Thursday Throw-In: How Marsch's Becks foul made the SuperClásico

Freedman: A little nastiness is needed in a real intra-city derby

Jesse Marsch, David Beckham

Photo Credit: 
Getty Images

This probably won’t sit well with David Beckham’s people -- and
others -- but here we go:

Jesse Marsch taking a swift kick to Goldenballs’ privates
three years ago may have been one of the greatest things ever to happen to the
SuperClásico. (Watch the foul HERE.)

Relax, ladies -- Beckham’s manhood is still intact. And in the
long run, no one got hurt and no one’s career suffered. And let’s be clear
here: I’m not condoning violence in Major League Soccer.

But as the LA Galaxy get set to host Chivas USA on Thursday
night in the Battle of Los Angeles (11 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes), there’s
no moment in the history of this rivalry that has added more heat and
controversy. A flashpoint that actually showed an international audience that,
yes, we Americans can grow our intra-city derbies into nasty affairs, too.

Let’s jog those memories back to late August 2007. Beckham
was making his long-delayed home debut in MLS more than a month after his
injury-plagued arrival. And 27,000 had packed Home Depot Center to see the
league’s first Designated Player, who was groggy with jet lag after going the
entire 90 for England in a friendly against Germany at Wembley just 24 hours
earlier.

In first-half injury time, a noticeably exhausted Beckham
pounced on a loose ball just past midfield. That’s when Marsch, an MLS
original, scurried in and applied a swift right boot straight to Beckham’s
groin.

Welcome to America, Mr. Beckham.

The ensuing confrontation was almost as memorable. Beckham
got up and charged Marsch, and Galaxy striker Edson Buddle had to hold back his
new teammate to keep him from causing any more mayhem. In the end, a giant
pushing match erupted out of the scrum.

Off the ball, LA midfielder Kevin Harmse took a swing at
Chivas USA’s Alex Zotinca, who responded with a Zinedine Zidane-worthy
head-butt to Harmse’s face.

Ugly as it was, it was also fantastic theater. The referee
handed out cards like he was a Vegas blackjack dealer, and the Red-and-White
went on to paste their HDC co-tenants by a 3-0 margin.

Up until that point, the SuperClásico had been all Galaxy,
who boasted an 8-1-2 record in those matchups. But from that game forward, the
pendulum swung Chivas’ way, at least for a little while. It wasn’t always
pretty, that’s for sure. But the Goats got it done with a little elbow grease,
a little intimidation and a ton of raw heart.

“That was just part of the emotion,” the now-retired Marsch
told MLSsoccer.com over the phone on Wednesday. “As much as your job is to put
that aside and play the game, you get caught up in the moment.”

And that, amigos, is what has turned the so-called Honda
SuperClásico from an artificially created spectacle into the type of can’t-miss
drama it is now, what MLS hoped it one day would become. It showed that a
grudge match that was essentially forced on these two teams became an actual
grudge match. There were bitter feelings. There was something at stake.

You think SuperClásico and you think of the biggest of the
big: AC Milan vs. Inter Milan. Rangers vs. Celtic. Arsenal vs. Tottenham
Hotspur. And especially, its very namesake, the real Superclásico: Boca
Juniors vs. River Plate. Nasty, awful rivalries, to be sure, which put the very
best and the very worst of the Beautiful Game on display.

But regardless, you can’t argue with the raw displays of
passion -- both on the field and in the stands. It’s what makes this game so
great, the topics of conversation that dominate the water coolers, pubs, cafés
and shebeens all over the world.

Time may heal all, but in this case, it took time to rip the
wounds raw. Because this rivalry required a little history and a little organic
growth before it could finally turn nasty. Now, it’s glitz versus work rate.
Haves vs. have-nots. A clash of cultures and a clash of ideologies. In short,
what fuels real rivalries.

To be fair, these teams don’t flat-out dislike each other.
Plenty of them are friends off the field, and some have even played for both
clubs. That’s part of the weirdness of sharing facilities in a relatively young
league. But players on both sides will tell you, there’s heat to this matchup
now and they get extra-amped to face those guys whose locker room is only 30
feet down the hall.

“It’s not like you hate individual players on their team,”
explained Galaxy midfielder Chris Klein, a veteran of 11 SuperClásicos. “But
you hate Chivas.”

And for that, we have Marsch to thank. It was one ill-timed
foul and it was three seasons ago. But it just so happened to land in the
sensitive area of the biggest sex symbol in the game: the very embodiment of
the fundamental differences between the two clubs. The perfect protest.

In retrospect, it was a genius move that gave us the first
great nasty moment in this rivalry. For the SuperClásico’s sake -- for
everyone’s -- let’s hope it’s not the last.

Jonah Freedman is the
managing editor of MLSsoccer.com. His “Throw-Ins” column appears every Thursday.