Most expensive match in MLS history ends 1:1
May 8, 2011
New York vs Los Angeles was billed as the game of the year thus far, and in some ways, it didn't disappoint. A goal from each side bookended the first half that was arguably the most exciting forty-five minutes played in the 2011 season. Despite enough scoring chances in the second half to add to their respective tallies, neither side was able to do so, resulting in a draw. A fair result for Metro, who showed the attacking explosiveness that has earned them much praise over the last month, but also showed the lapses in concentration that could yet derail a promising campaign.
The quest for four games in a row with the same starting lineup ended when Finnish midfielder Teemu Tainio was ruled out of the match. Cunning manager "Clever" Hans Backe would still go with 10 of the usual starting 11, opting to field the much-maligned Medhi Ballouchy in Tainio's place, putting two offensive-minded midfielders in the center of the pitch. The selection of Ballouchy over the experienced Welshman Carl Robinson should have been the first sign that end-to-end action was on the books tonight.
The Metro faithful wouldn't wait long for the early buzz to pay off in their favor. In only the fourth minute, Dane Richards played a through ball to Thierry Henry (it appeared he was aiming for the nearby Dwayne De Rosario, but we'll give our favorite Jamaican the benefit of the doubt), who latched onto the pass, dribbled around Galaxy keeper Donovan Ricketts, and shot across his body at a sharp angle to put the away side ahead 1:0. In what is starting to become routine for the Frenchman, he celebrated along the touchline by pointing to his name across the back of his jersey.
Revitalized Metro goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul made two brilliant saves within a five minute span beginning almost immediately after the initial goal. The first was an athletic move to make a save at point-blank range; the second kept Chad Barrett from scoring with the goal at his mercy after Landon Donovan left the ball for him in the middle of the box. With the exception of one lapse in judgment at the end of the first half, Coundoul was outstanding on the night.
It wasn't likely that Los Angeles would be held scoreless for 90 minutes, and four minutes before the half Donovan made sure that wasn't the case. After Barrett earned a corner for the Galaxy, David Beckham looped a high ball into the box which Donovan met with his head after losing his marker, Roy Miller. Coundoul couldn't make the impossible save this time, and both teams would head to the half tied...
...except that almost didn't happen. Two minutes before the break, Donovan struck again. Having both left Tim Ream in his dust and passed Coundoul by well outside the box, he gently pushed the ball toward the net. It seemed the American international had applied just the right amount of force to the ball, right down the center of goal, to ensure no Metro player could stop it before it crossed the line. Somehow though, the irrepressible Ream managed to run down the ball, dive toward the net, and clear the ball off the line JUST before it crossed into the goal. It was the play of the year so far, no doubt about it.
Predictably, the two teams couldn't keep up the tempo in the second half, and while Los Angeles had the better of the play, both teams had strong chances late. Coundoul was forced into making yet another excellent save to keep Beckham's swerving free kick from hitting the net in the 79th minute, and on the other end a surprisingly pacy long shot from Richards clanged off the far post after in the 82nd minute. A couple late corners for Metro as time wound down led to nothing other than Ricketts' aggravation as they clogged the goal with players in an attempt to restrict the Jamaican keeper.
If this game was a test, then results were mixed. Still, it was a night full of promise, and an experience that should be a source of motivation for Metro in the coming months.
Lineup: Coundoul, Miller, Ream, Marquez, Solli, Ballouchy, Lindpere, Richards, De Rosario, Rodgers, Henry. Subs: Agudelo.