LA Galaxy 3 : 1 Houston (Full Time)
The coronation turned into a celebration, as the Los Angeles Galaxy repeated as MLS Cup Champions in the game billed as David Beckham’s final performance for the Galaxy.
Omar Gonzalez, Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane scored second half goals as the defending champions came from behind to defeat the Houston Dynamo 3-1 in front of their home fans at the Home Depot Center.
After a back and forth first half that saw Houston go in front with a late Calen Carr goal just before the break, the Galaxy came out in the second half to demonstrate their championship tested mettle, scoring two goals from set pieces to bring home the silverware once again.
The game was representative of the Galaxy’s season, as they peaked their performance at the end of the season after a slow start but in the end their class showed through and they hoisted the trophy once again.
It was a nervy start for both teams in the early going as both teams struggled at times with their composure on the ball. Houston had the better run of play including an early Ricardo Clark shot that Saunders palmed away but both teams were apt to simple mistakes that suggested they were well aware of the stakes at hand for the game.
The game was beginning to develop a bit of a rhythm after ten minutes, with the Galaxy not afraid to cede ground to the Houston attack, while staying organized and looking to counter. The type of play manifested itself well in the 13th minute when the Galaxy had a great scoring opportunity.
Bobby Boswell was caught tracking Donovan towards the middle allowing Robbie Keane to peel off the far side and catch a great ball from Beckham in behind the back line. Keane squared the ball beautifully to Donovan who squeezed his shot just wide of the far post.
The final ball was not up to par with what we have come to expect from Donovan but the sequence was a good indicator of how the Galaxy plan to attack the rest of the way.
With two of the best set piece takes in MLS on hand, it was not surprise that chances were to come in that manner.
The Galaxy got a great opportunity with a foul called on the right hand of their box, and Mike Magee got his head on the end of a Beckham cross from four yards out and somehow bounced the ball down off the soggy pitch and had it bounce up and over the bar for another early missed chance for the Galaxy in the 20th minute.
Houston had their turn prodding the Galaxy defense in the first half. Tommy Meyer and Omar Gonzalez were equal to the task cutting out numerous aerial threats. But the Dynamo would finally find some space as Sarkodie judged a ball ever so slightly better than Dunivant allowing him to get behind him near the endline and he elected to go at goal himself forcing Saunders to push the ball up and over his own net for another nice save.
The visiting side finally got the breakthrough they were hoping for just before the stroke of half. Adam Moffat collected a ball near the right side of the field and played through Calen Carr on a well timed run. He took the ball and headed directly for goal lifting the ball high into the near side of the goal past Josh Saunders. Despite shouts for offside from Bruce Arena and other members of the Galaxy, it was clear that Gonzalez had held Carr onside from his position across the field.
It was the first time the Dynamo had scored the first goal in four trips to the MLS Cup final, and Adam Moffat became the first Scotsman to register a goal or assist on the scoresheet of an MLS Cup Final.
With the Dynamo taking a 1-0 lead into the halftime locker room, it was a position the visiting side was not doubt familiar with throughout these playoffs.
Both teams elected to come out with the same line-up after the break, but the Galaxy clearly had a bit more urgency to their game.
It started out with a great set piece by Beckham, as Tommy Meyer was able to knock the ball down to the near post. But from an offside position Keane fired it into the same corner as Carr, but the Assistant Referee was quick to raise the flag correctly.
Keane again made himself a threat after a scintillating long ball by Beckham. But Keane ‘walked alone’, beating Ashe down the left side but Hall forced him into no angle as he palmed the ball out for a corner.
Calen Carr who had a magnificent hour on the field, looked to have suffered a knee injury and was helped off the field with Mac Kandji serving as his replacement.
The Galaxy earned another corner kick on the hour mark, but the Dynamo competently cut out the cross.
Beckham however smartly recycled the ball around to the far side where Juninho sent a looping cross to the far post where Omar Gonzalez used his height to outjump Bobby Boswell and send his header back across the goal and just inside the far post to tie the game and 1-1.
The goal sent the home fans into a state of exuberance and they wouldn’t have to wait much longer until it turned into exhileration. From another set piece, the Galaxy took the lead. Gonzalez again won the aerial challenge with Meyer getting on the end of the second ball around the six yard box. He knocked the ball down in front of goal and Mike Magee tried an audacious bicycle kick and send the shot on frame that connected with Ricardo Clark’s arm on the end line as the referee Petrescu pointed to the spot.
Landon Donovan would step up to the spot and bury the shot to the right, sending Hall the other direction for the 2-1 lead. With the goal Donovan becomes the all-time leading goal scorer in MLS for combined regular season and MLS goals.
Finding themselves behind, the Dynamo were forced to push forward in numbers. Brian Ching was brought on for Sarkodie to give the visitors more number up top. The Galaxy would counter by brining on Buddle and Stephens for Wilhelmsson and Juninho who looked injured and out of gas.
The move paid off for the Dynamo in that they got a great opportunity with Bruin finding the ball behind the defense and getting it down towards the endline. But he failed to pick out a wide open Brad Davis in the middle of the penalty area instead electing to send the ball across the face of goal where Franklin was able to cut it out before Kandji could get a foot to it.
The game would be sealed away by a stoppage time penalty kick from Robbie Keane as he got forward with the Galaxy pushing numbers up in attack. Hall would bring down the Irishman and he would coolly finish to put the game and champagne on ice.
LA Galaxy: Saunders; Franklin, Meyer, Gonzalez, Dunivant; Wilhelmsson (Buddle – 74), Beckham (Sarvas – 90), Juninho (Stephens – 76), Magee; Keane, Donovan;
Houston Dynamo: Hall; Ashe, Taylor, Boswell, Sarkodie (Ching – 77); Garcia, Clark, Moffat (Barnes – 71), Davis; Bruin, Carr (Kandji - 59);