Preamble: Tonight we've got the MLS All-Stars facing off against English Premier League side West Ham United. I've been doing some research, and West Ham is located in East London. Well done there. There is an East Ham, thankfully located East of West Ham, in the borough of Newham.
Never heard of West Ham? That's too bad. They've got a few notable celebrity fans. John Cleese, Iron Maiden bassist Steve Harris, and Spinal Tap bassist Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer) all support the Hammers.
I'm paying attention to a few stories related to this game. First, fellow writer Jeff Harbert wrote an excellent article on West Ham bringing hooliganism stateside, which you can read here.
Actually, that's pretty much the only interesting thing I've read about West Ham in the recent build-up to this game.
But you should all be excited to see how MLS' three best playmakers, David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Cuauhtemoc Blanco are able to play together. My prediction? This game will end 3-1 in favor of MLS. Nobody in Europe will care. But I will.
7:17 PM: Rumour alert! Apparently several European clubs have been showing interest in FC Dallas striker Kenny Cooper, offering seven figure transfer fees for his services. He's 23, and started his career in the Manchester United youth system. A move abroad could really help his career and the US National team.
Oh, Rob Stone has also told us that David Beckham, like West Ham, is from East London. Ladies and Gentlemen, this rivalry just got real.
Lineups: MLS: Reis, Parkhurst, Conrad, Hejduk, Joseph (hey, that's my name!), Blanco, Kljestan, Juan Toja (in place of Robbie Rogers), Beckham, Gomez (in place of Landon Donovan), Cooper. Head coach is Steve Nichol. Reserves: Mastroeni, Donovan, Brennan, Angel, Onstad, De Rosario, Buddle.
Robbie Rogers would have been the youngest player selected for this game, but instead is with the US Olympic squad. I'd say that's much more important.
West Ham: In a stunning show of professionalism, I've missed West Ham's starting lineup. No bother, I'll fill in the bits and pieces as we go.
Scratch that, I only thought I'd missed the West Ham starters. Robert Green, Lucas Neill, Davenport, Ferdinand, Widdowson, Faubert, Parker, Mullins, Etherington, Ashton, Cole. A pretty decent side for the Hammers. We're in for a good match.
1 min: Blanco kicks off. MLS are in a black and white strip, while West Ham are wearing an offensive neon-and-powder-blue strip. I've readjusted my TV to no avail.
4 min: It's been a sloppy start. Neither team is enjoying a lot of possession. Just as I write this, Beckham plays a cheeky backheel to Blanco, and the MLS start passing circles around West Ham.
7 min: A quick pan around the stadium shows a full house tonight. This is a real testament to the great fans in Toronto. I'm not sure, but I think JP Dellacamera was trying to imply that BMO Field was as great as Highbury or Old Trafford. Oy.
9 min: Now seems like a good time to mention that Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman will be supporting the MLS squad tonight. Why? Because Anton Ferdinand is the cousin of Les Ferdinand, who had a hand in relegating Manchester City once upon a time. Wakeman is a City supporter. Oh, West Ham have had the better of the play for the last few minutes.
10 min: Not sure why Beckham is back defending. On the left.
15 min: I've just ordered a pair of tickets to see the US take on Trinidad and Tobago in early September. I can't tell you how excited I am.
17 min: We're not even a quarter of the way into the game, and the Toronto crowd is already chanting "We want Landon!" Allen Hopkins promises us that Landon will be playing up front with Juan Pablo Angel later in the game. I hope so, those Canadians sound pretty upset.
19 min: Kenny Cooper has a shout for a penalty! Christian Gomez plays a beautiful ball over the top to Kenny Cooper in the West Ham box. Cooper is both impressive and foolish in keeping his feet. Had he been dragged down, it would have been a sure penalty.
23 min: Both teams are starting to settle down and look more composed and creative on the ball. A goal would really liven this up. Dean Ashton attempts a field goal from 30 yards. High, wide and not at all handsome, as John Motson would say.
26 min: GOAL!!!! 1-0 West Ham on a Dean Ashton strike. He was played through beautifully and slotted home in the far lower corner. MLS will be on the attack now.
27 min: GOAL!!!! MLS equalizes on a Christian Gomez goal. Beckham to Blanco, who plays an outrageous backheel to Christian Gomez. A few touches, and blasts it past Green from about 15 yards. What a cracker!
31 min: We're a half hour into this match, and the most important storyline by far is that my prediction is still intact. Beckham and Blanco keep possession again, and Becks wins a corner.
32 min: Off the corner, David Beckham picks out Christian Gomez at the edge of the box. Gomez laughably sends it into row ZZZ. Of the Rogers Centre. Oh well, he's already got one goal under his belt.
34 min: And Cooper fires just wide from a Blanco cross! Blanco sends one to Cooper's forehead about six yards out. Cooper misses wide right. I'm sensing a theme here.
39 mins: Even though Gomez has the goal, Kenny Cooper has looked the more dangerous player for MLS. Cuauhtemoc Blanco wins a free kick for the All-Stars about 25 yards out. Very dangerous position, looks like Beckham will take it.
40 min: Beckham curls in a great free kick. Davenport clears it for the Hammers, but if not for the timely intervention of his skull, that kick probably goes in. Green was at full stretch behind Davenport.
42 min: Rob Stone reports from the sideline eating a giant ear of corn and a big bacon sandwich. I wish I were making this up.
44 min: GOAL!!!! The MLS squad goes up 2-1 on a great goal by Cuauhtemoc Blanco. Juan Toja feeds him in the box, Blanco sidesteps a man, and rockets a shot into the upper corner.
45+1 min: Beckham lines up a free kick, and is ordered to retake it because of some encroachment. Nothing comes of the kick or any of the resulting crosses.
Halftime news and musings: Freddy Adu will be playing in Ligue 1 (pronounced "Unhhh") next season after Benfica complete a loan deal with AS Monaco. Here's the article on ESPN Soccernet.
Cuauhtemoc Blanco could easily be mistaken for a construction worker by somebody who doesn't follow soccer.
If ESPN cuts away to Sportscenter one more time, I'll freak out. I don't think they have any idea of how to broadcast a sport as fluid as soccer.
46 min: Landon Donovan and Juan Pablo Angel come on to replace Kenny Cooper and Cuauhtemoc Blanco. I was hoping to see Donovan, Blanco and Beckham on the field at the same time. Luis Boa Morte replaces Matthew Etherington for the Hammers.
49 min: Every time Beckham sends in a cross, he wins a corner or a throw. Those that say he is washed up or ineffective have obviously not seen him play at all this season.
52 min: A small section of the crowd is cheering "We want Brennan!" It's got the same ring as Donovan's cheer, but not the same meaning. Brennan is solid, but he's never been the USSF Player of the Year.
55 min: Another Sportscenter interruption. I'd tell you what is happening on the field, but the game is only occuping two square inches of my TV during these updates.
58 min: Julian Faubert, whose name is not feminine by any stretch of the imagination, unleashes a powerful shot and wins a corner.
59 min: Dwayne De Rosario and Jim Brennan enter the game to a loud cheer from the Canadian fans. Toja and somebody else make way.
63 min: Beckham steps up to another free kick. Curls over the wall, but just wide of the post. Scrapes the side netting.
67 min: West Ham is living dangerously. The MLS XI are serving balls into the area at will, and West Ham is struggling a little bit to clear them.
67 min: GOAL!!!! Dean Ashton puts in his second goal on a fluky deflection by Jimmy Conrad. Matt Reis was completely caught out by the deflection and had no chance. West Ham is putting up a great fight here tonight.
69 min: Penalty kick! Juan Pablo Angel slides a great pass along the turf to Dwayne De Rosario. Lucas Neill takes him down from behind in the box. De Rosario would have been unobstructed to the goal.
70 min: GOAL!!!! De Rosario hits the underside of the crossbar with his penalty kick and it bounces in. It bounced up into the bar twice more before hitting the net, and the MLS squad is up 3-2. Also, Pat Onstad replaces Matt Reis.
71 min: GOA... no, offsides on Juan Pablo Angel, who was off by maybe a step. MLS is getting after it.
72 min: Beckham sends in a cross, which is weakly punched by Green, and almost put into his own goal by Julian Faubert. Beckham almost scores again off the resulting corner, instead earning another corner.
75 min: Rob Stone reports from the roof of BMO Field's press box, introducing, and I am not making this up, "Bitchy the Hawk." Bitchy is a hawk kept by Toronto FC to keep seagulls away from the field. Good stuff Rob, good stuff.
76 min: JP Dellacamera announces that Junior Stanislas is on for West Ham. No mention of who he replaced, so the only logical conclusion is that West Ham is playing with 12 players.
79 min: De Rosario makes a run at the West Ham defense, and loses possession. I like the feistiness though.
81 min: Apparently the balls that Shalrie Joseph plays are not sloppy or slow. Rather they are hard, and have conviction. Erm, yes. Meanwhile, De Rosario takes a shot which is blocked.
82 min: Jimmy Conrad is booked for a strong challenge on Luis Boa Morte. This game hasn't been as physical as one would have expected. Only a couple of cards, not too many fouls... the teams have still been playing some very exciting football.
85 min: Widdowson gets forward and tries a cross into the middle. It's picked off and played to Beckham to start the counter-attack.
87 min: Boa Morte attempts a header from about eight yards out. Right into the grateful hands of Pat Onstad though.
89 min: Scott Parker feeds Boa Morte into the box, but the angle is a little too severe for the Portuguese man. Narrowly misses.
90+2 min: Donovan fouled about 40 yards out. Beckham lines it up, but De Rosario takes it. He shoots, and only a great save from Green keeps the ball out. It appears to have taken a deflection off the wall.
Full time: MLS makes it five for five against foreign opposition, but this was by far the most exciting of the five matches. West Ham put up a great fight, and looked very sharp considering that they are only three weeks into their preseason.
Blanco and Beckham represented the MLS very well, and De Rosario gave the Canadian fans plenty of reasons to cheer.
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