SAN DIEGO – Perhaps the biggest question the LA Galaxy have faced this preseason is how to replace Edson Buddle.
Does newcomer Chad Barrett play alongside fellow newcomer Juan Pablo Angel? Or does Landon Donovan move up top and create room for first-rounder Paolo Cardozo in the midfield.
The answers? Yes, and yes.
Barrett paired with Angel for the second half of Wednesday’s Galaxy friendly against Xoloitzcuintles at Torero Stadium at the University of San Diego. Cardozo started the match as the Galaxy sent out a 4-3-2-1 formation with Ángel the lone striker for the first 45 minutes.
Early returns? Each is a work-in-progress. The Galaxy tied Xoloitzcuintles, 2-2 but the match was decided in penalties. Xolos won the shootout 4-3.
“I thought it was a good game,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “We got some important match fitness in for a number of players. For an exhibition game, it was hard-fought, good for the fans who came out.”
The match was not the only preseason friendly the Galaxy has played but it was the only match in an actual game-like setting. An announced crowd of 6,124 took in the game in the cozy confines of Torero Stadium, one-time home of the WUSA’s San Diego Spirit. It was also the first time the Galaxy’s big three of Donovan, Ángel and David Beckham played on the same field together.
[inline_node:329754]Also, the setting was ideal for the Galaxy to work out the kinks that can’t be solved in training.
“We’ve got to figure out problems quicker on the field, tactically figure things out a little faster,” Donovan said. “Overall it was OK. Our fitness was pretty good and two weeks out, we feel pretty close.”
The Galaxy had both plusses and minuses to take away from the game. Beckham was dangerous on set pieces and set up the Galaxy’s first goal, knocking in a 42nd-minute corner kick to Omar Gonzalez, who headed the ball into the back of the net.
But LA struggled to piece together many dangerous scoring opportunities in the run of play throughout the night. Donovan knocked a ball into the back of the net from point-blank range on a Galaxy counterattack, but it was a defensive error from a Xolos defender that left Donovan completely unmarked in front of goal in the 75th minute.
The Galaxy had their own defensive mistakes in the match. Armando Pulido found a seam in the LA back line and slipped into the penalty area alone before burying the ball into the back of the net late in the first half, minutes before Gonzalez’s goal.
“I don’t think the one you saw will be our starting lineup,” Arena said. “Obviously a number of those players will be on the field but it was good for us to look at some of the things we’re doing and make some decisions on tactical formations and players and those kinds of things.”
After Donovan put the Galaxy ahead, Frankie Hejduk was whistled for a foul in the penalty area. Antonio Madueña converted the ensuing penalty kick to level terms. Xolos claimed victory via the shootout afterward and also won the respect of Galaxy players and coaches.
“Every Mexican team can play football,” Beckham said. “It doesn’t matter in what division they’re in. The whole country revolves around soccer. It’s what they live and breathe. It’s in their blood to play great soccer as well. They’re talented players.”