Fans are the big winners in Steven Gerrard's winning debut with Galaxy

Steven Gerrard knows something about soccer rivalries, having played against Everton in the Merseyside Derby during his 17 years with Liverpool.

On Saturday he got a taste of soccer passion in this country when he made his Galaxy debut against Mexico's Club America in a matchup of the most successful first-division clubs in their respective countries.

And though the game was played on the Galaxy's field at the StubHub Center, a boisterous pro-America crowd of 27,924 definitely left Gerrard and his new teammates feeling anything but at home in the Galaxy's 2-1 win.

Carlos Quintero accounted for the Club America goal early in the first half while Robbie Keane and Alan Gordon scored for the Galaxy, with Gordon's late header making the difference.

"I suspected that's how the crowd would look," Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena said. "It was good for our team. We haven't done real well away this year."

What Gerrard thought about his debut remains a mystery since he showed his best burst of speed on the night when he bolted from the stadium without taking questions from reporters.

Before that he was welcomed with a loud ovation from the America supporters, who booed the rest of the Galaxy starters. He then played the first half, making the most of those 45 minutes by taking a team-high three shots -- almost scoring on one of them -- and getting a game-high 43 touches in his 45 minutes.

"He really played well," Arena said. "His passing was very good. Won some tackles. Helped create some chances. Could have had a goal. Their keeper made a great save on him.

"His first time out was very encouraging. He looked like he belonged. His leadership was real good. It was solid."

It was historic as well since it marked Gerrard's first club game in anything other than a Liverpool shirt. The game, however, wasn't exactly meaningful.

It was the opener of the International Champions Cup, a 15-team, three-continent exhibition tournament featuring some of the world's top club teams. And aside from the supporters -- and maybe Gerrard -- few appeared to be taking the event seriously.

"I'd like to say this, like I always do in these exhibitions: They're exhibitions," Arena said. "And don't read a whole lot into it. Club America's getting their team ready for the season. We're getting our team ready for two games next week.

"For the fans, it was a good game."

Club America, which opens its Liga MX season later this month, came to Southern California missing 12 players -- including key starters Oribe Peralta and Paul Aguilar -- to either national team duty or injury.

The Galaxy, which plays in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals Tuesday and then meets San Jose in a key Major League Soccer game Friday -- two of seven games the team will play this month -- was also shorthanded, missing Gyasi Zardes and Omar Gonzalez to the U.S. national team and goalkeeper Jaime Penedo to the Panamanian team.

"I'm not a fan of friendly games," Keane, the Galaxy captain, said. "This is more for them than it is for us. There's a lot of Mexican supporters in L.A. I'm sure it will be good for them to see Club America."

But the game was also good for Gerrard, 35, who hadn't played since the English Premier League season ended in May and is still short of full-match fitness.

"It's going to take some games. It doesn't come through training," Arena said. "He'll have to play some matches and we'll try to slowly build him into that. But from what I could see tonight, it was a good 45 minutes."

Gerrard completed 80% of his passes, remarkable accuracy considering that, with the exception of Keane, Gerrard had never played with his new teammates before. He also got physical at times, too, banging more than one America player, including in the final moments before halftime, during which he hobbled to the locker room.

In the non-Gerrard portion of the game Quintero, a Colombian winger, gave America a 1-0 lead in the seventh minute, taking a through ball behind the Galaxy defense, then dribbling deep into the penalty area before rolling a shot through the legs of keeper Brian Rowe.

The Galaxy had a chance to tie the score in the 16th minute when a Keane shot deflected to a charging Sebastian Lletget. But Lletget missed an open net wide to the left.

Keane didn't miss when he got his next shot, using his left foot to ground a 40-yard pass from Juninho, stepping around America defender Paolo Goltz, then softly tapping the ball into the net to tie the score seconds before the end of the first half.

Gordon then got the deciding goal in the 80th minute, heading in a cross from Raul Mendiola off the right post. It was his third game-winning goal of the season.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
60°