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MLS Cup: Galaxy defeat the Dynamo, 3-1, to repeat as champions

Galaxy forward Landon Donovan (10) is congratulated by midfielders David Beckham and Christian Wilhelmsson (9) after scoring on a penalty kick against the Dynamo in the second half Saturday.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

Landon Donovan hasn’t decided yet whether the Major League Soccer Cup final on Saturday will be his last game with the Galaxy. But if that proves to be the case, he picked up a nice parting gift on his way out the door while giving the team and a record Home Depot Center crowd of 30,510 something by which to remember him.

Because it was Donovan’s penalty-kick goal in the 65th minute that snapped a tie and sent the Galaxy on the way to its second consecutive league title with a 3-1 victory over the Houston Dynamo.

The victory was a record-tying fifth in an MLS Cup for Donovan, who was playing in his sixth final, also a record. In addition, the goal was the 22nd for Donovan in postseason play and his fifth in a Cup final, extending two other MLS records.

What’s more, Donovan’s record-setting day also sent David Beckham home a winner. Beckham, who won league titles in his final seasons with both Real Madrid and Manchester United, has said Saturday’s game would be his last competitive match for the Galaxy.

Houston’s Ricardo Clark drew the foul that set up the go-ahead penalty kick, sticking a hand in front of a Robbie Keane shot during a mad scramble in the area. And Donovan, a deadly shot from the penalty spot, made the Dynamo pay, hesitating briefly before driving his shot into the lower right-hand corner of the net to give the Galaxy its first lead of the day.

Keane’s penalty-kick goal in stoppage time, his sixth score of the playoffs, gave the Galaxy an unnecessary insurance goal. And moments later Beckham was subbed out to a loud ovation.

Houston led, 1-0, at halftime on Calen Carr’s goal in the 44th minute. And Carr nearly doubled the score 10 minutes into the second half when he headed a Will Bruin cross toward the far post. But Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Saunders made a diving save just short of the goal line.

Four minutes later Carr was gone after injuring his leg on an aggressive challenge from Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez, and that’s when the Galaxy comeback began.

Gonzalez got it started, outleaping a pair of Houston defenders to head in a Juninho cross in the 60th minute.

The Galaxy appeared to go in front three minutes later when Keane found the back of the net from close range following another Gonzalez header. But Gonzalez was called for the foul this time, erasing the score. Earlier in the half another Keane score was wiped out by an offside call.

Both those mistakes were largely forgotten after Donovan’s penalty-kick goal, although the Galaxy -- and especially Saunders -- had to withstand a furious charge from Houston, which lost 1-0 in last season’s MLS Cup, over the final 25 minutes.

Halftime

Calen Carr, whose status for the Major League Soccer championship game on Saturday was questionable up until game time, made his presence felt with a late first-half gal to give the Houston Dynamo a 1-0 lead over the Galaxy at intermission at Home Depot Center.

Carr dashed past rookie defender Tommy Meyer and took a beautiful pass from midfielder Adam Moffat up the right wing before beating Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Sauders with a right-footed shot into the upper left corner for the only score so far in the MLS Cup.

Carr, who strained a hamstring in the Eastern Conference semifinals, missed Houston’s last two games –- and he hurt the Galaxy in this one, putting the exclamation point on a fast-paced and entertaining first half that had produced little more than frustration for both teams until he scored.

The game will be the last competitive match in a Galaxy uniform for midfielder David Beckham and he was spectacular in the first 25 minutes, sending a series of long, dangerous passes deep into the Houston end.

Not surprisingly it was a long Beckham through ball in the 13th minute that set up the Galaxy’s best first-half scoring opportunity. The pass up the left wing found Robbie Keane all alone, but after a Houston defender caught him from behind, Keane sent the ball across the 18-yard box to a wide-open Landon Donovan, who inexplicably missed the easy chance wide right.

Then in the 19th minute a beautiful Beckham free kick bent into the box for Mike Magee, whose header was off target.

A right-footed Juninho rocket from about 20 yards also missed –- narrowly –- at the left post five minutes later.

Houston, which played a physical and aggressive first 45 minutes, had a chance to score in the 26th minute when defender Kofi Sarkodie briefly eluded Meyer and chipped the ball at the net from just outside the six-yard box. But the ball deflected over the crossbar, landing atop the net.

The Galaxy looked unsteady in the early going, with Donovan taking a Christian Wilhelmsson pass offside to short-circuit one chance while a sloppy clearance from Saunders at the other end gave the Dynamo a good chance in the fourth minute.

Donovan wound up being the first to test Houston keeper Tally Hall, but his bouncing shot from the edge of the box in the eighth minute led to an easy save.

Pregame

The weather is being cooperative at Home Depot Center. Less than an hour before Saturday’s kickoff for Major League Soccer’s championship, the rain has held off for the most part, allowing the sun to break through a ceiling of dark skies. The temperature is a humid 68 degrees.

The Galaxy, with midfielder David Beckham playing his final competitive game in an MLS uniform, is going for a second consecutive league title, something only one other team has accomplished in the last 15 years. That team is the Houston Dynamo, the team the Galaxy will face today.

The two met in last year’s MLS Cup final on the same field, with the Galaxy winning, 1-0.

Neither team unveiled much in the way of surprises in their starting lineups, with the most noteworthy move being Coach Bruce Arena’s decision to push midfielder Landon Donovan up front for the Galaxy, pairing him at forward with Robbie Keane.

Keane has five goals in his last three games, two more than the rest of the team has scored over that span. Donovan, meanwhile, is playing in his record sixth Cup final and going for a record fifth title as well.

Backing those two in the midfield are the 37-year-old Beckham, Juninho, Mike Magee and Christian Wilhelmsson.

The Galaxy’s backline is unchanged with veterans Todd Dunivant and Sean Franklin on the wings and Omar Gonzalez paired with rookie Tommy Meyer in the center.

Josh Saunders is in goal.

For Houston, Will Bruin will start at forward alongside Calen Carr. Bruin is the team’s leading scorer with 12 regular-season goals and a franchise-record four more in five playoff games, while Carr is returning to the lineup for the first time since sustaining an injury in the Eastern Conference semifinals against Sporting Kansas City.

Ricardo Clark, Adam Moffat, mid-season addition Oscar Boniek Garcia of Honduras and Brad Davis are the Dynamo midfielders. Davis is the big key in midfielder, with his 28 assists over the last two seasons -- not counting three in the playoffs -- leading the league.

Jermaine Taylor, Bobby Boswell, Corey Ashe and Kofi Sarkodie are on the backline in front of keeper Tally Hall, who has given up multiple goals only once in his last 12 games.

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Landon Donovan hasn’t decided yet whether Saturday’s Major League Soccer Cup final will be his last game with the Galaxy. But if that proves to be the case, he picked up a nice parting gift on his way out the door while giving the team and a record Home Depot Center crowd of 30,510 something to remember him by.

Because it was Donovan’s penalty-kick goal in the 65th minute that snapped a tie and set the Galaxy on to its second consecutive league title with a 3-1 win over the Houston Dynamo.

The victory was a record-tying fifth in an MLS Cup for Donovan, who was playing in his sixth final, also a record. In addition the goal was the 22nd for Donovan in postseason play and his fifth in a Cup final, extending two other MLS records.

What’s more Donovan’s record-setting day also sent David Beckham home a winner. Beckham, who won league titles in his final seasons with both Real Madrid and Manchester United, has said Saturday’s game would be his last competitive match for the Galaxy.

Houston’s Ricardo Clark drew the foul that set up the penalty kick, sticking a hand in front of a Robbie Keane shot during a mad scramble in the area. And Donovan, a deadly shot from the penalty spot, made the Dynamo pay, hesitating briefly before driving his shot into the lower right-hand corner of the net to give the Galaxy its first lead of the day.

Keane’s penalty-kick goal in stoppage time, his sixth score of the playoffs, gave the Galaxy an unnecessary insurance goal. And moments later Beckham was subbed out to a loud ovation.

Houston led, 1-0, at halftime on Calen Carr’s goal in the 44th minute. And Carr nearly doubled the score 10 minutes into the second half when he headed a Will Bruin cross at the far post. But Galaxy keeper Josh Saunders made a diving save just short of the goal line.

Four minutes later Carr was gone after injuring his leg on an aggressive challenge from Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez and that’s when the Galaxy comeback began.

Gonzalez got it started, outleaping a pair of Houston defenders to head in a Juninho cross in the 60th minute.

The Galaxy appeared to go in front three minutes later when Keane found the back of the net from close range following another Gonzalez header. But Gonzalez was called for the foul this time, erasing the score. Earlier in the half another Keane score was wiped out by an offside call.

Both those mistakes were largely forgotten after Donovan’s penalty-kick goal although the Galaxy – and especially Saunders -- had to withstand a furious charge from Houston over the final 25 minutes.


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