Obama.
Beckham, who was home to participate in Gary Neville's Manchester United testimonial, was a guest at the Buckingham Palace dinner eight nights ago honoring Obama and his wife, Michelle.
"When you get an invite like that, it's impossible to turn down," Beckham said following the Galaxy's training session Thursday. "Obviously, I've met the queen before, and I can never get bored of meeting the queen, you know. We love her in our country, and she's loved all over the world, so to be at dinner with her [is amazing].
"I've met the first lady before but never met the president. So it was an honor to meet him, an amazing man. ... It was a great dinner. The food was great as well."
Beckham, who also was a guest at Prince William's wedding at the end of April, says he often gets invitations to events in England, "and usually I can't go to those kind of things, obviously living here, and usually I'm working all the time. So to be able to go there, it was a real honor to meet the people that I met.
"Tom Hanks was on my table as well, so I was a little bit starstruck."
'I CAN PLAY IN ENGLAND': He called the match honoring Neville a "special night" and enjoyed being with the fans, who chanted for Man United boss Alex Ferguson to bring Beckham back to the club.
"I know I can play in England again," Beckham said. "I'm fit enough, and when you've played there, you know how special it is to play there. It's nice to hear people saying [I should return to England to play], because they're still noticing you can still play and are still fit. At 36 years old, I'm still running around like I was when I was 21. A little bit slower, but I can still play."
Beckham enjoyed putting on a Manchester United uniform for the first time since he left the club in 2003, and joked that it was difficult to take it off after the game. "I've got it at home now. I wear it to bed," he quipped.
The climax of the European soccer season comes Saturday when Manchester United and Barcelona, two of the game's real giants, face off for the second time in three seasons in the UEFA Champions League final at Wembley.
It's a classic matchup, pitting Barcelona's gorgeous possession-heavy attack -- fueled by Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta, three of the game's most fertile stars -- against Manchester United's rugged explosiveness that features Wayne Rooney and Mexican star Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez.
No matter the result, Barca will continue to be thought of as the finest side on the planet -- nobody's really all that close -- and Man United will be considered overachievers if they can accomplish what they couldn't two years ago in Rome.
In that one, Samuel Eto'o and Messi scored in a 2-0 victory for the Catalans, who claimed their third title, equal to Manchester United.
Nobody on this continent will be watching as closely as Galaxy midfielder David Beckham, who grew up in Man United's youth system, played a decade with its first team and pulled on a Red Devils jersey earlier this week for Gary Neville's testimonial at Old Trafford.
Beckham, as they say, is a Red through and through.
“Barcelona are such a great team,” he said. “They're the best team of this generation, such great player, great experience. … But if anyone can beat Barcelona, Sir Alex Ferguson knows how to do it.”
David Beckham surely looked at home. The Galaxy midfielder, back in a Manchester United shirt for best pal Gary Neville's testimonial match Tuesday at Old Trafford, received the loudest ovation and was serenaded with “Fergie, sign him up” chants in his return to his original club.
He also saw a lot more action than he expected, and more than the Galaxy would have preferred. The 36-year-old midfielder, given permission by L.A. to miss Wednesday's game at Home Depot Center against Houston, played the full 90 minutes in a 2-1 loss to Italian giant Juventus.
Beckham, making his first appearance for Man United since leaving for Real Madrid in 2003, played in his trademark spot on the right flank, just in front of Neville, and delighted the crowd with his touch, passing and two shots. He forced a diving save from Juventus goalkeeper Marco Storari just before halftime, and blistered a free kick just over the crossbar in the 68th minute.
“Definitely won't be any more than 45 minutes,” Beckham said when asked Saturday how long he'd play in the match. “I think it will be a walk on, play for a bit, then walk off.”
Not quite. Although the pace and intensity -- and certainly defensive bite -- of friendles are nothing like in a competitive match, running around for 90-plus minutes three days after helping the Galaxy beat Chivas USA and four days before a match at New England is of no help to his current club. Oh, and throw two cross-Atlantic flights in there, too.
But the occasion was special, as befitting as loyal a servant as Neville has been to Man U. Including his youth days, the former England national-teamer has spent more than 20 years with the club.
Coach Bruce Arena announced his decision to let Beckham go in his news conference following the Galaxy's 1-0 win Saturday night over Chivas USA, claiming it was “made in what I think is in the best interests of our team.”
“It's my responsibility,” Arena said, “so if you want to throw darts, the darts should be thrown at me. I'm the person who has to accept the responsibility in that decision. And I think it's the right one to make.”
Beckham, whom Arena says would have been held out of the Houston game regardless in an effort to keep him fresh through a congested schedule, said he was thankful for the opportunity to join Neville -- the best man at his wedding and one of his best friends -- for the friendly between Manchester United and Juventus.
Both were part of a golden generation of players to emerge from Man United's youth scheme in the early 1990s. It will be the first time Beckham has played in a Man United uniform since departing the club in 2003.
“To be there for him, for his family, that's important,” Beckham said. “Because it was such an important era for us and for Manchester United, and if Sir Alex Ferguson hadn't given us the chance when we were all young, we wouldn't have been able to create what we all created.”
Arena said he decided Beckham could go because he wouldn't be playing against Houston and because he thought “it's important for David to be there, given their relationship and years they had together, those fabled years, and we thought it was important.”
Beckham and Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said Thursday a decision won't be made until after Saturday night's SuperClasico against Chivas USA, but their comments indicate a decision needs to be confirmed, not necessarily made.
"At the moment, it's not been decided," Beckham said, "but I think the organization and Bruce know how important it is for Gary. ... It's such a tremendous occasion for Gary, to be celebrating it in the way he's going to be doing. That era [of players who joined Man United's first team from the youth academy in the early 1990s] was such an important phase of our lives. It's a big occasion."
Testimonial matches, more common in Europe than here, honor retiring stars and players who provided great service to their clubs over many years. Neville, a longtime England national-teamer, spent 18 productive seasons at Manchester United, winning eight Premier League, three F.A. Cup, one UEFA Champions League and two world club titles with the Red Devils. He retired in February. The testimonial will be against Italian giant Juventus.
"It's important for me to be there for Gary, more than anything. That's the big thing," Beckham said. "The final decision is obviously up to the boss and the organization, so we'll see. I'm concentrating on this game Saturday, and then we'll see what happens."
Arena said it was likely the Galaxy would rest Beckham, 36, in one of three games scheduled over eight days. The Dynamo match is Wednesday at Home Depot Center, and L.A. plays at New England a week from Saturday.
If Beckham missed the game with Houston, he could join L.A. in Massachusetts on his return from Manchester.
"I would think that we would be resting David in one of the games next week," Arena said. "That's what we've done [in congested weeks] in the early going, and there's no reason to believe that we won't continue to do that. ... The older players can't be run into the ground. That's why we're doing our best to keep David healthy. To me, it makes sense that he doesn't play three games in a week. If we can avoid that, we're going to do that."
He's one of three Englishmen in the top 10, joined by Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney (seventh, $20 million) and Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard (tied for eighth, $17 million).
One other Major League Soccer star made the top 10: New York Red Bulls forward Thierry Henry, a Frenchman, is No. 6 with $21 million.
Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo, from Portugal, is No. 2 at $38 million and reigning FIFA World Player of the Year Lionel Messi, an Argentine midfielder who stars for Barcelona, is third at $32 million.
Clubs Beckham has played for are the Nos. 1, 2 and 6 highest-valued clubs in Forbes' annual survey.
Manchester United, owned by Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Malcolm Glazer, is atop the list, worth $1.864 billion, followed by Real Madrid ($1.451 billion), Arsenal ($1.192 million), Bayern Munich ($1.048 billion), Barcelona ($975 million) and AC Milan ($838 million). Arsenal's primary shareholder is Colorado Rapids owner Stan Kroenke.
Every club in the top 20 is European.
Jorge Vergara was asked about Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez when he visited the press box at halftime of last week's Chivas USA opener, and the man who sold Mexico's reigning soccer god to Manchester United couldn't contain his excitement.
“I'm very pleased to be part of his success,” said Vergara, whose holdings include Club Deportivo Guadalajara and a good piece of Chivas USA, Guadalajara's little brother. “We decided to sell him instead of locking him up, and we made a statement when we sold him to Manchester United: He was going to be the best player in the world, and I think he's going to be, too.
“And I think even [Manchester United manager Alex] Ferguson didn't believe me, but the capabilities of the player -- now he believes what I told him.”
OK, we can all agree that Argentina's Lionel Messi is the world's finest talent, and his Barcelona teammates Xavi and Andres Iniesta -- the midfield foundation of Spain's World Cup triumph -- aren't far behind, and several others perhaps belong in the conversation, including Dutchman Wesley Sneijder, Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo and, when he's on, Swede Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Who are we leaving out?
Is “Chicharito” in this class? Those who think not might want to watch tape of Mexico's 3-1 rout of Paraguay on Saturday afternoon up in Oakland. Hernandez scored twice to lead El Tri to a 3-0 lead by the 35th minute, and the quality of his finishes was breathtaking.
He scored on a superb header -- dipping his head to redirect Pablo Barrera's cross -- in the seventh minute and emphatically finished Ricardo Osorio's feed in the 34th.
That's 14 goals in 21 international matches over the past 13 months and two days, a stirring rate for any forward, and they include strikes against France and Argentina at the World Cup and goals against World Cup champion Spain (a month after the final) and runner-up Holland (two weeks before the Cup).