LA Galaxy & NY Red Bulls Clash In MLS Game of the Year

May 8, 2011

Carson, CA -- On Saturday evening before a crowd of 27,000, the New York Red Bulls visited the Galaxy for a game that the fans and the players themselves were calling the "Game of the Year" in the MLS.  Each team came into the game at the top of their conference and with their stars in the lineup for this marquee showdown.

Both teams were on the attack from the beginning and played an up-tempo game throughout. In the 4th minute, David Beckham sent a flawless pass over the New York defense that dropped at the feet of Landon Donovan just outside the 6-yard box. Donovan attempted a shot on goal, but it was saved by Red Bulls goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul.

One of the storylines surrounding this matchup was the face-off between New York’s Thierry Henry and L.A.’s Beckham.  The two have a storied history together as they have battled against each other for championships in the English Premier League, the Euro, and the FIFA World Cup.Their rivalry and friendship was on display again in this game as Henry wasted little time in trying to one-up Beckham in the 4th minute.

Following Beckham’s quality pass to Donovan and Coundoul's subsequent save, Coundoul booted the ball up the field, eventually finding the feet of New York’s Dane Richards.  Richards looked up and passed the ball to a streaking Henry in the 18-yard box.  Henry finessed his way past LA goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts and defender Sean Franklin, and scored to put his team ahead 1-0 early.

The Galaxy immediately responded with a Todd Dunivant cross in the 5th minute that Juan Pablo Angel could not convert against his former club.  Then, in the 9th minute, LA almost scored again with a Beckham corner that Chad Barrett shot on goal, but Coundoul was able to make a save once more.

The first half was electric and the end-to-end action continued with a counter-attack by New York’s Richards in the 15th minute that resulted in a shot on target and Henry shaking his head for not receiving the ball from Richards.

In the 25th minute, Landon Donovan crossed in a terrific ball with his left foot that Angel headed into goal, but the assistant referee called Angel offside.

Seconds later, Beckham sent in another remarkable 40-yard cross over the Red Bulls’ defense that Mike Magee headed down to Donovan’s feet.  Donovan's corresponding shot was a little wide of goal.

In the 28th minute, New York almost struck again with a cross in front of goal that Dwayne De Rosario failed to convert.

The next twelve minutes was a battle in the midfield for control of the game, until the 41st minute when the Galaxy earned a corner.

As Galaxy fans have come to expect from Beckham during the past 5 seasons, he delivered a great corner into the area that Donovan headed into goal to level the game at 1-1.

It was Donovan’s fourth goal and Beckham’s fifth assist of the season, which lead the Galaxy in those respective categories, and puts them amongst the league leaders.  Henry and Donovan shared a friendly acknowledgement of each other’s goals at midfield as play resumed.

As the first half drew to a close, a play happened in the 43rd minute that will be talked about for awhile.

Beckham sent another cross over the top of the New York defense that found a streaking Donovan by himself.  Donovan controlled the ball with his knee and foot around the charging Coundoul, and then shot the ball from the side of his foot towards an empty net.  The only problem was that New York’s Tim Ream gave an incredible effort as he ran for the goal and cleared the ball as it was crossing (or possibly already crossed) the goal-line.

The referee ruled that the ball never fully crossed the goal-line, leaving open the debate of whether the game should be 2-1 in favor of LA and when replay technology will be introduced in soccer.

The second half began with a flurry of Galaxy offensive attacks.  LA’s best chance after halftime was in the 54th minute when Beckham found Angel at the near post, but Angel’s shot was wide of goal.

The Red Bulls responded in the 68th minute when Henry broke free and sent a pass to an unmarked Richards running into the 18-yard box. However, Magee got to Richards and the ball just in time to save a quality scoring chance for New York.

In the 72nd minute, Juan Agudelo subbed in for New York -- another exciting storyline to this game due to Agudelo’s recent success with the U.S. National Team.  Still, it was former Red Bulls star and current Galaxy striker Juan Pablo Angel who continued to steal the spotlight.  In the 73rd minute, he worked alone in the box to win a heading ball against two defenders, but Coundoul happened to be in the right place to save the shot.

The back and forth competition continued in the 75th minute, as New York’s De Rosario made a spectacular and solo 45-yard run with the ball before shooting on goal, only to have Ricketts then make a save with a diving effort.

New York had other quality chances to win the game in the 78th minute when Agudelo headed a cross towards goal that was wide, and later in the 82nd minute when Richards’ shot went past the diving Ricketts and hit the post.

In a marquee game that lived up to its expectations with attacking play, fundamentals, passion, and star power, New York and LA would end the night in a 1-1 tie and leave fans hoping for a repeat of this matchup in this year’s MLS Cup.

After the game, Donovan and Beckham stated that the early goal was disappointing, but that the team played well throughout and a 1-1 tie was probably a fair result in this showdown.  New York’s head coach, Hans Backe, said that it was an "entertaining game," and that the referees allowed the teams to play competitively without "unnecessary" cards.

By Brian Kowalski
Staff Reporter for

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