FRISCO, Texas – Landon Donovan showed he is still the Los Angeles Galaxy's main man, for a few more days at least, with a superb solo goal and a hat trick of assists in a wild 6-5 victory over FC Dallas in the SuperLiga on Tuesday.
With David Beckham staying behind in California to try to get fit for Sunday's MLS visit to Toronto, Donovan and his teammates put on a remarkable attacking display to clinch a spot in the semifinals of the eight-team tournament featuring sides from the United States and Mexico.
Beckham appeared to be missed most by the disappointed FC Dallas fans, with a banner reading "Bench It Like Beckham" expressing the locals' sadness and frustration at his no-show caused by ongoing soreness in his left ankle.
Texas soccer fans will be appeased somewhat by the comments of Galaxy president Alexi Lalas, who caused a surprise by hinting his team may try to fit in an extra game in Dallas – with Beckham – later in the season.
Those remarks drew attention to the increasingly packed schedule the England midfielder is likely to be asked to undertake once his physical ailments have finally been cured. Not only does Beckham have a string of MLS games to play but he also has obligations to his national team's European Championships qualifying program.
Tuesday's win means the SuperLiga semifinal will now be sandwiched in between games against the New England Revolution on August 12 and New York Red Bulls on August 18 at the back end of an East Coast swing lasting nearly two weeks.
"We recognize that there are many L.A. Galaxy fans who live in the Dallas area that have been looking forward to seeing our full team," Lalas said. "However, we will look to find a way later this season to bring our full team back to this market."
Those members of the crowd who only turned up to see Beckham himself were treated instead to some riotously good fun. Defense seemed to go out the window from the outset – a recipe that means headaches for coaches and thrills for supporters.
Donovan was a cut above and stamped his authority within three minutes by delivering a perfect corner for Alan Gordon to head home. Dallas, which needed a win to have a chance of reaching the last four, barely had time to recover from that early shock when Donovan set up Chris Klein for the second goal.
When Gordon added his second and Kevin Harmse scored the Galaxy's fourth – all with only 18 minutes gone – the Pizza Hut Park fans started to vent their anger and L.A. could barely believe its luck. However, Dallas' comeback, which began just before the half when Arturo Alvarez pulled a goal back, was spirited and exhilarating.
"It is hard to know what to do when you go four-up in 18 minutes," Galaxy coach Frank Yallop said. "Do you press on, or sit back? Dallas fought really hard and had us worried."
Beckham, watching on television back in L.A., would have had plenty of food for thought. He had to be impressed by his team's start (he will be relishing the prospect to attack teams with such little interest in defending as Dallas), but he also had to be nervous about the Galaxy's own shaky backline.
Another factor that may cause concern is the schedule. In L.A.'s three upcoming games, Beckham will be asked to play on synthetic turf, all with precious little rest in between.
The surface will take some adapting to, and Lalas admitted the extra strain that the turf places on key joints – like an ankle – cannot be ignored.
"We do not fear injury more so on FieldTurf than we do on grass, but the effects of playing on turf linger a lot longer than the effects of playing on grass. It is just the reality of the situation," Lalas said. "When you have that many games and a player who has an ankle injury, we have to be very wary and careful."
Beckham will be monitored at Thursday's practice and hopes to be given the all clear to fly to Canada. He is yet to complete a full training session with the Galaxy and has seen just 16 minutes of action with his new club, all of them coming in a nationally televised friendly against English Premier League power Chelsea.