Another Game, Another 1-0 Win for United -- Of course, this was hardly just another game. This was Beckham's competitive debut for his MLS side, the Los Angeles Galaxy, and there was a sellout crowd in RFK. Still, while the former Galactico turned Galaxy superstar waited on the sidelines to make his debut, D.C. United relied on a now-familiar formula to take control of the game. Marc Burch continued his remarkable contributions, both on defense and as spark for the offense. It was Burch's pass that set up Emilio's decisive strike, but Burch also had a couple of good chances of his own. Troy Perkins' gutsy goalkeeping produced another clean sheet. Ben Olsen produced some good crosses and helped secure the midfield. Finally, Luciano Emilio was good enough to score the winning goal, again.
Of course, once again, United failed to finish off a number of excellent chances that could have put the game out of reach. In addition, some favorable refereeing was crucial in maintaining the goal advantage. Landon Donovan was pulled down, and surely deserved a penalty kick early in the second half, but none was given. Late in the game, Donovan had another chance, when the Galaxy striker slipped behind the defense to take a fine pass from Beckham. Although it seemed impossible that Perkins could avoid a penalty, or a handball call, his bold slide appeared to cleanly strip Donovan of possession, while the Galaxy striker flipped over the sliding goalie. Perkins gets credit for a game-saving play, but it would have been hardly surprising if the referee had awarded a penalty for the initial contact, or called handball on Perkins, after his momentum carried him outside the box.
Once again, Christian Gomez sat out. One wonders if this about his health, or if a signal is being sent by Coach Tom Soehn. Certainly, Gomez has seemed more interested in international matches than he has in MLS games. Still, I expect to see him next week, in the SuperLiga match with the Galaxy.
Much drama at RFK, but another slim victory for a United club that can do better. At least they're winning, right?
In "Yanks Abroad" news (you might have missed the report if you were at RFK -- ESPN mentioned it at halftime), Benny Feilhaber is headed for the E.P.L. Recently promoted Derby County has arranged for a work permit for the U.S.A. international, and has completed his transfer from Hamburg. Presumably, Benny will get much more playing time now, given his new team's investment in him. A couple of days ago, DaMarcus Beasley tallied in European competition, scoring the game-winner for his new club, Glasgow Rangers. Rangers, of course, was where Claudio Reyna made his real mark in European soccer. Danny Szetela appears to be on the verge of parlaying his strong performance at the U-20s World Cup into a transfer to AS Roma, one of the top clubs in Serie A. It still seems a bit silly for Landon Donovan to be plying his trade here in the U.S. Yet, with that one notable exception, we are starting to see, bit-by-bit, the emergence of a new class of Americans gaining top-flight foreign experience. Maybe, we can expect a more competitive effort in South Africa, three years hence.