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Friday, 25th July 2008

MLS AllStars 3
West Ham United 2

by Graeme Howlett


West Ham's defensive frailties cost them dear tonight as they went down 3-2 to the MLS AllStars in the second and last game of the North American Tour.

But Alan Curbishley's understrength side had nobody but themselves to blame after twice conceding goals within seconds of scoring themselves.

Major criticism would perhaps be a tad harsh, as this was a makeshift defence, after all; nobody expects to see a back four of Neill, Ferdinand, Davenport and Widdowson start against Wigan on August 16th. Perish the thought, in fact

But for some second-rate finishing and a number of saves from Robert Green this result could have bordered on the embarassing, such was the MLS select's control of the game in the second half.

It had all started out so promisingly; Dean Ashton capped a good spell for the Hammers with a well taken finish on 26 minutes. A route one move ended up at Ashton's feet on the edge of the MLS box and the England international fired expertly past New England goalkeeper Matt Reis into the far bottom corner.

But United's joy proved to be shortlived, as just a minute later they found themselves back on level terms after a great move that involved both David Beckham and Chicago midfielder Cuauhtemoc Blanco - the latter's clever back-heel setting Colorado's Christian Gomez up for what was a good finish.

As the half wore on the AllStars began to take a grip on the game and it was no surprise when they took the lead just two minutes from the break. Dallas midfielder Juan Toja fed Blanco on the edge of the box; the experienced Mexican international made a fool of Scott Parker, leaving his marker on the floor before lifting his shot over and across Rob Green into the far top corner.

So behind but far from out, the Hammers went into the second half with much to play for. Once again they started the half the brighter and Luis Boa Morte and Julien Faubert both tested the MLS keeper, before a point-blank volley from Dean Ashton produced the best save of the game from Reis.

But the Hammers were not to be denied, and with 67 minutes on the clock Carlton Cole found himself in space on the left flank. Cutting inside, he found Dean Ashton hovering on the edge of the box. Ashton, determined not to waste the opening shaped up quickly and fired towards the right post. A huge deflection off the shoulder of Kansas City's Jimmy Conrad left Reis - who had initially appeared to have the shot well covered - a spectator as the ball flashed into the opposite corner of his goal to make it 2-2.

Having fallen asleep after scoring in the first half you would have thought the Hammers unlikely to be as generous again. But that was exactly what happened as less than two minutes after drawing level captain Lucas Neill, already looking well off the pace put in the sort of challenge inside the penalty area that is not uncommon on Sunday morning recs across the length and breadth of the country, leaving the referee no option but to award a penalty.

United hopes were briefly raised by the sight of the commanding figure of Rob Green between the sticks, but he had no chance of stopping Toronto born Dwayne DeRosario's thunderbolt of a spot kick that cannoned in off the underside of the United goal to make it 3-2.

West Ham, already woefully understrength having left first team players like Matthew Upson, Kieron Dyer and George McCartney at home and being without the services of Sunday's man of the match Craig Bellamy, who was a mystery omission, spent the last twenty minutes giving action to a number of youth team stars.

The lively Luis Boa Morte could have snatched a late equaliser but after moments earlier having received a right boot in the mush he could perhaps be forgiven for not quite being on the ball when his 90th minute effort flashed across the face of the MLS goal, inches wide of its intended target. That proved to be the last significant action of the game and the majority of the 20,000 spectators in the surprisingly less-than-full BMO Stadium went home happy, safe in the knowledge that the AllStars had maintained their unbeaten run against foreign opposition.

Despite tonight's defeat it has proved to be a fairly useful week for West Ham United in terms of speading the name of the club in North America, which is finally waking up to the fact that football is perhaps not such a bad game after all.

Yes, the club could have done without the disturbances in Columbus - and the often biased and blatantly false media coverage that followed, forcing a statement defending United's followers from CEO Scott Duxbury - but overall it will likely be perceived as a reasonably successful tour by the powers that be.

Next up for the Hammers is the trip to Peterborough, where new boy Valon Behrami, Matthew Upson and George McCartney are all likely to be in contention. Then the serious work for Alan Curbishley can begin.



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Player Ratings

Robert Green
Some good saves, little chance with any of the goals.


Lucas Neill
A woeful performance from the captain who looks a good yard off the pace. the challenge for the penalty was horrible to watch.


Joe Widdowson
Poor distribution and a lack of self-confidence did for young Joe tonight.


Anton Ferdinand
Not at his best, hopefully because he's yet to reach full fitness as opposed to his thoughts being elsewhere.


Calum Davenport
Threw himself about winning some big challenges; the classic 'shop window' appearance.


Hayden Mullins
Fairly disappointing performance from a player looking nervously over his shoulder.


Scott Parker
Mugged completely for the second goal and rarely troubled the AllStars.


Matthew Etherington
Pretty disappointing first run-out for Etherington, who has only just recovered from an injury that kept him out of Sunday's win in Columbus.


Julien Faubert
A good game some great tracking back and a few good crosses. Nice to see his pace too.


Dean Ashton
Quiet for much of the game but scored two goals - and you can't ask for much more from your striker.


Carlton Cole
Did well to set up one of Ashton's strikes but offered little threat in front of goal.


Substitutes


Luis Boa Morte
(replaced Etherington, 46) A decent effort. Unlucky with his late chance.


Jack Collison
(replaced Mullins, 65) On the periphery.


Junior Stanislas
(replaced Faubert,76) Enjoyed the run-out.


Kyel Reid
(replaced Ashton, 80) Made a nuisance of himself for the few minutes he had on the pitch.


Tony Stokes
(replaced Cole, 90) The newly-scalped and far fiercer-looking Stokes barely had time to register a touch.



Match Facts

Referee: tbc.

Attendance: 22,000.

Man of the Match: Dean Ashton.

West Ham United

Robert Green, Lucas Neill, Joe Widdowson, Anton Ferdinand, Calum Davenport, Hayden Mullins, Scott Parker, Matthew Etherington, Julien Faubert, Dean Ashton, Carlton Cole.

Goals: Dean Ashton 26 Dean Ashton 60                .

Booked: None.

Sent off: None.

MLS AllStars

Reis, Bornstein, Hejduk, Conrad, Mastroeni, Beckham, Gomez, Joseph, Toja, Blanco, Cooper.

Substitutes: Angel (Cooper 46), Donovan (Blanco 46), Brennan, Ralston, De Rosario, Buddle.

Subs not used: Onstad.

Goals: Gomez (27), Blanco (43), DeRosario (71).

Booked: .

Sent Off: None sent off.

 
Graeme Howlett's Man of the Match: Dean Ashton


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