LA 2 – NYRB 1: If All Else Fails, Work Like a Dog

In a game that could have been a pot set to boil over into a hockey brawl after the shenanigans of leg 1, it was silk and quite a bit of sweat that determined the outcome Thursday.

The silk came from Henry, who dropped into the midfield behind striker Luke Rogers and donned a playmaker hat, hardly even contemplating runs into the LA box. Instead, it was moments like his cool-headed early through ball to Rogers that was converted into a tally that prevailed.

Beckham, on the other hand, was short on silk, but provided plenty of sweat. In fact his run-0f-play passing was a bit horrendous (28/58–yes, 30 unsuccessful passes!). Unsurprisingly, though, it was his set pieces and long crosses that stood out and were the difference-maker. In addition, his work-rate in the absence of Juninho was impressive to say the least, and he seemed to muster the energy of his 21-year-old self. These contrasting heatmaps highlight the different types of performances we saw from Beckham and Henry:

Beckham (left) covered ground like a dog while Henry (right) sat in middle and conducted.

We won’t bother displaying Beckham’s distribution which, as mentioned above, was rather forgettable. His crosses, key passes and set pieces, however, were world class. It’s easy to see why European clubs are still knocking on the door.

Beckham's crosses, key passes and set pieces.

Henry’s poised midfield play is reflected by a high passing percentage (37/45):

Henry stuck to short, possession based passes and the occasional killer ball.

On Sunday, LA will have Juninho back as a midfield anchor and Beckham should have less ground to cover. That’s good for him, because it will be his 3rd game of the week. Donovan bagged the PK, but that’s about all we saw of him. If RSL get Olave and Borchers back in the lineup they’ll need Donovan back in the game and Keane finishing his chances. It’s going to be an interesting couple of Conference Finals, folks.

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