Direct or ‘route 1’ futbol is often derided in this day and age, especially in an era when the Barcelona tiki-tak (RIP Pep’s Barca 2008-2012) is the standard bearer of footballing beauty.
When played correctly, however, direct soccer can be just as exhilarating. Any purist can appreciate a goal created in three passes just as he or she can in 25.
On of my biggest pet-peeves of the MLS is that at times it can be too slow, but on Saturday most MLS games surpassed expectations. The LA Galaxy v. FC Dallas match was no exception with Bruce Arena’s and Schellas Hyndman’s sides clashing at break neck speed.
Brek Shea struck first for FC Dallas from the spot just past the hour mark, but Pat Noonan rolled back the years with a neatly placed finish in injury time to salvage a point for the home side.
The Galaxy will feel that it was more a case of two points dropped rather than a point gained after creating the better of the chances, but failing to put them away against an opponent playing its third game in eight days.
Despite FC Dallas having two clear-cut opportunities in the first minute and Donovan hitting a post, then finding himself wide open a second time from five yards out, the first-half somehow remained scoreless.
Both defenses were bypassing the midfield, finding the feet of the forwards first. The midfield then joined the attack after strong hold-up play from the target men.
FC Dallas should have been ahead first when the Galaxy failed to deal with the evening’s first long ball. With the Galaxy defense in a panic trying to deal with Blas Perez, the ball fell kindly for Brek Shea on the left side of the box. The angle was tight, but a player of his caliber should have buried it rather than blazing over.
Less than a minute later, Fabian Castillo should have given the Texas club the lead, but he put his effort wide with Galaxy goalkeeper Bill Gaudette left stranded on his line.
Gaudette was playing in place of Josh Saunders who, according to Arena is, “out for personal reasons and we don’t want to go past that.”
The Galaxy woke up and came into the game with both teams making frantic last ditch clearances, but the post came to FC Dallas’ rescue in the 11th minute. Robbie Keane played a delightful through ball for Landon Donovan. America’s all time scoring leader did the first part right, rounding Hoops keeper Chris Seitz but somehow contrived to put his shot off the outside of the post with the goal gaping.
George John and Shea were both denied by solid Gaudette stops before Seitz was called into action again to deny Keane from point blank range.
The FCD shot-stopper was the hero once again when he scurried across his line to deny Donovan. Captain America was perhaps a bit too casual as the ball fell kindly to him following a scramble from a corner kick and he tried to pass it in rather than smashing home.
“The first one got away from a little bit. I was a little in-between steps, but I should’ve done better. I’m frustrated I missed that,” Donovan said in the locker room after the game. “The second one, I just kind of reacted and Seitz still made a good save.”
The question at halftime was whether or not both teams could keep up this pace in the second half?
We got our answer just two minutes in as David Beckham played a picturesque ball with the outside of his right boot to put Donovan in behind the FCD backline. Jair Benitez brought down Donovan and the Referee pointed to the spot setting off a strange sequence of events.
First Benitez was only yellow carded, while Landon Donovan went over to talk to Bruce Arena and Kean stepped up to the spot. It was the first time since June 23, 2007 that someone other than Donovan (Kyle Martino) took a penalty for the Galaxy. With something feeling off, Keane smashed his penalty wide right.
Donovan later explained why it was Keane who took the penalty. “I just told Robbie I wanted him to take it. Just to get him going. It’s been a little while since those guys have hit the net. We’re trying to get them more chances. We’re not doing a good enough job getting them chances in front of the goal so I thought it would help.”
In the 61st minute Shea showed the Irish international the correct way to take a penalty. In a crowded box, Galaxy center back David Junior Lopes inexplicably tried to chest the ball back to Gaudette. FCD forward Blas Perez took full advantage stepping to the loose ball and Gaudette had no choice but to bring him down.
Shea blasted his penalty into the lower left corner to give the visitors the 1-0 lead.
The teams traded chances with both Gaudette and Seitz called into action. Buddle had a goal called back for a handball and Beckham came close with a trademark free kick.
When it looked like the Galaxy were going to rue yet another night of missed opportunities, Arena’s three second-half substitutes came thorough two minutes into stoppage time.
Donovan floated the ball into the box. Adam Cristman fought for the first ball and kept it alive for Chad Barrett. The former TFC man laid it back for Noonan to sweep it into the far post and send the Home Depot Center into raptures.
“We can be happy because we finished the game well,” summarized Galaxy defender Sean Franklin after the game. “We got the goal and we got the point, but its also bittersweet because we knew there was three points out there to gain and we thought that we could have got that tonight by the way we played.”
While Galaxy players and fans may be a bit frustrated after failing to finish their chances and FC Dallas fans will rue giving up two points so late, the mutual should be delighted with the style and effort displayed by both sides. After a high tempo Saturday in the MLS, one thing is for certain. Somewhere, Jurgen Klinsmann is smiling.
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