The rain falling in Los Angeles on Sunday afternoon must have given Bruce Arena and his players an ominous feeling. Arena and the LA Galaxy were planning a parade, and the last thing they wanted was to get wet. The feeling must have only gotten worse as the Galaxy were held scoreless for 72 minutes before Landon Donovan converted a Robbie Keane pass to put the Galaxy ahead.
The Galaxy were heavy favorites coming into Sunday’s MLS Cup final: They had compiled the best regular-season record in the league, and they were playing at home where they had only given up eight goals all year. The Dynamo lost one of their best players, Brad Davis, to a quad injury in the Eastern Conference Finals. And surely David Beckham would win the title in the last year of his contract, in possibly his last game for the Galaxy? Fate seemed to have gifted them the trophy already.
But fate can be fickle, and although the Galaxy thoroughly dominated the first half, they couldn’t find a breakthrough goal. Adam Cristman missed three good goal-scoring opportunities in the first half, and Robbie Keane shanked an open shot wide to start the second. When Keane finally put the ball in the net and it was called back for offsides, the Galaxy fans packed into the Home Depot Center must have been wondering if it was going to be “one of those games”.
In the end, the script played out as the Galaxy had hoped it would, with Donovan scooping Keane’s through-ball over the onrushing Tally Hall for the lone goal of the game. It was Donovan’s 20th career playoff goal, and his third in this year’s post-season. Although the goal earned him the game’s MVP award, he was quick to praise his teammates and stress the importance of the win over personal accolades: “To be honest, the actual goal doesn’t mean a lot to me. I didn’t care who scored. I didn’t care if it was an own-goal that won it. Winning feels so good.”
Critics will say that the Galaxy bought the championship with their three Designated Players and their high salaries. For better or for worse, tonight was the incarnation of the very purpose for which the Designated Player rules were created: To bring in famous, talented, players and let them lead their teams to glory. Although they would never go on record saying so, there must have been a feeling of great satisfaction at MLS headquarters as they watched Beckham lift the MLS Cup. The experiment that spent three seasons looking like an expensive failure has finally come through with positive results.
Ironically, the fact that he has finally found success in MLS may seal Beckham’s departure from the league. Rumors have been circulating that his services are wanted by multiple teams in Europe, including big-spending Paris-Saint-Germain. Parlez-vous Francais, David?