ICC games are fun, but don't mean much
The L.A. Galaxy took a break from MLS action to take part in the International Champions Cup, a "tournament" featuring the Galaxy and Euro wonders Real Madrid, Juventus, Everton, Valencia, AC Milan, Inter Milan, and Chelsea. The event organizers tag it as "No Friendlies. Just football." Fox Soccer Channel likes to send out tweets about the games nonstop trying to convince us all of the major importance of this "tournament" as if it is something historic. For some folks, the message has worked. If you know anything about soccer, I hope it did not.
I was lucky enough to attend the L.A. Galaxy game against Real Madrid in Glendale this past week. 38,000 plus paid for overpriced tickets and came out to see Real Madrid drop L.A. 3-1 and as expected I began to field questions from non-soccer fans like these:
So how bad did the Galaxy look?
I heard the difference in quality was dramatic. Was it really that bad?
Are you okay after the Galaxy loss?
There was a time when comments and questions following a meaningless exhibition would get to me but I have come to realize that as the sport grows in this country, confusion about games like these is just part of the process. So, if you don't know the game, let me make it clear as day for you and tell you what these games are really about. The games are a CASH GRAB and that is about it. Real Madrid, the Galaxy, and every other team in the "tournament" could care less about the outcome. Remember Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan, and Omar Gonzalez? You know, the three stars of the Galaxy? Donovan, that guy that just owned the Gold Cup? They didn't play vs. Real Madrid and had limited time against Juventus. Why? Well Keane has been nursing an injury and Donovan and Omar played in the Gold Cup and MLS All-Star Game right before the ICC kicked off. There was no reason to risk injury or play all out in these games.
The lesson? It is debatable whether or not these games should be played. Either way, Real Madrid, Juventus, and the rest of the Euro teams are some of the best in the world. Don't get too excited or discouraged by the outcome. Can we take anything away from these games as Galaxy fans?
The young kids held their own against Real Madrid. When Christiano Ronaldo wasn't busy doing some comical crossover moves to make the ladies in Phoenix squeal like they were at a NKOTB concert, Zardes, Villarreal, and McBean were holding their own in the attack for L.A. Their composure, passing, and general effort showed they could care less what team they were playing and that they weren't fazed by the nifty, gratuitous, showboating of Ronaldo or the white Real Madrid jerseys. In goal, Rowe held his own and should have at least provided some clarity on the topic of which keepers should be wearing a Galaxy jersey down the stretch.
Other than that? There isn't much to take from the ICC. The win over Juventus feels good as it should. Omar's goal was classic. Keane and Donovan's goals were nice, but we already knew those three guys were good. The goal for the next game in Miami should be simple: Don't get hurt.
Clint Dempsey coming back to MLS is historic. Arguably the best U.S. Soccer player right now, Dempsey came up through MLS, left to the Barclays Premier League, and had undisputed success over there. Dempsey returning to MLS in his prime stunned most in the soccer world this week leaving many to ask why. I think there are a few reasons, but the fact that the Sounders can pluck a national team hero like Dempsey for a large transfer fee and that they have the ability to pay $32 million over four years is a clear sign of strength for MLS. Pre-Beckham, this league was a continuous question mark. Times have changed. Every MLS fan should celebrate this move. Your league is growing up.
Follow Dustin Payne on Twitter: @dpayne1010