NY Red Bulls 0-1 LA Galaxy
Was this the most anticipated game in MLS history? Not sure if that is the right way to phrase it, but between LA being in 1st place in the West, NY in 2nd place in the East, Thierry Henry, Juan Pablo Angel, the NY debut of Rafa Marquez, Landon Donovan, MLS leading scorer Edson Buddle, Beckham looking on, Kobe Bryant in attendance, and being played at a great new soccer only stadium with a big crowd, this is the 1st MLS game that I have ever actually wanted to watch. No offense to prior MLS Cups or All-Star games, but this may have been the first 'event' or 'spectacle' in MLS history. Of course 3 years ago 66,000 people watched the epic Red Bulls 5-4 win over LA in Giants Stadium, and 47,000 people watched the 2008 2-2 draw, so this didn't grow out of nothing, but those matches had none of the above except Beckham & Donovan; the additional big names gave this game a greater sense of anticipated spectacle than any MLS game that I can remember.
The irony is that although the game wasn't poor, it did not live up to the 2 aforementioned prior incarnations of this bi-coastal rivalry. Both teams hit the crossbar, and each team carved out a few good scoring chances, but at the end of the day, from a technical perspective, this was a run of the mill MLS game. Still, the names and the spectacle of it are very good for the short & long term growth of soccer in the US.
A few other random observations:
*As good as Thierry Henry & Juan Pablo Angel are, and as good an addition as Rafa Marquez was to come in and play defensive midfielder in front of their pretty good defense, New York looks like a team missing 1 piece. Namely, a creative attacking midfielder that can link between Marquez and the best striking tandem on paper in the history of the league, and give great service to the two forwards. With the MLS transfer window (trading deadline) ending tonight at midnight, don't expect this last piece of the puzzle to be put in place this year. As such, I wouldn't go so far as saying that NY are a cinch to win the East and make it to the MLS final and have a great chance to win the title, but I think that if they address this one seemingly missing piece in the offseason, they would be the massive favorites next year. Even without this they still should make a great run and go far, but I'm not sure they can win it all without better linking play in central midfield. That said, adding the best soccer stadium in the United States, Thierry Henry, and Rafa Marquez- that's 3 pretty damn good puzzle pieces this year, and show that current management has the ambition to finally make the NY MLS franchise into the power that it should be.
* In Juninho, La Galaxy have the exact player that I just described as lacking for New York. I'd never seen him before, and when I saw Juninho on the starting lineup my first thought was that LA had signed Mr. 50/50 (comment #6), then I realized it is a new Juninho who is just a young kid. Great vision & passing, and looks to be a player that could really blossom into something special. I've only seen him once but he seems like a bit of a coup for LA to have signed him from Brasil; he seems talented enough that his logical move would have been to Europe. He's definitely one to watch.
* The new Red Bulls stadium is sweet, and the acoustics are very good, which surely was part of the design. From the camera shots it wasn't quite a sellout but a very good crowd, and it was the 1st MLS game I've watched where enough people were singing loudly that you could easily make out the chants and the words to the chants. Made for much better viewing experience that say a San Jose game, which are played in the Santa Clara University stadium and have a very MLS circa 1997 feel. This is also very good for the league and for US Soccer. A proper big league game atmosphere for a league still climbing the long mountain road to big league status.
*One such easily discernible chant in the first half was NY fans mocking LA's goalie to the tune of La Donna E Mobile: "Ricketts likes little boys, Ricketts likes little boys, Ricketts likes little boys, Ricketts likes little boys..." Not to condone this song, because it's as stupid as the Arsene Wenger pedophile song, but it made me realize that New York & Philly soccer fans will obviously be the first US fans to fully realize the potential of en masse juvenile vitriol soccer songs.Here's hoping that cleverness trumps stupidity going forward.
*From here on out MLS executives will surely be rooting for a NY-LA final, as this would be best for the league in terms of visibility, spectacle, television ratings, and advertising revenue. Reminds me of how the NBA & ABC/ESPN executives always root for a Celtics-Lakers final, or how baseball powers always root for a Yankees-Red Sox ALCS.
*I admittedly don't watch alot of MLS week in and week out; I see highlights on Fox Soccer Report and will watch 10-15 minutes of a game here and there if it catches my interest when I am channel surfing. So if you are hardcore US Soccer/MLS person and you read this and look down your nose at me as a surface level simpleton, then I plead guilty as charged.