By Alex Baker
Carson, CA – Amidst increasing chatter regarding his imminent departure, David Beckham finally got his hands on the MLS Cup trophy that has proved so elusive during his five years as a Los Angeles Galaxy player. The veteran English midfielder was involved in the match winning play when he passed the ball to Robbie Keane who then slid it over to Landon Donovan. Donovan outmaneuvered Houston Dynamo keeper Tally Hall to fire in a slow roller that put the Galaxy up 1-0 in the 72nd minute.
In a tightly wound game of precious few chances for either side, Donovan’s goal would prove the decider, gifting the Galaxy their third MLS Cup title and their first since 2005. However Donovan, who seems to have a knack for finding big goals in crucial games, was quick to discount his invaluable contribution on the night.
“To be honest, the actual goal doesn’t mean a whole lot to me,” said the Galaxy captain. “I for the last month have been so determined to win and I didn’t care who scored, I didn’t care if it was an own goal, I didn’t care how the ball went in. I just wanted it to go in. Winning feels so good and the goals come and go but the moment when the whistle blew is what I’ll remember.”
But while the game had indeed been tight, the atmosphere at the Home Deport Center was electric with extra stands built to accommodate the 30,218 fans in attendance and rain pouring down throughout much of the encounter. The Dynamo, despite being mostly unfancied by most soccer press and media pundits, moved the ball with intent throughout the first half and midfielder Corey Ashe managed a shot on goal in the 11th minute. However his effort lacked power and Galaxy keeper Josh Saunders made the save easily.
The Galaxy had a chance in the 27th minute when Donovan opened up some space with his movement and laid the ball off for Beckham. The former Manchester United man then played in a ball for Adam Cristman who sent his effort over the crossbar.
In the dying minutes of the first half Houston’s Danny Cruz got off a shot from the edge of the 18 that tested Saunders. Moments later the Galaxy hit on the counter only to have Mike Magee send his effort well high of the target.
In the second half Houston continued to move the ball dangerously but without the injured Brad Davis they seem unable to find that final deadly pass.
Robbie Keane looked to have put the Galaxy on the score sheet in the 57th minute but his effort was disallowed for being offside. Moments later the Galaxy made their sole substitution of the evening, bringing on midfielder Chris Birchall for striker Adam Cristman, crucially enabling Donovan to move into the central striker’s position.
Dominic Kinnear attempted to shuffle the deck by making a number of substitutions in the second half. The Dynamo head coach brought on Carlo Costly for Calen Carr, Colin Clark and Danny Cruz and Je-Vaughn Watson for Corey Ashe. But his efforts were to little avail and the Galaxy emerged rather comfortably with the most crucial of the many 1-0 wins they’d earned this season to lift the MLS Cup trophy in front of their ecstatic home crowd.
Despite making a crucial contribution to Donvan’s goal, David Beckham seemed below his usual standards and after the match the midfielder confirmed the rumor that had been floated about him having injured his hamstring.
“During the match I think I had a little bit of discomfort,” said Beckham afterwards. “But I just had a bit of champagne and a bit of beer and I can’t really feel it anymore.”
Beckham also generously praised Donovan’s performance, telling the assembled press throngs, “Landon was the MVP tonight. He deserves to score that goal. Like he said, it wouldn’t have mattered who scored it, but he scored it and he won us the match so we’re lucky to have a player like him.”
However when it came to questions regarding the persistent rumors regarding a move back to Europe, Beckham, who has been linked with PSG and Tottenham Hotspur among others, refused to be drawn out.
“I need to sit back and relax and enjoy this moment and then decide what I’m gonna do. I might talk in past tense every now and then but it doesn’t mean I’m not coming back. At the end of the day I need to decide what’s best for me, what’s best for the team and for my family and then we’ll see. But it’s been an amazing five years.”
With the hard fought MLS season now behind them, the Galaxy will now turn their attention towards their upcoming tour of the far east, and trying to keep their squad intact during the winter transfer window, or alternately, locating suitable replacements for the players that might depart. Recent rumors have also linked Landon Donovan to a number of overseas clubs, most notably Everton where he played a spell on loan in 2010.