Games between U.S. and Mexican sides are rarely "friendly", and that was certainly the case as the Los Angeles Galaxy captured a 3-1 victory on Friday evening at The Home Depot Center against a CD Necaxa side reduced to nine men.
Peter Vagenas scored a pair of goals in a four-minute span early in the second half as the Galaxy used the offseason contest to give some of their younger players some game action. Defenders Scot Thompson and Chris Aloisi, midfielder Josh Gardner and forward Alan Gordon all started for the home side -- coached by Martin Vasquez in the absence of Steve Sampson -- in favor of the usual suspects that man the field for the Galaxy on a regular basis.
The run of play definitely went the way of the Galaxy early in the first half. Gordon nearly put the Galaxy ahead in the opening minutes, but his header from a Gardner cross when left all alone at the penalty spot was sent just wide.
Chris Albright, who was playing in midfield instead of his usual right back position, was running at will up and down the right flank, and his effort earned an early corner kick.
Gardner drove the ensuing kick to the near post that found an unmarked Tyrone Marshall, and he coolly flicked the ball to the back post to open up the scoring for the night.
As the half wore on, the inexperience of the Galaxy players on the field began to be exposed, as Necaxa started to get the better of play. The visitors finished off a flurry in the 22nd minute as Rodolfo Espinoza received the ball unmarked in the Galaxy penalty area, his point blank shot forcing a tremendous save from Kevin Hartman.
Then 12 minutes later Necaxa again nearly leveled the score. Again, Espinoza found himself in acres of space on the left side, and as he cut inside the Galaxy defense he fired a right-footed blast that beat Hartman, but banged off the inside of the post.
But against the run of play the Galaxy nearly doubled their lead just before the break. Albright again exploited a much slower Necaxa defense to send a cross in from the right side. Alejandro Moreno ran onto the cross, and hit a powerful header that was saved on the line by 'keeper Ivan Vasquez.
The Galaxy extended their lead in the opening moments of the second half. Gordon was sent in alone on the 'keeper, and after rounding the goalie, Gordon found a wide-open Peter Vagenas, who had time to settle the ball before pounding it into the empty net.
Then in the 56th minute, Gardner sent a cross along the ground that was intercepted at the back post by a Necaxa defender. Ned Grabavoy stripped the ball off his defender before laying the ball back to Vagenas whom again found net, as the Galaxy increased the margin to 3-0.
Necaxa pulled a goal back in the 62nd minute. Jorge Orozco's struck a wide-open header at the back post that Hartman brilliantly saved, but Jose Maria Higareda was lurking to put away the rebound.
The game then began to contradict its "friendly" label as a series of yellow cards, one for the Galaxy and one for Necaxa, would eventually result in a red card ejection for Marco Capetillo of Necaxa.
The visitors then lost their keeper when he was sent off in the 74th minute. Moreno was put in behind the Necaxa defense, and as he attempted to dribble around the onrushing goalie, Vasquez handled the ball well outside of his area. Referee Kevin Stott showed no hesitation in holding the red card aloft and Necaxa was reduced to nine men.
While the Galaxy youth showed a few nervous moments during the course of the game, overall they showed well in outclassing the Mexican side. Sampson will have many positives to take away from the match, as the Galaxy improved an already impressive record in international friendlies.
LOS ANGELES GALAXY 3, CD NECAXA 1
December 3, 2004, The Home Depot Center, Carson, Calif.
LA -- Tyrone Marshall 1 (Josh Gardner) 9
LA -- Peter Vagenas 1 (Alan Gordon) 52
LA -- Peter Vagenas 2 (Ned Grabavoy) 56
NEC -- Jorge Orozco 1 (unassisted) 62
Los Angeles Galaxy (4-4-2) - Kevin Hartman, Chris Aloisi, Paul Broome, Danny Califf, Scot Thompson (46: Ned Grabavoy), Chris Albright (70: Michael Erush), Josh Gardner (61: Guillermo Gonzalez), Tyrone Marshall, Alejandro Moreno, Peter Vagenas, Alan Gordon.
Total Shots: 12; Shots on Goal: 5; Total Saves: 2; Fouls: 12; Offsides: 2; Corner Kicks: 5
CD Necaxa (4-4-2) - Ivan Vazquez, Miguel Acosta, Carlos Gonzalez, Daniel Hernandez, Johan Rodriguez (61: Jose Maria Higareda), Fabiano Da Costa (76: Aldo Diaz), Rodolfo Espinoza (88: Marcelinho De Souza), Diego Martinez (89: Rafael Mejia), Fabian Peña, Alexandre Alves (46: Jorge Orozco), Sandro Sotilli (46: Marco Capetillo). Total Shots: 7; Shots on Goal: 5; Total Saves: 4; Fouls: 10; Offsides: 3; Corner Kicks: 3
NEC -- Fabian Pena (caution; Pushing, Holding) 64
LA -- Chris Albright (caution; Professional Foul) 65
NEC -- Rodolfo Espinoza (caution; Professional Foul) 65
NEC -- Marco Capetillo (ejection; Serious Foul Play) 66
NEC -- Diego Martinez (caution; Tackle from Behind) 68
Referee: Kevin Stott
Assistants: Fabio Tovar, Emiliano Monje
4th official: Ramon Hernandez
Weather: Clear -and- 52 degrees