Soccer may be the beautiful game, but it also has its share of bloody lips, shin gashes, vicious tackles and bruised egos, especially in the playoffs.
On the pitch, it's sometimes organized chaos -- give an elbow, get an elbow. There's nothing gentlemanly about it.
"It's a man's game," Los Angeles Galaxy striker Robbie Keane said emphatically.
Keane, Beckham, Donovan & Arena
preview Thursday's match
It is. But the Galaxy and New York Red Bulls, who play Thursday night at Home Depot Center in the second of two MLS Western Conference semifinal games, seem ready to put up their fists after LA's Landon Donovan suggested a few days ago that the Red Bulls were cheap-shot artists.
"In all my years in this league, I've never played against a cheaper team," Donovan said after the Galaxy's 1-0 win on Sunday gave them a leg up on the series. "They've been doing it all year. It's a disgrace."
New York forward Luke Rodgers fired back in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, saying the Galaxy were guilty of overly aggressive play as well.
"If calling a team cheap is having the will to win and tackling and putting everything into the game, that's not cheap," Rodgers said. "I call it a winning team. A lot of their players were doing the same thing."
Rodgers even accused Galaxy star David Beckham of administering a tackle on Roy Miller that left Miller with a gash on his leg.
"If someone gets injured from a tackle, so what?" Rodgers said. "It's football. I just feel people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones."
Beckham appeared caught off guard after hearing that his fellow Englishman had accused him of injuring Miller.
"I'm surprised he said that because I haven't remarked on anything they did to us or anything that certain players did to me," he said. "That's not me, that's not how I work, but these things happen in games. There's times when players go in to tackle a little bit harder than they should, but that's how it is. It's soccer."
Sunday's game had a nasty finish when New York's Rafael Marquez threw the ball at Donovan's feet at the final whistle and Galaxy midfielder Juninho responded by taking a swing at Marquez. Marquez and Juninho received red cards and will be ineligible to play Thursday night.
"The playoffs are intense, and it's always been that way every year I've been in the league and been in the playoffs," Donovan said. "The intensity goes up, the aggression goes up and it's all part of it. I would expect that both teams will be ready for the game, excited for it. Sure there's going to be some tackles and stuff, but that's all part of it."
The Galaxy can advance to the conference title game with a win or a tie. Galaxy coach Bruce Arena suggested his team might play aggressively from the start in order to widen its lead over the Red Bulls in the aggregate-goals series.
"We have to do that," said Beckham. "There's no point in sitting back and thinking we can defend a 1-nil lead. When you've got players like they've got on their team, it's always going to be dangerous.
"We won't be sitting back, but we have to be cautious of the striking power they've got."
The Galaxy finished the regular season with a 19-5-10 record but were unbeatable at Home Depot Center, going 12-0-5.
And if things get chippy again, well, it's all part of the playoffs.
"You have to accept that you're going to get kicked," Keane said. "I played in the Premiership for a long time so I know what it's like to get kicked around or play in a hostile atmosphere. Football is a man's game."
The Galaxy face the Red Bulls on Thursday, November 3 at 8 p.m. at The Home Depot Center in the second leg of the Western Conference Semifinal Series. Tickets are still available! BUY NOW