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David Beckham and the MLS All-Stars beat West Ham United 3-2 last night at BMO Field, marking the midfielder’s first game in Toronto and improving the league’s All-Star record against foreign opposition to 5 and 0. Chivas, Fulham, Chelsea and Celtic have all fallen to the All-Stars in recent years.
West Ham came out strong in the early minutes, with Carlton Cole showing the preseason form that saw him start the last Premier League campaign on fire.
FC Dallas forward Kenny Cooper had the first real chance of the game, however, turning and firing in the 19th minute. The attentions of Hammers defender Joe Widdowson kept him from getting the shot on target towards Robert Green’s goal.
The game was quickly developing into a back-and-forth tug-of-war. The visitors opened the scoring in the 26th minute when Dean Ashton found himself free of the last defender and fired low into the far post.
The lead wouldn’t last, however, and with entertainment value the number one priority at BMO Field this week, Christian Gomez gave the fan’s their money’s worth with a quickfire equalizer. Beckham and Cuauhtemoc Blanco set up the Colorado Rapids midfielder, and Gomez coolly slotted home with West Ham having barely finished their goal celebrations.
The All-Stars kept up the attack and struck again just before half-time. Blanco collected a pass inside the area, cut inside onto his right foot and sent a curling effort past Green into the top corner.
Canadians and Houston Dynamo players Dwayne DeRosario and Pat Onstad entered the game in the second half to the delight of the Toronto crowd, but the fans were only truly placated when Toronto FC Captain Jim Brennan made his entrance close to the hour-mark.
Having played 90 minutes against Montreal on Tuesday, the full All-Star game would have been asking a lot from the Canadian international, but an extended run-out in front of his hometown fans was always on the cards.
The All-Stars looked capable of scoring again, but it was Ashton once again who quieted the crowd at BMO in the 67th minute. The former Norwich striker found space outside the area and struck a powerful shot that deflected off of Kansas City Wizards defender Jimmy Conrad and into the net.
Just as in the aftermath of Ashton’s first goal, the All-Stars responded quickly. Red Bull New York forward Juan Pablo Angel sprung DeRosario with a perfectly-weighted through ball, and with the Canadian bearing down on goal, West Ham captain Lucas Neill had little choice but to hall down DeRo.
Referee Mauricio Navarro awarded the penalty for the All-Stars but was perhaps reluctant to hand out a red card in what is ultimately an exhibition match. Having drawn the foul, DeRosario was given the chance to score a penalty in front of his hometown crowd ahead of Beckham and game MVP Blanco.
The Canadian ace blasted his penalty off the crossbar and in to make it 3-2 amid the roars of the crowd, who had to wait for the ball to rebound into the netting before they were sure it was a goal. Angel “scored” a goal of his own just a minute later with a curling right-footed shot, but the linesman’s flag was up. Replays showed that Calum Davenport may have played the Colombian onside.
The game marked the first major showpiece at BMO Field, a ground that has been slated to host the MLS Cup final in 2009 and CONCACAF Gold Cup games the same year. Black t-shirts were in abundance but a proposed sit-down fan protest was largely muted.
“MLS showed that they can compete,” West Ham manager Alan Curbishley told reporters after the game. “It was a great game for MLS. It showed off their talents and when we go home it will be a big memory.”
Beckham was, as usual, the center of attention in Toronto, but the Englishman was full of praise for his teammates.
“Everybody knows the quality of player [Blanco] is,” Beckham said of the Chicago Fire forward and game MVP. “He is a great player, winning the award shows that.”
Earlier this week, Toronto FC lost out on the chance to represent Canada in the CONCACAF Champions League by drawing Montreal Impact 1-1 at home on Tuesday. Montreal needed only a draw to win the Canadian Championship and their seventh straight Voyageurs Cup and will play Nicaraguan side Real Estelí in a two-legged qualifier to determine entry into the potentially lucrative Champions League group stages.
The Impact will have taken heart from MLS Commissioner Don Garber’s media address during All-Star week, in which the Don stated that the league was looking to expand to two more teams by 2011. Montreal and Vancouver were mentioned on a shortlist of expansion candidates.
West Ham United vs. MLS All-Stars
July 24, 2008 — BMO Field
WHU — Dean Ashton 1 (Carlton Cole 1) 26
MLS — Christian Gomez 1 (Cuauhtemoc Blanco 1, David Beckham 1) 27
MLS — Cuauhtemoc Blanco 1 (Juan Toja ) 43
WHU — Dean Ashton 2 (Luis Boa Morte ) 67
MLS — Dwayne De Rosario 1 (penalty kick) 69
West Ham United — Robert Green, Lucas Neill, Calum Davenport, Anton Ferdinand, Joe Widdowson, Julien Faubert (Junior Stanislas 75), Hayden Mullins (Jack Collison 65), Scott Parker, Matthew Etherington (Luis Boa Morte 46), Dean Ashton (Kyel Reid 80), Carlton Cole (Tony Stokes 91+),
Substitutes Not Used: Jordan Spence, James Walker
MLS All-Stars — Matt Reis (Pat Onstad 70), Jonathan Bornstein (Edson Buddle 88), Frankie Hejduk (Steve Ralston 88), Jimmy Conrad, Pablo Mastroeni, David Beckham, Christian Gomez (Jim Brennan 59), Shalrie Joseph, Juan Toja (Dwayne De Rosario 59), Kenny Cooper (Juan Pablo Angel 46), Cuauhtemoc Blanco (Landon Donovan 46).
Substitutes Not Used:
WHU — Scott Parker (caution; Delaying a Restart) 46+
MLS — Jonathan Bornstein (caution; Pushing, Holding) 52
MLS — Frankie Hejduk (caution; Reckless Foul) 56
MLS — Jimmy Conrad (caution; Reckless Foul) 82
Referee: Mauricio Navarro
Referee’s Assistants: Hector Vergara; Greg Barkey
4th official: Mark Geiger
time of game: 1:53
weather: Partly Cloudy -and- 72 degrees