July 12, 2015
By DAN GREENSPAN
CARSON, Calif. (AP) – Steven Gerrard started and played the first 45 minutes of his American debut as the LA Galaxy beat Club América 2-1 in an International Champions Cup game Saturday night.
After a six-week layoff following the end of his 17th and final season at Liverpool, Gerrard played his traditional spot in the central midfield for the Galaxy in the friendly exhibition against the Mexican power at StubHub Center.
“It was a great feeling,” Gerrard said. “It was a difficult game and I thought (Club América) were very good. I thought after 15 or 20 minutes that the team settled really well, we played some good football and we got our deserved equalizer. For me personally, it was good to get 45 minutes under my belt, and I’ll keep getting better and better, and the more I get used to my teammates, I’ll improve.”
Having only started practicing with the Galaxy on Tuesday, Gerrard seemed more comfortable when moving forward in an attacking role, but was caught flat-footed several times on defense.
“Steven played well,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “His passing was very good. His partnership with Juninho was good. Won some tackles, helped create some chances. Could have had a goal, so his first time out was very encouraging. He looked like he belonged.”
Gerrard put an early shot on goal from 35 yards out that had to be punched away by goalie Hugo Gonzalez.
Club América scored on the counter, with Carlos Darwin Quintero putting the ball between Brian Rowe’s legs for a 1-0 lead in the seventh minute.
Galaxy captain Robbie Keane equalized in the 45th minute. After masterfully collecting a long ball from Juninho with his first touch, Keane coolly placed the ball into the open net from 10 yards out after Gonzalez misjudged the initial pass and came off his line in a futile attempt to send it away.
Alan Gordon scored the winner in the 80th minute, outjumping two defenders and heading in Raul Mendiola’s perfect cross with a high arcing shot.
Still, Gerrard was the focus for the sellout crowd of 27,934 not adorned in the yellow of the traditional Mexican club. His No. 8 jerseys – both in Liverpool red and Galaxy white – were worn in abundance, and a sizable contingent of international media was on hand to cover the match.
“Physically, it was tough,” Gerrard said. “I haven’t played a competitive match for six or seven weeks so it was very important that I got out there and got 45 minutes.”
What they saw was a Gerrard who played as he had during his final seasons at Liverpool, with equal moments of good and bad. He misplayed a backward pass from Keane just inside the center line and had to send it out of play for a corner kick after scrambling to recover, but also forced Gonzalez into a sprawling right-footed save with a shot just outside the 6-yard box in the 22nd minute.
A Merseyside institution for half his life, Gerrard scored 120 goals in 504 appearances and led Liverpool to three League Cups, two FA Cups, two UEFA Super Cups, one UEFA Cup and the 2005 Champions League.
In the 2005 Champions League Final, Gerrard scored and earned a penalty kick as Liverpool dramatically overturned a 3-0 deficit against A.C. Milan and went on to win the title on penalty kicks. That result, now known as the “Miracle in Istanbul,” would become the cornerstone of Gerrard’s living legend status at Liverpool.
Gerrard had offers to continue his career in the Premiership or move to another European league, but simply could not imagine playing against Liverpool.
“I love Liverpool football club and I always will,” Gerrard said at a press conference Tuesday. “I’m still a fan and will be until the day that I die. I needed a new challenge, I needed a fresh obstacle.”
Gerrard hopes to play similar minutes in the Galaxy’s U.S. Open Cup match at Real Salt Lake on Tuesday, but he will play his first official MLS match when the Galaxy host the San Jose Earthquakes on July 17.