Exploratory drilling: Real Madrid 5, at LA Galaxy 1

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CARSON, Calif. – Real Madrid dominated on the field and in the stands Thursday night,  giving a heavily pro-Merengues crowd a preseason-opening 5-1 victory at Home Depot Center over the LA Galaxy.

Players of Note:

  • Angel Di Maria’s energy is often too much for Spain’s best to handle. For Bryan Gaul, it was a nightmare. The Argentine winger consistently blew past the Galaxy left back, picking up a goal and assist in the match’s first 11 minutes.
  • Fellow Argentine Gonzalo Higuain helped take apart LA’s left side, scoring in the second minute as he played Di Maria to David Junior Lopes’s Bryan Gaul. A step too fast for Lopes and Omar Gonzalez, Higuain showed surprisingly good timing on his runs, considering it was Real’s first preseason game.
  • Like Di Maria and Higuain, Lass Diarra looked farther along than you might expect for this point in the preseason. He was the most energetic player in the middle of the park and, with LA’s midfield providing little resistance, provided a number of dangerous balls for Di Maria and Higuain (including the assist on Di Maria’s goal).
  • For LA, David Beckham distributed well from his deep midfield role, particularly after Real Madrid spent this opening burst of energy. Resting 40 yards from goal when LA was in possession, Beckham often had time to pick out his man along the Real defense, usually floating a ball right to his attacker’s feet.
  • And although Robbie Keane misplayed a couple of Beckham’s passes, he came the closest to scoring from open play. Facing goal at the top of the penalty area in the 20th minute, Keane dragged a ball past Rafael Varane and nearly had an uncontested chance eight yards out at Iker Casillas’s right post. Casillas gave so little of the far post that Keane, opening up to try and curl a ball in, was forced to let Verane back into the play.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • It may have only been a friendly, but Real Madrid drew a record crowd to Home Depot Center, where Galxy officials busted out the auxiliary seating for the occasion. The announced attendance: 30,317.
  • It was also one of the more lopsided pro-visitor crowd I’ve see during the World Football Challenge. While the Galaxy fans in attendance represented well (providing loud ovations for their team during pre-match festivities), Thursday was another illustration that these events are less for MLS fans, more for fans of the clubs that are coming on tour.
  • Though it was their first game of preseason, Real Madrid looked the sharper side from the start. They attacked the left side of LA’s defense with surprising ruthlessness, considering it was just a friendly. After their two quick goals, they lost some of that hunger, but for the first quarter hour, it looked like this match would get ugly.
  • Then Real’s intensity drained, and the teams played an unremarkable half hour. They traded goals – David Junior Lopes and Jose Callejon getting on the scoresheet – but by that time the match had an obviously different feet. Real had established that it could be easy, if they wanted to go full speed. For the rest of the first half, they didn’t.
  • Perhaps that’s why they looked so bad on set pieces. LA’s goal came off one, with a Beckham restart headed to Lopes by Omar Gonzalez. It was LA’s fifth set piece of the half, with a Galaxy player getting the first header in on four of them. The only one LA didn’t win was an underhit ball caught by Iker Casillas.
  • In the second half, Real Madrid regained their edge thanks to the introductions of Cristiano Ronaldo, Mesut Ozil, and Karim Benzema. Though they only scored two second half goals, they could have had more. LA, who had also made wholesale changes, were at Real’s mercy. Sharper finishing would have run up the score.
  • For an opening match, Real was impressive. They’ll get a stiffer challenge this weekend when they face a Santos Laguna team who will be highly motivated at the chance of recording a famous win. Not that José Mourinho will let that affect his preseason plans.