WFC Preview: Galaxy, Real Madrid to battle on big stage
For the second consecutive year, the LA Galaxy and Real Madrid will do battle in an historic Southern California stadium. Meeting up the World Football Challenge this time around, the Galaxy will host the Spanish giants at the LA Memorial Coliseum on Saturday (10 pm ET; ESPN2, ESPN Deportes), a site the Galaxy has played at sparingly in the past.
A year ago, the teams drew nearly 90,000 to the Rose Bowl to watch Real Madrid stage a second-half comeback and pull away from the Galaxy with a 3-2 victory. LA played without David Beckham, however, who took the match in from the sidelines. Healthy and fully recovered from the Achilles problem that kept him away from last year's game, Beckham will play against Real Madrid for the first time since leaving the club in 2007.
The Galaxy will play their third match in a span of eight days and all three will have been for different purposes. After winning a regular-season match against Chicago on July 9, the Galaxy fell 3-1 at Seattle in a US Open Cup showdown and now face Real Madrid for their first of two World Football Challenge matches. The loss against the Sounders was just LA's third in all competitions this year.
For Beckham, the chance to play in such a spotlight for the Galaxy could bring out the best in him. In a 2009 friendly at the Rose Bowl against Barcelona, Beckham buried a free kick from 25 yards out to put LA on the scoreboard.
As usual, Real Madrid bring a loaded roster to the World Football Challenge. They can throw stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Iker Casillas, Xabi Alonso and Mesut Özil on the field. Also taking the field could be players like Kaká, Sergio Canales and Karim Benzema, all of whom figure to make life difficult for the Galaxy.
The biggest challenge for Madrid will be to find their rhythm. As this will be the first match of the preseason, los Merengues will not have had much time to prepare for and players' fitness levels likely won't be up to par with their Galaxy counterparts.
LA Galaxy: Landon Donovan
All eyes will be on Beckham and his first match against Real Madrid but Donovan has been the Galaxy's most influential player in 2011. He leads the team in goals and has taken on that responsibility with the forwards' collective lack of production.
Donovan typically plays well in the limelight. The last time he played before a crowd of more than 90,000, he scored a goal, but his strike in the Gold Cup final against Mexico ultimately came in a loss.
Real Madrid: Cristiano Ronaldo
The Portuguese superstar had a marvelous campaign with Real Madrid in 2010-11, scoring an astounding 54 goals in all competitions. Ronaldo bagged Madrid's most important goal of the year as well, burying an extra-time winner in the Copa del Rey final against Barcelona.
Ronaldo has few equals on the soccer field and his flashy playmaking ability and lethal finishing make him a unique star. The only question will be how much manager José Mourinho allows him to play.