The Los Angeles Galaxy knew going into tonight that they’d only secure the Supporter’s Shield with a draw or a win. So when Atiba Harris of FC Dallas headed an Eric Alexander cross left as Donovan Ricketts went right, many fans hearts sunk just a little. However, before they could even think about making flight arrangements to Dallas, Landon Donovan fought for the ball in the back, then found David Beckham standing at the 20’ mark, just outside the box. Beckham hit a clean strike to the back of the net, sending the 24,993 fans at the Home Depot Center into a frenzy.
The Galaxy weren’t satisfied with the tie, as they came out right after halftime to score a goal in the first minute. Juninho picked up a loose ball at the top of the box and sent a low roller just out of the reach of Dario Sala. Juninho looked pleased as punch, and the crowd appreciated the effort.
"It was great win," Coach Bruce Arena said. "We had to show up tonight, and we played as good a team as there is in this league. They came out with all their guns, for the most part, and we had to earn it tonight. We had to come from behind and we had to play an excellent team and a tough demanding game. I think we needed this game. I don't think we've been in a game where we've been forced to win, forced show up and play hard and fight and scrap for everything we could get, and we did that tonight. I'm real proud of our team and this is the kind of game that should give our team confidence going forward."
The Galaxy (1st in the West, 18-7-5, 59 pts.) now will take on the Seattle Sounders (4th in the West, 14-10-6, 48 pts.) in the first round of the playoffs. The first leg will be held on Sunday, Oct. 31, at Quest Field in Seattle, with the return leg played Nov. 7 at Home Depot Center. When asked about playing Seattle, most players were concerned first about the turf, and second about the rabid Seattle fanbase.
"Seattle's not going to be easy, it never is," Coach Arena said. "I prefer going to Seattle than going to altitude, and the one thing we've assured ourselves is we won't be playing at altitude. I think it's a lot easier for our players to adjust to playing on the artificial field than it is playing at altitude."
Winning the shield gives the Galaxy several benefits. They are guaranteed home field throughout the playoffs, meaning they get to close the first round series at home, and host the Western Conference championship should they make it past Seattle. It also guarantees the Galaxy a spot in next year's CONCACAF Champions League.
Eddie Lewis and Chris Klein, who are retiring at the end of the Galaxy’s season, came in at the end of the game to much applause, and were honored at the end of the match. The Galaxy also announced the winners of their yearly awards. The MVP this year went to Edson Buddle, in a near sweep of the Galaxy’s available awards. Humanitarian of the year and the Golden Boot award also went to Edson Buddle, while Omar Gonzalez claimed the Defender of the Year award. Buddle narrowly edged out Landon Donovan for the MVP award, which would have been a third straight MVP performance for Donovan, not including 2007 when the award was controversially given to Chris Klein.
"I think [Buddle winning MVP] was richly deserved," Coach Arena said. "There were certainly some other candidates, but he's a pretty good choice, he's had a fantastic season. He was an important part in the beginning of the year, he scored probably seven or eight of our initial goals. He's consistently been good throughout the season."
Donovan Ricketts was in top form, saving three and only letting in the initial tough goal. Dario Sala, despite letting in two goals, still saved more than he gave up. The Galaxy gave Edson plenty of chances to get his Golden Boot goal, setting him up for three shots. Buddle's best opportunity for the boot went for naught as a David Beckham volley was stopped brilliantly by defender Zach Loyd. Were it not for Lloyd's excellent play in the back Buddle would have been all alone with the keeper.
Buddle's next great scoring attempt came during the 67'. Beckham took a corner kick and placed it perfectly in the box where it met Buddle's head. The header from the left corner of the six yard box fell to the right of the keeper, but Sala was able to make an excellent leg save. The next Beckham corner found Buddle near the right post, but he was falling and the ball ended up going wide right.
Landon Donovan picked up a red card in the middle of the pitch for a reckless tackle, but for the most part this game was a rough one. Landon was clearly pushed while making a run near the 30', which led to Donovan making a tough play on the line in the 33'. No foul was called on either play, and this allowed Donovan to make the assist to Beckham.
"The contact and the physically is going to be there, that's fine. We'd like to see it called the same way every time and that's where we've got to get a little bit better, in this league."