Oh to be a fly on the wall in Bristol the night after the Beckham promise was delivered . . . to FSC. 66k+ in the Swamp, 9 goals, three of LA's four goals coming from Beckham set pieces, the man himself going the full 90 and wheelin' and dealin' the long balls despite being 60-70% fit, and a late winner in front of an enraptured crowd. And all this drama laid out for FSC's cameras after the unbearable Beckham hype-a-thon perpetrated by the nefarious nexus of the ESPN and MLS HQ's. Why?
Plain and simple, there it is. While not exactly blessed with on-air talent, they do treat the game with a bit more respect than ESPN has shown it. Pre and post-game shows, highlights from other (gasp!) MLS matches at halftime, no pictures of balding Irish nitwits in wigs, no stories of which cousin Kyle Martino took to his prom, and audio-only commentary from sideline reporters during the game. What do all of these things get you in return? One hell of a game.
Now, it wasn't pretty, or anywhere close to the best-played game you'll see. Indeed, the defenses were wretched, the officiating was questionable at best, the handful of quality players stood out like 18 year olds playing against U-12's, Beckham's ankle didn't allow him to jump, tackle, or race about with his usual abandon, and most of those on the pitch seemed to be a bit overwhelmed by the occasion. But there was drama in spades.
Three goals in the opening 8 minutes put Beckham's men in charge 2-1, but Mathis equalized on the stroke of halftime before Altidore pushed the Bulls ahead by two with a second half brace. Then the Gals roared back, with Donovan pulling them within one before the equalizer off a Beckham corner with just 10 minutes remaining pulled them level at 4-4. And there it would have remained if not for an amazing bit of finishing from Angel at an impossible angle with 5 minutes remaining won the three points for New York in front of the massive home crowd.
It was pretty much every soccer television producer's wet dream of what MLS+Beckham would equal. Lots of goals, lots of Beckham, lots of fans, lots of drama. That is the game you trot out for the casual fan. Purists and curmudgeons, and I freely admit to belonging to this group, will bemoan the terrifying lack of defending and massive gaps in quality among the players (alright, there were injuries - but come on!), yet may still have found enjoyment in how well taken some of the goals were and how exciting the game was given the sheer number of chances created and wide open style of play. It was like the Premiership on speed with inebriated defenders. Not a pretty spectacle, but a spectacle nonetheless.
And one final note to Bob Bradley, since I know that he's a faithful reader of The Files. Call up Jozy Altidore please! Sure he's only 17, but he's big, strong, fast, has a good touch and knows how to finish. It's not like you've got a huge backlog of players like that waiting to get on the pitch. Give the kid a shot in one or more of these upcoming friendlies and see what he has to offer on the big stage. He clearly wasn't in awe of the situation last night, and if you can finish cooly and play well in front of 66k and a media circus, you're ready for prime time.