It has been quite an exciting week filled with firsts for Liverpool icon, Steven Gerrard. It began July 11th, with his highly anticipated debut for the Los Angeles Galaxy. Making his first home appearance in an International Champions’ Cup match-up at the StubHub Center against Mexican power Club America. Though the fixture itself wasn’t anything more than a preseason warm-up for the Mexican side, it was the ideal situation for Gerrard to get his feet wet and familiarise himself with his new teammates. Since the game itself was nothing more than a midseason friendly for the club, Gerrard was one of many to only play the first 45. The lights were on, the cameras were rolling and it was showtime.
The opening whistle blew and you could feel the nervous energy in the entire Galaxy side. It was as important for the squad to mesh with Gerrard’s play as it was for Stevie to acquiesce himself to theirs. America began on the front foot applying early pressure on the Los Angeles defence. Pressure that would pay off in the seventh minute when Darwin Quintero would beat the Galaxy offside trap and fire the visitors ahead in the early stages. The game would start to settle down and the Galaxy would get their first chance at an equaliser. Robbie Keane would get the ball to Sebastian Lletget in space. The former West Ham man would have his shot deflected just outside the post for a corner. Soon there after, Gerrard would have his best chance to get on the score sheet when a beautiful touch by Jose Villarreal put Stevie through on goal. Gerrard’s left footed shot was stopped by the America keeper from point blank range. On the brink of half-time, the Galaxy found the equalizer with a beautiful long ball from Juninho that was brought down perfectly by Keane. The Ireland Captain pushed the ball to his right and with the keeper out of position he neatly placed to ball in the back of the net. The team would make huge changes in the second half and managed to get a 2-1 victory with a late goal from USMNT striker, Alan Gordon.
With first match jitters out of the way, it was time for Steven to play in his first competitive match for the Hollywood club on July 14th. The Galaxy would travel to Sandy, Utah to face fellow MLS side Real Salt Lake. Gerrard would not find himself in the starting XI as Bruce Arena chose to start the match without the majority of his regular starters. Nevertheless, the match began with tremendous excitement as both clubs came out with intentions of attacking the oppositions defense. In the 29th minute the Salt Lake goalkeeper, Jeff Attinella, did a great job getting to a short-range Sebastian Lletget strike, driving away the near post shot. In search of a spark, Steven Gerrard entered the match at the start of the second half. In the 54th minute Stevie would have another opportunity to open his goalscoring account with the MLS club. With the Liverpool legend streaking upfield, he would find himself in space and his right footed shot inside the box ended up saved again by Attinella. Even though Gerrard had an impressive display in his second appearance for the Los Angeles club, the team would fall short getting eliminated from the US Open Cup thanks to an 87th minute header by Aaron Maund. The stage was now set for Stevie to get a full match in his league debut a few days later in the California Clásico.
On July 17th, the sold out StubHub Center was in for a treat. Steven Gerrard would prove to be more than ready to meet the expectations of a fan base that has seen nothing but success in MLS since its establishment in 1993. The whistle blew and the Galaxy would keep control of possession from the start, however, San Jose would be the more opportunistic side in the first half-hour of the match. Quincy Amarikwa proved to be the danger-man for the Earthquake, scoring both of San Jose’s goals in the 22nd and 26th minute respectively. The first goal ended LA’s 234-minute shutout streak at the StubHub Center. In the 29th minute Gerrard, who was playing right off the shoulder of Robbie Keane, would catch an elbow going up for a header. The referee spotted the infraction and awarded the home side a penalty, which Keane would calmly slot home. Seven minutes later, the former England captain would charge upfield and a deflected cross from Baggio Husidic would find Gerrard alone back post. The stadium would erupt as Stevie would one time the deflected cross and curl it past the San Jose keeper. In vintage Gerrard fashion he would run to the corner both arms extended and slide on both knees in celebration — something Reds fans will never tire of seeing. Stevie’s equaliser would stand as the game reached half-time but the fireworks were far from over. In the 64th minute Gerrard would take his first free kick for the club from the left of the box. He would blast a low pass towards goal and Keane would beat his defender to backheel the ball into the net, giving Steven his second assist in the match. About five minutes later, the Galaxy would earn a free kick from about 25 yards out. The former Liverpool captain would step up and take his first dead ball attempt at goal. On a perfectly struck ball that would get up and over the wall, Gerrard would come just shy of recording his second goal of the match when the ball rattled the crossbar and stayed out. Steven stayed in the game driving his new club forward with an almost telepathic chemistry with Keane, however, he would not play the full 90 and would leave to a standing ovation in the 88th minute. The Galaxy would go on to win 5-2 and pick up three crucial points on their march to the playoffs.
It was a dream first week for both the Liverpool legend and the Los Angeles faithful. The blossoming of what can be a beautiful relationship for the foreseeable future. The chemistry between himself and Robbie Keane will make the Galaxy hard to beat for the rest of the season. With his free role behind the striker we can expect to see many more exciting moments for Gerrard as the season progresses. As long as health permits it, I would expect Steven to be a key contributor to bringing Los Angeles its 6th MLS title in club history. Hopefully for him, Steven can enjoy another first at the end of his debut campaign, his first league title in what is already a historic career.