David Beckham, left, and Thierry Henry went head-to-head in Saturday's 1-1 draw. (Getty Images)
It is about making an impact - the ability to effect change. A deft touch, a mazy run, a glancing header. Having the skill to execute and the confidence to pull it off.
Los Angeles and New York are both making an impact. It comes as no surprise the Galaxy and the Red Bulls lead their respective Major League Soccer conferences. Their first head to head of 2011 ended as it began with nothing resolved - a 1-1 draw on Saturday.
It taught us nothing we did not already know. David Beckham can still bend it; Thierry Henry can still finish effortlessly. There is much to be said for endeavour and commitment but quality is what ultimately makes the difference.
Quality doesn't come cheap and nor should it. There is always a rate for the job dependant on how good you are relative to the field. Consistency of performance at a high level makes an individual a valuable asset on game day and a marketable commodity off the field.
Pricey talent on the field
It was billed as the most expensive MLS game ever played. The combined annual salaries of Beckham, Henry, Rafa Marquez, Landon Donovan and Juan Pablo Angel totalled more than $20 million. In any league in the world, that's an expensive cast list.
The reviews were favourable. The marquee match-up lived up to the hype. Henry's clever early strike set the tone and forced the Galaxy to respond. Angel's marginally offside header served notice of what lay ahead. Donovan made no mistake with a free header shortly before the break.
The stars shone as they are paid to do. The foot soldiers did their best in an even game. But they are playing on an uneven playing field where their career compensation doesn't add up to what some Designated Players make in a year.
The imbalance between the haves and have-nots will continue for the foreseeable future. The MLS Players' Union took the opportunity to publish its member's salaries on the same weekend as Los Angeles locked horns with New York. The list raises eyebrows on an annual basis.
Henry earns more in one game than Dane Richards does in a year. The Frenchman used to be a winger before Arsene Wenger converted him into one of Europe's finest goal scorers. Richards is quick but he'll never catch up to Henry.
Chad Barrett earns more than a million dollars less than his Colombian strike partner. The former Toronto FC forward works like a Trojan but his inability to finish remains a costly weakness. In fairness, Barrett has scored twice as many goals as Angel in 2011.
Dwayne de Rosario can finally focus on his football. Financially he is light years behind Henry and Marquez but the Canadian international is now in a place where he can accept his role and salary - something he was never prepared to do in his hometown.
Wave of the future?
We may have glimpsed the future. The Galaxy-Red Bulls showdown was but a single game in a long season but maybe, one day, all MLS games will be like this. Every franchise will have a collection of stars, forcing owners to wonder whether their cozy, out of town, soccer specific stadia were such a good idea.
The commissioner likes the idea. Don Garber has said as much. His vision, for MLS teams to compete with Europe's best for trophies and players, may be dismissed as fantasy. But any good salesman has to believe in the product he's peddling.
Garber doesn't need anyone to lecture him about history. He gets it. He's running a tight ship to ensure the League's stability and longevity. Gradually the purse strings are being loosened but a 15 year old league has a long way to go before it reaches full maturity.
In the meantime, progress may be painfully slow, but there are signs of encouragement. Real Salt Lake's run to the final of the CONCACAF Champions League was a definite plus. Their ultimate demise was a crushing blow to the global appeal of MLS, but there's always next year.
The 'new' franchises in Vancouver and Portland are pulling in the fans. Philadelphia did it last year and Montreal will do so next year. Not all can be winners, but as long as the business plan is right, fans will continue to support their team and this league.
The disparaging cynics aren't going anywhere. There will always be those who accuse Beckham and Henry of using MLS as a lucrative retirement home. What they conveniently forget is that great players make good players better.
Look again at the weekend highlights and show me the deckchairs.
Follow Nigel Reed on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/#!/Nigel_Reed
Do you have improvements to suggest for this page?