Galaxy Put Out the Fire Before Showdown with Real Madrid

July 10, 2011

Carson, CA -- Prior to their epic friendly match against Real Madrid, the Galaxy first had to focus on the Chicago Fire, who had not been beaten since Frank Klopas took over as coach in early June.

The Galaxy also entered with a hot streak of their own, as LA has been unbeaten in their last 12 MLS games.

In the 2nd minute, David Beckham took a corner kick that had plenty of power behind it. Galaxy defender Gregg Berhalter headed the ball at goal but missed wide.

In the following minutes, the game would be played at the midfield with neither team getting a shot on goal. Then in the 13th minute, Patrick Nyarko of the Fire would attack the Galaxy defense and deliver a pass to Marco Pappa at the top of the 18 yard box. Pappa shot on goal with his left foot, but Josh Saunders was in position to make the save.

Seconds later, Nyarko created another scoring opportunity against LA, shooting on goal from 6 yards away before Berhalter snuffed out the shot.

The Galaxy would try to get on the scoreboard first when they passed the ball soundly in the midfield and Landon Donovan sent a forward pass to Paolo Cardozo in the 20th minute. Cardozo appeared to be on a breakaway against the Fire’s goalkeeper Sean Johnson, but was called offside.

Then in the 24th minute, Juan Pablo Angel found Chris Birchall at the top of the 18 yard box. Birchall shot on goal with his left foot, however it was wide of the target.

As the first half played out, the Galaxy controlled ball possession against the Fire and had the majority of the scoring chances, but could not find the first goal of the game.

Before halftime, the Fire had the best scoring opportunity in the first 45 minutes as they earned a corner kick. The ball was headed by Jalil Anibaba of the Fire with enough pace and from a short enough distance from goal that the shot would have been tough for Saunders to save. However, Anibaba tried to place the headed ball into the top of the far post and missed wide.

The second half began with Galaxy corner kicks and a headed crossed-ball by the Fire, none of which could not find the back of the net.

Then in the 58th minute, Beckham stood over a free-kick near the corner that Cardozo had earned on his run against the Fire defense. In classic Beckham fashion, he sent in a cross that bent over the front of goal and the head of the opponent’s goalkeeper directly to the head of Donovan, who made an athletic jump to beat his defender at the far post. Donovan redirected the shot to the other post and past the Fire’s goalkeeper, Sean Johnson, for the first goal of the game.

The goal was Donovan’s ninth  of the season -- tying him with Thierry Henry in the race for the Golden Boot Award -- and it was Beckham’s eighth assist of the season, putting him in second place for assists in the 2011 MLS season.

There was still a buzz in the Home Depot Center following the Donovan-Beckham connection for the game’s first goal, but moments later in the 62nd minute the Chicago Fire would silence the crowd momentarily.

The Fire’s Patrick Nyarko dribbled just outside the 18-yard box and then crossed the ball to Christian Nazarit inside the 6-yard box. The ball made it over the head of Berhalter, and Nazarit headed the ball into the corner of the goal for a 1-1 tie game. The goal was Nazarit’s second of the season, and it was Nyarko’s fourth assist in 2011.

The MLS has long been considered a below average soccer league in the world. However, in recent years it has gained more momentum and respect from other countries, players, and fans. This is evident from teams like Real Madrid, Manchester United, and FC Barcelona consistently coming over to play the last few summers, and from the MLS’s designated player rule. That rule has brought over the likes of Thierry Henry, Rafa Marquez, and David Beckham, who have given more excitement and spotlight to the MLS, while boosting the league's reputation.

All of this was clearly visible in the 66th minute when Beckham stood over a corner kick just minutes after Chicago had tied the game.

Beckham started the ball a yard or two away from the near post, while also keeping the ball low and with a fast speed behind it. As the ball approached the goal, players from both teams, including the Fire goalkeeper, were scrambling to figure out where it was heading.

Fortunately for LA, the ball was heading into goal at the far post because Beckham had deceptively curved it with his world-famous right foot. By scoring from such an unlikely spot on the pitch, Beckham gave the Galaxy a 2-1 lead, and left his teammates and fans in awe.

Still, the Chicago Fire would not easily concede the game, as they continued to attack the Galaxy in an attempt to even the score. In the 71st minute, the Fire crossed in a dangerous ball, and in the 72nd minute Pappa shot on goal, but neither effort would result in a goal.

The game would end in a 2-1 Galaxy win on Beckham’s game-winning goal, but not without a Chris Birchall challenge on Patrick Nyarko that ended in players shoving each other, being carded, thrown out, and substituted. The win extended the Galaxy’s unbeaten streak to 13 games and also ended the Fire’s unbeaten streak.

Up next for the LA Galaxy is the face-off with Real Madrid at the LA Coliseum on July 16th. The storylines leading up to this game are endless.

Last year the Galaxy were up 2-0 on Real Madrid when the soccer giants from La Liga rallied for a 3-2 win before a crowd of over 90,000. For Beckham, it is his first match against Real Madrid since he left the team in 2007 to come to the United States and play for the LA Galaxy. Lastly, the game is a tremendous opportunity for fans to witness world-class talents Kaka, Cristiano Ronaldo, Xabi Alonso, and Iker Casillas on the field against Donovan, Beckham, and the Galaxy.

The clash will be shown on ESPN2 at 7p.m.

By Brian Kowalski
Staff Reporter for The Daily Sports Herald

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