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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

50-50 Challenge
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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

50-50 Challenge
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Galaxy show marked improvement against Sydney

The Galaxy's 0-1 loss Wednesday versus Gamba Osaka was a clear example of how even David Beckham cannot single-handedly rescue a team. On the other hand, Saturday's 2-1 Galaxy win versus Sydney FC at the Pan-Pacific Championship showed a team that understands how to make the most of its prize asset can succeed.

"We played our football and defended well," David Beckham pointed out after the match.

The Galaxy captain was the catalyst for both of L.A. goals, sending in a pinpoint cross for the first, while another pass triggered the sequence that led to the second score.

"It's always nice to have two assists," Beckham said.

Truth be told, Beckham probably hit an equal number of good crosses in the match versus Gamba Osaka as he did versus Sydney FC. The difference was that with another chance, his teammates responded much better.

"We had our legs under us," said midfielder Josh Tudela. "It was our second game and we got a little more used to playing with each other. We felt good tonight."

The win, good for third place in the tournament, lifted spirits and contrasted with the gloom that hung over the team after its loss to Osaka.

"We were obviously a little disappointed after Wednesday's match," said forward Ely Allen.

Allen and a number of other players on the Galaxy made their debuts in the tournament versus Osaka.

"A lot of the new guys had jitters," Tudela said. "It was their first time out as professionals."

Against Sydney FC, though, the Galaxy's veterans had vengeance on their minds. L.A. had lost to the Australian team on a tour in late 2007.

"That was a heated battle that started in Sydney and we wanted to get them back," Tudela said.

It was Allen who put the Galaxy up early.

"I was coming down the left side," Allen recalled. "Beckham was on the right. He looked up, saw me, and hit a 50-yard ball right on my left foot, which is my dominant foot. I chose to first-time it and it went into the upper-left corner."

Anticipating great crosses by Beckham has become second-nature for his teammates. That's what set up the second Galaxy goal, after Sydney FC had tied the match.

Tudela was trailing the front line of attackers when he saw Beckham wind up on the ball.

"I knew Beckham was going to cross it, so I figured I'd just try to get in and maybe get a garbage goal," Tudela said. "That's what happened. The goalie dropped the ball and it came out to me. Right then I knew I had to put it away."

Almost all the Galaxy players were more composed in this contest than they had been previously, with a far greater number of passes completed, even on the poor artificial turf of Aloha Stadium.

Even Israel Sesay, who, at age 17, is the youngest Galaxy player, got the chance to contribute a few minutes in this game. Though he didn't score, he didn't look overwhelmed, either.

"I'm playing with big-time players, like David Beckham," said the quick forward. "I'm getting good experience with them."

The nerves of playing alongside Beckham may never go away completely, but as a whole, his companions did a much better job of turning his presence into an asset.

"We know that when Beckham has the ball, we just need to crash the goal," Tudela said. "He hits an amazing ball and we've just got to get on the end of it."

Even on the rare occasions when Beckham was not involved in the play, the Galaxy players performed well, utilizing a passing game that, if not quite sexy, was actually pleasant to observe. Coach Ruud Gullit's influence on the team was evident throughout the contest.

"As a team, we were more in sync," said Allen, noting that on-field communication improved. "We talked a lot more."

The Galaxy were led by the excellent performance of Beckham, but against Sydney FC, the effort was a united one. The captain did his part, and this time, so did his crew.

Andrea Canales covers MLS and women's college soccer for ESPNsoccernet. She also writes for soccer365.com and contributes to a blog, Sideline Views. She can be contacted at soccercanales@yahoo.com.