VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Whitecaps could not stop David Beckham when they needed to Wednesday night.
Beckham scored a goal and assisted on another as the L.A. Galaxy roared back from a 2-0 deficit to tie the Whitecaps 2-2 before a disappointed sellout crowd of 21,000 at B.C. Place Stadium.
“Any time you’re 2-0 up and you tie 2-2, it feels like a defeat — that’s obvious,” said Whitecaps coach Martin Rennie. “But it was an exciting game, an entertaining game, a fantastic crowd tonight and a great atmosphere.”
The defending-champion Galaxy (8-10-3) remain four points back of the fourth-place Whitecaps (8-6-7) in the Western Conference.
“We can’t complain,” said L.A. coach Bruce Arena. “We’re getting out of town real quick here (Thursday) and not looking back at all. We’re fortunate to get a point.”
Second-half substitute Jose Villarreal, 18, secured the tie as he netted his first career MLS goal in the 87th minute. Beckham launched the play as he lobbed a lead ball to Juninho, who flicked it on to Villarreal.
The Inglewood, Calif., native, who was playing only his second game after missing most of the season following surgery on both shins, made no mistake as he turned and beat Vancouver goalkeeper Joe Cannon with a high shot.
“They obviously had a lot of play in the first half, and they played well,” said Beckham. “But we were able to capitalize on the hard work that we put in towards the end of the game.”
Beckham and Villarreal scored six minutes apart to cap the successful comeback.
Gershon Koffie and Barry Robson, with his first goal as a Whitecap and 100th of his professional career, scored for the Whitecaps in the first half. The tie spoiled a strong effort from Robson in his home debut after the Scottish international began his Vancouver tenure with four road games.
Robson, one of Vancouver’s three designated players, booted four shots on goal while taking seven altogether.
“I think after a two-month holiday and coming straight and travelling to four different cities in two different countries I did all right,” said Robson, who signed with the Whitecaps in February but had to complete his season with Middlesbrough in England first.
Robson and Beckham went toe-to-toe at times and argued with each other, especially in the late going. But all was forgiven afterward, said Beckham.
“Obviously, we’re both passionate about the game and both passionate about winning,” said Beckham. “He’s Scottish, I’m English, so there’s always a little bit of fight there. We went at it a little bit. We spoke after and were fine.”
“He’s a terrific footballer and a great ambassador for the game,” said Robson. “A lot of people look up to him, and he’s a nice guy, but on the pitch it doesn’t matter who anybody is. At the end of the day I’m trying to win for my team and he’s trying to win for his.”
A minute after Vancouver’s Koffie hit the crossbar, Beckham put the Galaxy on the scoreboard when he fired in a rebound from the top edge of the 18-yard box. The goal came after Bryan Gaul’s curling shot hit the corner of the crossbar and post.
It was the third goal in two games for Beckham, but he did not take any consolation in playing the spoiler role in a draw after the crowd booed him the first time he touched the ball.
“I’d much prefer to play a winning goal,” said Beckham. “But it’s always nice to get a goal. I’ve scored a couple in the last few games, and it’s been enjoyable, because I’m not used to it.”
Koffie opened the scoring in the 17th minute following a turnover by Beckham. Vancouver’s Brazilian striker Camilo blocked the Englishman’s clearing attempt and the ball fell to Koffie. Camilo was knocked down as he ran into a defender, but play continued and Koffie put home a low left-footed shot off L.A. goalkeeper Josh Saunders’ hand.
Robson also hit the corner of the post and crossbar from the right flank in the 84th minute. The midfielder was denied again twice in stoppage time as L.A. goalkeeper Saunders caught his shot and then knocked his free kick over the crossbar.
L.A. coach Arena credited Saunders with helping his squad escape with a draw.
“At the end of the game, he had to make some big saves — and he did,” said Arena.
Notes_Vancouver defenders Alain Rochat and Jay DeMerit will be featured in the upcoming edition of the EA Sports FIFA 2013 video game. They will have their movements captured digitally at EA Sports headquarters in Burnaby, B.C., on Thursday. … Vancouver played without injured strikers Eric Hassli (ankle), Omar Salgado (foot), and Atiba Harris (knee), along with midfielder John Thorrington (quadriceps). Newly-signed striker Kenny Miller drew a loud ovation from the crowd when he was introduced before the game.