New York and L.A.
A spectacle to behold
See what money buys
There was a lot of money on the pitch this past Saturday night as the New York Red Bulls traveled to face the LA Galaxy. Between these two teams, they have five of the six most expensive designated players in the league. Both occupy first place in their respective conferences, with the Red Bulls ranked #2 and LA #3 in The Power Rank. MLS has been hoping for a strong New York-LA rivalry for many years to help electrify the country’s two biggest markets. So with all that hype, did the match live up to it?
Unequivocally, yes! Both teams played hard and with passion in what was an open and exciting game. There were many good attacks, many shots on goal, and quite a few great saves. The match ended at a 1-1 draw with each team capitalizing on one of the very few mistakes made by their opponent. This is what the fans wanted, a competitive match decided by skill rather than by lucky bounces. In the end, a draw was probably fair, although I think if there were to be a winner, LA deserved it more.
So let’s look in a little more detail at the Galaxy. A 4-1 drubbing at Real Salt Lake not withstanding, the stars have shown brightly in LA this year. While they finished last season as winners of the Supporter’s Shield for best regular season record, they fell to 3rd in The Power Rank by the end of the playoffs, and yours truly was critical of the over-reliance on the Beckham long-ball which dragged them down at the end of the year. This season, however, they look like they could even be more dangerous… and could the reason be because Beckham is starting to get older?
Throughout his career, David Beckham has played predominately as a right-winger, which is a position that requires speed. Speed is one of the first things go as one ages, so this season Galaxy coach Bruce Arena has moved Becks into the center of the midfield where he doesn’t need to be as fast. What this has done has allowed Beckham to be more involved in the passing game, partnering with Juninho to move the ball around the midfield. It has also gotten him closer to LA’s playmakers since he can deliver the ball more directly to striker Juan Pablo Angel, and most importantly, Landon Donovan has moved to the right side. This is a more natural position for Landon and let’s him and Beckham connect with short, accurate passes.
All of this is not to say that David Beckham no longer bends it like, well, Beckham. He is still capable of delivering a masterful long ball. The difference this year is that he doesn’t always have to, and rather can pick and choose when to go over the top and when to maintain possession. Both he and Donovan are now also looking for more through balls to the strikers, giving the Galaxy a more dynamic attack. All of this can be illuminated with a simple analogy with football. If Peyton Manning threw deep every play, most NFL defenses could shut him down because the Colts offense would become one-dimensional. By mixing up different passes and having a good run game, Manning can keep his offense balanced and defenses off balance. The Galaxy look to have found the same mix.