From the moment the Los Angeles Galaxy took the field for pregame warmups, it was clear that last night was going to be a special one at PPL Park.
As soon as David Beckham was spotted coming out of the tunnel, all eyes among the record-setting crowd of 18,799 turned to Major League Soccer's best-known player. A chorus of preteen girls' cheers and supporter's section invectives rained down from the stands as Beckham made his way across the pitch.
Not long thereafter, attention turned to the second-brightest star in the Galaxy's constellation: Landon Donovan. The U.S. national team star was accorded one of the loudest ovations I've ever heard given to a visitng player in this city, and I even heard a few cheers from the River End.
But even though Beckham, Donovan and goalscorer Edson Buddle were the reason for the sea of camera flashes in the stands, they weren't the reason for the Galaxy's 1-0 win.
Instead, as Beckham's countrymen might say, it was Los Angeles' defense wot won it.
Buddle's header off a trademark Beckham corner kick will get the headlines, as it put the only crooked number of the night on the scoreboard. To me, though, the difference makers were at the other end of the field. For much of the game, Omar Gonzalez, A.J. DeLaGarza and the rest of the Galaxy's defensive corps did not let the Union get the ball into good positions in the final third from which to set up shots. On the few occasions when the Union did break through the back line, L.A. goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts made spectacular saves to preserve the clean sheet.
Did the Union deserve to score? In the end, they probably did. But you can also argue that Peter Nowak's decision to replace Fred with Kyle Nakazawa after the Brazilian was injured didn't help matters. A midfield of Nakazawa, Justin Mapp, Stefani Miglioranzi and Andrew Jacobson is certainly serviceable, but it doesn't have much creativity. That foursome was together for 79 of the 90-plus minutes of play, lasting from Fred's departure 12th minute to Roger Torres' introduction in the 82nd minute.
Perhaps if Torres or Shea Salinas had come in earlier, it would have helped. Both players had positive imapacts on the game in their limited time on the field. Bringing in Jack McInerney and moving Sebastien Le Toux to midfield could also have helped.
In the end, though, credit is due tO Los Angeles for grinding out a 1-0 result. Galaxy coach Bruce Arena admitted afterwards that he was happy to take home a 1-0 result, and was much more concerned with preserving his team's lead than expanding it. It may annoy those of you who wished to see more attacking soccer, but it's a mark of a good team when it can grind out a win on the road.
There are video highlights below, as well as audio interviews with players and coaches from both locker rooms. You'll hear from Peter Nowak, Roger Torres, Danny Califf, Brad Knighton, Stefani Miglioranzi, Bruce Arena, David Beckham and Landon Donovan.