Beckham Goes Out in Style as Galaxy Win MLS Cup Chock Full of History (And Our Prediction Comes True)

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The Los Angeles Galaxy sent David Beckham out a winner, locking down a 3-1 victory over Houston in the MLS Cup final this past Saturday, and giving the Englishman—who had announced that this game would be his last in the league—his second U.S. domestic title in six seasons.

That was only the most high-profile chunk of history carved out at the Home Depot Center. Landon Donovan, who may be headed elsewhere as well, won a record-tying fifth MLS championship and became the league’s alltime leading scorer in all competitions when he scored the Cup-winning goal from the spot, giving him 146 career goals (regular season and playoffs).

The win delivered Los Angeles its fourth MLS Cup title, tied with D.C. United for the most ever.

There was also coach Bruce Arena’s fourth title—two more than any other coach in MLS history—and a second consecutive one for Irish international Robbie Keane, who who iced the game with a penalty in stoppage time, scoring his sixth goal of the playoffs, tied for second-most alltime in a single postseason.

Twenty-four year-old center back and budding U.S. national team prospect Omar Gonzalez completed his return from a torn ACL (suffered in January) by winning the game MVP award.

Also historic, if only for its Halley’s Comet–like rarity, was our spot-on—3-1 LA—pregame prediction (scroll down for it).

To the highlights, which really should be run in sepia tones:

Still can’t believe Donovan missed that sitter in the first half.

Adding to the end-of-an-era, history-making aspect of the game was the talk afterward about this Galaxy team’s place in the MLS pantheon. Are they best team in the league’s 17 years?

They’ve been to three finals and won two. They’ve won two Supporters’ Shields (and narrowly missed a third), and they suit up the league’s best player all-time in Donovan, its most galvanizing in Beckham, and one of its deadliest strikers ever in Keane.

Still, for over all balance and accomplishment, we’d give the nod to the D.C. United teams from 1996 to ’99.

They appeared in four straight finals, won three, and featured Marco Etcheverry and Jaime Moreno in their primes, alongside U.S. national teamers Eddie Pope, Jeff Agoos, John Harkes, Roy Lassiter, Carlos Llamosa, Ben Olsen, and Richie Williams.

That D.C. dynasty also won the 1998 CONCACAF Champions Cup, a precursor to the CONCACAF Champions League, and, most impressively, the ’98 Copa Interamericana, a competition between the winners of the CONCACAF Champions Cup and the South American Copa Libertadores.

The Black-and-Red defeated Brazil’s Vasco da Gama to win that trophy, and it’s probably the most impressive competitive notch on MLS’s belt in 17 years as a league.

This Galaxy side is a good and historic one, but they’re a shade behind that D.C. club.

They do have one thing in common with them, though: coach Bruce Arena.

Beckham Is Still Quick on His Feet

At an MLS Cup press conference yesterday, LA Galaxy midfielder David Beckham was in the middle of summing up how things turned around for the Galaxy four years ago, when a reporter’s phone started buzzing on the dais in front of him.

Becks took it from there:

We need a follow-up from the owner of the phone. Was it accidental, or a wiseass friend of his who knew where he was at the time?

Beckham Announces MLS Cup 2012 Will Be His Last Game for Los Angeles

As you’re undoubtedly aware by now, LA Galaxy midfielder and global icon David Beckham has announced that next Saturday’s MLS Cup final at the Home Depot Center will be his last game with Los Angeles and in Major League Soccer.

He has not yet revealed what his next move will be, but he did say that he is not retiring from the game, and that he would like to take on “one last challenge” before hanging up his boots for good. The speculation as to where that challenge will be has begun in earnest.

So his MLS career will end on Dec 1, 2012, in the exact same place that it began on July 13, 2007. Nice symmetry there.

The rest of his time in MLS wasn’t quite so balanced, but on the whole he provided most of what he came to the league to provide. He got off to a rocky start, with injuries, apparent disinterest, more injuries, some hostilities with the public, and some squabbles with Landon Donovan in the midst of a struggling Galaxy side. But once Bruce Arena got the team in order, and results started to improve, the Beckham Era started to take on some shine.

The team made it to the 2009 MLS Cup final, losing on penalties to a rising Real Salt Lake side (Beckham made his penalty; Donovan missed his); they won the Supporters’ Shield the following season as the team with the best regular-season record, and they won the championship in 2011, clipping Houston 1-0 in the final, with Beckham and Donovan hooking up on the winning goal. And of course they’ve made it back to the 2012 MLS Cup final, where they’ll meet Houston again. That’s four conference finals, three championship games, and a shot at two titles in six seasons. Not bad at all.

(Click here for some more stats on the Beckham Era.)

He also did this:

And this, which was fun:

Success arrived off the field, too: Beckham boosted attendance wherever he went, his name sold gazillions of dollars in merchandise (that’s the official league figure), and he boosted the profile and credibility of MLS worldwide, opening the door for players like Tim Cahill and Thierry Henry to follow him here. That’s all to the long-term good of the league.

Over all, the Beckham Era was a pretty resounding success, early friction aside. And the timing of his decision was a perfect piece of PR/showmanship: It gives the league a great hook to market the MLS Cup with, as well as a potential exclamation point on the end of Beckham’s MLS career, if LA win the title again. As Houston coach Dominic Kinnear said, the league owes him a big thank-you.

He may be gone soon, but he won’t be soon forgotten.

And he won’t be gone long: Beckham said he intends to return as an MLS owner in the near future.

MLS Goal of the Week Candidates

Variety was the name of the MLS goal-scoring game this week, as the golazos came in several forms.

Are you a fan of slick, one-touch passing? Check out the build-up to Toronto rookie Luis Silva’s finish against New England (that’s Reggie Lambe and Danny Koevermans with the combination play there).

How about gravity-defying vertical leaps? Vancouver’s Darren Mattocks, also a rookie, has you covered with a Spud Webb–like leap to connect with Jordan Harvey’s cross against Toronto earlier in the week.

Or maybe you enjoy deadly, looping, long-range accuracy? The first of David Beckham’s two goals against Portland showcased those qualities—and we have a feeling the goal-of-the-week voters will appreciate them. (The “bend” in “bend it like Beckham,” by the way, is as much up-and-down as it is side-to-side.)

Here are all five:

For our recap of all the Week 19 action, click here.

Montreal: Soccer Town

When David Beckham and the LA Galaxy landed in Montreal ahead of last Saturday’s game against the expansion Impact, a reporter asked the former Manchester United star how it felt to arrive in a “hockey town.”

Without missing a beat, Beckham replied, “I think we’re the hockey town at the moment.” Oh, snap!

(If you’re not an NHL fan, the Los Angeles Kings are on a roll right now, and stand just two games away from the Stanley Cup finals. The Montreal Canadiens failed to make the playoffs.)

Turns out both LA and Montreal are hockey and soccer towns: The Galaxy–Impact game drew a Canadian-record 60,860 fans to Montreal’s Olympic Stadium.

Check out a cool field-level view of the spectacle:

They didn’t get a win, but Montreal fans got their money’s worth: they got to see the home team go up 1-0 on Davy Arnaud‘s early goal, then they saw a classic Beckham free-kick goal, and then their goalie, Donovan Ricketts, stood on his head to keep it 1-1.

The surprisingly competitive Impact (3-5-3) host New York—sans the injured Thierry Henry—on Saturday, while the Galaxy meet city rivals Chivas USA at the Home Depot Center later that night.

POTUS Turns LA Galaxy White House Visit Into Roast of David Beckham

The 2011 MLS Cup champion Los Angeles Galaxy visited the White House yesterday—squeezing in the cross-country round-trip ahead of their LA derby vs Chivas USA on Saturday night—and President Obama used the occasion to go Don Rickles on Beckham, telling the 37-year-old midfielder that most of his teammates “could be his kids,” and that, after battling several injuries during the title run last season, Beckham is the “rare man who can be that tough on the field and also have his own line of underwear.”

He also mixed in plenty of praise for the iconic Englishman, as well as the club, while demonstrating some solid knowledge of their 2011 season.

Here’s the clip:

Afterward, Beckham talked to the MLS website about this pinnacle of his U.S. sojourn, which started in 2007:

“It’s amazing. It’s a huge honor for every one of the players, the club, the franchise, to be invited here after the championship. And I think it’s an amazing tradition to have as well, for teams to be able to come here. Because you come out of meeting the President, and it’s a motivation—it motivates you to want to come back next year. I hope we do, because it’s a great day, a proud day for all of us.”

As with everything that enters the political sphere, though, there was some controversy: The Galaxy did not invite 10 former players to take part in the visit, including midfielder Chris Birchall (now with Columbus after a brief stint abroad), defender Frankie Hejduk (retired, and currently in the Columbus front office) and goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts (now with Montreal). Birchall, for one, was not pleased about being excluded.

The club did include goalkeeper Josh Saunders, who has been absent from the team since April 27 while he participates in the MLS substance-abuse treatment program.

CCL: LA Rallies for 2-2 Draw in Toronto

Major League Soccer clubs returned to action this week as Los Angeles, Toronto, and Seattle all played their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal first legs on Wednesday night.

In the first game of the night, played before more than 47,000 fans at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, the home team jumped out to an early 2-0 lead on goals by Ryan Johnson and rookie Luis Silva, but could not hold on as Mike Magee pulled one back for LA before halftime and Landon Donovan buried a late equalizer.

Right this way to the highlights:

One interesting sequence not shown in the clip above: As Beckham lined up the corner kick that led to the tying goal, he was showered with streamers, abuse, and one green beer can from the Toronto faithful. He made a point of fetching up the can (it missed him) and showing it to the referee’s assistant on the sideline and the fourth official across the field before taking the corner.

Moments later, after Donovan poked home the equalizer, Beckham turned back to the fans behind him and let them have it. They did not have a counterargument.

It was fairly awesome, and another example of why Becks has won us over: he puts the soccer first, and he’s still fired up to play and compete.

Toronto visits LA for the second leg next Wednesday, March 14 (Fox Soccer, 10:00 p.m. ET).

“Still Passionate About Playing in America,” Beckham Re-signs with LA for Two More Years

The Beckham family’s tour of global hotspots, which had passed through Milan and appeared on the brink of heading to Paris, has been held over in Los Angeles, as the Galaxy announced yesterday that the iconic English midfielder had re-signed with the team for two more years.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Beckham’s annual salary with LA last season was roughly $6.5 million—or about half of what Paris St. Germain had reportedly offered him in December 2011. After turning that deal down in early January, and bypassing entreaties from Tottenham Hotspur, Beckham focused on hammering out a deal with the Galaxy.

“I’ve seen first hand how popular soccer is now in the States and I’m as committed as ever to growing the game here,” he said in a statement issued by the Galaxy. “My family and I are incredibly happy and settled in America and we look forward to spending many more years here.”

Beckham produced a career-high 15 assists and two goals in 26 appearances last season, getting named to the MLS Best XI for the first time in his stateside tenure, and helping the Galaxy win the Supporters’ Shield, the MLS Cup, and a berth in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, which begin on March 7.

Here’s a highlight reel from his MLS career so far:

The 2011 season effectively rescued Beckham’s five-year U.S. sojourn, which had been spotted by injuries and an apparent lack of commitment. He had engineered two loan deals to AC Milan—one of which caused him to miss the first half of the 2009 MLS season—and his attention seemed to be splintered between MLS and Europe (and another potential call-up to the English national team).

But he put it all together this past season, as did the Galaxy. Beckham was involved in the MLS Cup–winning play, flicking on a header to Robbie Keane, who found Landon Donovan in the box to bury the game’s only goal.

“I am thrilled that David has chosen to re-join the Galaxy,” said Galaxy general manager and head coach Bruce Arena. “I felt that he was one of the best players in all of MLS last season and we could not have achieved the success that we did without him. We look forward to trying to replicate that success this season with David once again in a Galaxy uniform.”

Beckham has now won championships in the Premier League, La Liga, the Champions League, and MLS. So what’s next for the man who’s accomplished just about everything? How about helping the Galaxy become the first MLS team ever to win the CONCACAF Champions League?

As Simon Borg says here, that’s the next frontier. Los Angeles meets Toronto FC in a first-leg quarterfinal on March 7.

MLS Roundup: Beckham Leaning Toward Staying; Pareja to Colorado?

Now that the Paris St. Germain deal is officially off, the path is clear for David Beckham to rejoin the MLS champion Los Angeles Galaxy, right?

You would think so, but a new MLS deal has yet to be announced. While saying he has every intention of getting it done, AEG President Tim Lieweke sounded some cautionary notes in an interview with the LA Times yesterday:

“The stories were all over the front page of every newspaper in Europe that he was going to Paris; I told everyone I would not pay a lot of attention to that. And now that the stories are that he is going to the Galaxy, I would repeat the same advice: Premature.”

Lieweke added that the situation is “heading in the direction” of a new deal for the 36-year-old Englishman, but emphasized that the contract is not done. Yahoo Sports reported that LA had offered a one-year $6.5 million deal that allows Beckham time off for the 2012 London Olympics. But Lieweke told the Times there was more to the deal than those elements:

“We have the added complication that David has the right to purchase a franchise in this league. There are a lot of issues we are going through. We are committed to David and he has always felt strongly about the Galaxy in LA, and it does not surprise me that his family would prefer to stay in LA. But we’re not done yet.”

It’s interesting to us to hear people talk about Beckham “leveraging” his LA situation with the PSG offer (and, reportedly, others).

Is he really concerned about squeezing another million out of AEG? With a net worth of around $220 million (up to $271 million, if you count his wife’s income), and the league (and club) accommodating his request for time off for the Olympics, and enabling him to purchase a franchise down the road, does he really care about the salary figure? He already turned down almost twice his 2011 salary from PSG.

We’re not experts on these issues, but we’d guess it’s more a question of dotting legal ‘i’s’ and crossing contractual ‘t’s’ than negotiating dollar amounts. Or we’d hope so, anyway.

•••

The Denver Post is reporting that the Colorado Rapids’ have finally settled on a replacement for ex-coach Gary Smith, who departed on acrimonious terms in November, just one year after winning the 2010 MLS Cup. Their new man: FC Dallas assistant and Academy Director Oscar Pareja.

Pareja, a former Colombian international who played eight seasons in MLS with New England and Dallas, beat out a short list of candidates including Denis Hamlett, Tom Soehn, and Richie Williams.

Neither FC Dallas nor Colorado would comment on the report, but Rapids President Tim Hinchey said the club would have an announcement this week.

There has also been widespread speculation that outgoing U.S. U-17 coach Wilmer Cabrera, also a former Colombian international, would join Pareja as an assistant coach in Colorado.

 

Is Beckham Staying After All?

Either David Beckham has been playing the Clash’s Combat Rock, track No. 3, for the past several weeks, or he’s trying his hardest to add some zip to an early 2012 announcement about his much rumored move to Paris St. Germain.

Because according to today’s Daily Mail, the transfer—once thought to be in the bag—is not a done deal, and may never be one.

During the press conference introducing former Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti as the new PSG coach (replacing Antoine Kombouare, who was dismissed despite leading the team to the top of the table heading into the winter break), the Paris side’s sporting director, Leonardo, said of the potential Beckham acquisition, “it’s not done yet and it might not happen.”

It is curious, though, that first-place Kombouare would get the sack and Ancelotti, the man who coached Beckham during his successful loan spell at AC Milan, would be brought in.

Of course, time will tell, but if we had to guess, we’d say the deal is still on. Hard to imagine Beckham engaging the process this far without following through and signing. Additionally, he’s probably enticed by the possibility of winning another league championship (again, PSG is top of the Ligue 1 table right now) and staying on the European radar for the 2012 Olympics in his hometown of London.

Chances are, he’s just (somewhat lamely) trying to build up the announcement for some time next week.