It was a match dubbed by supporters as "The 1% Derby". With the five highest paid players in the league (David Beckham, Thierry Henry, Rafael Marquez, Robbie Keane, and Landon Donovan) split between them, the New York Red Bulls hosted the LA Galaxy yesterday afternoon in the first leg of the MLS Western Conference semifinals. The scrappy game saw questionable officiating, a post-match fight, and a lone Mike Magee goal that gave LA a 1-0 road victory heading into Thursday's second leg.
The goal came in the 15th minute after David Beckham sent a long ball into the box off of a free kick. Former Metrostar Mike Magee broke past the offside trap and a napping RBNY defense and slammed the ball past Frank Rost to the far post. New York refused to roll over, and looked dominant in the second half, finishing the game with 17 total attempts on goal. LA's notoriously strong back line held up, with Omar Gonzalez shutting down the attack frequently and keeper Josh Saunders making some big saves.
Immediately following the game, Rafael Marquez threw a game ball at Landon Donovan. Juninho and Adam Cristman ran over to deal with the situation, and Stephen Keel took a shot to the face from Juninho. Both benches joined the melee to try and break the players up. After peace had been restored, referee Alex Prus issued red cards to both Marquez (for throwing the ball) and Juninho (for throwing the punch); both players will miss the second leg.
The Red Bulls will head to the Home Depot Center this Thursday (11 PM ET, ESPN2) trailing by a single goal on aggregate. A one-goal win would send the game to extra time; a larger win would send them through to the Western Conference finals; a draw or a loss will end RBNY's post-season run. There is no sign the tension between the two teams will dissipate before Thursday, especially with Landon Donovan complaining to the press after the game: "In all my years in this league I have not played against a cheaper team than that...We've seen that stuff all year."