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The Los Angeles Galaxy win their second consecutive MLS Cup

The Los Angeles Galaxy win their second consecutive MLS Cup

The 2012 MLS Cup was the first Cup to occur in December and the first that was to be awarded to the participating team with the better record.  In what was to be David Beckham’s last game (and possibly Landon Donovan’s as well), a rematch of the 2011 MLS Cup was set between the Houston Dynamo and Los Angeles Galaxy at LA’s Home Depot Center.

Both teams had several opportunities early, but it wasn’t until the 44th minute when Houston’s Calen Carr gave the Dynamo a 1-0 lead going into halftime.  Carr would not make it through the game, coming out with injury in the second half that saw the Galaxy score three goals to take the Cup.

Omar Gonzalez opened up the scoring for LA in the 60th minute, assisted by Juninho and Franklin, equalizing the match 1-1 in front of the Galaxy’s home fans.  Houston’s Bobby Boswell would receive a yellow card in the 64th minute on a penalty in the box, setting up Landon Donovan’s 65th minute penalty kick that put the Galaxy in front 2-1, a lead they would never relinquish.  Donovan would receive a yellow for time wasting in the 92nd minute, a move that was referred to as a “veteran move” by the announcers, for their was little risk of receiving another card that late in the game.  In the 93rd minute, Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall earned a yellow card and set up Robbie Keane’s free kick that put the Galaxy up 3-1 in the 94th minute.  The game could have been even higher scoring, as the Galaxy were called offsides twice on balls that went into the net, including one case where the announcers referred to the offsides as a “ridiculous call”.

In the end, Beckham left Los Angeles and the MLS a champion.

While I personally like to cover soccer, a majority of my audience is from the Chicago area, where the sport’s popularity has not soared as much as in other markets like Seattle, Portland, Kansas City, and Vancouver to name a few (though the Fire do have one of the most respected MLS supporters groups).  This MLS Cup in particular will certainly earn a larger television audience than in years past as Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder David Beckham plays his final game in the league in front of the home crowd, while fellow Galaxy midfielder Landon Donovan is undecided but a good possibility to retire.  Due to this, I have prepared a bit of background on the league, the teams, and the history.

The New Schedule Format – The Montreal Impact entered MLS as the league’s 19th team in 2012, bringing massive changes to the league’s schedule and playoff format.  With a ten-team Eastern and nine-team Western conference, the league chose not to increase the length of the season to 36 games to keep a balanced schedule.  Instead, the league created an elongated season with more bye weeks with different schedules for each conference.  The Eastern Conference teams would play each West team just once, seven of their conference rivals three times, and the remaining two teams twice.  The Western Conference teams would play each other three times each and each Eastern team once.  To account for this, the league removed their wild card rule that made two teams in a conference playing each other in the MLS Cup possible (much the same way the Cardinals and Brewers from the same National League division met in the 2011 NLCS), instead opting for five seeds in each conference.  These changes pushed the MLS Cup all the way back to December, and it would now be hosted by the team with the better record, as opposed to a Super Bowl-style pre-selected site, setting the stage for the most intriguing MLS Cup yet to be played again in front of the Galaxy’s home fans.

The Cup – The MLS Cup was first contested by D.C. United and the Los Angeles Galaxy in 1996.  United would win, and would dominate the league’s early landscape, winning three of the first four, interrupted only by the expansion Chicago Fire coming out victorious at the Rose Bowl.  The Galaxy would have lesser fortunes, failing again to D.C. in 1999 and falling to the San Jose Earthquakes – the team that became the Houston Dynamo through a controversial Cleveland Browns-style suspension of operations – in 2001, before defeating New England for their first title in 2002.  The Galaxy would prevail again in 2005 and then again in 2011, as they aim to tie D.C.’s record four titles in 2012.  The Dynamo would win in each of their first two season in Houston, 2006 and 2007, as the officially entered the league as an expansion franchise, despite keeping the entire Earthquakes roster and personnel.  Ironically enough, had the league not granted the first Earthquakes’ championships to the new team of the same name, Houston would have that tie of four, and would be looking to not only keep Los Angeles from tying them and D.C., but looking to take sole possession of the most in history.

The Houston Dynamo – The fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, the Dynamo beat the Chicago Fire on Halloween to advance to the Conference Semifinals, where they would defeat Kansas City, before taking on D.C. in the Eastern Finals.  The Dynamo have a short but decorated history, featuring MLS Cup championships in each of their first two seasons, and having qualified for the Cup in four of their first seven seasons.  The club opened its soccer-specific stadium this year in BBVA Compass Stadium, holding a capacity of 22,039.  The Dynamo’s season started with chaos, as longtime Dynamo and fan favorite Brian Ching was left unprotected and then controversially selected by Montreal (which was well within their rights) leading to chaos in the Houston front office that eventually was able to reacquire him.  Well known players include Bobby Boswell, Will Bruin, Luiz Camargo, Ricardo Clark, Brad Davis, Boniek Garcia, and the goalkeeper Tally Hall.

The Los Angeles Galaxy – The Galaxy are perhaps the most star-studded franchise in league history and were one of the league’s ten inaugural clubs in 1996.  Easily the best-known team in the league, the Galaxy brought in David Beckham before the 2007 season, helping the league’s popularity and economic strength soar.  While the former England captain is the most internationally recognizable player on the team, most would argue that the US international Landon Donovan and Irish international Robbie Keane are the Galaxy’s most effective players.  While the Cup has already been made out to be all about Beckham, this very well may be Donovan’s last game as well.  Making the game even more intriguing, is that the Galaxy succeeded in earning home field advantage when Houston qualified for the championship, the only Eastern Conference playoff team that had a worse record than them.  While it ultimately fell into the hands of the Eastern Conference Finals to grant the Galaxy home field, they had no easy path reaching that point, defeating Vancouver in the first round after trailing early, knocking off the Supporters’ Shield winning Earthquakes, and then barely holding on to a three-goal aggregate lead to knock out Seattle and advance.

Sco’s Prediction: Houston Dynamo 1 @ Los Angeles Galaxy 2 with goals coming from Camargo, Beckham, and Donovan.

Where/When to Watch: Due to the weather and field conditions in December, the game has been scheduled for 3:30 PM Central Time on ESPN live from Los Angeles’s Home Depot Center.

David Beckham to Leave Galaxy

Posted: November 20, 2012 in Los Angeles Galaxy

November 19, 2012 – The Galaxy’s David Beckham announced on Monday that he will be leaving Los Angeles after the MLS Cup set to take place on December 1st at home against the Houston Dynamo in a rematch from 2011.  Beckham began play in the MLS in the 2007 season, and helped the league become what it is today.  At the time of Beckham’s arrival from Real Madrid, the MLS was a thirteen team league with the addition of Toronto that season.  The league was coming off of a 2006 campaign that saw average attendances of just 15,504 around the league.  With Beckham’s help, Don Garber’s MLS has blossomed into a nineteen-team league that averaged 18,807 fans in attendance per game in 2012.

In his six seasons in the MLS, Beckham appeared in 102 league contests and tallied eighteen regular season goals.  Beckham’s departure leaves the Galaxy with one open Designated Player slot to fill to complement Robbie Keane and, assuming he isn’t the next to go, Landon Donovan.  Speculation of Beckham’s departure has been reported for quite some time, but Beckham has not made his intentions fully clear.  Is he intending to retire?  Go back to Europe?  Or even join the New York Red Bulls?  The answers are not quite there yet, which should make for another intriguing offseason rumor to follow along with the progress on the league’s expansion into New York City with the potential revival of the Cosmos.