Los Angeles Galaxy's number 23 has been called many things in his time - some of which aren't fit to repeat, even in the somewhat lawless badlands of a Guardian live blog. One thing he's not generally been called, is "the free-scoring David Beckham" - yet right now that's precisely what he is.
Since his disappointment at not making the GB Olympic team was followed by a particularly truculent display and subsequent suspension at San Jose Earthquakes, Beckham has been doing what he has done on many occasions before - using a personal setback to motivate himself - but in doing so has actually achieved a surprising first. For the first time in his MLS career, he has now scored in consecutive games and actually has an impressive total of four in his last three games.
So you'd think the free-scoring David Beckham (see) and his LA cohorts would be coming into tonight's return fixture against Home Depot Center room mates Chivas USA full of confidence - after all, they've scored nine goals in their last three games and Keane and Donovan have also been getting in on the goals, as the LA attack suddenly fires on all cylinders.
But the Galaxy have also conceded five in that time span, and while few will predict Chivas to play a very expansive game against them, the Rojiblancos may feel that their own defense stacks up rather better than the Galaxy's currently does and that they can take the chance to have a go at their rivals from a secure base of their own. For their defensive part, the Galaxy are yet to reap the dividend of a fully fit Omar Gonzalez returning to the side. His latest setback makes him a doubt for tonight.
As well as being a derby game, this fixture also has an acute bearing on the Western Conference play-off picture too. Los Angeles currently sit in the last play-off spot, four points clear of Chivas, just behind them - though Chivas have three games in hand. With Colorado seemingly losing ground in the summer, LA will feel tonight is a chance to really consolidate their lead on those below them and maybe begun looking upwards at teams like Vancouver in fourth. But Chivas too would feel nicely poised were they to win and sit just a point behind their rivals with all those extra games to play. It's nicely set up.
I'll be back with team news and more build up shortly. In the meantime, get your tweets and emails coming in to @KidWeil or email@example.com and catch up with the back story to this game by watching what happened in May, when these two sides met last.
We've mentioned already that the Galaxy's DP players are looking very ominous right now, after indifferent early season form for Donovan and Keane in particular. Other than this week's All Star game (which Donovan and Beckham are scheduled to feature in), most of the distracting extramural activities are out of the way for these three, and they can concentrate on hauling the Galaxy up the standings. Matching firepower to firepower, LA will fancy their chances of outscoring the Chivas attack, and they also have begun to find a new tenacity about their play - as Wednesday night's comeback from 2-0 down with 10 minutes to go against the Whitecaps, showed. Their scorers that night were Beckham (of course) and a spectacular first MLS goal for young Jose Villareal, which you should check out if you haven't seen it.
As Beckham pointed out - the potential for that kind of comeback has all too often been absent when the Galaxy have gone behind this season:
I think two months ago we wouldn't have been able to come back from a two-goal deficit...But we've got character over the last couple of months and back into our team. They obviously had a lot of play in the first half and they played well, but we were able to capitalize on the hard work that we put in towards the end of the game.
(Beckham bingo players will have noted the use of the word "obviously")
Chivas have mastered the 2011 Galaxy trick of prevailing in tight games. In the earlier part of the season they sometimes struggled to commit players forward and seemed to play more with fear of losing than a desire to win. But gradually the multiple new faces, including the key acquisition of Danny Califf, have begun to gel into a team that can be formidably difficult to break down on their day and which have steadily been growing into a mode where they treat their solid defense as a platform from which to attack. They're still prone to caution sometimes, somewhat in the mould of their coach Robin Fraser, but when they do go forward they've had moments of flair that compare with anyone in the league - and that should give their fans hope when they attack a shaky Galaxy defense. Check out the build up to their winner against Portland in midweek:
And it's a wistful one from @mezz98:
""@KidWeil just once I'd like to be at a SuperClasico"
I'd tell you this mbm is the next best thing, but regular readers may be along sharpish to contradict me. I'll do my best to remember who's playing and the score will be accurate to 2.13 goals at any given time. Deal?
Los Angeles Galaxy: Saunders; Franklin, DeLaGarza, Lopes, Gaul; Jimenez, Sarvas, Juninho, Beckham; Keane, Donovan
Chivas USA: Kennedy; Jazic, McKenzie, Califf, Riley; Gavin, Zemanski, Smith, LaBrocca, Bolaños; Correa
If you watched all those clips I set you as homework just now, you'll have noted Miller Bolanos in the side - he came desperately close to opening his MLS account against LA in May (striking a post), but finally broke his duck after Ryan Smith Brazil-ed his way through the Portland defense to set him up on Wednesday night.
Couple of changes for LA as Gaul comes in for the injured Dunivant. Mckenzie, Gavin and Correa in for Chivas - the latter scored the winner in the first game and is in for Moreno.
The teams are doing that huddling thing where they gossip to each other about what the other team is wearing. They're also talking about you. Yes, you.
LA kick off. Robbie Keane in his first ever SuperClasico. He looks a bit grumpy at the prospect, to be honest. Straight away a long ball forward to Dan Kennedy. Tweet comes in from Guardian regular previewer Josh Guesman:
"@KidWeil @thegoatparade @lagconfidential @chidojerry @rocknjosie someone needs to "Nancy Kerrigan" Kennedy. We need goals."
Rather an extreme suggestion, but Dan Kennedy has looked great in goal for Chivas again this season and deserves his All Star call up. If LA are looking for extreme tactics to get past him, perhaps they should get Chris Birchall back from Columbus - he's just scored the winner against DC United...
That mention of Port Vale's own Chris Birchall should keep our editor happy. Los Angeles hit a cross into the box from the left that looks routine, but Mackenzie makes a little bit of a hash of getting it clear. LA starting brightly...
Chivas trying to harry in midfield as LA stroke the ball around, but only succeed in giving up a free kick that Beckham stands over. He tries to loft it into the box but it flies way too far and long. Chivas have not conceded from a set piece yet this season btw.
Now Chivas try to get some joy from the long ball and do well to win a couple of headers, before Smith, I think hits a rather tame shot at Saunders. Chivas trying to settle, but LA seeing a lot of the ball right now.
One of our Chivas previewers Jerry Jimenez (@chidojerry) tweets:
"@KidWeil it's obvious that we're still the underdog, despite our last win. We have to prove that it wasn't just a lucky 3 points last time!"
Just as he says that Correa barges through the heart of the LA defense , somewhat like Lukaku v Seattle the other night, but he's pulled up for a foul before he can shoot. A better sign for Chivas.
Now Juninho tries one from range, but it never threatens Kennedy's goal. Chivas beginning to inch their defensive position further up the pitch. Galaxy are moving the ball well...as soon as I type that they give the ball up cheaply as an attack breaks down. Now Keane holds up the ball and tries to set up Donovan, but the attack breaks down again. A little scrappy right now, and still LA 0 Chivas 0.
Galaxy stroking the ball around the back again as they try to build - everything about their attacking play so far is perfect right up to the point it has to get past a Chivas defender...
Josh Guesman is back to point that out:
"The @LAGalaxy ability to keep early goals out of the net will make the difference in the game. Kennedy unlikely to concede. @KidWeil"
I suspect that after his drastic suggestions earlier on, he's now hoping to catch Kennedy with the "curse of the tweeter"...
Chance! Beckham curls in a free kick from the same position as the earlier one. It's much better placed, but none of the diving Galaxy players can reach it. It's cleared, but...
LA 1 CHIVAS 0 (KEANE) As Chivas clear their lines from the corner, Gavin is caught in possession and Galaxy counter quickly. Beckham hits a slide rule pass through the heart of the defense, where a ball-watching Jazic plays Keane onside and he slots him a typical predatory finish one-on-one with Kennedy. Now then...
As a neutral, I'm rather happy that LA scored first. Chivas will have to come out now and we should see a much more open game. They're already playing a little further up the pitch.
LaBrocca is chopped down by Donovan on the halfway line, to give Chivas a quick break from the chasing they're getting. Now they have another free kick about 35 yards out, just left of center. Saunders claims the lofted ball cleanly, but there was an offside called in the build up anyway. What can Chivas do?
Robbie Keane looking grumpy again. He's just walked another ball into the net only to be called back for offside. Have to see that one again. Chivas rocking here though.
No it's Chivas USA's turn to attack off an interception. they spread the ball to Bolnos outside on the left and he runs at his defender and hits a shot that at least makes Saunders make a (comfortable) save.
Alicia Rodriguez @soccermusings is impressed with him:
"@kidweil Bolanos looking solid early. #ChivasUSA"
Chivas need Smith and him to get on the ball and run at LA more often.
LA still buzzing around in the Chivas half, looking for another opening. Chivas clear it but it comes straight back at them, which has been the prevailing theme of the half. Smith cuts out a dangerous looking cross field ball from Beckham and now Chivas will try to attack.
They tried, but nothing's breaking for them right now. They're back to defending as LA try to tiptoe into the box, but Mackenzie stands firm to clear it out and try to spark...something for Chivas.
Another tweet from Josh:
"Bryan Gaul is pressing way forward on attacks. Franklin is doing likewise on the right. Both #LAGalaxy backs pressing for offense. @KidWeil"
It's true that Chivas are being pinned back more often than not - not much freedom for their danger men.
Donovan rolls a deft little pass to Jimenez on the edge of the Chivas box, but he rushes his shot and it lofts harmlessly over. Still LA 1 Chivas 0.
Better from Chivas as they probe the LA box with some teasing little crosses and pick up a corner for their troubles. Smith sends it long and Saunders has to be at full strength to punch it clear. A flicker of encouragement for Chivas. Now Beckham picks ups his 7th yellow card of the season for a little bit of tetchiness.
That card sees Beckham join Steven Lenhart and Dane Richards on the 7 yellow card mark. Chivas send a long ball forward trying to see if Smith can outstrip Gaul on the outside. He can't. Now Beckham barges into gavin on the touchline. Hope he's not going to have one of "those" games.
Now the pattern of a few minutes ago is reversed as this time Jimenez lays off a sweet cut back to Donovan who goes for placement over power and tries to side foot it past Kennedy on the far post, but it slides wide. Now Zemanski picks up a yellow for a lunging tackle.
Kennedy reacts first to a teasing Beckham lob into the box that was dropping for Keane. Not much Kennedy could have done with the goal - he's looked solid otherwise. LA sitting very deep for a moment as Chivas move forward...
...the move breaks down and briefly LA are two on two, but Keane's attempts to hold the ball up end up in the ball being poked off his toe and Chivas get forward again. Smith gets clattered and Bolanos will have a free kick...but it's headed clear and it's still LA 1 Chivas 0.
Sloppy cross field ball from Beckham almost lets Chivas in. Bolanos picks it up and sprints forward, only for the LA defense to crowd him out - which will relieve Beckham. LA get it forward themselves on the break and Beckham will have a corner to play with...
...it's an out swinger that's headed clear. Now Zemanski finds himself in a little bit of space and he seems to think "Why not?" and hits it from outside the box. Saunders can only parry, but LA clear their lines before the onrushing Correa can do anything with it. Better from Chivas, for being more direct though.
Long ball from Riley finds Smith, but Gaul does well to close him down before he can drop his shoulder (Portland know only to well what happens when you let him do that...). We'll have one minute of stoppage time only.
LA 1 Chivas 0. LA have time for one final attack, but Chivas keep their shape while Galaxy look for an opening and that'll be that. Half time thoughts in a minute. Don't forget to keep your tweets and emails coming in to the addresses at the top of the page.
The half time score looks about right. Galaxy had more of the ball in dangerous areas and were trying to attack and set the tempo throughout. The ball from Beckham, for Keane's goal, was simple but perfectly delivered, as the Galaxy took advantage of a Chivas mistake. Other than that though, the Chivas defense was very well-organized and there didn't seem that much danger, for all Galaxy's passing around the box. For Chivas, Bolanos looked strong and probably the player we should file under "most likely to...", but as Josh Guesman said, the LA full backs did a pretty good job of supporting the attack, and pressuring the Chivas wide men, so they didn't often have time and space to run at the Galaxy.
Still only one goal in it of course, so Chivas won't be too downhearted as they regroup at half time. See you in a minute...
Was thinking of pasting my half-time thoughts again, verbatim, in honor of the Kick TV footage that shows in a loop at half time in MLS games on their streaming service. TV is on mute right now, but I think I've just seen the second rumor of the night that Zlatan might be moving to PSG.
Some eye-catching results elsewhere. Houston getting a 3-0 win over Montreal and Dallas hammering Portland 5-0. I guess Shea should have a tantrum more often...
Nearly ready to go again.
We're off again. Cardozo on for the luckless Gavin - who was culpable in the build up to the goal.
Mackenzie drags Donovan down and is booked. Now LA are stroking the ball around the outside again. But a loose long ball concedes possession back to Chivas.
LA 2 CHIVAS 0 (DONOVAN!) The DP's strike again! This time it's Keane slotting the ball that beats the offside trap and Donovan gallops clear before slotting it past Kennedy. Worst possible start to the half from Chivas.
Chivas try to respond immediately and LaBrocca's surging run picks up a corner, but Chivas can't do anything with it and LA break. They're passing very crisply now. Sarvas is fed by Keane and strikes a firm shot Kennedy has to palm down before catching.
LA 2 CHIVAS 1 (CARDOZO!) Now then. That man Smith makes just enough space in the corner of the box to tap the ball to his left to Cardozo. With the defense wrong-footed, the former Galaxy player switches it to his right foot and smashes a from shot into the bottom left corner.
Donovan picked up a booking in the wake of that goal and he'll miss the game v Dallas next week...
Bad news for Chivas, as Smith is down clutching his hamstring. What a shame for the young Englishman, just after he'd dragged Chivas back into this.
Alicia Rodriguez @soccermusings is back:
"What a time for Cardozo to FINALLY score in MLS! Well done. @kidweil"
What a BAD time for Smith to pick up an injury. Juan Pablo Angel will come in for him.
Yet another ball through the middle makes its way to Keane but he can't quite get it under control and is forced wide by Kennedy. Lovely ball by Juninho in the build up.
Smith's departure may really change the complexion of this game. LA may feel more liberated to attack without his threat on the break.
Just a glimpse of a chance for Chivas as Beckham runs into traffic and the ball breaks for Bolanos on the left. The window is open for a minute but he's closed down. Suddenly there's chaos in the LA box that ends in Saunders doing a rather exaggerated dive to punch the ball clear, with Chivas pressing.
POST! Forget what I said about the Chivas defense - they're being opened up repeatedly on the counter. This time it's Donovan who's free in the box. His shot slides past Kennedy but bounces back into the keeper's arms off the inside of the post. Game really open right now.
Still LA 2 Chivas 1, but Chivas looking more lively now - which of course will give LA chances on the counter if they're patient. Cardozo, the goalscorer, is looking lively on the ball, but he's dispossessed again. Gonzalez warming up for the Galaxy.
Sudden snapshot from Robbie Keane as he's fed from a throw level with the edge of the box. He lets it run past the outside of his body, then turns sharply to fire just wide. Smart attempt.
Bolanos is making Franklin work on the left, but on this occasion the LA defender plays the ball coolly off his opponent for the throw. At the other end Mackenzie gives away a soft foul in Beckham territory. Very central, with space for him to get the ball up and down. Gonzalez comes on by the way. What can Beckham do...?
...he can get the ball up and over the wall and straight into the arms of Kennedy.
Chivas pick up a free kick as Bolanos is knocked off the ball by the touchline. Rather than pump the ball into the box, they elect to pass short and the move breaks down. A second later though a teasing lob over the top of the Galaxy defense almost sets Angel one on one, but Saunders gets down very well to smother it. LA 2 Chivas 1
Brief lull for a game of long ball and head tennis circa England '88...
LA just trying to keep hold of the ball and keep Chivas chasing. Then suddenly Keane works a give and go, controls a loose ball and hammers a half volley just wide. that would have been spectacular.
HOW DID THAT NOT GO IN? Keane gets free down the left and sends a great ball across the goal for Donovan to tap in for the win. But he's denied by the post and the last defender, for the corner. But...
LA 3 CHIVAS 1 (DONOVAN!) Second of the night and 124th career goal for Landon Donovan! Beckham's outswinging corner is not cleared and lands at Gaul's feet. He forces it goalwards, where Donovan turns and lashes it in from just off the goal line. He didn't miss that one...
So another 3 goals for LA's DP's... Fraser is yelling at his players to play with more urgency, after criticizing them at half time for their passivity. Michael Stephens will come on for Sarvas.
Juninho, looking much more like the 2011 version of himself, skips free to feed Beckham out wide. The move breaks down but LA playing with confidence now.
Josie Becker, editor of the blog LAG Confidential, tweets:
"Internet's been bad at HDC. Galaxy could have four goals by now, Donovan and Keane have been excellent @KidWeil"
Which combines a game summary with a tech report. Not unimpressive.
Half a chance for Chivas as a whipped in Bolanos ball is flicked into the path of Angel in the six yard box, but it comes to him too quickly and skips off his foot before he can control it. Angel looks sheepish. At the other end Keane looks furious after a ball that would have put him in on goal is sent too close to Mackenzie. He's in "the mood" tonight, as they say. Not entirely a good one - despite his goal.
A little more urgency from Chivas, as per Fraser's instructions. LaBrocca hammers one that's headed for the far corner, till Saunders gets down to parry it. To be honest, I'm not sure Chivas deserve for it to be closer than the current LA 3 Chivas 1 score.
In the other game RSL are 2-0 up on Colorado, which is some good news for Chivas. They try to press round the Galaxy box in the dying minutes, but this one looks like it got away some time ago in truth.
Attack of the DPs one more time. The Galaxy break and Beckham sinks a beautiful little cross from the byline that Donovan hits back for Keane to improvise a header just over...
CHANCE! Beautiful ball in from James Riley is met by Angel at the near post, but with Saunders diving the wrong way, his sliding shot just squirms past the post. Now Juninho tries a chip at the other end that's deflected for a corner that might be the last sequence of the match.
LA 3 Chivas 1. Beckham's inswinger is cleared and that will be that. Final thoughts in a moment.
So LA's "Goals For" did the job again, without them having to worry about the "Goals Against". It's the polar opposite of the 1-0 results they ground out en route to MLS Cup last year, but this is their third win in four where they've won by just giving the ball to their Designated Players and letting them do their thing.
Chivas were game, but you suspect their best chance left the field with Smith - his replacement Angel looked rusty on the chances that came to him, while the vaunted Chivas defense was error-prone and given the runaround by the LA attack all night.
So suddenly we have a little breathing room in the West, as LA move seven points clear of Chivas and eight clear of Colorado - and only a point behind Vancouver and Seattle, with the Whitecaps facing a tough game against San Jose tomorrow night. Chivas have three games in hand, but you suspect they'd rather have the points. This one will have hurt.
Thanks for all your tweets and e-mails - sorry i didn't get to use them all. I'll be at Chelsea v PSG at Yankee Stadium tomorrow night, then Joe and I will be back on Monday with 5 Things We Learned. Good night.