Guinness International Champions Cup
Galaxy vs. Galacticos: Real Madrid defeats Los Angeles in Phoenix
18-year-old Villareal scores for Galaxy
Soccer fans who want to hate Real Madrid have plenty of reasons to do so. Their payroll of over $200 million attracts the same sort of detractors that high-spending teams do in any sport. There is also the affiliation with one time Spanish dictator Francisco Franco. If that isn't enough, there's always the antics of the showy and far too handsome Cristiano Ronaldo.
If you want to hate them, you are well within your rights.
Even their most full-throated critics (mostly residing in Spain's second city, Barcelona) have to acknowledge that they are one of the best soccer teams in the world. On Thursday night, 39,922 Arizona soccer fans got a bit of a taste of why as Real beat the Los Angeles Galaxy 3-1.
Real Madrid made the trip to the Valley of the Sun to face off against our country's more modest version of a big money, high-flying team. The match was part of the first round of the Guinness International Champions Cup.
The first shot at goal actually came from the Galaxy, with first-year player Gyasi Zardes. It went harmlessly wide, and it was only a minute later that Cristiano Ronaldo made his first shot at the Galaxy's goal.
Ronaldo, playing wider than fans have come to expect, peppered the goal and forced the Galaxy's Brian Rowe to make several saves.
Real's first goal, however, came not from Ronaldo but Ángel diMaria. Ronaldo drew Rowe far off his line as diMaria slipped it past him in the 15th minute.
Ronaldo took more shots as the half went on. The attempts were enough to excite the hoards of teenagers wearing his name and number on their shirts, but none resulted in goals thanks to the continuing hard work of Rowe.
Ronaldo was out of the match when the second -half whistle blew. Even without their star striker, Real doubled their lead in the 51st minute when Karim Benzema scored off of a pass from Isco Alarcon.
The Galaxy reminded Real that there was another team on the field in the 63rd minute when José Villareal took advantage of a poor clearance from Real's back line.
Whatever hopes that the Galaxy had of equalizing were dashed in the 74th minute when Benzema, again, scored. This time, he found the back of the net after a pass from diMaria.
The match ended with a pitch invader running on to the field and Real ahead 3-1.
The tournament continues with two matches at Dodger Stadium on Saturday. Real Madrid moves on the play against English club Everton FC. The Galaxy faces off with Italian team Juventus FC in a match in the consolation bracket.
The billboards for the tournament featured two Los Angeles Galaxy players: Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane. But, with Donovan playing in the MLS All-Star game the night before, and Keane out with an injury, neither made an appearance.
It gave the Galaxy a chance to play some younger players on offense. Their front line featured teenagers Jack McBean and José Villareal.
"No question this game is beneficial for all our players, in particular our younger players," said Galaxy coach Bruce Arena after the match. "To have the opportunity to play against players like Ronaldo, diMaria and Benzema...they are unbelievable players ... It's a great experience."
One of those young forwards, Villareal, earned a story to tell his grandkids: he scored against one of the greatest sports teams on the planet.
"Good for José," Arena smiled for the assembled press. "Terrific for José. Obviously a great individual effort. Robbie Rogers did well to get the ball across the goal and José was well positioned ... a great finish. It's outstanding and great for his confidence."
Both Villareal and McBean come out of the Galaxy academy, a point of pride for Arena.
"It speaks well of the potential that American players have. I know we have a long way to go."