By: Alex Baker
(Carson, CA) – The score-line hardly told the story after the LA Galaxy’s home fixture against the New York Red Bulls on Saturday night. Although it ended in a 1-1 draw, it was as open, attacking and entertaining a match, as you are likely to see in MLS this season.
“A good level in the game today, probably the best you can see in MLS at the moment,” said Red Bulls coach Hans Backe.“ Definitely I can compare it with many leagues in Europe. They would be very happy if they had seen a game like this, the number of chances and the technical level. The whole package was very good.”
It took Thierry Henry all of four minutes to find the back of the LA net when keeper Donovan Ricketts stumbled off his line and was outmaneuvered by the former Arsenal man who had only to coolly slot the ball in at the far post.
The Galaxy (4-2-4) nearly equalized through Juan Pablo Angel seconds later, but Red Bulls keeper Bouna Coundoul came up with the save. Coundoul was forced into action again five minutes later when Galaxy striker Chad Barrett slid in a low shot from the top of the 18 that was also stopped by the keeper.
LA’s equalizer finally came when they won a corner with just five minutes remaining in the half. Beckham lofted the ball in for Donovan who headed it home, notching his fourth goal of the season and drawing the score level at 1-1.
“Beckham delivered a good ball, Landon was in a good spot,” said Galaxy coach Bruce Arena. “Actually had that same play in training yesterday where he headed it over the crossbar so it was good to see him put it in the back of the net today.”
With just two minutes remaining in the half, LA nearly grabbed the lead when Condoul came off his line and was outmaneuvered by Donovan. The team USA midfielder got off a shot but his effort lacked pace and Red Bulls defender Tim Ream succeeded in getting back and clearing it off the line.
“My take is it should’ve been a goal,” said Arena. “Obviously Landon makes a heck of a play but give Ream credit. Part of that ball was over the line but it was a heck of a play by Landon and Ream. “
At the start of the second half, Galaxy forward Mike Magee got off a shot from the top of 18 that was fairly easy pickings for Coundoul. Beckham tried his luck from midfield in the 52nd minute with a long-range effort that was curling its way into the net when Coundoul saved it.
Although it was a high intensity match, it was a sporting affair with little sign of contention. The sole yellow card of the evening was shown to Luke Rodgers in the 57th minute.
As the match hit the hour mark Henry continued harassing the defense, chasing balls down and demonstrating that he still possesses a gear that allows him to outrun just about everyone else on the pitch.
With just under 20 minutes remaining Backe made a substitution, bringing Juan Agudelo on for Rodgers. The teenage US international’s arrival heralded a good spell of pressure from the Red Bulls (4-1-3) late on.
“The last twenty minutes I think we controlled the game,” said Backe. “We had three good chances in the last twenty minutes.”
The first of these chances came in the 75th when Dwayne De Rosario went on the break and got a shot off from edge of 6 that was saved by Ricketts. Five minutes later NY were awarded a free kick from 22 yards out. Marquez lofted it in for Agudelo who headed it wide of the far post. Red Bulls came closest to doubling their tally in the 82nd minute when Richards fired off a shot from inside the 18 that beat Ricketts but rebounded off the post.
The Galaxy’s last good scoring opportunity came when they were awarded a free kick with ten minutes remaining. Beckham succeeded in firing his effort over the wall and making it dip in on target. But the midfielder’s shot again encountered the barrier known as Bouna Coundoul.
As the match went into extra time NY took control of the possession and played keep ball until the final whistle was blown with the score remaining at 1-1.
“I saw some great football,” said Thierry Henry afterwards. “The Galaxy played very well in the first half I think they should have been up at halftime. The second half we kind of played better. It was a fair result 1-1 at the end of the day.”
The Galaxy, who remain on top of the Western Conference table, will welcome Sporting Kansas City to the Home Depot Center next Saturday. NY sit similarly atop the Eastern Conference standings and will be welcoming LA’s city rivals Chivas next Sunday.