Every so often, the stars align and the soccer gods provide us with multiple great games in a short period of time creating the soccer fan's dream weekend.
On Saturday afternoon the US Women played their Olympic send-off match at Rio Tinto Stadium in Utah against Canada. Later that night, the LA Galaxy traveled to Stanford Stadium and played in one of the more entertaining matches you will ever see against the San Jose Earthquakes. Today, Spain took on Italy in the final of the second biggest tournament in the world, Euro 2012.
USA 2 CANADA 1
The US Women dominated play throughout the game out-shooting Canada 19-4 and controlling possession throughout the match. The main spark plug for the US was Megan Rapinoe who wreaked havoc on the Canadian defense all afternoon. Rapinoe sent in multiple, dangerous, crosses into the box and in the 9th minute her cross found the foot of Canada's Carmelina Moscato who unsuccessfully tried to clear and ended up with an own goal putting the US up 1-0. The US continued to dominate however they found the second goal to be elusive. The US made four halftime subs and looked a little disjointed at the start of the second half leading to a Canada goal in the 57th minute, however Amy Rodriguez scored her 8th goal of the year to put the US up for good in the 85th minute.
SAN JOSE 4 LA 3
The LA Galaxy and San Jose Earthquakes game will be talked about for years. The atmosphere was electric at Stanford Stadium as a sell-out crowd of 50,000 came to see the top team in the West, San Jose, battle the defending MLS Cup Champs. The Galaxy were riding high coming off three straight wins but it was San Jose who struck first on a Steven Lenhart goal in the 7th minute. The Galaxy responded and looked to be cruising to victory. David Beckham scored on one of his patented free kicks in the 31st minute bending the ball into the upper corner. In the 36th the Galaxy took a one goal lead as Hector Jimenez sent a ball into the box that San Jose's Hernandez sent into the goal. Landon Donovan put the Galaxy up 3-1 in the 41st and LA looked to be cruising toward their fourth straight win.
The Earthquakes kept fighting and the Galaxy shady defense reared it's ugly head as San Jose scored a critical goal on a corner right before half to cut the lead to 3-2. Right after the break Cronin evened the game as he beat the LA back line and buried a ball past Saunders. Wondolowski put the Earthquakes up for good, scoring on a 61st minute corner.
The Galaxy fought hard to even the score and the pace was frantic but the equalizing goal would not come. The mistakes made at the end of the first half and at the beginning proved too much for the Galaxy to overcome. The loss drops LA to 6th place in the West, 16 points back from San Jose.
SPAIN 4 ITALY 0
Spain came into this tournament looking like a that had possibly peaked and many, including myself, picked the Italians today. Spain for the most part played this tournament without strikers, passing their way up the field, rocking the baby to sleep only to capitalize when they needed to. Today was different as they took it to the Italians and won the final 4-0. David Silva put Spain up 1-0 in the 14th minute after heading home a Fabregas cross. Italy kept pushing creating chances. Any momentum the Italians had came crashing down when Xavi sent an absolutely beautiful pass through the Italian defense to Jordi Alba to give Spain a 2-0 lead at the half. Fernando Torres and Juan Mata scored in the final 10 minutes giving Spain a run away victory and giving the reigning World Cup Champion their second consecutive European title.
MY THREE TAKEAWAYS
1. The US is ready to battle for the gold medal. Rapinoe is the best US player right now by a mile. She makes things happen. Pia Sundhage said that her starting 11 was her best lineup and it did not include Carli Lloyd or Heather O'Reilly. Both factored in big for the US at last year's World Cup and they were used as subs against Canada. It will be interesting to see if this was a motivational move by Pia or if they will come off the bench in London.
2. The LA Galaxy are much improved from a month ago. The pace is better and the overall performance is a dramatic improvement from the team that we saw fall to the bottom of the MLS standings. However, the defense is still an issue and giving up four goals is unacceptable. Omar Gonzalez is participating in full training and could be back in the next month. His absence this year has only magnified his talents and when he does return expect the Galaxy defense to dramatically improve. David Beckham will miss some time due to his dropkick from 30 yards away that drilled a time wasting Cronin. The move will force Beckham to sit out the July 4th game against Philadelphia and could earn him a multiple game suspension. The Beckham haters hit twitter hard after the incident calling for blood, and it will be interesting to see how MLS reacts. One one hand, players have earned three game bans for similar actions. On the other hand, other players don't mean to the league what Beckham does, no matter how right or wrong that is. Beckham has been pushing the envelope lately with his on-field criticism of officials and his antics towards the opposition and he needs to tone it down. The Galaxy need him down the stretch and can't afford to lose him due to these actions.....and yes I will say it, the accuracy on the drop kick was amazing.
3. Spain could be the best team the world has ever seen in international soccer. Their current run is remarkable and the players that suit up for them include Fabregas, Sergio Ramos, Xavi, Iniesta, Silva, Mata, Alba, and Pique. Fernando Torres was used as a SUB. The amount of talent on that squad is amazing. I would also not be the biased, US Soccer fanatic that I am if I did not point out that the last time Spain lost an elimination game was when they were defeated by the US in the 2009 Confederations Cup.