Los Angeles Soccer: Marcelo
The 38-year-old goalkeeper, making a farewell appearance before his home fans, made several superb saves as El Tri held on to an early advantage for nearly 70 minutes before stunning strikes by Ronaldinho and Marcelo gave Brazil a 2-1 win in Torreon.
Sanchez, Mexico's No. 1 netminder at the 2006 World Cup who hasn't figured much for the national team since Guillermo Ochoa's ascendancy a few years ago, was splendid in his 100th international appearance -- and basked in a glowing reception from fans of Santos Laguna, the club he captains, when subbed off in the final minutes.
The loss was the first with Mexico for technical director Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre, not that that means a whole lot. The game was virtually meaningless, and its timing -- with nothing important nearby; World Cup qualifying doesn't begin until June -- and both clubs' reliance on Europe-based talent softened the intensity.
The highlights were three spectacular goals, including the own goal that gave Mexico a 10th-minute lead. Right-winger Pablo Barrera, one of Mexico's special players, wrapped an attack along the byline with a telling ball from a tight angle. David Luiz stuck out his foot, the ball glanced off it, spinning behind goalkeeper Jefferson and finding the far-post netting.
Ronaldinho's 79th-minute free kick, awarded after Neymar's “performance” convinced Salvadoran referee Marlon Mejia, was a bullet to the upper-right corner. Marcelo beat two defenders in the box before firing the winner into the goal's ceiling in the 84th.
Nothing Sanchez could do about either. His night will be remembered more for two saves on Ronaldinho, both on free kicks.
Three things we saw in Brazil's victory over Mexico:
1. IT'S NOT JUST THE STARS
No question who the big boys were. Nobody was more influential (primarily from set pieces) than Ronaldinho, the biggest name in this game. Univision's coverage featured individual cams on Neymar, the Brazilian teen the world is swooning over, and Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez.
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.