Galaxy Beat Dynamo 3-1 For MLS Cup, Gonzalez MVP


Heading in to the MLS Cup most of the attention was on the LA Galaxy as the rematch approached.  This would be David Beckham’s last MLS match.  The future of Landon Donovan was sketchy at best.  However, they would be playing a better Houston Dynamo team at the Home Depot Center.  There were not many surprises in the starting line ups.  For LA, Tommy Meyer would start over a recovered A.J. DeLaGarza.  For Houston, Calen Carr and Ricardo Clark were both fit to go.  The Galaxy were the favorite as the two lower seeds kicked off.

The Dynamo going with the 4-4-2 showed that they may want to attack Omar Gonzalez and Tommy Meyer in the middle.  Of course it would not be unlike Dominic Kinnear, Houston’s coach, to switch up tactics quickly.  The Galaxy would continue to rely on the bond between Donovan and Robbie Keane.  Houston had to be concerned with a healthy Juninho.

Dec 1, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Landon Donovan (10) celebrates after scoring a goal in the second half against the Houston Dynamo during the 2012 MLS Cup game at the Home Depot Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The early action favored the Dynamo.  Josh Saunders was asked to make a couple saves in the first 10 minutes and some of his handling was a bit shaky.  Omar Gonzalez did win the first six headers that came his way.  The action was in the midfield for Houston as expected.  The wide attack was allowing the Dynamo to get forward.

However, the first golden chance of the match came from the Galaxy on the counter attack.  This would spur more possession for Los Angeles.  Beckham would send a long ball directly to Keane leaving Bobby Boswell and Jermaine Taylor scrambling.  The pass picked out Keane from about 45 yards and Keane sent in Donovan alone.  Donovan skewed the shot near post away from a diving Tally Hall and to the outside of the post.

The Galaxy would then begin to threaten.  Christian Wilhelmsson and Mike Magee would get into the action.  The defense was stepping up to spring the counter attack as Todd Dunivant was very strong on the ball leading the back line.  Houston would concede a free kick just outside the corner of the box.  Beckham would find Magee who headed it down but was unable to direct it to the net thanks to a challenge from Adam Moffat.

As the LA crowd chanted Beckham’s name during the 23rd minute, the Galaxy were creating.  However, the match was still goalless giving the Dynamo more confidence as the underdog.  Kofi Sarkodie used a bit of skill around Magee and almost started the scoring.  Saunders had to make a fingertip save.

Once the nerves were gone the play got sloppy.  There were too many giveaways by both teams in the final third.  Gonzalez continued to win headers, but his teammates could not keep the next ball.  He was free on corners and seemed to find a way to clear the ball.  Corey Ashe seemed to know the next pass coming from the Galaxy.  The pace was slowing and no major chances were coming. Will Bruin was non-existent for Houston.   It did not look like a goal was coming prior to the half.

Of course, there was a goal right before the half.  Perhaps the Galaxy fell asleep in what had become a stagnant match.  Calen Carr would find the right channel to make a run behind the Galaxy.  Moffat would pick out the right pass for Carr to run on.  He would send the ball over Saunders head near post.  Saunders was not confident landing on his back as the ball hit the net.  Carr would give Meyer a little bump as he got back to make room for the shot.   His first touch of the pass to an area to create was also brilliant.  Carr would celebrate with a leap over the corner flag.

The Dynamo were ahead hoping that they could join seven other teams winning at halftime to go on to take the MLS Cup.  Los Angeles needed to be cleaner in the attacking zone.  An early free kick would see the ball in the net, but Keane was clearly offside.  Another Keane run was spurred by a perfect pass from Beckham. Beckham was playing his game in the departure match.

The match began to open up and get more physical.  Boniek Garcia continued to control the ball well.  Will Bruin was more available.  Keane was being creative.  The Galaxy were finding long passes while the Dynamo were connecting well.  Carr was still creating, but would leave the game after colliding with Omar Gonzalez.  Mac Kandji would replace him.

Gonzalez would add insult to injury getting the equalizer in the 61st minute.  A hand ball led to a free kick that was cleared for a corner.  The corner would be cleared to Beckham who would find Juninho.  He picked out Gonzalez for an easy finish as Boswell and Ashe got tangled up with one another.

The Dynamo were falling apart on set pieces in an unusual fashion.  The Galaxy were a different team from the last 15 minutes of the first half.  They would take the lead on a penalty kick as Houston again failed to clear in the box.  The ball rattled around until Magee sent a bicycle kick toward the net.  It was a clear handball to Ricardo Clark and Donovan was perfect on the attempt from the spot.

The Dynamo were now down 2-1 and looking out of sorts.  Giles Barnes would come on for Moffat to add more speed to the attack in the 72nd minute.  Shortly after Bruce Arena would counter with Edson Buddle moving Donovan back to a more defensive position.  The Dynamo’s final substitution was Brian Ching for Sarkodie.  Michael Stephens would have to come on for a hobbling Juninho  setting the stage for a Houston 3-5-2 and a Galaxy defensive mindset in the last 15 minutes.

In front of the largest crowd in Home Depot Center history, 30,510, Ching was trying to will his team to a tie.  He was controlling the ball.  His long shot in the 87th minute went just wide by a flailing Saunders.  However, the field seemed to be narrowed by the Galaxy defense. The best opportunity in the final minutes of regulation came from Clark who got his head on a Davis service.  Saunders was positioned just right.

The Galaxy would ice the match in stoppage time as Keane would convert another penalty kick.  A quick counter put him in behind and Tally Hall gave an unfortunate swing below the belt.  Keane took the attempt at the spot although he should have given it ti Beckham.  Beckham would be subbed after the conversion to get his curtain call in the MLS.  He has now won a title in his farewell season at Manchester United, Real Madrid, and the Los Angeles Galaxy.

December 1, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Galaxy fans celebrate the 3-1 victory against the Houston Dynamo to win the 2012 MLS Cup at the Home Depot Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The stars came out again for the Galaxy win.  In the post match interview, Donovan mentioned playing for Brendan Galanaugh, his friend from Make-A-Wish that just passed.  It was a touch of class in a moment of celebration.  Also after the match, Gonzalez was named the MLS Cup MVP, rightly so.  There was a 15 minute swing of momentum in the second half that he played a big part in.  That swing sealed the victory as the Dynamo failed to seize the moment.  The Galaxy join D.C. United for most MLS Cups with four.