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David Beckham's assist leads Galaxy to 1-0 win over Red Bulls in playoff opener

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David Beckham might not be able to run as much as he did when he was in the prime of his career, but he can still deliver a soccer ball halfway up a field with incredible precision.

Beckham’s long passes served as the Galaxy’s primary method of attack in its Major League Soccer playoff opener and the world-famous midfielder’s 15th-minute pass over the top of the New York Red Bulls’ back line led to Mike Magee’s goal in a 1-0 victory Sunday.

The two-game quarterfinal series will conclude on Thursday at Home Depot Center in Carson. Because the winner will be decided by total goals, the Galaxy could advance to the semifinals if it holds the Red Bulls to a scoreless draw.

Based on how the Red Bulls looked Sunday, the Galaxy’s well-organized defense should feel confident about its chances of shutting them out in the return leg. Outside of forward Thierry Henry, who didn’t get many touches in the second half, the Red Bulls were largely devoid of creativity. Their serious attacks were limited to the first and last five minutes of the second half.

But the same could be said of the Galaxy, which created few chances that didn’t come off the end of a pass from Beckham.

Magee ran onto a 40-yard bomb by Beckham in the 12th minute, which resulted in a loose ball that Robbie Keane sent crashing into the right post. The rebound found its way to Magee, who headed the ball over the goal from close range.

Magee redeemed himself three minutes later, when, off a set piece, Beckham found him open on the left side of the penalty box. Magee took the ball on one bounce and volleyed it past a frozen Rost inside of the far post for the only goal of the game.

Keane, who hadn’t played in more than a month because of an abdominal strain, nearly doubled the lead in the 45th minute. Keane intercepted a careless header by Red Bulls midfielder Dane Richards back to Rost and dribbled around the goalkeeper, only to be caught by him from behind at the left endline.

Keane was more involved in the game than the other Galaxy attacker who returned to the lineup, Landon Donovan. Though Donovan was largely invisible during the match, he nearly scored in the 55th minute when Red Bulls defender Tim Ream fell and allowed him to run onto a long pass from Todd Dunivant. Donovan’s shot was pushed wide of the goal by Rost. 

Perhaps the only real drama came after the final whistle, when ineffective Red Bulls midfielder Rafael Marquez threw a ball at a Galaxy player. The longtime Mexican national team captain attempted to headbutt and punch Galaxy midfielder Juninho –- he missed both -– which led to the two teams exchanging shoves in midfield.

-- Dylan Hernandez

Photo: Galaxy midfielder David Beckham steals the ball from Red Bulls midfielder Joel Lindpere during play in the first half Sunday. Credit: Anthony Gruppuso / US Presswire

 
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