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Thursday, August 9, 2007

"We Sing Better Than Your Wife." DCU 1 x LA Galaxy 0

The title of this post was a long banner that appeared near the "Screaming Eagles" supporter's group in the lower bowl of RFK Stadium.

Michael Wilbon of ESPN PTI and the Washington Post was the highlight of tonight's ESPN commentary with Dave O'Brien, Tommy Smyth, and Eric Wynalda. For the most part, they didn't hype Beckham ad nauseum. Frankly, their coverage was much more balanced than in the past. There were not constant images of Beckham on the bench. I counted at least a half-dozen before he began to warm-up near the end of the first half.

Here were some of the comments (paraphrased) by Mr. Wilbon:

"They don't need to sell soccer to everyone... Americans don't like sports that were not created here... Europeans didn't care about NFL Europe. It was arrogant of them (NFL) to think they would accept it over there. That is why it folded... DC is an international city. Sure there is the Redskins, but many love soccer here (DC area) and don't care about American football...

Who cares if some don't like soccer and never will? You need to take care of the ones who are passionate fans, and incrementally, add new fans." Thank you, Mr. Wilbon. He is a great commentator on a variety of sports. Hopefully, decision makers were listening. We have heard different rhetoric from sports marketing professionals. They want to convert the masses, and not respect the ones who have embraced soccer for a lifetime.

Luciano Emilio, the leading scorer in the MLS, scored in the 28th minute. His powerful shot was deflected into the net by the Galaxy keeper, Joe Cannon. DC dominated the first half with crisp one touch passing, and the Galaxy, as was visible in the wincing face of David Beckham, were not playing well. They showed very little cohesion in midfield, along with several missed passes. In one instance, Kyle Martino failed to shoot inside the box, and made an errant pass instead. For the most part, Landon Donovan was not a factor for the Galaxy. DC outshot LA, 10 to 3.

It began to rain heavily in the second half. Donovan had a good chance that just went wide of the DC goal. He was also pulled down in what appeared to be a penalty inside the box, but it was not called. Jaime Moreno, trying to become the leading all-time scorer in MLS history, took a shot that whistled inches wide of the left post. In the 66th minute, Kyle Martino made a harsh tackle on Fred that was a direct red card. Before this development, Beckham appeared ready to enter the game.

David Beckham made his MLS debut in the 71st minute. He immediately went in on a tackle. Then he eased his way into the Galaxy midfield. Actually, he called for the ball a few times trying to orchestrate their attack. He was playing the central midfield, which is not his customary right side position. Carlos Pavon almost headed in the equalizer in the 80th minute. The Galaxy appeared more organized with Beckham. He also was moving about quite adroitly. Especially off of the ball. He had one free kick that was well placed, but Pavon couldn't head it on target. He then sent a perfect through pass to Donovan, but the DC keeper, Troy Perkins, came off his line to tackle the ball away from Landon at the top of the penalty area.

Everyone has to be pleased. MLS had his debut in front of a sold-out home crowd, along with a nationally-televised audience. Beckham did very well, and the future bodes well. But his Galaxy teammates will need to raise their own level. DC didn't finish several good chances, and the scoreline was deceiving. But tonight was not about the game, now was it?

Becks gave his jersey to Ben Olsen of DC United, the lion of the club. They embraced each other, although Olsen didn't give his shirt to Beckham. Before the game, Olsen voiced his admiration for Beckham, and empathized with his frustration during the well-noted ankle injury spell.

After the game, Allen Hopkins had a brief interview with Beckham:

"It felt a lot better tonight then it had for awhile. It's difficult after 8 weeks hardly doing anything... I was happy to be back on the field tonight... Disappointed with losing, but looking forward... We knew what they could do. They're strong, quick up front, good on the ball, and they capitalized. Got a goal and held on to it. We had a few chances that we didn't convert... We have to look forward to our next game and work hard, because it is a process that we have to get right. We have a lot of talent in this team. We have to get on the pitch and prove it to people."

To view the video highlights, please click here.

Notes

The announced attendance was 46,686, which was a sell-out. ESPN noted that very few baseball games have ever done better at RFK. Actually, the stadium attendance record was set in 1996 during an Olympic soccer game between the USA and Portugal.

Steve McClaren, the national team coach of England, was present at this match.

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