Opinion on LA v. San Jose, Beckham, and Other JunkBy: Ben | June 29th, 2012
I write this from a hotel in Segovia, where I’m forgoing a siesta in favor of updating this ‘ere blog. In case you missed the end note in the last post, I’ll be spending the next month or so in Spain and, for the record, watching the Spain v. Portugal match in a sea of 100k+ red-clad fanatics was exactly as sick as it seems.
To begin, though, let’s talk about David Beckham. Beckham confirmed yesterday that he’d been snubbed by coach Stuart Pierce in selections for England’s Olympic roster, despite near certainty that he’d return for the Three Lions. You can argue about how much of a shock this really is: each Olympic team is only allowed three players over 23 years of age, making competition for roster access tight even for players as decorated as Becks. But the English middie was fairly omnipresent in the effort to bring the Olympics to London, participating in countless proportional activities, attending the Olympic Board’s decision-making vote in 2005, and even lending a hand in the ceremonial running of the Olympic torch. Suffice to say, the move was unexpected by both Beckham and fans across the globe.
Of course, there is a bright side. The Galaxy are still fairly shaky, and Beckham’s presence definitely couldn’t hurt. When he’s in form, Beckham makes LA stronger on the wings and on set pieces than probably any other American club. And with that new Don Quijote ’stache-beard combo, David’s effectively written off suggestions that he’s too old to change his appearance every week.
But there’s also the somewhat-related question of tomorrow’s meeting between the Galaxy and the Quakes, the so called California Clasico. I’ll be honest: this isn’t really the most important match to me, and one of my main motivations for covering it was the fact that MLSsoccer.com’s advertised it up the Wazoo. The setting isn’t quite a usual one for the meeting of these two teams, given San Jose’s league-leading 10-3-3 record and LA’s lackluster 6-8-2. I mentioned this veritable changing of the guard in my last post, but a major aspect of the leadup to this match is the fact that, for the first time in gosh-knows-how-long (and possibly ever), the LA Galaxy will be the scrappy underdogs looking to upset the big, scary Earthquakes.
The match isn’t quite as one-sided as I’ve made it out to be. LA have won their last three matches, having beaten Vancouver, Portland, and (most importantly) the second-place Real Salt Lake. They still boast the most star studded roster in MLS, with Beckham, Donovan, Buddle, and Keane among the ranks. And, as Bruce Arena so articulately pointed out, the team’s “just playing better,” a statement whose intangible vagueness does point directly to the rejuvenated form of Landon Donovan.
The Quakes, though, are just as strong. To be sure, they are still heavily dependent on Chris Wondolowski for offence, but that isn’t so bad considering that he leads the league in goals and is among the top 5 for both Shots and SOG. However, this dependence is much less pronounced than last year’s: the Earthquakes were a wreck of a Midfield in 2012, often resorting to simple lob-and-pray tactics to set up Wondo for a goal. This isn’t true anymore. The Earthquakes have built a fairly solid mid around Marvin Chavez, who is near the top of the league in assists, and are definitely much more cohesive as a unit. Either way, they clearly know how to score goals, and will assuredly capitalize on any given opportunity.
We’ll see what happens; there’s a lot of soccer to watch this weekend. Sporting will play Chicago tonight on NBC Sports at 8 Eastern, and it couldn’t hurt to tune in, regardless of whom you support. Have a good weekend, and I’ll be back within a few days.
Oh, and P.S., there is the remote grain of a possibility that I could get an interview with Cesc Fabregas, who’s probable lack of any knowledge of MLS makes him none the less attractive to me as a person to meet…..