By: Alex Baker

Carson, CA – After leading the league for the better part of the season and finishing with the best record in MLS, the Los Angeles Galaxy suffered a disappointing end to their play-off aspirations Sunday night.   Even an enthusiastic sold out home crowd could do little to bolster their side as LA went down 3-0 to a resilient FC Dallas they had beat convincingly on the same field only three weeks earlier.

The Galaxy started the match well and looked to have the better chances in the first 25 minutes of the match.  Forward Mike Magee registered a shot on goal from 30 yards out only eight minutes in, forcing Dallas keeper Kevin Hartman into the first of many fine saves he would make over the course of the match.

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Eight minutes later Landon Donovan crossed the ball in from the left only to have it to go straight into the waiting arms of Hartman.  Then in the 21st minute LA’s Brazilian midfielder Juninho won possession inside the 18 and fired shot on goal that Hartman also managed to deflect away.

Yet by the 23rd minute LA were relentlessly pressing forward and seemed likely to score at any moment when Eddie Lewis was brought down in midfield and LA were awarded free kick.  David Beckham sent the ball into the area where it was headed on target by Edson Buddle but again deflected out by Hartman.   Juninho got off another shot from close range in the 25th minute but he blasted his effort over the net.

Dallas took the lead seemingly out of nowhere in 26th minute when David Ferreira shot from inside the 18 slotting it between Galaxy keeper Donovan Rickets and the near post to make it 1-0.  In Galaxy captain Landon Donovan’s words it, “It’s almost hard to remember what happened on the play and the next thing you know it’s in the back of your net.”

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Still at this point LA had plenty of fight left in them and just past half hour mark Donovan broke inside and shot on target forcing another good save from Hartman.  Despite an injury that prevented him from taking his own goal kicks, the Dallas keeper had a particularly good night and as Donovan himself put it, “in soccer a goalie can be a great equalizer and he certainly was tonight.”

Galaxy coach Bruce Arena also lauded the Dallas keeper saying, “You gotta give Hartman a lot of credit.  He made the plays to keep his team in the game and ultimately it won them the game.”

With five minutes remaining in the first half LA were looking lively as David Beckham launched a long ball in to Buddle who got into a tussle with a defender allowing the ball to go out for a Dallas goal kick.   The Galaxy striker had a particularly frustrating night and was kept well under wraps by the Dallas defense.  In Arena’s words, “Buddle was fouled an awful lot he got kicked in the head and got cut in the box.  He was clothes lined on one play.  I think he got frustrated certainly.    Did it make a difference in the game tonight?  No I don’t think so.”

The first half ended with LA moving the ball fiercely and with intent but unable to mount a serious threat on goal.

Dallas’ second goal came seven minutes into the second half when Donovan Rickets saved a shot from Ferreira and deflected the ball out for another Dallas corner, which was also taken by Ferreira.  The ball was latched onto by Brek Shea who splashed it across the mouth of goal for defender George John who drove it home, making it 2-0 for Dallas.

If LA ever needed a Landon Donovan miracle they needed one now and they almost got one a second later when the USA midfielder turned and fired from 30 yards out, sending his effort just over the crossbar.

The terminal blow for LA came in the 73rd minute courtesy of Marvin Chavez who received the ball from Ferreira inside the 18 and got off a close range shot, sending it to the far post to make it 3-0 Dallas.

If there had been any air left in LA’s balloon it was all seemingly let out with that third goal.  Player’s postures deflated, fans began leaving and supporters groups like the LA Riot Squad stopped singing altogether.

With just over 15 minutes remaining the game was effectively lost and nothing was working for LA.  Crosses were misplaced, balls in were too heavily weighted and passes weren’t connecting.  After four agonizingly long minutes of stoppage time the whistle was finally blown and FC Dallas were crowned 2010 Western Conference champions.

Galaxy coach Bruce Arena harbored few illusions about his side’s exit from the Cup saying, “We weren’t sharp tonight, our passing wasn’t good.  We were certainly in position in the first half to get a lead, maybe take control of the game and failed on that. There’s no excuses we were outplayed we were beat on most match ups on the field and we were out coached.  Dallas deserved the victory I give them a lot of credit and I wish them the very best in the final.”

David Beckham offered what seemed like good insight into where things had gone wrong for the Galaxy saying, “I knew when we kept on getting the chances and one didn’t go in I knew it was gonna happen that they was gonna go up and you know we stepped off the pedal for a moment and they got their first goal and it seemed to knock us hard.   I think if one of the goals had gone in it woulda calmed us down and we’d have gone on and played and woulda won the game.  But full credit to Dallas, they’re a good team and they’ll be good in the final.”

But as usual, it was Landon Donovan who offered the most cut and dry perspective on things.  Speaking in the locker room afterward, the USA midfielder summed it up succinctly saying, “I think at the end of the day it was pretty simple, they made the plays they needed.  They had five shots on goal and scored three.  We had a bunch more and didn’t score.  They didn’t waste their chances. “

FC Dallas will go on to face the Colorado Rapids in the MLS Cup Final at Toronto’s BMO Field on November 21st.

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