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.

Your MLS Week 29 Goal-of-the-Week Nominees

It was the week of the long-range rocket as Juninho, Danny Mwanga, Javier Morales, and Simon Dawkins (a Tottenham loanee, btw) all struck from distance, while Robbie Keane tormented poor Toronto FC defender Ashtone Morgan in the box before blasting home.

Enjoy:

We have to go with Dawkins on this one. That was a filthy effort. Keane’s cutback clocks in at No. 2 on our ballot.

Galaxy Reels Off Fourth Straight Win, Serves Notice for the Postseason

Remember when Toronto FC eliminated Los Angeles from the CONCACAF Champions League back in March, and then the Galaxy got off to a 3-8-2 start in Major League Soccer? Seems like a long time ago now.

Bruce Arena’s men clipped that same Toronto FC side (well, an injury-depleted version of it) 4-2 on Saturday to run their record to 15-11-4 and move into second place in the West, ahead of Real Salt Lake on goals scored.

They’re doing it all in a way that should put the competition on notice—with Robbie Keane and Juninho on fire (check out their goals below), with Landon Donovan rounding back into form (he had two assists on Saturday to push his league-leading total to 14), with new veteran signing Christian Wilhelmsson fitting in—and without David Beckham.

They’ll have him back for the playoffs, which will only make them more dangerous.

Highlights:

Keane’s goals were his 13th and 14th of the year, tied for second most in the league, and the win clinched a playoff berth for the Galaxy. They’re back in action next week against Colorado.

Ireland Needs Some “Joxer-Goes-to-Stuttgart” Inspiration Ahead of Spain Match Today

After a 3-1 loss to Croatia in their Euro 2012 opener, Ireland and LA Galaxy striker Robbie Keane need a special effort against world No. 1 Spain to get back in contention in Group C.

Maybe this’ll help:

Pack up the rosary beads and sandwiches, Ireland fans, this is a big one.

For his part, Keane is ready. He spoke to Reuters in advance of the game:

“For me personally, as captain, there is not a chance in hell that I will go into any game thinking that I can’t win it. We have to believe that we have every chance to get a win. It’s 11 versus 11 for 90 minutes. We’ve played against the biggest teams and beaten them and drawn with them. People have written us off and given us no hope. The fact of the matter is after what happened the other night against Croatia we need to get points on the board.”

The game is at 2:45 on ESPN2.

H/T to Our Man at the Valley

UK’s Pardon the Interruption, with Curly Neal’s British Cousin Co-Hosting, Gives Props to MLS

From the MLS Insider comes this clip of the English version of ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption, in which the hosts discuss the Premier League returns of Thierry Henry, Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan—and show a welcome level of respect for Major League Soccer:

We kept waiting for the guy on the right to drop a “Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk.”

Henry and Arsenal will look to halt a two-game league losing streak this Sunday in a huge game against Manchester United. Keane and Villa travel to Wolves on Saturday, the same day that Everton, Donovan and Tim Howard host Blackburn.

MLS Roundup: Dallas Clinches Playoffs, Vancouver Dents DC, Keane Update

FC Dallas locked down a berth in the 2011 MLS Cup playoffs last night with a convincing 2-1 win at Chicago’s Toyota Park.

The Hoops dominated the opening 45 minutes, gettting a goal from Jackson just before halftime and one from Daniel Cruz just after the break.

Sebastian Grazzini pulled one back for Chicago with a brilliant effort in the 86th minute, but it was too little too late for the home team, which was down to 10 men at that point after Pavel Pardo had been shown a straight red in the 79th.

The Fire now stand six points shy of the playoffs with two games to play, and will be eliminated from the postseason if New York wins or ties at Kansas City on Saturday afternoon. In other words, they whiffed in—as Chris Russo would say—a big spot last night, at home against a team that entered the game on a four-game losing streak.

FCD’s goals here:

In Vancouver, the Whitecaps won their second straight game at their new digs, clipping the wings of DC United’s playoff hopes with a 2-1 triumph at BC Place.

We’ve said before that Vancouver might be the best last-place team in MLS history—only now they’re no longer in the cellar. Last night’s win gave the Caps 28 points for the season, one more than New England.

In any event, they are, despite their 6-16-10 record, a dangerous and entertaining side—an ideal spoiler for teams with playoff hopes, as DC discovered. They’re fired up to defend their new home turf, and they have the talent to do it—even without playmaker Davide Chiumiento, who was left out of the 18 last night due to an attitude issue, apparently.

No matter: the Caps scored 40 seconds into the game, when Camilo got on the end of a fine cross by Jordan Harvey (who seems to be enjoying the move from left back to left midfield) and turned in his 12th goal of the season.

Vancouver proceeded to dominate the first half, knocking the ball around crisply, and then, just seconds after the break, the Caps produced an almost exact replica of their opener, with Alain Rochat finding Long Tan for a header to make it 2-0. It was Tan’s first career MLS goal and it was also the first goal by a Chinese-born player in MLS history.

United defender Brandon McDonald made it 2-1 with a 58th-minute header, and DC had a penalty shout in the 76th, when a shot ricocheted off Caps midfielder Jeb Brovsky’s arm, but the pleas were waved off and Vancouver held on to win.

Here is Long Tan’s history-making header:

United—which played last night without Dwayne De Rosario, who suited up for Canada in Toronto on Tuesday—is five points off the playoff pace with three games remaining, all at home.

• Apparently, there’s discord in Denver, where Colorado Rapids coach Gary Smith is citing a “relationship issue” that could prevent him from continuing to work with Rapids’ technical director and former U.S. international Paul Bravo. (Denver Post, via MLSSoccer’s Kick Off.)

“We need to be able to come to terms with what both of us are at the club, or we need to move on,” Smith said. “One of us does, anyway.”

Not the best way to head into tomorrow night’s Rocky Mountain Cup game against Real Salt Lake, where a victory would clinch a playoff spot for the defending champs. (RSL is already in the postseason.)

• Galaxy striker Robbie Keane’s injury is worse than first reported, and Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trappatoni is not happy that the player went the full 90 against Andorra last Friday instead of reporting the injury and coming off. The coach said Keane “made it worse” by playing a full game with the injury.

No word yet from Los Angeles coach Bruce Arena on the prospect of competing in the playoffs without his top striker.

Keane Tops Galaxy’s List of Walking Wounded as Playoffs Approach

Galaxy striker Robbie Keane pulled his groin—excuse us, strained his adductor muscle—while on international duty with Ireland this past Friday and could miss up to four weeks of MLS action.

Keane suffered the injury during Ireland’s 2-0 win over Andorra in Group B Euro 2012 qualifying, but played the entire match. He reported increased pain over the weekend, and was ruled out of Ireland’s final Group B game yesterday, a 2-1 win over Armenia. He returned to LA today and will be evaluated by the Galaxy’s medical staff.

The MLS playoffs start on Oct 26; if Keane is sidelined a full month, he’d be out until the conference championships—if LA gets that far—on Nov 5 or 6.

And the Ireland captain—who has three goals in seven games in all competitions for LA—is not the only key Galaxy player on the shelf at the moment:

• Landon Donovan, the team’s leading scorer, withdrew from the recent U.S. friendlies with a quadriceps strain and has not put a timetable on his return.

• Defender Sean Franklin has been out since Sept 17 with knee inflammation. He hopes to return on Oct 20, when the Galaxy take on Motagua in their CCL group-stage finale.

First-choice goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts and midfielders Mike Magee and Chris Birchall have all missed action recently due to injuries, but are expected to be available for Sunday’s Superclasico against Chivas USA.

LA’s crosstown rivals,  of course, now feature Juan Pablo Angel, the man Keane replaced on the Galaxy. While Keane has missed time due to international duty and injury, Angel has scored seven goals in seven games for the Goats.