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Gerrard Makes Galaxy Debut in Victory Over Club America

Courtesy Image
Courtesy Image

Former English national team captain Steven Gerrard took a team-high three shots, one on goal, as he made his debut with the Los Angeles Galaxy in a 2-1 victory over Mexico’s Club America in an International Champions Cup game Saturday night at StubHub Center.

Gerrard had a shot blocked in the 21st minute, then had another shot that went off target 11 seconds later. Club America goalkeeper Hugo Gonzalez stopped Gerrard’s shot in the 22nd minute.

Gerrard made 43 touches and had 29 passes with a 79.3 percent passing accuracy.

He was among nine Galaxy players replaced at the start of the second half in a game where 11 substitutes were allowed instead of the usual three.

“Steven played well,” Galaxy coach-general manager Bruce Arena said. “His passing was very good. His partnership was Juninho was good. He won some tackles. Helped create some chances. Could have had a goal. I think 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.”

Gerrard is “probably about a month away” from being able to play a full 90-minute game.

“It’s going to take some games. It doesn’t come from training. He’s going to have to play some matches. We’ll try to slowly build him into that. But from what I could see tonight, it was a good 45 minutes.”

A determination on how much Gerrard will play in the Galaxy’s next game – – a U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal Tuesday against Real Salt Lake in Sandy, Utah – – will be made after “we see how he feels (Sunday) and Monday,” Arena said.

Gerrard was not made available to reporters after the game.

Alan Gordon headed in a cross from Raul Mendiola in the 80th minute for the tie-breaking goal before a decidedly pro-Club America crowd announced at 27,934.

Carlos Darwin Quintero opened the scoring for Club America in the seventh minute, putting a shot from about 10 yards out between the legs of Galaxy goalkeeper Brian Rowe.

Galaxy captain Robbie Keane tied the score in the 45th and final minute of the first half.

The Galaxy led 16-12 in shots and 5-3 in shots on target. Rowe made one save over the opening 62 minutes and rookie Andrew Wolverton one in the final 28. Wolverton has not made an appearance in a Major League Soccer game.

Gonzales made three saves.

The game is the first of two for the Galaxy in the International Champions Cup, a 10-team tournament with three MLS teams, Club America and six European teams. The Galaxy’s other tournament game will be July 21 at the Rose Bowl against FC Barcelona, in a game that has already sold out.

“I’d like to say this like I always do in these exhibitions, they’re exhibitions,” Arena said. “Don’t read a whole lot into it more than you need to. Club America is getting their team ready for the season. We’re getting our team ready for two games next week and that’s the reason why we used two teams.

“For the fans here, it was a big game, but let’s not go anywhere more than you have to. We beat Juventus two years ago. I still think they’re a better team than us.

“We got spanked from Manchester United last year and they’re probably not as good as they were on that night, but these are exhibitions and they serve a purpose for all the teams involved.”

Gerrard signed with the Galaxy in January to join the team during MLS’ summer transfer window following the May conclusion of the season for Liverpool, the English Premier League team he spent his entire professional career with.

Under regulations from FIFA, soccer’s worldwide governing body, there are two periods during the year teams may add players to their rosters from teams in other nations.

The aggressiveness that Philip Anschutz, the billionaire whose extensive holdings includes the Galaxy, Dan Beckerman, the president and CEO of AEG, the Galaxy’s parent company, Arena and team president Chris Klein showed when they were attempting to sign Gerrard “made me feel very important and wanted,” Gerrard said at a news conference Tuesday.

“That’s key when you’re a footballer,” Gerrard said earlier this year. “I had options to stay in the Premier League, options around Europe, but I didn’t want to compete against Liverpool. I love Liverpool Football Club and always will.

“I needed a new challenge. I needed a fresh challenge. I didn’t want to become a squad player or a sub for the club that I love after being a regular on the team for so long.”

Gerrard said Galaxy officials conveyed their interest in signing him to his agents last fall.

“I had a short time to think about it,” Gerrard said. “I spoke to Bruce and Chris. After one or two conversations, I knew this was the place for me.”

Gerrard said he “leaned on” his English national team teammate David Beckham for advice before signing with the Galaxy. Beckham played for the Galaxy from 2007-12.

Gerrard played 17 seasons with Liverpool, helping lead it to 10 major trophies over the past 15 years, including the UEFA Champions League in 2005. He was England’s captain during the 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cups.

“When the opportunity arose to talk with Steven, we instantly thought he would a perfect fit for our team,” Arena said. “Steven’s leadership and ability on the field is outstanding.”

The Galaxy won the 2014 MLS championship, but lost Landon Donovan, considered the greatest American male soccer player, to retirement. The team is fourth place in the 10-team Western Conference with a 8-6-7 record.

“We’ve got a fantastic team here and a fantastic setup and if I can just add a little bit to that and contribute to the best of my ability, the future can be really bright,” Gerrard said.

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