20 November 2011
The LA Galaxy are your 2011 MLS Champions. The perfect script was written just miles from Hollywood where the league’s biggest stars (including a certain David Beckham in possibly his last game) finished off a stellar season with a classy performance.
How perfect it was for Galaxy fans and the MLS that the game winner was not only scored by American icon Landon Donovan, but also fashioned by the Galaxy’s two other biggest stars in Beckham and Robbie Keane.
This was a tremendous show piece event for MLS and a Cup final the league can be proud of.
Here is how the match played out...
*In the first half Houston started out the brighter of the two sides, but LA eased into the game and took control.
*The Galaxy bossed the opening period but were wasteful in front of goal. Sean Franklin looked strong running down the right but his final balls were poor.
*Keane was also doing a good job of pulling off the center backs and looking for the diagonal run, but that through-pass needs to be inch perfect for those runs to be successful.
*Beckham also put in some decent balls, but none of his services were “vintage Beckham.”
*With LA committing so many players forward, their lines between the midfield and defense were stretched thin and Houston looked to take advantage of that on the counter.
*Houston also did a good job at pushing the Galaxy out wide so that every time they did work the ball in deep, the shots were coming from acute angles.
*As the halftime whistle blew you had the feeling that if the Galaxy didn’t bury a chance Houston might just need one opportunity to make the trophy theirs.
*LA began the second half in a similar fashion as the first, but Keane flashed a volley wide when all alone in the box. He then had a goal called back for offsides and Houston almost took full advantage as they marched right down the field but Corey Ashe put his effort into the side netting.
*Adam Cristman then came off for Chris Birchall meaning Landon Donovan would push up and join Keane on the front line. A move that would later make Bruce Arena look like a genius.
Cristman had a good night. He did everything that he is good at. Constantly running across the face of defenders and hassling them so they couldn’t play freely out of the back. His work made it easier for the midfield to push up and pressure higher, but if Cristman was the complete striker he would have provided service and the finishing ability to give LA a first half lead.
*GOAL 1-0 LA: The Galaxy kept on coming and scored one of the best team goals of the season in the 72nd minute. A long ball played by Omar Gonzales was flicked on by Beckham into the path of Keane. The Irishman slipped a beautiful ball into the diagonal run of Donovan who flicked the ball beyond Tally Hall. How appropriate it was that the Galaxy goal was fashioned by its three biggest stars.
This opened up the space for the Galaxy to hit on the counter as Houston was forced to push up in search of the equalizer. Houston always looked strong on the break but never going forward against a full LA defense.
*As LA was able to sit back, Houston lacked ideas in the final third and never really looked like getting back into the match. Based on the run of the season and the run of play this evening, the LA Galaxy deserved to lift the MLS Cup.
*In the end, Landon Donovan's one moment of brilliance got rewarded as he was named the MVP of the MLS Cup.