The second try turned out to be the charm for Bruce Arena and his Los Angeles Galaxy.
Landon Donovan’s outside right-foot finish past Tally Hall in the 72nd minute put the Galaxy on top for good. Keane picked up the ball outside the area, used some slick moves to beat Bobby Boswell, and then slipped a through ball to Donovan for the cool finish.
The victory capped off the Galaxy’s second consecutive Supporter’s Shield winning season with the MLS Cup they so coveted. It wasn’t the prettiest game of soccer you’ll ever see, but Los Angeles followed their script for success and brought home the Title.
The story for Los Angeles all week was the chances that this could be the last season in MLS for David Beckham. The questions of the Brit’s legacy filtered through all the channels, but when the dust settled, Beckham foisted the trophy for his first-and possibly only-time. His resurgence earned him the 2011 MLS Comeback Player of the Year, and much is speculated of Beckham looking towards Europe in the January transfer window to cash in on his return to form. Only time will tell of his fate.
As for Houston, the Dynamo played a defensive game, but one that showed many weaknesses at times. If not for some poor finishes by Adam Cristman and Mike Magee, the Galaxy would have been ahead earlier. But Houston found themselves level at the half, and one thought that the Dynamo could sneak a goal past Josh Saunders in the 2nd Half to dash the host’s dreams.
But it was clear that Los Angeles was the better team in this match, and had a goal disallowed early in the 2nd half. Robbie Keane was deemed offside on the strike, but replays were inconclusive. That decision became a moot point in the 72nd minute with Donovan’s decisive shot. And once the LA captain put Houston behind for the first time in the 2011 Playoffs, it seemed that Houston was never a real threat to score. The Galaxy defense was just too strong, with Omar Gonzalez being particularly influential in breaking up crosses and helping to hold Houston to only one shot at net.
So Los Angeles becomes the first team in MLS to win a Championship with a Designated Player. They were the best team all season, and in my opinion the result adds validity to these playoffs. The one downside would be that Houston were clearly not the 2nd best team in the league this season (and probably not in the top 5). With that being said, Major League Soccer seems to like the dual conference format, and one can’t complain when the most deserved team wins, as was the case tonight.
We’ll have more about this game as we approach Thanksgiving, and we can’t wait to see how the offseason unfolds with an Expansion Draft for Montreal, the Re-Entry Draft, as well as the Entry Draft. Plus we have the drama that will surely unfold with Beckham, the player that may (or may not) replace him, the Red Bull New York situation, and every other team as well.
At MLSTalk, we want to thank you all for a great season, and we look forward to 2012 with 19 teams!