CARSON, Calif. – There are some things you never forget, and it’s no different for LA Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant.
The nine-year veteran still vividly remembers the first international friendly he played in: July 18, 2005 at The Home Depot Center against none other than Real Madrid. This particular Real Madrid team was loaded with stars that included the likes of current Galaxy midfielder David Beckham, Roberto Carlos, Raul and perhaps the world’s top playermaker at the time in Zinedine Zidane.
“I got to play against my hero— Zinedine Zidane— which was awesome,” said Dunivant, who gets another shot at the Spanish powerhouse on Saturday, July 16 at the Coliseum at 7 p.m. “I remember after the game people were marveling how good he was. He took the game to that much of a higher level."
“That was probably their most star-studded team.”
The Galaxy lost that night in 2005, 2-0, but Dunivant said the thrill of international friendlies like that one never diminishes.
This particular friendly comes at a difficult time for the Galaxy, with injuries mounting, two critical MLS matches against Chicago on Saturday and the Columbus Crew four days after the Real Madrid game and a U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal match against Seattle Sounders FC next Wednesday. CONCACAF Champions League competition is just around the corner as well.
“It’s a challenge,” said Dunivant, who scored in last year’s game against Madrid, of the friendlies against the Spanish giants and Manchester City on Sunday, July 24 at The Home Depot Center. “We have so many competitions, but you don’t want to go out against Real Madrid and put a half effort in."
“At the end of the day we still get to play against Real Madrid, and there’s not really a day off there. We still have to get it done.”
Despite the difficult timing of the match, Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said they’ll enjoy the game when it comes.
“It will be fabulous for our fans,” Arena said. “Anybody who loves soccer, to be able to see a Real Madrid team with some of the great players in the world is fabulous.”
If the Galacticos of 2005 was Real Madrid’s most star-studded team ever, than this year’s squad is second. Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Xabi Alonso and Mesut Özil are some of the most recognizable players in the world and all are expected to grace the Coliseum field.
It was only a year ago, on Aug. 7, 2010 at the Rose Bowl, in front of a crowd of nearly 90,000, that the Galaxy actually led Real Madrid 2-0 at the half. Jose Mourinho’s team then made wholesale substitutions and rallied for a 3-2 victory.
“It’s fun to play in front of a crowd like that,” said Landon Donovan, who scored on a penalty kick in that game. “I’ve played a lot of games, and you don’t often play in front of 90-plus thousand people. I think we all enjoyed it.
“They’re probably a little different for me than they are for some of the younger guys. They’re still exciting, they’re still fun. You have to manage it well because the important next three games are Saturday, then in Seattle and Columbus back here. They’re fun games, but you have to use them as just that.
“They’re a good exercise to get better, but you can’t put too much into it.”
The upcoming match with Real Madrid offers Beckham a chance to face his former team for the first time since leaving the club. He missed last year’s friendly with a torn Achilles tendon and has had recent back problems, but he hopes he’ll be ready to go.
“You always want to play in those games,” he said. “They’re exciting games, playing in front of a capacity crowd hopefully. You hate missing them, and hopefully I’ll be good for this one.”Related