Beckham Is Still Quick on His Feet

At an MLS Cup press conference yesterday, LA Galaxy midfielder David Beckham was in the middle of summing up how things turned around for the Galaxy four years ago, when a reporter’s phone started buzzing on the dais in front of him.

Becks took it from there:

We need a follow-up from the owner of the phone. Was it accidental, or a wiseass friend of his who knew where he was at the time?

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We’re Pretty Sure this Is A Record: Five Misses in 20 Seconds

We’re going outside our jurisdiction to bring you this highlight from a Greek second division game between Veria and Levadiakos.

Behold, as Veria (we think) has five clear chances in a 20-second span, clanging three of them off the woodwork and missing the other two:

Next up, Veria players let loose at the broad side of a barn in training.

(We also enjoyed how the keeper comes out and berates his backline after the deluge passes. He should have been kissing his goalposts.)

The Decision

It arrived about 40 minutes into the broadcast, and it was every bit as hollow, unwarranted, and harsh to the people of Chicago as we thought it would be.

What’s that? We mean Cleveland, not Chicago?

Oh, were you thinking of this Decision—the most stilted, unnecessary, and self-centered hour in recent sports history? That Decision, in which LeBron James broke up with the city of Cleveland on national TV, saying he “took the franchise to places it had never been before [girl].”

Really LeBron? Check with Craig Ehlo, Larry Nance, and Mark Price—Cleveland has had its share of trips to the Land of Playoff Also-Ran. It’s nothing new to them. Okay, you had the one NBA Finals appearance, against San Antonio in ’07. And what happened? Swept. Four and out. Thanks for playing, safe travels. And you never went back, and you disappeared in this year’s postseason.

Here’s hoping for more of the same after you “take your game to South Beach.”

(Click here for a very funny live chat on the whole sham; worth a read.)

Now, where were we? Right, the Decision, by referee Terry Vaughn, to award Real Salt Lake a penalty in the 40th minute of last night’s MLS game in Chicago.

The first half was moving along uneventfully, with injury-depleted Chicago  holding its own against a surprisingly listless Real Salt Lake. Then South Africa 2010 alum Robbie Findley made a move in the box, got the slightest of challenges from veteran Fire defender C.J. Brown, and went down like a sack of rocks.

His embellishment was enough to draw a whistle from Vaughn, who’s done this before, and Findley slotted the ensuing penalty into the lower right corner.

Two minutes later, Findley showed that he’s not just a poor finisher at the international level, he can flub great chances in MLS too: he hesitated on a clear breakaway and never got a shot off, squandering what should have been RSL’s second goal just before the break.

The game picked up considerably in the second half as Chicago brought on Brian McBride and Justin Mapp and took the game to the visitors. Alas, they couldn’t find the equalizer, despite the excellent efforts of rookie right back Steven Kinney, who was making his MLS debut.

We’re awaiting word back from the Elias Sports Bureau, but we think it’s a safe bet that Kinney is the first player to hit the post twice on separate headers during his professional debut. He headed two corner kicks by Mike Banner off the post—first the right, then the left.

But both balls were cleared out of danger, and RSL held on to its 1-0 lead until the final whistle.

MLS Cup Live Blog

Real Salt Lake was sub-.500 during the regular season, and  won its final two games on penalties—and yet you have to say RSL deserved this. It may not be what’s best for the league—the Beckham-Donovan trophy-hoisting shots would have gotten much more play, to put it mildly—but Salt Lake outplayed both Chicago in the semis and LA tonight.

Congrats RSL. Nick Rimando is MVP.

Real Salt Lake are your 2009 MLS Cup Champions!

Robbie Russell can win it now for RSL … HE DOES!! Russell tucks it inside the left post as Saunders dives right. It’s over!

Buddle: Stopped by Rimando! Poor shot—not far enough in the corner, and at a save-able height: Waist high.

Chris Wingert must score to keep RSL alive. He does. Right side, low.

Chris Klein….sends Rimando the wrong way, slots it low in the left corner.

Andy Williams can win it now for RSL. MLS Cup … NO!!! Suanders with the save!! Freaking Saunders!

Magee must hit for LA to survive….He does! Top left corner.

Ned Grabovoy slots to the right side. Goal. RSL back on top,

Lando: … He skies it! He puts it over—way over! Not even close! Oh, man. Landon Donovan.

And Saunders stops Beckerman! We’re all even again! What a night for Saunders.

Kirovski! Hasn’t missed in 12 MLS penalties for his career. …. But of course he misses here!! Rimando dives to his right and stops Jovan’s not-very-well-taken, waist-high penalty.

Robbie Findley: Beautifully taken, upper 90.

Berhalter for LA: Goes to Rimando’s left and…hits side netting with Rimando in hot pursuit. Nice shot.

Now it’s Clint Mathis for RSL . Mathis buries it with power. Not much placement, but it’s in.

Beckham is first shooter! He steps up and….rolls it into the lower left side while Rimando goes the wrong way.

Penalties

120:00 This game is at the ragged end, tired players, wide open, end-to-end, action, and here Mathis plays a superb ball into the box to Andy Williams, who fails to collect it, then collapses in either disbelief that he didn’t do better with that or … exhaustion…..And there’s the final whistle. We are headed to penalties for the second time in MLS Cup history (Houston’s 2006 title came on penalties over New England).

119:00 Mathis bends in a free kick. Saunders confidently claims it. He’s played well since coming in for Ricketts in what Chris Russo would say is a big spot.

117:00 Beckham to Donovan down the left side! Donovan sends a weak cross/chip that Rimando grabs easily. RSL counters….goal kick.

114:00 Friend just texted me that LA should bring on Kirovski. Can’t tell if he’s joking or not. Beckham restart parried away by Rimando.

113:00 Donovan to Magee … back to Lando … out of bounds.

110:00 Chris Klein over the back of Wingert on a ball at the far post. Foul on Klein, good positioning by Wingert. This one looks headed to penalties.

106:00 According to Allen Hopkins, Arena asked Bex if he could continue. Beckham said yes and is still out there now as we begin the second extra time period.

105:00 RSL completely dominating now, knocking it around: Beckerman to Wingert and back. But here’s an LA counterattack…that fizzles. And that’s the first 15 of extra time. Beckham is limping noticeably now.

100:00 Beckham fouls Beckerman about 23 yards out on the right. Complains about it. Has no case. Mathis steps up to take the kick, drives it near post! Side netting. Real Salt Lake continues to dominate extra time.

97:00 Mathis sends in Findley on the right! Side netting. Findley should’ve done better with that.

96:00: Real Salt Lake once again dominating possession but now Klein has a chance on a rebound. He flubs it.

93:00: Saunders with a great save on Findley! Espindola makes a driving run into the box, lays it across the top it’s sent on to Findley, and DeLaGarz and Saunders both smother his attempt. Huge.

Extra Time

Is Beckham hurting? He just pulled on his inhaler. And he has a bone bruise on his foot.

90:00+7 RSL on the counter, led by Mathis. He sends Williams into the box on the right. Williams back to Espindola…and … out of bounds. … There’s the final whistle. We’re going to extra time.

90:00+6 Beckham leveled in midfield. No call.

90:00+4 Kirovski with a nice defensive play in the LA box. He’s shifted to a holding-midfielder role, and John Harkes has some words of praise for him. … DeLaGarza flicks an Andy Williams cross out at at the far post. Another good defensive play by LA. Mathis started the sequence with a good pass to Williams on the right flank.

90:00 Espindola comes close for RSL at the near post.

88:00 And now Gonzalez is out, waving to the bench for a sub, possibly as a result of his lunge to stop Findley’s shot two minutes ago, and an injury in training last week. DeLaGarza is coming in for him. Terp for Terp. But what’s happening to LA’s rearguard tonight? We will play two 15-minute extra time periods before penalties. And they just announced seven minutes of stoppage time.

86:00 Buddle back the other way! From Donovan … But he’s just offside.

86:00 Robbie Findley goes 1 v 3 against Berhalter, Gonzalez and Franklin. Suanders with a huge save after Findley makes his move on Gonzalez and rips a shot on goal.

85:00 A Beckham corner is followed quickly by two Beckham crosses, all of which are extinguished by RSL, but the momentum has shifted back again. LA is in control now.

82:00 Franklin sends a nice pass to Beckham, Beckham fouled by Beckerman. Becks free kick from 35 yards, overhits it a bit, header goes wide.

81:00 Mathis free kick headed by Olave. Saunders collects it.

79:00 Chris Klein coming in for Birchall. Birchalll and Kirovski have been the lesser half of the LA midfield tonight.

77:00 Havent said Beckham’s name much this half, but now he sends a great ball into the box to Kirovski. Jovan with a lame effort, but he does win a corner. Beckham takes it…cleared out by RSL.

75:00 Espindola coming on for Yura Movsisyan, whose MLS career is now at an end. He’s signed for Randers for next season.

73:00 Buddle with good possesion at the top of the box, lays it back to Donovan, but Donovan rolls it wide from 23 yards out.

73:00 Mathis with another good ball to Findley into the box. But Findley’s first touch botches the deal.

71:00 Mathis with a great ball to Beckerman [?], who sends Movsisyan down the right side on goal! … Movsisyan misses the target.

70:00 Real Salt Lake with a sea change in momentum. Plenty of space in midfield for them all of a sudden. Movsisyan again on the right. Berhalter slides it out.

67:00 Much like the Galaxy before its goal, Real Salt Lake was buzzing before they found the net. They could have had a penalty on the Movsisyan tackle. They are dominating possession right now.

66:00 Oh boy: Josh Saunders is coming in for Donovan Ricketts, who calls it a night due to the hand injury.

64:00 GOAL! Real Salt Lake! Robbie Findley buries a ricochet of a shot by Movsisyan after a frantic build-up by RSL. We are tied, 1-1.

60:00 Great sequence for RSL: Beckerman to Olave [?] to Movsisyan and as he readies the shot he’s tackled from behind in the box! … No call. Mathis, outraged further back up the pitch after the ball is cleared out, picks up the ball and is whistled for a hand ball.

58:00 Beckham with a free kick from 25 yards, just to the right of center, outside the box. Blocked by the wall.

56:00 Kirovski, by the way, moved out left when Donovan shifted to the center. Magee also drifted out to the left, making Donovan almost a second forward. Magee scored his goal ghosting in from the left to the back post.

54:oo Birchall is full of heavy touches tonight. Not his best game.

52:00 Dunivant sends Donovan down the left, Olave sees him out. Then Wingert with a hard tackle on Beckham. That could have been ugly.

51:00 Ricketts finally back up, ready to take goal kick. ESPN graphic informs that no goalkeeper has ever been removed form an MLS cup Final.

48:00 Movsisyan picks up a loose ball and springs Findley down the right side, all alone streaking toward Ricketts’ goal! He takes a heavy touch while cutting inside and both Ricketts and Gonzalez converge on him. Ricketts and Findley in a heavy collision. Both players come away hurt. Ricketts’ right hand is hurt, according to Allan Hopkins.

46:00 Ned Grabavoy in for Real Salt Lake. Johnson out. Is that because of the food poisoning, or for tactical reasons? ESPN says they’ll find out.

Halftime: It took them a while to get into the game—while RSL enjoyed a lot of benign possession—but LA’s difference makers eventually made the difference in the first half. When Donovan slid into the middle he immediately injected life into the Galaxy attack (yeah, Kirovski didn’t work out too well in there) and combined more readily with Beckham. As we said, they nearly created a goal for Buddle before Magee’s strike. RSL has no answer for those two.

45:00 Borchers with a header! … Right into Ricketts’ arms—but a nice ball in from Andy Williams.

41:00 GOAL! The Beckham–Donovan combination sprung Buddle moments ago, but he was offside; this time Donovan takes a pass from Becks on the right and serves an absolutely perfect ball to the backpost where Magee calmly finishes. 1-0 Galaxy.

40:00 Donovan has moved to the middle and it’s making a positive difference for LA. Birchall clatters in to Mathis after a bad first touch. Mathis dinged up.

38:00 Jason Kreis sporting an Inspector Gadget trenchcoat and looking like the third Voltaggio brother from Top Chef this season.

36:00 LA counterattack: Donovan with a nice run, springs Magee on the left, Magee pulls his shot past the far post.

36:00 Johnson with space on the left for RSL, dumps it off….Gonzalez quashes the threat.

34:00 For LA, Donovan and Beckham need to assert themselves in this game. Kirovski doesnt look ready to do it. On the RSL side, Beckerman has been active, but that’s about all. Mathis invisible so far.

31:00 This game has all the makings of an unpretty 1-0 result, where one lucky bounce or one mistake makes the difference.

28:00 Beckham bends a wicked corner in to the mixer that bamboozles Rimando, but no Galaxy player can get on the end of it. Just as well, since it should have been a goal kick, not a corner.

27:00 Findley one-on-one with Berhalter in the LA box. Greased lighting versus molassses and LA fans are heart in throat right now. Berhalter ushers him over the endline. Nice play.

25:00 Rimando has trouble handling one from Kirovski. Artificial surface creates a funky bounce. First attempt on goal of the game.

25:00 Clint mathis with a nice touch to Beckerman, who tries to spring Findley over the top. Offside.

22:00 Morales in tears as he exits. Championship game cut short.

20:00 Morales hobbles back out on to the field after a nice play to keep possession by Beckham. But sustained possession leading to attacking forays are in short supply so far. But now Morales has just waved to the bench to say he’s done. Too bad. But the silver lining? CLINT! Mathis will come on for him.

16:00 Robbie Findley offside. Morales appears to be dinged up after a recent collision with Beckham. Replay shows that they went knee-to-knee and Morales is clearly worse for the wear. Johnson is also battling food poisoning, so Mr. Kreis’s substitution options looking like a tricky proposition early on here.

14:00 Donovan (and Beckham, for that matter) very quiet to this point. Now he picks up a ball on the left wing, knocks it by Johnson and Johnson takes him out with a hip check. Yellow card for the young Canuck.

12:00 Beckham still sporting his version of the Fauxhawk. Corner kick for him now: Near post…Will Johnson knocks it out. Second try they go short, and draw a whistle for offside on the pass back to Becks.

9:00 Nice sequence for LA. Long ball from Franklin to Buddle at the top of the box. He dribbles wide cuts it across the top of the box to Magee, who backheels to Donovan, who can’t find a seam. He lays it back for Kirovski and the ball is eventually worked wide to Dunivant, who crosses for Buddle. Header off target.

7:00 No chances yet. RSL still controlling possession, but almost entirely in the middle third of the field.

5:00 Birchall tries to get stuck in on Beckerman. Fails. Beckerman the other way with the ball, but then turns it over with an aimless long ball.

1:00 And we’re on. Real Salt Lake with an early stretch of possession, Movsisyan and Morales combining well. Hectic early pace.

Here are your lineups:

Real Salt Lake

————Findley             Movsisyan

Johnson            Morales             Williams

—————–Beckerman

Wingert    Borchers         Olave             Russell

—————–Rimando

Los Angeles

————-Buddle             Magee

Donovan            Kirovski            Beckham

——————Birchall

Dunivant    Berhalter       Gonzalez  Franklin

——————-Ricketts

No surprises in the RSL team, but the Galaxy going with Kirovski in the middle of the park is a bit of an eyebrow-raiser. According to the ESPN crew it’s because Kovalenko is sick. We’ve never been too big on the ham-handed, foul-prone Kovalenko, but we’re not sure Kirovski is not a step down, if only mobility- and fitness wise.

Pregame

Outstanding atmosphere in Seattle right now. Qwest Field looks full, and the energy is stupendous, even if they are chanting “See—attle….Soun—ders!”

Eastern Conference Final Delivers Excellent Game, “Wrong” Winner

It didn’t have David Beckham, or Landon Donovan, or even any goals, but the Eastern Conference final did have plenty of fluid, entertaining, attacking soccer. Take a look:

Sure, it would’ve been nice to get the Blanco and McBride versus Beckham and Donovan matchups in the final—matchups that would have drawn both national and international media attention, and were the sugarplums dancing in Don Garber and Co.’s heads as they slept on the eve of Conference Finals weekend—but hey, RSL played well, they got the job done, and they deserved to go through. Plus: Clint Mathis gets a shot at an MLS Cup. This is a good thing.

Oh, and: Nick Rimando!