The confetti rained on the Home Depot Center last Saturday afternoon and made it a very colorful sight; watching the fireworks, you could almost smell the smoke; and then there were the signs that hung around the field, “Thank You Beckham,” “We Love You Beckham.” This all topped off a fitting MLS farewell to Los Angeles Galaxy star, David Beckham, who moments before in his last MLS game led his team to a second straight MLS Cup and its fourth overall. The Galaxy had defeated the Houston Dynamo, 3-1, to win the 2012 MLS championship.
A teary-eyed Beckham, who now leaves MLS after six years, four MLS Cup appearances and two championships, told reporters after the game that the Galaxy and MLS will continue to be a “special place to me,” he said that he was “thankful to be a part of the Los Angeles Galaxy” as the 30,515 fans at Home Depot Center cheered in agreement.
Beckham was subdued for most of the game in his last outing for the Galaxy. He played from deep in his team’s defensive third but still was able to deliver and few of his trademark long and dangerous passes to his favorite recipients, Robbie Keane and Landon Donavan; one such pass found Keane streaking down the left side, which Keane latched onto, dribbled into the penalty area to set up Donovan, who missed an open goal from inside 12 yards.
Beckham’s slow start was the result of the very aggressive Dynamo team, which took the field in positive gear and took the game to the home team. Houston outplayed Los Angeles in the first half and kept the pressure on, which led to Calen Carr’s goal in the 44th minute; the striker stormed down the right side, held off Galaxy defender Tom Meyer and beat Josh Saunders at the near post with a shot that shook the roof of the net for a Dynamo, 1-0, halftime lead. Unfortunately for Carr, he sustained an injury in a collision with Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez and was limited to just a few minutes in the second half.
The contest turned out to be a game of two halves: the first half belonged to the Dynamo, but the second was all Galaxy. Gonzalez reflected on the subdued Galaxy locker room at half time when he said, “Everyone knew we would get a goal, and once we do, we’d win.” It was the mantra of the 2012 Galaxy; this was a team that got off to a miserable start and lingered at the bottom of the Western Conference for most of the season; in hindsight, the season struggles emboldened the Galaxy, which put together a late season surge that saw it squeeze into the playoffs as the fourth seed among five and never looked back.
In the 60th minute on Saturday, Gonzalez climbed above Houston defender Kofie Sarkodie to head home Juninho’s 36-yard free kick for the equalizer and the turning point in the game, which led to his MLS Cup MVP award; five minutes later, Dynamo midfielder Ricardo Clark was whistled for a hand ball in the penalty area, and Donovan, who along with Jeff Agoos and Brian Mullan are the only players to win five MLS Cup titles, registered his record 22nd MLS postseason goal and his 146th overall, from the penalty spot to score the winner as he did a year ago.
Keane finished things off from the same spot in stoppage time when he was fouled in the penalty box by Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall. Keane’s goal was his record sixth in the postseason. Ironically, two of Donovan’s MLS Cup titles were with the Dynamo when it played as the San Jose Earthquakes before the move to Houston. The Los Angeles Galaxy joined DC United, who was led by current Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena, as the only two teams to win four MLS Cups, and the Galaxy is also among three clubs to win back-to-back titles.
The David Beckham Era in MLS came to an official end when he left the field to rousing applause from the sold-out crowd at Home Depot Center. The fans waved their signs of appreciation for the player who will be remembered as the one who helped to put Major League Soccer on the world stage. Beckham left waving goodbye to MLS.
The 2012 Digicel Caribbean Championship kicks off today, Friday, Dec. 7, in Antigua and Barbuda. Defending champion Jamaica takes on French Guiana in Group B, preceded by Martinique against Cuba. Group A will see the host battle Trinidad and Tobago, Haiti and Dominican Republic. The top four finishers qualify for the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup in the USA next summer.