Dec 1, 2012, 7:45 PM EDT
CARSON, Calif. – So much of the talk in bigger sports circles will be about David Beckham finishing his MLS career with a flourish, with a 3-1 win at the Home Depot Center. But the moment clearly also belongs to the Galaxy, to Landon Donovan and Omar Gonzalez and the rest.
Here are the five important points to be gathered from the 17th MLS Cup, where Bruce Arena’s Los Angeles Galaxy successfully defended its MLS Cup title.
The stars do matter
In the early DP years, the narrative was built that MLS teams could still win without the pricey Designated Players who were slowly being added to rosters. But now, with the most DPed-up of MLS sides claiming a second consecutive Major League Soccer crown, it’s pretty clear that the big salaries do matter in the MLS Cup chase.
Donovan and Robbie Keane each scored from the penalty spot. Beckham did his part, especially early, essentially supplying all of the Galaxy offense with those laser-targeted balls over 40, 50 or 60 yards. Truly, his long-range passing early Saturday was even more deadly than usual.
The talk now will be how Los Angeles and manager Bruce Arena use the DP slots going forward. Who will replace Beckham? Will they have another one to replace in Donovan?
But this much is clear: using the slots wisely (and spending lavishly surely helps) can beat the path to glory that works in MLS.
Home field matters
Not that it’s any surprise, but the team with home field advantage just won for a second consecutive year. Going forward, teams will work even harder to be the higher seed, gaining a deeper understanding of what it means to get those few extra points, to advance a little higher up the combined table.
Talking to the Dynamo players and staff this week, they understand that they slipped in the standings because of too many draws at home against teams they probably should have beaten.
In critical moments the home field was the difference, especially during those telling, harried second-half minutes when the Galaxy found the way through and effectively finished off the contest, riding the momentum of vocal home ground support.
The Galaxy lost the plot for about 20-30 minutes in the middle of the match, as Houston hit the opener and then kept the home team from looking too threatening. But no worries … they have the kind of experienced soldiers who won’t collapse under the moment.
Said Man of the Match Omar Gonzalez: “None of us were actually worried. Me and Robbie were talking after and said that we didn’t see any other outcome other than us winning.”
The Galaxy won this match by recognizing an opponent left reeling. A quick succession of events midway through the second half. with the match tied, put the Dynamo on its heels – and the Galaxy pounced.
That’s not as simple as it sounds. It takes experience to recognize the moment, to seize the initiative and really finish a stumbling foe. The Galaxy has men with the chops and the experience.
In the last 10-15 minutes, the Galaxy brilliantly managed out the match. Not only did Bruce Arena’s side keep tidy in the back and the midfield, preventing the Dynamo from getting many real opportunities.
That’s the experience working, too.
“We were putting a lot of pressure on them,” Donovan said. “It seemed inevitable that the second goal was going to come.”
Omar Gonzalez is bound for the national team
On Friday, U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann mentioned his intentions to get Omar Gonzalez more firmly hammered into the U.S. plans.
Gonzalez did a little hammering of his own Saturday, hammering away ball after ball along the Galaxy back line, hammering his way into position for the second-half equalizer and leaving absolutely no doubt about his value to this club.
Klinsmann was at the Home Depot Center, and surely a little wide-eyed like the rest of us as the 2011 Defender of the Year put on such a stunning show.
It wasn’t just the physical attributes, either. Gonzalez was expertly positioned all afternoon, always seeming to find just the right spot.
Oh, on the Galaxy’s second goal, it was Gonzalez who knocked the telling ball back into position for the mad scramble to follow.
The afternoon had a big-game feel to it – and these events need such a thing.
This was the first year of a major MLS playoff tweak, where the higher seed among finalists get host rights. And it means so much. For L.A. players to dance with such delight before their home fans during the trophy presentation, to get the big noise as the Galaxy seized control over a telling three or four minutes, to get such sections full of impassioned supporters – these are things that just don’t happen during neutral site finals.
It makes the events far more memorable and, in the long run, will boost MLS to places it wants to be that much faster.
(Keep checking back; lots more to come on the Galaxy win)
Mar 9, 2014, 2:05 PM EDT
At least one of Wigan, Hull City or Sheffield United will make the FA Cup final as the quarterfinals are complete and the semifinal draw is out.
Mar 9, 2014, 1:37 PM EDT
In the midst of a 4-match winless skid in the Bundesliga – 5 if you include the Champions League drubbing by PSG – Bayer Leverkusen now lose a key midfield component.
Mar 9, 2014, 11:54 AM EDT
An offshore Swiss bank account has betrayed the 62-year-old as he faces 10 years in prison.
Mar 9, 2014, 10:23 AM EDT
Jozy Altidore was left out of the Sunderland squad today thanks to a knock he picked up in training, but this season as a whole has been a train wreck.
Mar 9, 2014, 9:26 AM EDT
According to the player’s agent and brother, an English club – and possibly multiple – made a large offer for the defender, but he is happy at Real Madrid.
Mar 9, 2014, 8:53 AM EDT
Because there’s still hope for humanity, a player convinces the referee he wasn’t taken down in the box and that a penalty shouldn’t be awarded
Mar 9, 2014, 7:34 AM EDT
Two goals from players in their Major League Soccer debuts crack our first Top 5 list.
Mar 9, 2014, 7:02 AM EDT
Will Bruin, Federico Higuaín, and Kenny Miller each scored two goals as a cagey start transformed into fireworks.
Gastón Fernández pays immediate dividends for Portland, but don’t overlook a strong night from Philadelphia
Mar 9, 2014, 6:10 AM EDT
“La Gata’s” late heroics can’t overshadow a strong start for the new-look Union.
Mar 9, 2014, 5:25 AM EDT
MLS’s best forward had a very non-best night on Saturday, with his inability to convert a late penalty kick costing his team in Carson.
Mar 9, 2014, 4:02 AM EDT
The former Canadian international drew a late penalty in the Galaxy’s loss to RSL.
Mar 9, 2014, 12:18 AM EDT
Holding serve was enough in game one under their new coach, with Dallas’s big three threat delivering against the Impact.
Mar 8, 2014, 10:18 PM EDT
They finished last year at opposite ends of the East. On Saturday, D.C. and New York both stumbled in their 2014 openers.
Mar 8, 2014, 9:34 PM EDT
After a downturn in 2013, Houston’s main attacking threat has already bagged two.
Mar 8, 2014, 8:45 PM EDT
The 35-year-old, four-time Best XI midfielder is left looking for his fourth team in three seasons.
Mar 8, 2014, 7:33 PM EDT
CONCACAF Champions League mattered, Seattle will need more time, and Sporting plays to type in MLS opener.
Mar 8, 2014, 6:20 PM EDT
On his fifth team in five years, Barrett delivered Saturday for Seattle.
Mar 8, 2014, 5:33 PM EDT
Late match chaos produced 2014′s first point of drama, with the veteran journeyman giving Seattle a perfect start.
Mar 8, 2014, 4:21 PM EDT
Bayern dominated once again, scoring six against Wolfsburg, while Schalke proved they’re still able to dominate matches by scoring four.
Mar 8, 2014, 3:59 PM EDT
Four decades of soccer in the Pacific Northwest were celebrated at CenturyLink Field.
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