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Alan Gordon

Galaxy Win in a Long, Dark Night in Carson

The Western Conference Finals was a long, hard slog between the Los Angeles Galaxy and the Houston Dynamo.  With an 8:30 starting time to accommodate ESPN2’s college football schedule, two blackouts that interrupted play in each half, and a half hour of overtime, the Galaxy did not trudge off the pitch with their Western Conference trophy until almost midnight.  Some thoughts from the Home Depot Center:

Houston did everything they wanted to do, except score.  The Dynamo came in with a plan – don’t give David Beckham or Landon Donovan any room to maneuver, and use speed create opportunities to score.  They executed their plan well, especially in the defensive half.  Beckham struggled to find time on the ball all evening, and that cutting pass that has been so effective lately was just not there.  Donovan was invisible for large parts of the game, and when he had the ball at his feet, it was never near goal and all his passing lanes were cut off.  Ricardo Clarke was up for the game, and was full of hustle and challenge all night.  It all worked well.

But Berhalter, Gonzalez, and the crossbar kept Houston out.  Greg Berhalter and Omar Gonzalez were just terrific anchoring the Galaxy back line.  Between them, they rarely put a foot wrong, and Houston’s Brian Ching and Dominic Oduro were denied service for large stretches of the game.  Oduro, who has been NASA hot the past month, was a non-entity and subbed out in the 72nd minute.  Ching’s one decent chance came shortly after that when his header from a Brian Mullan cross was pawed by Donovan Ricketts onto the cross bar and out.  Gonzalez in particular was outstanding.  After recovering from his nightmare playoff debut against Chivas USA two weeks ago, he has come out focused and confident, and the Galaxy have now gone 250 playoff minutes without conceding a goal.  Other than the 20 minute flurry of possession that the Dynamo enjoyed in the second half, chances were at a premium for Houston.

Fleet of foot Alan Gordon created the Galaxy chances.  Most of the time, watching Alan Gordon dribble the ball is like watching Andre the Giant do the Charleston.  It ain’t pretty.  But when Alan Gordon came in six minutes into the first overtime, his fresh legs looked like Maradona’s compared to a clearly gassed Rico Clark.  A few minutes after coming on, Gordon received the ball 20 yards from the box and turned on Clark who could only grab Gordon and take him down.  The subsequent Beckham free kick was headed by Gonzalez into the mix and found its way to Berhalter who stabbed it into the net for the critical first goal.  Ten minutes later, Gordon took a breakaway ball into the box and again jigged past Clark who could only muster enough energy to stab out a hopeful leg that sent Gordon straight into the turf.  The stone-cold penalty was converted by Donovan, and that ended the match as a competitive encounter. 

Was that the real MLS Cup game?  Many observers would say that Houston and Los Angeles were the two best teams left in the playoffs.  Combined, they have four wins, three draws and a loss against Real Salt Lake and Chicago this season.  Both western teams have that critical combination of experienced veterans and rising stars, and the both build their attacks from the back with a solid defense distributing the ball forward.  Both teams have successful coaches who know how to prepare teams for big games.  With LA booking its flight to Seattle for the MLS Cup, they are going to give either Real Salt Lake or Chicago nothing but problems to plan around, and will feel that anything less than a victory will be a failure. 

Final open quiz question – If the Galaxy win the MLS Cup, will Beckham have become the most successful club player in history?  He will have won top honors in this third different league (EPL with Manchester United, La Liga with Real Madrid and MLS with the Galaxy)and will also have won the Champions league (with Manchester United).   Has any other player ever done that?  None springs to my mind.  Maradona won two leagues (with Boca Juniors and Napoli) and Zidane won two leagues and the Champions League (with Juve and Real Madrid).  I can think of a few other Zelig-like players like Geo Van Bronckhorst who won in three leagues (with Rangers, Arsenal and Barca) but I can’t think of anyone who has won in three leagues and the Champions league over their career.

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  1. Bobby Brandon

    November 16, 2009 at 11:30 am

    A few other players have won three leagues

    Clarence Seedorf – Eredivisie (2), La Liga (1), Serie A (1), UEFA Champions League (5 – Madrid 2, Milan 2, Ajax 1), Club World Cup (1), Intercontinental Cup (1)

    Thierry Henry – Ligue 1 (1), Premier League (2), La Liga (1), UEFA Champions League (1)

    Henrik Larsson – Scottish Premier League (4), La Liga (2), Premier League (1)*, UEFA Champions League (1)

    *As he featured 10 times for United on loan he was awarded a medal.

    Carlos Tevez – Primera División Argentina (1), Premier League (2), Campeonato Brasileiro Série A (1), UEFA Champions League (1), Copa Libertadores (1)

    Romario – Campeonato Brasileiro Série A (1), Eredivisie (3), La Liga (1)

    John Carew – Tippeligaen (1), La Liga (1), Ligue 1 (1)

    …and then there’s Rivaldo – Brazilian Série A (1), La Liga (2), Alpha Ethniki (3), Oliy League (1), UEFA Champions League (1)

  2. Bolacuadrada

    November 16, 2009 at 3:12 am

    Actually I think that Beckham does not whine as you say. I think you are confused about who whines. It is Cuactemoc Blanco who acts like a baby on the field. I would love to see Beckham win everything coming his way (MLS, Serie A, UEFA Champions) since I am a fan of LA Galaxy and AC Milan.

  3. dan

    November 16, 2009 at 1:30 am

    beckham whines to much

  4. Footie

    November 16, 2009 at 1:03 am

    All of you forget for a while there that Eropean Championships and leagues are far more superior than the the other leagues in the world, and that including Argentines and Brazils. Not to mention that Man U and Real Madrid are the top teams in the world! Who cares about the’s the QUALITY that matters. matter how many times he has won the silverware for these clubs..the fact that he won it at Man U 10 times and Real Madrid twice says it all. And unlike Scheletto..if Beckham won the MLS Cup, that means he is a successfull player in THREE very different leagues!

    In terms of him being the best player in any of his club, I admit he has never been the best player for a season long, let alone for all time..but he has several times became the best player for his club in crucial games both for Man U and RM. For example, he was the best player in UCL final in 1999. So you can’t put him aside just like that in terms of his best plays and his contributions.

    And guys must not forget that he still have the SERIE A and the 2nd UEFA Champions League to win next year! That makes it to FOUR very different leagues then! So yeah..IF he won all of these – starting with MLS Cup – I would dare say he is THE MOST SUCCESSFULL club player in Football History!

  5. Sean

    November 15, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    Eric – I wonder how that question would have been answered if Beckham would have achieve the same results as Schelotto over the same three span? And Schelotto followed in the Beckham flight plan by not winning any hardware and went back to South America to play in the off season?

  6. dan

    November 15, 2009 at 4:30 pm


  7. Bolacuadrada

    November 15, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    As far as referees, bad calls happen everywhere in the world. It can only be fixed by using instant replay. Of course, FIFA will not allow that because it will clean the game and we know how corrupt FIFA and most federation officials are. By using video, referees will not be able to favor teams by request or convenience. I support the LA Galaxy and I support Beckham but to say that Beckham was the most successful club player in history is a reach. If Beckham wins the MLS, he will be in a select group and that is all. Nobady will ever match the 26 club titles the greatest of them all had. That guy born in Brazil who won the NASL Championship with the New York Cosmos in 1977.

  8. Rex

    November 15, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    The sand pit in Houston, no lights in LA, and the horrible officiating… maybe the euro snobs have it right.. MLS is rubbish.

  9. Eric Altshule

    November 15, 2009 at 11:44 am

    Sean- An interesting point, and an argument not possible to settle. My point, which I probably could have said better, is that the Champions League is considered by many the ultimate club trophy. Beckham has won the Champions League and two other league championships. If the Galaxy win, it will be a third. The variety of medals on his mantle (if not the quantity) are unique. Does that make him the best club player ever? Of course not. I don’t think he has ever been on a team, including the Galaxy, where he is the best player on that team. But he will have carved out a unique record for success.

  10. Sean

    November 15, 2009 at 10:58 am

    What about Schelotto? Your questions was “If the Galaxy win the MLS Cup, will Beckham have become the most successful club player in history?” Schelotto holds the Boca Juniors record of 15 titles and the Argentine record for the most titles ever won, with 17… His championships with Boca were: Apertura (1998, 2000, 2003, 2005), Clausura (1999, 2006), Copa Libertadores (2000, 2001, 2003), Intercontinental Cup (2000, 2003), Copa Sudamericana (2004, 2005) and Recopa Sudamericana (2005, 2006). And also the MLS which more makes a total of 18 titles. And lets not forget his MVP awards. I know that these are not based in Europe but Boca is in the same class as ManU and Real based on the being the big team in the pond.

    To be considered the greatest club player should be based on the contributions of that player on the club and the actual winning record. So my question is how much did Beckman really contribute to his team this year compared to the player that were around him? If he wasn’t part of the team could they have still made it to the finals? In Columbus’s case the answer is clear they would NOT have made it. Schelotto contributed more to the team than any other player. He made his teammate better which in turn made the team better.

  11. dan

    November 14, 2009 at 6:46 pm

    so we are all agree that MLS referees suck

  12. LI Matt

    November 14, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    Jiri Jarosik won league titles in four countries: Czech Republic (Sparta Prague), Russia (CSKA Moscow), England (Chelsea), and Scotland (Celtic). No European medals, though.

  13. Chris Webb

    November 14, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    A phantom call?

    So, essentially you’re saying that Brian Ching is allowed to steamroll Delagarza from behind to open up the space for Hainnault to have an open look?

    Just because the rapidly devolving John Harkes couldn’t see what was plainly in front of his face doesn’t mean it wasn’t a foul on Ching.

    The ref made the absolute correct call, and just for fairness’ sake, I don’t have a dog in this hunt. Just an impartial observation.

    • Elison

      November 14, 2009 at 6:35 pm

      This is a call that’s not given consistently, and fouls like that often go unnoticed, but it was certainly a legitimate call. There were other calls on both sides, however, that stemmed from no visible contact, or from missed infractions. We’ve seen worse refereeing in MLS, in league for that matter.

    • Rex

      November 15, 2009 at 2:53 pm

      Ching was falling because he was fouled. Everyone knew Terry Vaughn would have a hand in this game but we all hoped it wasnt a critical one. Oh well. Exciting game.

  14. dan

    November 14, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    Either this game was influenced by the league, god hates houston or canada, or mls officiating really sucks,

    my vote is all the above

  15. dan

    November 14, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    Houstond did score but it was called back on a phantom call. and also every time houston got their offense going the power went out. makes me wonder how bad did Garber and company want Beckham in the MLS CUP.
    so no matter how bad chicago plays they will win because they got influence just like the Galaxy.
    Sad day in the MLS.

    • Lars

      November 14, 2009 at 3:41 pm

      Makes you think Canadians aren’t paranoid about corruption in our confederation, doesn’t it?

  16. bigvic

    November 14, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    if DB comes back to LA, perhaps he could set a new record with a second confederation’s CL. At least that tournament will have some decent crowds next year when the mexican teams visit LA. Watching games with abysmal attendance at Crew was horrible, too bad that will happen again (please Columbus, forego the Concacaf CL next year so that another LA team can pack them in with mexicans or central americans…that tournament needs to grow and generate excitement).

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