L.A. Galaxy's Pablo Mastroeni Says Real Madrid Friendly Will Be Close

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Robert Mora/L.A. Galaxy
L.A. Galaxy's Pablo Mastroeni (center)

David Beckham is no longer there to bend it for the L.A. Galaxy, but there are plenty of stars who might offer the Cristiano Ronaldo-led Real Madrid a challenge when the two teams collide at University of Phoenix Stadium on Thursday, August 1. The match is sure to be entertaining as the Spanish La Liga team utilizes a super quick-paced brand of fútbol that dwarfs anything a Major League Soccer team can muster up -- even one with the U.S.'s biggest star, Landon Donovan, back from his self-imposed time away from the game.

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"Maybe the L.A. Galaxy players will have a little more hunger than the players on Real Madrid," says David Robertson, head coach of the Phoenix FC Wolves, the local professional football club. "With a game like this, there's a feeling -- I'm not saying Real Madrid should just show up -- but if Real Madrid beats the L.A. Galaxy nobody cares because it's expected. An L.A. Galaxy win would be huge. It's going to be a great occasion, and the L.A. Galaxy players will certainly be up for trying to put one over on the best team in world soccer."

Whether the MLS team wins or loses, it's the 28-year-old Ronaldo, arguably the world's best player, luring fans to University of Phoenix stadium. Ronaldo scored 55 goals in 56 matches last year, and all eyes -- of fans and the Galaxy defense -- will be on the young Portuguese forward.

"He's such a talent you could maybe get someone to mark him, but if you give too much attention to Ronaldo there are other players who can kill you," Robertson says. "Real Madrid is a hard team to defend against, so I think [L.A.] needs to be offensive and open, but keep in the back of their mind Real Madrid have five or six players who can win the game on their own."

Robertson credits Real Madrid's dominance to a fast, physical style of play that utilizes movement away from the ball as well as with it. Blink for a second and Real Madrid's players are gone -- and that can lead to trouble for any opponent.

"The Spanish league is very fast, but it's not so much the passing, but the movement of these players off the ball. The sheer movement, the sheer ability . . . most teams have one or two special players, but a team like Real Madrid is complete," he says. "It's just amazing. It's a joy to watch and those who go to the game will be blown away by the movement and speed of the players."

The MLS style of play is much slower with longer passes and more build-up stretching into those perfect shots. Can the Galaxy hang with Real Madrid? Robertson thinks so, but ultimately believes Real Madrid will come out on top.

"The Galaxy have a little bit of an advantage being in the middle of their season [Real Madrid's season starts in mid-August]. ... They will have a good go at them, get some opportunities to score, but the class of Real Madrid is just magic," he says. "They can up the tempo or slow the tempo. A team can think they're doing well against them, but [Real Madrid] lulls them into a false sense of security. Then they strike."

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