Hemispheres (L.A. Galaxy 3-1 D.C. United)

It’s probably not worthy getting on this as a tactical case-study (fascinating as it is, this 3-1 merely inverts the same result suffered by the Galaxy against the Real Salt Lake), politically, or anything about the fashion-bomb glue of having an Irish player, Robbie Keane, scoring and mesmerizing audiences on St. Patrick’s weekend—what really interests me in collecting episodes about this match is a sense of complex exoticism. Naturally, I have long assumed that the old U.S. intercoastal enmity would make itself felt before any of these two teams reach the top flight. Yet, as though moving through some kind of allegory between a City of Hope and a City of History, it’s the whole picture that privileges a distorted narrative, like the opening scene in The Man Within My Head by Pico Iyer:

I was standing by the window in the Plaza Hotel, looking out. Below—ten stories below—I could make out round-faced women in ponchos standing on the sidewalk on the city named for peace and renting out cellphones to passersby. At their sides, sisters (or could it be daughters?) were sitting next to mountainous piles of books, mostly advising pedestrians on how to win a million dollars. Along the flower-bordered strip of green that cuts through Bolivia’s largest metropolis, a soldier was leading his little girl by the hand, pointing out Mickey and Minnie in Santa’s sleigh.

As David Lodge remarks, the scene is set in Bolivia and is described by synechdoche, and every description of L.A. has to be in this kind of writing: parts that stand for the whole. Beckham and the Galaxy, their communal haunted kinship, draw from experiences across the globe, from Cuba to Bhutan, from Sri Lanka to a boarding school in 1960s California. What could make the Galaxy’s rise “unstoppable” in the MLS is precisely this weird coexistence between the local and the traditional, the incongruities of the inhabitants and the charismatic ubiquity. That’s also why David Beckham was a good move: a teacher who combines the sparse and the strong, the erratic and the fiercely rooted, like a campus star in the ideological climate of the Sixties; as the bus groans and falters to reach Santa Monica Boulevard, the Beckham franchise projects priestly gravitas, as though it came from the patient, avuncular grand-uncle of soccer. Meanwhile, the Galaxy inspire trust in the way of the bazaar trader, or like a laptop drifting on a conveyor belt—for everything in L.A. is an exploration of the meaning of home. ♦

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