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.

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Houston, Los Angeles Advance, Set Up Rematch of 2011 MLS Cup Final

We’ve been buried with day-job stuff this week but we’re back now with a few words and pictures on this past Sunday’s eventful MLS Conference Final second legs, which set up a rematch of last year’s championship game between the Galaxy and the Dynamo.

In Sunday’s opener, Houston took a 3-1 first-leg lead into D.C., and got a pivotal goal just before halftime from Oscar Boniek Garcia* to all but kill off the series. Brad Davis set up Garcia with an incisive solo run down the right channel before stabbing it back to the Honduran with his favored left foot.

D.C. pulled one back late to make it 4-2 on aggregate, but this was Houston’s game, and series. They looked wholly professional, and will be a formidable opponent in the final.

Highlights:

In the nightcap, the Galaxy took a 3-0 first-leg lead into Seattle’s jam-packed CenturyLink Field, where the hosts would look to get off to a fast start against an LA team resting Landon Donovan (hamstring) and Juninho (Achilles).

The Sounders did just that, threatening early and often through Eddie Johnson and Fredy Montero. Johnson had a goal called back (incorrectly, replays showed) in the 11th minute, and then scored the opener in the 12th.

When Zach Scott powered in a near-post header in the 57th minute to make it 3-2 on aggregate, it was game on.

And then, well … click here for the highlights of what came next. (We’d embed the video, but it was an ESPN game and the WWL is a little stingy when it comes to posting stuff to the WWW.)

Click here to see the piece we wrote on the handball controversy for the MLS site.

Seattle’s 2-1 win was not enough to overturn their aggregate deficit, and LA advanced with a 4-2 total-goals victory. They’ll meet Houston on Saturday, Dec 1, at the Home Depot Center (ESPN, 4:30 p.m. ET) to try to win their second straight MLS Cup title and send David Beckham out in style (more on that shortly).

*Garcia’s parents gave him the middle name Boniek in honor of legendary Polish player Zbigniew Boniek (check his Juventus highlights here). We will never tire of how cool that is. The back of Garcia’s Dynamo jersey reads “Boniek.”

MLS Playoffs: Josh Saunders Had a Robert Green Moment, Houston Had No Problem with KC

San Jose and Sporting Kansas City both began their playoff campaigns as the favorites to reach MLS Cup 2012. By the time they finished their first games, though, only one of them retained that status, as Kansas City was soundly beaten by Houston at BBVA Compass Stadium, and the Earthquakes caught a late (very late), lucky break to squeak past Los Angeles 1-0 at the Home Depot Center.

First up, the LA-San Jose highlights, wherein the hosts squander several chances before their goalkeeper (with a little help from defender Omar Gonzalez) squanders the game in the 94th minute:

The Quakes will take their 1-0 lead home to Buck Shaw Stadium, where the two teams will meet on Wednesday (ESPN2, 11:00 ET) for the second leg of their two-game, total-goals series.

Houston coach Dominic Kinnear has his team executing with precision at just the right time. Last Wednesday, they went into Chicago and smothered the Fire in the Knockout Round, exiting with a 2-1 victory after allowing Chicago very few chances.

This past Sunday, they disrupted the high-flying game of Eastern Conference champs Kansas City, and got two excellent goals—a scorcher from Adam Moffat and fine finish from Will Bruin, nicely served up by Calen Carr—en route to a solid 2-0 win.

Highlights here:

Kansas City will try to rally from the 2-0 deficit when the teams meet in the second leg at Livestrong Sporting Park on Wednesday (MLS Live, DirectKick, 9:00).

Dynamo Signs Honduran International Carlos Costly

Maybe it’s a Texas thing, but they love them some big strikers in Houston.

Just days after the 6-2, 200-pound Will Bruin went down with a knee injury, the Dynamo has announced the acquisition of 6-3, 190-pound Honduran forward Carlos Costly, who will join 6-4 Cam Weaver and 6-1 Brian Ching in the Houston strike force.

Costly arrives on loan from Mexican first-division side Atlas, and is signed for the remainder of the 2011 season. He is not classified as a Designated Player.

The Dynamo (6-7-9) hope Costly, who has 18 goals in 48 appearances for Honduras, can take advantage of service from wingers Brad Davis and Colin Clark and boost the Houston offense for the stretch run.

He also won’t hurt at the gate in Houston, where 27,600 turned up for a May 29 friendly at Robertson Stadium between Costly’s Honduras and El Salvador.

Los Angeles 1, Houston 0: Todd Dunivant Unveils “The Weapon”

Here’s the difference between New York and Los Angeles at the top of the MLS pecking order right now: Faced with a home game against a beatable team (banged-up Colorado for New York; rebuilding Houston for LA) while missing a designated player (Marquez for the Red Bulls; Beckham for the Galaxy), the Red Bulls barely mustered a draw while the Galaxy bagged three points comfortably.

Landon Donovan scored his eighth of the season, and Los Angeles could have had more, including one from Dunivant, if the aforementioned weapon hadn’t misfired. See here:

The Galaxy (7-2-5) travels to New England on Saturday night, while Houston (3-4-5) hosts FC Dallas in a good ol’ fashion Texas derby.

But they need to work on their trash talk in Dallas (seriously):

The Softest Goal in MLS History?

It’s definitely in the running. Watch Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall make a complete hash of trying to claim this free kick from Colorado midfielder Jamie Smith last night at Robertson Stadium:

Across the country, scores of junior high school girl goalkeepers are nodding their heads and saying, “Been there.”

The Dynamo had taken a 1-0 lead just three minutes before Hall’s gaffe, on a slick cut-back and shot by former Rapids midfielder Colin Clark.

Ten minutes after Hall’s gaffe, Houston would give up the game-winner when they failed to clear a long throw-in. The ball bounced off two Dynamo defenders and Colorado striker Caleb Folan poked it to left back Scott Palguta, who slammed it home.

Tough loss for the home team.

Click here for complete highlights.