Over the weekend, Major League Soccer teams played in exhibtion matches against two of the top European teams. The Chicago Fire played to a 1-1 tie against Celtic FC, a club at the top levels of the Scottish Premier League and the L.A. Galaxy lost 1-0 against one of the best, if not the best, Eurpoean club teams, Chelsea FC.
Both MLS sides played well against their European guests and rivals. L.A. in particular acquitted themselves well, trading shots and playing sharp, if at times panicky, defense against Chelsea. The Galaxy also has many chances of their own to score, but bad luck and a good Chelsea defense meants the American club was unable to find the back of the net. The best chance came late in the match when star Landon Donovan sent a header of over the bar with about 10 minutes left in the game. Donovan took a practically perfect cross into the goal area at point blank range and sent the header just over the bar. All in all, a great performance by the Galaxy. Oh, yeah and that English fellow, David Beckham (you may have heard of him) played for about 13 or 14 mintues on a injured ankle, making his MLS debut.
Also making his debut for MLS, the slightly lesser know Mexican star, Cuauhtemeco Blanco, did very well for his new club. Blanco scored the Fire's lone goal of the day, but had opportunities for three or four more goals as well. The Fire, which sits at the bottom of the MLS Eastern Conference should get an immediate boost from Blanco, at a time when the team could use it. But the Fire lags so far in the standings, it may be impossible for them to reach the playoffs.
In recent years, the MLS has begun inviting Eurpoean clubs to come play exhibition matches here in the States. The exposure for the American squads to high level European clubs will only improve their game. I am hoping that European clubs will begin to do the same, inviting American teams to come play. The soccer experience in England, France, Germany, Italy and other places is very different than the American experience. With top names like Blanco, Beckham and Juan Pable Angel (who plays for the New York Red Bulls), there may soon be such opportunities for the American league.