Los Angeles Soccer: Marco Antonio Rodriguez
CARSON -- Word came down Thursday: This weekend's game at New York was off, thanks to Hurricane Irene, so all the guys who had the night off were going to be needed after all.
Galaxy coach Bruce Arena, no longer needing to rest a few players for Sunday's Major League Soccer showdown, was able to send out a first-choice lineup for his team's CONCACAF Champions League clash, and the reward was a 2-0 triumph over Costa Rican champion Alajuelense.
David Beckham, who wasn't going to play, was pivotal, crossing in the corner kick that Omar Gonzalez headed home in the 38th minute and piercing Alajuela's backline with pass that led to Chad Barrett's 77th-minute finish as L.A. cemented its spot atop Group A with two wins in two home games.
“That was the goal,” said Galaxy captain Landon Donovan. “We didn't play great ... but we made the plays we needed to win the game, and at the end of all of it, we have six points from our two home games, which we wanted. It's a perfect night for us.”
Well, not quite. L.A. lost defender Gregg Berhalter in the first half to a possible broken foot, saw midfielder Juninho red-carded near the end, and picked up yellow cards -- some deserved, but one of them an utter joke -- that could have a mighty imprint as the tournament proceeds.
Two cautions in group play means a suspension, so Beckham, Donovan and Mike Magee are halfway there after Mexican referee Marco Antonio Rodriguez, in a questionable performance, showed each the yellow card.
“It becomes a factor in the competition,” Arena noted. “You frown sometimes when the cards are wrong. When they're right, you frown. And it adds up, and it distorts the competition if it's not right. Our guys have got to adjust to this kind of officiating. It's all part of it, and we've got to be better about dealing with it.”
Beckham's “very weird” yellow, for wasting time as he tried to take a corner kick in the 31st minute, was astounding. Beckham asked the linesman, Jose Luis Camargo, to move out of his path so he could take the kick. Camargo, Beckham said, “told me where to go,” and Rodriguez raced over to show the Galaxy star the yellow card.
“I expected another yellow card, to be honest, at some point, because that's the way the officiating had gone all night,” Beckham said. “I think it was a disgrace at times. That's something you have to put up with in these competitions. It's unfortunate.”
Rodriguez, who has officiated at the last two World Cups, whistled 36 fouls, and his linesmen flagged 13 plays offside -- a hefty number. Asked about the officiating, Arena said: “It is what it is. You can make your own conclusions to that. We certainly saw him out there. His presence was certainly known tonight.”
Irish forward Robbie Keane, making his second appearance for the Galaxy, said the game “was a bit dead, to be honest with you,” with Rodriguez's constant whistles making for a choppy encounter.