Mike Magee’s goal in the 15th minute off a David Beckham assist was all that the Los Angeles Galaxy needed to defeat hosts New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena Sunday afternoon.
Los Angeles took the full three points in this first leg of the MLS Western Conference semifinal and will look to follow suit Thursday night, when it entertains the Red Bulls at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA.
The visitors were awarded a free kick from about 30 yards out and a quick touch by Sean Franklin to Beckham, who sent a lofted pass to an unmarked Magee on the left flank; the midfielder drove a low shot to the left of Red Bulls goalkeeper Frank Rost to put Los Angeles on its way.
With a crowd of 22, 663 on hand, New York responded with an all out effort in search of the equalizer and wasted numerous chances to get it as the game developed into a tense physical battle and one that was marked by sloppy play, slow decision-making and poor technique, by both sides.
Red Bulls forward Thierry Henry’s desperate overhead bicycle kick from 20 yards in the 22nd minute just skimmed the crossbar, while Galaxy’s Robbie Keane’s slow reaction to place the ball into an open goal from inside the six yard box was a missed chance to help the Galaxy add to its lead just before halftime.
The second half had much of the same intensity, particularly from the Red Bulls, as the home team made desperate forays on the visitors’ goal. New York forward Dane Richards was stripped of the ball in a one-on-one situation with Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Saunders; in the 87th minute, Carlos Mendes’ header off corner kick crept just over cross bar; and Rafael Marquez’s low drive was saved by Saunders but Los Angeles survived a desperate scramble in front of the goal off the rebound.
The physical intensity of the game continued after the game when Red Bull midfielder Rafa Marquez and Juninho shared pushes and words and were red-carded and eliminated in Thursday night’s second leg.
New York defeated hosts FC Dallas, 2-0, in the Wild Card game three days before to advance to the Conference semi-final. Joel Lindpere and Henry scored for New York.
In the other Western Conference semifinal, host Real Salt Lake defeated the Seattle Sounders, 3-0, Saturday night to take the full three points into the second leg in Seattle on Wednesday night, Nov. 2. Two goals from Alvaro Saborio and one from Ned Grabavoy gave Real Salt Lake the win in the first leg of the home-and-away series.
Houston Wins In Eastern Conference
In the East, two-time champion Houston Dynamo defeated host Philadelphia Union, 2-1, in front of the sell-out crowd of 18,539 on Sunday afternoon to take the lead going into the second leg at Houston on Thursday night, Nov. 4. Andre Hainault and Calen Carr (30th minute) scored in the first half for Houston and Sebastien Le Toux scored his 11th goal of the season when he registered for Philadelphia Union.
Houston won the MLS Cup in 2006 and ‘07. In the other semifinal, Teal Bunbury was on target tonight as he scored twice for Sporting Kansas City in a 2-0 win over defending champion Colorado Rapids, who were without injured captain Pablo Mastroeni. Bunbury scored his 10th and 11th goals tonight.