David Beckham made a fairytale competitive home debut for the Los Angeles Galaxy on Wednesday night at The Home Depot Center, scoring his first goal in an LA uniform and setting up another, as he led the Galaxy to a 2-0 victory against DC United and a place in the inaugural SuperLiga final.
Beckham scored the Galaxy's first goal with a stunning free kick midway through the first half, then set Landon Donovan free behind the United defense for a breakaway goal early in the second half, before leaving the field just after the hour mark.
Just six days removed from their league clash on Thursday night in Washington, a 1-0 United victory, the two clubs were this time squaring off with $1 million on the line and a place in the SuperLiga final against Mexico's Pachuca.
From the start, United looked to carry on their dominance from last week's MLS regular season game. In the fourth minute, Ben Olsen found Jaime Moreno with a clever heel flick and the Bolivian international cut inside the Galaxy defense, only to have his shot deflected. But classic goal poacher Luciano Emilio got to the deflection, putting the half chance just over the crossbar.
Moreno nearly scored a brilliant goal in the 11th minute. From 50 yards out, he spotted Joe Cannon cheating off of his line, and drove a long ball goalward in an attempt to catch out the Galaxy 'keeper. Retreating back, Cannon just touched the ball at the last second, pushing it up and over the crossbar.
United continue to mount the best efforts on goal and a Josh Gros shot from the top corner of the penalty area, reminiscent of Emilio's goal against the Galaxy last Thursday, forced a two-handed save from Cannon.
It was Beckham, making his first Galaxy start, who was trying to set the tone for Los Angeles. Playing a central midfield role with former Vancouver Whitecaps player Kevin Harmse alongside, with Landon Donovan and Kyle Martino on the wings, Beckham earned his first yellow card with the Galaxy in the 18th minute for a hard sliding tackle on Moreno.
The move certainly seemed to spark the Galaxy, as minutes later LA launched a counter attack that nearly resulted in a goal. Donovan beat two defenders at midfield then found Beckham streaking down the right side. Beckham played a low cross into the area that caused some anxious moments, as Bryan Namoff's clearance attempt just went to the outside of the post.
Everybody in The Home Depot Center rose to their feet and flashbulbs lit the sky in the 27th minute, as the Galaxy won a free kick in front of the United goal. From 24 yards out, Beckham stepped over the ball and did not disappoint, finding the back of the net with one of his trademark free kicks to give the Galaxy the lead. He whipped his right-footed effort back across his body, over the left edge of the United wall and inside the left-hand post as United goalkeeper Troy Perkins was left rooted to his line.
Scoring chances for both teams became a little more difficult to come by after the goal, but in the 40th minute, rookie defender Mike Randolph intercepted a bad pass and started a counter attack for LA. Randolph fed Carlos Pavon, who slowed the ball down and flicked the ball on for strike partner Edson Buddle. Running into the box, Buddle chested down the ball, but with his momentum carrying him away from goal, could only manage a weak toe-poke that Perkins easily saved.
As the half wore down, Galaxy fans were left wondering if Beckham would be coming out to start the second half, or if he would go beyond the 45 minutes he had promised. All questions were answered, as Beckham was the last man to trot onto the field to start the second half.
The decision to keep Beckham on the field paid immediate dividends. Just two minutes into the second half, Beckham fed Donovan with a perfectly weighted pass that wrong-footed United's Josh Gros. In alone behind the defense, Donovan broke in on Perkins, fired low and found the back of the net as a retreating Devon McTavish caused the slightest deflection, doubling the Galaxy's advantage.
Cannon was forced into making a brilliant save minutes later. DC built an attack up the left flank and Emilio received a short pass inside the area before snapping a quick shot towards the back post. It brought a great reaction save from Cannon, who deflected the ball wide of the post.
Emilio was denied a second time in as many minutes. Second-half substitute Christian Gomez slipped a through pass to the Brazilian, who beat Cannon to the ball, but couldn't get his shot past the hard charging Galaxy 'keeper.
As the game started to open up, the Galaxy won another free kick within Beckham's range. From just a bit farther out, Beckham again tested Perkins. This time, however, the United goalkeeper was able to get to the shot, catching it cleanly as he dove to his right.
That was the last highlight of the night for the Englishman, as Pete Vagenas entered the game for Beckham in the 63rd minute, earning an ovation from the Galaxy faithful in attendance.
Following Beckham's departure, the field almost immediately became tilted towards the Galaxy goal, as United mounted one attack after another. But the Galaxy defended in numbers and limited the threat on their goal to a few corners, and no significant shots on goal.
As the final minutes ticked on, the Galaxy dropped 10 men behind the midfield line in an attempt to preserve the shutout. The strategy paid off, as the Galaxy weren't greatly threatened the remainder of the way, and after four minutes of stoppage time, they had moved on to the Superliga final in two weeks, where they will play host to Mexican club Pachuca, a team they defeated 2-1 at The Home Depot Center to begin the tournament.