CARSON, Calif. – With so much hype and so many storylines entering Saturday’s Galaxy-Red Bulls match – Henry vs. Beckham, Angel vs. York, Donovan vs. Marquez – it seemed almost impossible for the match to disappoint.
It did not.
“It was a great game,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said. “You’re not going to see too many games like that in our league this year.”
The Galaxy and New York traded first-half goals as the teams tied 1-1 before a sellout crowd of 27,000 at Home Depot Center. Thierry Henry scored four minutes into the first half while Donovan answered four minutes before halftime.
Watch: Full match highlights
“It was a good game of soccer,” Galaxy midfielder David Beckham said. “Both teams passed the ball around well, both teams penetrated. The last 10 minutes obviously they were going for the draw but I think overall it was a very good advertisement for the game in this country and it’s nice to play in games like that.”
For Galaxy forward Juan Pablo Angel, the match presented a unique set of circumstances. Just one year ago, Angel had lined up alongside many of the players he took the field against on Saturday.
“At the end of the day it’s just another three points that we’re playing for,” said the former Red Bull star. “I felt good. I was calm. There are emotions obviously playing against your old teammates and the team you played a number of years for but to me it was just another game.”
New York’s forward line in the post-Angel era – Henry and Luke Rodgers – was attacking throughout the match while Dwayne De Rosario and Dane Richards put pressure on the Galaxy’s backline.
“I was impressed how much they put into trying to get after and win the game,” Donovan said. “Most teams come here and try to defend for 90 minutes.”
From the start the Red Bulls showed that they were game for whatever the Galaxy’s defense would throw their way. Henry sliced into the penalty area, tip-toed around Donovan Ricketts and slipped the ball into the back of the net.
The goal jolted the hosts.
“Their goal kind of knocked us off-balance for a while,” Beckham said. “But we showed character to get back in the game.”
Bouna Coundoul’s sprawling save in the 8th minute kept the Galaxy frustrated while Angel’s 25th-minute goal that was disallowed because of offside further rattled the Galaxy.
A familiar combination helped the Galaxy level terms, however, when Beckham swung a corner kick into the goal that Donovan buried into the back of the net in the 41st minute.
“I had the leeway to go in the box if I wanted and I just got myself in a good spot,” Donovan said. “It went over Omar (Gonzalez’s) head and I wanted to get it on goal and I hit it well.”
After his goal, Donovan ran towards Henry and said a few words to the Frenchman.
“It was fun. I like that kind of stuff,” said Donovan, who did not say exactly what he told Henry. “It brings the best out of both of us.”
However, Donovan had a go-ahead goal cleared off the line moments later. Donovan beat Bouna Coundoul to a ball outside the penalty area and pushed the ball towards the goal line. New York’s Tim Ream ran towards the ball, slid and cleared it off the line.
“It looked like it was in,” Donovan said. “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.”
An advocate of goal-line video replay, Donovan said such a system may have helped on Saturday.
“There’s no chance the linesman could have been anywhere near the end line and I don’t expect them to," Donovan said. "Obviously the referee can’t see it. It would have been a very easy one to look at and know whether it went in or not. We’ll see how many of those it takes and how many points teams lose before they figure it out.”
Both teams had their chances in the second half but strong goalkeeping, the post and poor marksmanship ensured that the game would finish tied. Still, the opportunities were there for the Galaxy to have taken the three points.
“For all the talk we heard about their defense, we broke them down quite a few times, especially in the first half,” Donovan said. “They adjusted and didn’t really come higher than 25-30 yards out in the second half but I thought in the first half we got behind them constantly, created chances constantly and should have scored a couple more goals.”