The LA Galaxy weren't just the better team on Sunday night in the MLS Cup final vs. Houston, they were also the very best team all season long.
A 1-0 scoreline didn't really tell the game story, as LA missed numerous scoring chances and had a Robbie Keane apparent goal taken away by what appeared to be a mistaken offside call. Replays seemed to show Keane was level with the last defender. If it's that close, you would like to see that flag stay down. Had Adam Cristman been sharper finishing, this game would have been over in the first half.
Full credit to the Houston Dynamo who hung in there until the very end. They were limited offensively by the loss of their team MVP Brad Davis, who was injured in the Eastern Conference final vs. Sporting Kansas City. This is not the same team without Davis, despite having many other talented players on their roster.
Back to the champions, whose three Designated Players all played the way you are expected to play when you are paid at the highest of levels. Donovan had some injury knocks towards the end of the season, Beckham was dealing with a hamstring issue, and Keane was dealing with international travel, having played in two recent Euro 2012 playoff qualifiers for his native Republic of Ireland. Despite all that ailed them, the three performed well all evening, culminating in the game's only goal in which all three played a role. It began with a Beckham header to Keane, who made a perfect pass on the ground to a streaking Donovan, whose finish made the Galaxy champions of MLS for a third time.
Was anyone surprised that it was Donovan who would turn out to be the game's MVP? He is Mr. Postseason, as his 20th career playoff goal would point out. He has also won four MLS Cups.
Full credit as well to the Galaxy defense, which limited the Dynamo's chances. This was the league's number one defense, with 16 shutouts in the regular season, plus another couple in the playoffs.
Congratulations to the Galaxy for a truly remarkable season. Consider these facts when you ask yourself if this might be the best team in MLS history:
- They won the Supporters Shield (second straight year), leading MLS in points and wins.
- In addition to all of the offensive firepower, they had the league's number one defense, by a longshot. The next best defense by regular season goals against (both Philadelphia and Real Salt Lake) conceded 28.6 percent more goals on the year.
- They finished unbeaten at home in 17 regular season games, then won two home playoff games, plus MLS Cup at their home venue.
- In 38 league games, regular season and playoffs included, Bruce Arena's team only lost five times.
For my money, all around, this is the best team we have ever seen in MLS. They will be strong again next year too, whether Beckham plays another year or not. You have to figure that if Beckham does leave, LA would replace him with another DP or DP type of player, so either way, they will be in great shape.
As for the Beckham Experiment, to me it was a huge success, and I would have said that even if the Galaxy had lost. Beckham has meant so much to this league in terms of exposure, ticket and merchandise sales, and quality of play. He has made the LA Galaxy a global brand and MLS a known commodity overseas. His signing and PR work on behalf of the league have made it attractive for other stars to want to come here. No one in the history of MLS has generated as much media buzz as he has.
I hope he stays for another year, but if he doesn't, Sunday's game was a fitting way to say goodbye to the LA Galaxy and to MLS, at least as a player.