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Beckham, Donovan & Co. bounce back
by Ridge Mahoney, April 4th, 2008 6:30AM

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Tales of the Galaxy's demise may yet prove to be apropos, not premature, but for the time being it must be said they are exaggerated. Soccer America's Ridge Mahoney reports from Carson, Calif., on how Beckham, Donovan & Co., bounced back from their season-opening debacle against Colorado when they met San Jose on Thursday.

Sparked by the searing, scything play of Landon Donovan, the expansion Earthquakes played down to the standard of a team in its first league match and were beaten, 2-0, on goals by Donovan and David Beckham. If not for the profligacy of Alan Gordon, the score could have been doubled, yet the Galaxy never let its utter dominance slip.

The San Jose back line, expected to be a strength, couldn't contain Donovan, but many teams much better than this one have suffered the same fate, along with helpless indecision at crosses and dead balls whipped and driven by David Beckham. He drilled home a Donovan through ball after defender Ryan Cochrane stumbled and lost possession 30 yards from goal in the ninth minute. Beckham returned the favor for the second goal in the 37th minute, clipping a ball into space that Donovan lobbed over a former teammate, twice removed, goalkeeper Joe Cannon.

Galaxy coach Ruud Gullit tweaked his formation and personnel somewhat from last weekend's shambolic 4-0 thrashing at Colorado, leaving Ely Allen at left mid, replacing left back Michael Gavin with Mike Randolph; inserting rookie Brandon McDonald into central midfield in place of Peter Vagenas; giving another rookie, Sean Franklin, his first start in central defense to replace the suspended Abel Xavier, and using Donovan and Alan Gordon more or less as twin forwards.

Ostensibly in a 4-4-2 formation, with Donovan and Beckham moving and floating as they saw fit with Gordon as Donovan's forward partner, the Galaxy flummoxed San Jose with its movement, pace, and crisp interplay.

"I think what changed is our positional play," said Beckham. "In the first game, we was all over the place, from right to back to midfield to up front, we was all out of position. It's something we've worked on the last two or three days. Tactically, we've worked on a lot of things, from set pieces to the way we've been playing to our positional play, and it showed tonight. It showed that we worked on it, and it pays off when you take that into a game."

What also changed was attitude and commitment and workrate, which were the elements Coach Ruud Gullit most bemoaned by their absence in Colorado.

"If you play any kind of system," said Gullit, "if you play like we played last week, you're going to lose."

San Jose coach Frank Yallop used his preferred 4-4-2, with a central defensive pairing of Cochrane and Nick Garcia, and Ned Grabavoy and Ramiro Corrales in central midfield. The failure of this quartet to hold the ball and establish tempo threw the Quakes out of sync nearly every time they tried to launch an attack or stop one of the Galaxy's forays.

Rookie Sean Salinas made no impression up front, but replacement Gavin Glinton - one of four ex-Galaxy players signed by Yallop - couldn't mesh with Kei Kamara, either. A very unpolished game by Ronnie O'Brien on the right flank wasted the rare situations when San Jose got him the ball with space.

Cannon may have raced off his line too early to confront Donovan on the second Galaxy goal but poor decisions ran rampant through the Quakes, who after falling behind simply were a step slow and second-best all over the field despite expending the effort and sweat typical of the San Jose teams Yallop twice led to MLS titles during his first Northern California stint in 2001 and 2003.

"I [was] bummed out for Joe," said Donovan, "but stay on his line next time."

Before the match, Yallop emphasized that, the team's debut match, though significant, was just one game.

So it is too for the Galaxy, which after two games is 1-1, having been blown apart by a Rapids team far short of full strength before overrunning an expansion team that may be competitive soon but isn't just yet.



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