|photo by macropoulos||via PhotoRee|
Editor's Note: In all honesty, the best pieces of this article were stolen -- by myself -- for a piece soon to appear in the Football United Blogs. Which leaves us (actually, you) with the dregs. Although sometimes I don' t mind a cup of coffee with the dregs still coated across the bottom, I'll let you be the final judge. In any event, onward and upward with a report from a match that I happened to attend in person:
United and the Major League Soccer All-Stars met at Red Bull Arena last night in a nationally televised celebration of the game the rest of the world calls football, but we Americans refer to as soccer. Both sides started the match a bit nervously, as if feeling each other out in front of the loud and spirited New York crowd. It was none other than former Red David Beckham who was the first to attempt a shot on goal, narrowly missing the frame from just outside the 18 yard box.
The All-Stars jelled a bit earlier than the Reds, showing surprising fluidity early on for a group that had never played together before this evening. Although the game saw lots of back and forth in the early going, few true chances were created in the first 15 minutes. When a nifty give and go between Rooney and Berbatov ended with Anderson finding the back of the net to open the scoring, though, the evening's festivities had well and truly begun.
At the other end of the pitch, it was Beckham once again testing a stretched Anders Lindegaard to the max in an attempt to equalize. Both teams pushed the ball back and forth, requiring the goalkeepers to stay on their feet and be alert, although the scoreline remained stubbornly at 1-nil as the game hit the half hour mark.
United looked a bit labored in their first half build up, struggling to find the open man or move forward at pace. Phil Jones narrowly missed adding to United's lead 5 minutes before halftime, but MLS 'keeper Faryn Mondragon managed to keep the ball from crossing the line at virtual point blank range. Although Ji-Sung Park doubled the Reds' lead on the stroke of halftime with some nifty moves before finding goal, in truth it was probably slightly more than United deserved for their effort to date.
Ben Amos was Sir Alex's only substitution to begin the second half, as the Scottish legend stuck with the 10 outfield players he put out for the opening kick. Dimitar Berbatov conjured a piece of pure magic to bring United's total to three on the night: picked out by Wayne Rooney, Berba streaked in even with the last defender, chipped the goalie and rattled the crossbar, and then still had the presence of mind to collect the rebound and knock the ball home. The All-Stars nearly got on the board a couple of minutes later, but the cross careened through the goalmouth and skittered out of bounds before it could find the back of the United net.
Mass substitutions became the order of the evening around the hour mark, as Smalling, Welbeck, Cleverly,Nani, Macheda and Owen replaced Ferdinand, Young, Carrick, Park, Rooney and Berbatov. Depite the changes, once again it was the All-Stars almost scoring, with Chris Wondolowski peppering Amos before Nick LaBrocca sent the near goal rebound just wide.
Danny Welbeck made the lead four near the 69th minute, scoring off a deflected laser that wrong-footed MLS goalkeeperTally Hall. Although the scoreline was beginning to resemble a rout, it was only in the final shot that United appeared master on the evening. Fabio and Diouf replaced Anderson and Vidic, with Sir Alex substituting offense for defense to find the all important fifth goal. Although it never came, the Reds had to be smiling as they left the pitch as the masters of US Soccer once again.
4-1 to the boys in Red, as the tour hits it's last and final spot in DC. And here's what I say: Bring on Barca!
A few final observations that might not have been apparent from watching the game on tv. Or maybe they were. Either way, here they are:
o Becks still has it, in terms of both game and pure star power. He delivered some laser like crosses in the first half, and most of his passing was spot on. The crowd rose as one to see his first corner, and flashbulbs lit up the night.
o I'm going out on a limb here, but Patrice Evra looks like he's back to me. I don't think the Frenchman ever fully found his sea legs last season after a disastrous World Cup campaign. Although Evra looked more assured as last season wound down, he never looked "back to normal" to my eyes. From what I've seen this pre-season, he's there.
o As the game wound down, United was toying with the All-Stars, holding posession and looking for the open man inside the 18 yard box. It was good training for the squad, the kind of drill that could be useful against a lower quality EPL side in a tight game as the clock winds down -- in other word, the kind of situation in which United flourishes.
o One of the largest ovations of the evning was reserved for USMNT semi-star Juan Agudelo. I understand he's a Red Bull, too, but please -- let him start, or just do something significant before the hero worship begins.
o United players were all going for goal in the game's final few mintes, all the better to impress Sir Alex and nail down that place on the final squad sheet. There are some some really good competitions for roster spots going on out there.
This is farlieonfootie for July 28.