It was always going to be David Beckham’s night, and in Hollywood fashion, he’s leaving MLS on top.
Beckham played an important role as the Los Angeles Galaxy beat the Houston Dynamo 3-1 to capture the 2012 MLS Cup, their second straight league title, on Saturday. It was Beckham’s final match in Los Angeles colours, capping his six-year sojourn to America in style.
The positive result looked anything but certain in the early portions of the match, which belonged mostly to the Dynamo. Los Angeles looked nervy early on as Houston took it to the home side.
The tide turned quickly, however, as Los Angeles’ three star designated players created the first real excitement in the match. Beckham lobbed a ball from his own half into space for Robbie Keane. Keane slotted it across the box to Landon Donovan, who uncharacteristically missed the net on a chance he usually buries.
Beckham delivered several excellent balls down the wings and into attacking areas during the games’ opening quarter-hour, but Los Angeles was unable to capitalize. The match swung back and forth as nearly every loose ball in the midfield was fiercely contested, and match official Sylvia Petrescu largely kept his whistle in his pocket. Houston was able to get several decent balls into the box but Omar Gonzalez, the Galaxy’s towering central defender, was instrumental in clearing the danger.
It’s a touch ironic that in a game which shone the spotlight on so many high-priced designated players, it was a career MLS player who got the scoring started. Calen Carr produced the match’s first breakthrough just before the break for Houston, as he made a perfectly-timed run to sneak by LA’s backline. Facing a one-on-one with Galaxy goalkeeper Joe Saunders, Carr beat him high to the short side, giving the visitors a surprising halftime lead.
But the Galaxy responded strongly in the second half. Galaxy forward Robbie Keane looked to have opened the scoring in the 46th minute, but was correctly ruled offside. Keane had a fantastic second-half for the Galaxy, capping an extremely productive season for the Irish international.
Gonzalez opened the Galaxy’s account on a wonderful cross-field ball in from Juninho. The Brazilian midfielder, on loan from Sao Paolo for the season, is able to lurk in the shadows of Beckham, Keane and Donovan, but has proven himself over the course of the year to be one of the more creative midfielders in the league.
With the Galaxy on the board, they continued to press on, bolstered by the home support. In the 65th minute, Beckham chipped a free kick in to the box. Some frantic play ensued, leading to a handball call. Landon Donovan finished it off for LA, and Robbie Keane added another penalty kick late to give Los Angeles the title.
It was a disappointing finish for Houston, who failed to generate much offence despite often lobbing quality service into dangerous areas. The failure going forward was exemplified by Houston’s second-year striker, Will Bruin – one of the breakout stars of the 2012 MLS season – who had a mostly-quiet game up front. One of his better scoring chances was off a corner, which he headed wide for Hosuton in the 71st minute. Bruin had another shot go wide late in the match.
Though it was Donovan and Keane who provided the deciding goals for Los Angeles, Beckham’s delivery was superb throughout the match, and he played a key part in both their goals. Though he’s lost a couple of steps from his prime, his passing and crossing ability seemingly haven’t declined in the slightest. It remains to be seen what 2013 will bring for the Galaxy — with no Beckham, and rumours about Landon Donovan moving on, it could be a substantially different side. Perhaps this is the end of an era in Los Angeles. If so, what a way to go out.
Even if you’re one of the many who dislike Beckham personally, his professional success speaks for itself. Here’s what we’ll remember about Beckham in MLS ten years from now: he helped grow the league, put the league on the map for many European players, his arrival coincided with a boom in new soccer stadiums and league attendance, and he won back-to-back championships on his way out.
As legacies go, not too shabby.