L.A. Galaxy win 2012 MLS Cup!
The day started out cloudy, but in the end the sun was shining down on arguably the best team in U.S. soccer history as the Los Angeles Galaxy came back to beat the Houston Dynamo 3-1
in front of a record crowd at the Home Depot Center on Saturday in Carson. The back to back MLS Cup title gave the Galaxy their fourth MLS Cup title overall and caps off the Beckham era with a four year run that included two Supporter's Shields for the league's best record, three appearances in the MLC Cup Final, and two championships.
The Dynamo proved to be a worthy opponent, maintaining possession throughout the first 20 minutes as the Galaxy tried to work through early kinks. The Dynamo were more than happpy to let Galaxy midfielder Christian Wilhelmsson get plenty of touches that proved to be fruitless, esentially taking Juninho and Mike Magee out of the game for long stretches. The Galaxy appeared to finally break through in the 30th minute when Robbie Keane, who was dangerous throughout the postseason, found Landon Donovan in front of net for what appeared to be a tap in. Donovan hit the ball just wide of the net.
Houston's Calen Carr broke through right before the half with a stellar strike to the top shelf to put Houston on top 1-0 heading into the half. The 2012 L.A. Galaxy seemed to feed off of adversity and the Houston goal may have been exactly what the Galaxy needed going into the break to get going.
In the 2nd half the Galaxy appeared poised and dangerous and just like all year, a 10 minute stretch of fury was too much for Houston to fend off as the Galaxy surged towards another title. Robbie Keane bolted a shot into the top of the net and the crowd exploded, however he was clearly offsides. Although the goal didn't count, the momentum had shifted and the L.A. attack was on. In the 60th minute Juninho sent a marvelous cross through the penalty area and Omar Gonzalez headed home the first Galaxy goal. Moments later Omar headed another ball towards goal that Robbie Keane, with his back to the goal, struck for a wonder goal into the top of the goal. The go ahead goal was called off because the ref called a dubious penalty on Omar Gonzalez's header. The Galaxy shoudl have taken the lead, and moments later did so as the onslaught continued. In the 65th minute Ricardo Clark was called for a hand ball in the box and Landon Donovan stepped up to put L.A. up for good.
The L.A. Galaxy were in complete control and would not relinquish. Robbie Keane continued to attack and send fear into the Houston defense, and Houston keeper Tally Hall brought him down in the in the 93rd minute which resulted in a PK. Keane buried it officially securing the cup for L.A.
MY THREE TAKEAWAYS
1. Bruce Arena is a legend. Before the season, I predicted a championship for the Galaxy. Back in May, a title seemed like a pipe dream. Talent was never the issue, but I think that motivation was lacking earlier in the year. It may have been a case of a championship hangover which was probably the result of such a dominant 2011 campaign. Once the team bottomed out in Houston someting changed. One cannot say enough about the job that Bruce Arena did this year righting the ship. The L.A. Galaxy was clearly the best team in MLS in the second half.
2. Changes are coming. Changes are coming but do not expect the Galaxy to be down for long. Beckham is leaving. Donovan may be on the way out. Gonzalez will be a loan target. All of these changes will impact the face of the team but AEG is not going to sit idle. I can see Kaka becoming a target of the Galaxy as well as Frank Lampard. Whoever they get, you can bet that L.A. will restock and not rebuild.
3. The switch to the highest seed hosting MLS Cup was the right move. For the second straight year the MLS Cup Final had an electric atmosphere due to the fact it was a home game for the higer seed. Last year was technically a nuetral site, predetermined by the league but it ended up setting the stage for this year's format. After the debacle in Toronto in 2010 and after the success the past two years, the blueprint is simple. We shall see if MLS makes the right and obvious decision to keep the final at the home of the highest seed.
On to the offseason which promises to be action packed for the Galaxy!