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MLS unveiled a silver ball for the MLS Cup final, to go with the silver Cup given to the winning Los Angeles Galaxy. The Home Depot Center expanded seating, so more Houston Dynamo fans could be accommodated and more Galaxy fans could enjoy a final in their home stadium. The ratings still weren't that great, an 0.8/1 share up against Monday Night Football. MLS soccer may still be a fringe league the next morning, but last night it felt like the center of the universe.
If you didn't watch the game, hopefully you've seen the SportsCenter highlights. David Beckham finds Robbie Keane onside who puts the ball underneath Tally Hall, only to have the goal waved off. AJ DeLaGarza chips it forward to David Beckham who heads it on to Robbie Keane, who loses his marker and gives a great pass to Landon Donovan who chips it over Tally Hall.
Coach Bruce Arena was high on his Designated Players after the match:
"David’s a champion. I’ve been around great athletes and competitors in my life in different sports, and this guy is as good as it comes. He has an unbelievable desire to win. He’s a great teammate. He’s a great person. I’m so happy for him. He’s done it all now – in every country he’s been in."
"Landon’s been hurt over the last two or three months. He started to get his legs back this week. This was important to Landon. I could see as we started to get in the middle of the week he was starting to get his old self back. He’s fitness and everything else. Landon’s a great player, and he knew this was an important game to set up his game tonight. I thought Landon played real well."
Both players called playing through injuries, especially at this point in the season, just part of the game. When David Beckham admitted he tore his hamstring on Tuesday, he confirmed what many suspected and showed just how seriously he has taken this competition.
"We’ve been through a lot this season. We’ve had a lot of games. Bruce and his staff are the ones that got us to this game tonight. Our families have put up with a lot this season with us being away. This makes it up them."
Midfielders and Defenders often have more impact on the match then the forwards, yet because they don't score as many goal they're often over looked. It was great to see Landon Donovan move up top, and it was great to see him score the winning goal. It was also great to see he's come to the point in his career where the team means everything.
"The actual goal doesn’t mean a whole lot to me. I, for the last month have been, like the rest of these guys have been so determined to win. I didn’t care who scored. I just wanted the ball go in. I mean that full heartedly. Winning feels so good. The goals come and go, but the moment is what I will remember."
Landon Donovan said it best, when he said that "earlier in his career he would have been happy with the MVP, but now it's all about the win". After winning the 2011 MLS championship, the LA Galaxy drank a lot of beer, drank a lot of champagne, suited up, and headed out to LA Live to do more of the same. After five years of talking about all the egos on the LA Galaxy, seeing Bruce Arena put his arm around Landon Donovan and David Beckham, like they were his boys, and talk about how much he loved this organization, that put a bow on what was arguably the greatest MLS season ever.
All the secrets came out in the press conference. David Beckham tore his hamstring on Tuesday, and truthfully had a cold Wednesday morning. Nobody was lying about the cold. Bruce Arena just knows better than to start a media fire about David Beckham's availability. Landon Donovan talked about playing through his injuries for the last two months. Bruce Arena, when asked about Donovan skipping the trip to Europe, was candid in saying there wasn't even an option for Donovan. He could not have made that trip and stayed intact for the MLS Cup.
Let's not forget Robbie Keane. He made some great runs tonight, and made the key assist that lead to the games only goal as well as scoring the initial goal that was called back. This was after word came out of Ireland that he was done for months and might not be available for any of the Galaxy playoff matches. The Beckham to Robbie to Donovan goal have cost $8 million, but those three players gave everything they had to the Galaxy.
The Los Angeles Galaxy proved to the world tonight that it was worth it bringing in David Beckham five years ago. After a three year run as arguably the best team in MLS, the Galaxy got their elusive cup win over the Houston Dynamo with the final score 1-0. Juninho grabbed a giant Angel City Brigade flag and Landon Donovan posed for the cameras as the city of Los Angeles got to celebrate another championship.
Rain threatened to dampen the festivities, but the LA Galaxy had other plans. MLS Cup MVP Landon Donovan pushed in the game winning goal in the 72', after David Beckham headed the ball forward to Robbie Keane who found Landon Donovan who didn't hesitate on the finish.
That was the games only conversion, but there were plenty of chances for offense. Two David Beckham crosses found the head of Adam Cristman who struggled to keep the ball on target. Cristman was substituted for early in the second half.
With Cristman off, Robbie Keane really perked up. He had a shot that skipped in front of the mouth of goal and went wide. He had another in the 57' that looked good to everyone at the Home Depot Center but was called back for offside.
Winning the MLS Cup MVP, Landon Donovan became just the second MLS player to win the MLS MVP twice. Certainly no one can argue that despite coming back slowly from an injury, Landon Donovan provided what the team needed when it needed it.
The Galaxy finished with three shots on goal, but were out possessed and had the lower passing accuracy. Still, Houston never looked like they wanted to take a serious chance, and missed the presence of Brad Davis on the pitch. "We want Beckham" chants broke out after the game, showing just how embraced he still is.
The MLS Cup match between the Los Angeles Galaxy and Houston Dynamo has seen a lot of Galaxy possession, and some nice passing, but sloppy play. As a result, this match now has the distinction of being the first MLS Cup final in which neither team placed a shot on goal in the first thirty minutes, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Adam Cristman has taken three shots for the Galaxy, but all of them have been off target.
The first two both came from David Beckham crosses, and all things being equal should have been converted. Cristman got up high enough to make two headed attempts on goal without a man marking him, but couldn't even hit the woodwork. There was a third shot where Cristman had the ball right in front of goal and couldn't even get a proper touch on it. Chad Barrett's presence has been missed.
Also according to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Galaxy have scored an average of 1.66 goals per 90 mins with Beckham on the pitch during his first five seasons. It's safe to say Beckham is giving it everything he can, but the finishing just isn't there right now.
MLS Cup 2011 is almost ready to kickoff, so let's take a look at some of the pregame festivities. MLS Cup walks a fine line between a soccer match and a graduation. Lots of pomp and circumstance but also some headers.
There's a red carpet down on the pitch. About to walk down it are a bunch of flags representing every MLS team. Like in the Olympics! Not sure if they're going to have dueling pianos. At the center of the pitch is the MLS Cup logo, and the Galaxy and Dynamo Logos.
The crowd is completely pro Galaxy, and loud. The Home Depot Center is full beyond capacity, and all arrived by six PM. So much for LA crowds all showing up late.
The flags are apparently on the pitch to represent various past champions of Major League Soccer. Real Salt Lake was booed heavily. Of course, Houston was booed so loud you could hear the clearly highlighted Houston cheering section.
Everyone knows that today the Los Angeles Galaxy and Houston Dynamo will be batting on a wet pitch for the Philip Anschutz Trophy. The trophy has been parading around Los Angeles from the Santa Monica Pier, to TMZ, to Rodeo drive. However, those unfamiliar with MLS may not know about what’s at stake beyond the Tiffany’s crafted silverware.
Whichever team wins tonight will be the second MLS team to win three titles. The other club is DC United with wins in 1996, 1997, 1999 and 2004. Two of those wins were under current Galaxy manager Bruce Arena, and two of those wins were over the LA Galaxy. The Houston Dynamo franchise moved from San Jose where they also won two titles, but the San Jose territory retained the Earthquakes history including their cup titles.
David Beckham is 36 and in the last year of his MLS contract. He won a league title in the last year with his two previous clubs, Manchester United (2001) and Real Madrid (2007). ESPN analyst Alexi Lalas was the Galaxy president and GM when David Beckham arrived in 2007.
The coach who wins tonight will be the first in MLS to win three titles. Bruce Arena, who left MLS for two World Cup cycles, would be the second head coach to win a title with two different MLS franchises. Dominic Kinnear guided the Dynamo to titles two years in a row after they moved from San Jose to Houston.
With the Los Angeles Galaxy holding the best record in MLS and hosting the Cup final, Sunday’s matchup against the Houston Dynamo sees them as heavy favorites. Still, mother nature has ensured it won’t be easy, with rain pouring now and expected to continue throughout the day. The Galaxy are going to be without Chad Barrett, who was a key goal scorer down the stretch, but Houston will be without MVP candidate Brad Davis.
Start Time: Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. from Carson, CA.
TV Coverage: The game will be aired nationally on ESPN. Ian Darke will handle the play-by-play duties, John Harkes serves as the analyst. Monica Gomez and Rob Stone will report from the sidelines.
Internet: ESPN3 will be simulcasting the game.
Weather Report: It’ll be a cold and rainy night for soccer on Sunday. Temperatures will be in the high-50’s at the time of kickoff and there will be rain showers throughout the day.
Opening Line: The Galaxy are a one goal favorite
Notes: ESPN is using 21 cameras to broadcast MLS Cup 2011. Don Garber is scheduled to speak at halftime. SportsCenter will be providing additional coverage pre and postmatch. Via ESPN International, this game is being broadcast in 129 countries.
For many, the story of today’s practice came without quotes or cliches. The mere fact that David Beckham was at practice today was enough to write the headlines. Now the question becomes just how much of his body does he have to give on Sunday? Will Landon Donovan’s body allow him to return to midseason form?
Perhaps the bigger overall question, and the one that gets asked repeatedly, concerns whether this is a make or break year. Certainly it’s being painted as Beckham’s last hurrah, but it is difficult to keep players in MLS. The Galaxy lost Edson Buddle last year, and didn’t find a suitable replacement until midseason. Manager Bruce Arena didn’t think it was such a finale.
"We lost Edson Buddle last year, and I was told that the roof is caving in. The year before we lost players. It’s all part of it. I think with exception to the big clubs of the world, that don’t have to trade players to reach a cap or they need the funding, most teams have changes every year."
Certainly it is quite remarkable that the Galaxy have been able to keep so much of their core together for three great runs. In the case of their centerbacks, the Galaxy had a fortunate draft in 2009. The LA Galaxy had a disappointing 2008 which saw them finish sixth in the Western Conference. This gave them the favorable position to draft Omar Gonzalez with the third pick in the draft.
The Galaxy faced a difficult situation in the second round. Carlos Ruiz was a Golden Boot winner and MVP in the Galaxy’s 2002 season, and the Galaxy thought it was worth it in 2008 to trade their second round pick and allocation money to get him back from FC Dallas. Most notable about Ruiz’ comeback tour is his injury gave rise to Edson Buddle’s star. Ruiz was traded to Toronto in the midseason transfer window.
The Galaxy still had their hearts set on the pair of Maryland defensive backs, and so traded three players to get the fourth pick in the second round which they used to snatch up AJ DeLaGarza. As important as Beckham and Donovan have been on offense, the young pair of backs have been equally instrumental.
"We thought Omar and AJ were the top two centerbacks in the draft," said Bruce Arena.
Bruce Arena also used the fourth pick of the 2008 MLS Superdraft to select Sean Franklin. As much as has been made about the Galaxy throwing large dollar figures around internationally, the record setting back line for Los Angeles features four draft picks.
Of the many things that can be said about Bruce Arena, one key is that he has a great eye for talent. As the Galaxy go for their third star above their crest, against arguably the most successful MLS franchise of the last decade, the tagline is simple.
This game isn’t good for soccer in the United States. This game is proof that soccer in the United States is good.
The LA Galaxy and Houston Dynamo have updated their injury reports ahead of Sunday’s MLS Cup final. For the most part there are no surprises. David Beckham remains on the questionable list with ever present back spasms. Any speculation about Brad Davis has been removed as the midfielder has been listed as out for Sunday’s match against the Galaxy.
For those not familiar with either team, I’m including the Season Ending Injuries which casual supporters may not have been aware of.
OUT: DF Sean Alvarado (R knee surgery); FW Chad Barrett (R foot dislocation); DF Leonardo (R knee surgery); QUESTIONABLE: MF David Beckham (back spasms); DF Gregg Berhalter (R foot sprain); DF Bryan Jordan (L middle finger tendon rupture)
The LA Galaxy lost Chad Barrett last week in training, when his cleat got stuck in wet grass and his foot dislocated. Sean Alvarado and Leonardo have been out the whole season. Gregg Berhalter did play in the Galaxy’s final home match, and is intending to retire at the end of the season, but has been battling that foot injury since the LA Galaxy hosted Mexican club Morelia.
Brad Davis injured his quad during the Eastern Conference Final with Sporting Kansas City and immediately ruled himself out. He was at Houston training today in his practice uniform, but will not play on Sunday. Jason Garvey and Cam Weaver were season ending injuries. It seems outside of Davis, the Dynamo will have their whole roster available.
MLS announced a deal earlier this year giving NBC the broadcast rights once held by Fox Soccer for three years at $30 million. Today the LA Galaxy announced their own separation from Fox, to the tune of ten years at $55 million. The number of games is undetermined, and will depend upon ESPN and NBC’s selection of games each year.
The Galaxy will follow the LA Lakers in leaving Fox Sports for the up and coming Time Warner sports network. The official announcement is supposed to come on Friday outside the AEG offices. From LA Times reporter Bill Shaikin:
Although the Galaxy has been the league’s marquee franchise since signing David Beckham before the 2007 season, it has not been a ratings winner for FSW, never drawing more than 16,000 homes -– a .28 rating. In the last few years, ratings have dropping as low as .11%.
Fox, which has been paying from $300,000 to $500,000 for the Galaxy’s rights, carried 19 Galaxy games this year.
MLS was not a ratings bonanza for Fox Sports, so why pursue the Galaxy at all. $55 million is a paltry sum compared to the Billion dollar 20 year contract the Lakers got. Consider this another salvo in Time Warner’s bid to outdo Fox Sports in Los Angeles. The Dodgers have been rumored to flee to Time Warner as well.
It's been a crazy week in Carson, starting last Monday when the MLS Cup sold out before noon the Monday after the Galaxy qualified. Resale ticket prices have skyrocketed, and when the Galaxy released a few hundred more tickets, they were sold out within ten minutes. The Sports Business Journal is reporting that all 23 of it's corporate partners are going to be involved with Sunday's Cup Championship, as compared to last year when 18 of 23 partners participated.
What about the game itself. The Home Depot Center will be hosting it's fourth MLS Cup final, with the Rose Bowl also hosting a Cup final in 1998. The three previous finals at the Home Depot Center have averaged five goals per game according to Opta Sports. This will be the first time the Los Angeles Galaxy play in a Cup Final they are hosting, though it has happened before in MLS. Two of the three previous MLS Cups at Home Depot Center sold out, but this will be the first over capacity game.
The other statistic to be aware of is the fact that only two of the last six MLS Cup finals have been won in regular time. The other four saw two go to penalty kicks and two go into extra time. That includes the 2009 MLS Cup Final, with the LA Galaxy lost to Real Salt Lake on penalty kicks.
Going back 15 years, ten MLS Cups have been won by the team coming out of the West, with the Eastern Conference champ only winning five. Because of MLS's playoff format, that doesn't mean that those ten West teams played in the Western conference, just came out of that bracket.
Twelve different teams have played in the MLS Cup final, out of 18 current MLS teams. The LA Galaxy are making their record breaking seventh appearance this year. The Galaxy have only won two so far in six tries.
Major League Soccer announced this afternoon that Los Angeles Galaxy manager Bruce Arena has won Coach of the Year. Bruce Arena is one of the few coaches in MLS who also have General Manager duties, and thus qualifies under the European definition of manager, but it was what he did on the field – not off the field – that won him this award.
Bruce Arena is the first person to win the award three times, having won it previously in 1997 with DC United, and in 2009 with the LA Galaxy. The Galaxy had a turnaround year in ‘09, and this year repeated as Supporters’ Shield winners and had the second best point total in MLS history. On Sunday, Arena will coach in his fifth MLS Cup match, a league record.
This year’s Galaxy earned at least a point in 85% of their regular season matches. LA had 17 shutouts, half the regular season tying a record set by Kansas City, and allowed the fewest goals in MLS history. The Galaxy also went undefeated this year at the Home Depot Center.
Since Bruce Arena was hired as head coach of the LA Galaxy, they’ve gone 51-23-30 in 89 regular season matches for a .742 winning percentage. Bruce Arena beat out Sigi Schmid and Peter Vermes for the award. It would have been Schmid’s third win with three different teams.
It was announced this morning that Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder David Beckham has won the 2011 MLS Comeback Player of the Year Award. Beckham had to recover from an Achilles tear in 2010 which kept him out most of the season. He was able to come back and have a career year in 2011.
Beckham went six months without playing competitive soccer, with an injury that can take up to eight months to recover. He was kept completely out of World Cup consideration, and didn’t really have his form when he returned to play against the Columbus Crew.
"I’ve never been out of the game for such a long time," Beckham said at the time. "It’s been a quick recovery and I’m happy with that. I thought I was ready for 90 minutes four months ago but after 10 minutes on the field, I felt like I was dying."
This year, Beckham has been a force in MLS. The Galaxy finished with the second high point total in MLS history (67) and that’s in large thanks to Beckham’s career high 15 assists in 26 games and earned selection to the MLS best XI. The Galaxy went 10-1-3 when Beckham’s name appeared on the scoresheet.
The biggest bit of news coming out of the LA Galaxy camp this week was that forward Chad Barrett wil be unavailable for MLS Cup 2011 due to an injury suffered at practice. Barrett dislocated his right ankle in training on Thursday.
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