MLS Cup: LA Galaxy vs Houston Dynamo (12/1)

MLS Cup

LA Galaxy vs Houston Dynamo

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Home Depot Center

Kick-off: 1:30 p.m

On December 1st the LA Galaxy and Houston Dynamo will meet at the Home Depot Center with the MLS Cup on the line. The possibilities of having a rematch of last year’s MLS Cup final, especially at the same venue, weren’t many, but in the end both LA and Houston made it happen.

The road to the MLS Cup was a difficult one for the Galaxy. At one point being 3-8-2, on a seven game winless streak and last in the Western Conference, not many believed the 2011 Champions would be defending the cup in December. The first half of the season was more difficult for the Galaxy than anyone could have imagined. The absence of Omar Gonzalez hurt the team, as seen in the results. Many changes were made in the line-up, and though several players stepped in none were able to replace the 2011 Defender of the Year.  Eighteen games into the season, the Galaxy had allowed more goals than they had all of last year. As if the Galaxy weren’t having enough problems in the defensive end, Josh Saunders would become unavailable after having to take care of personal issues. The Galaxy was unable to win any of the seven games played during his absence.

After the international break in June a different Galaxy team appeared. Led by Keane’s 16 goals and Donovan’s and Beckham’s combined 23 assists, this team would go 13-4-4 to end the season. The 4-0 loss to Seattle was a key point in the season, as the Galaxy would go on a ten game unbeaten run in all competitions. Not only did LA leave the bottom of the table, they also managed to advance from the CONCACAF Champions’ League group stage undefeated. The reserves, who played most of the CCL games, also won the West in the Reserve League, closing their campaign with a 6-0 victory over the Whitecaps.

Having finished the regular season in fourth place, LA would have to play a knockout round game against the Whitecaps, who finished in fifth. Vancouver scored in the opening minutes and would lead for most of the game. It was none other than Mike Magee who would appear for the Galaxy again in playoffs, like he did last year. In the 68th minute Magee would tie the game for LA, while five minutes later Landon Donovan would give the Galaxy the 2-1 lead and a spot in the Western Conference Semifinals.

In the Western Conference Semifinals the Galaxy would face the winners of the 2012 Supporters’ Shield, the SJ Earthquakes. The Earthquakes took a 1-0 lead into the second leg, after LA allowed a goal off a deflection in stoppage time at the Home Depot Center. In the second leg, facing elimination, the Galaxy went out and immediately put pressure on the Earthquakes. Robbie Keane would score twice and Magee would add another to give LA a 3-0 lead at halftime. The Galaxy would win the game (3-1) and the series (3-2 aggregate) and would advance to the Western Conference Final knocking out the top seed in the process.

The Western Conference Final would be played between the Galaxy and the Seattle Sounders. The Sounders were in this stage of the postseason for the first time in history, and the pressure might have gotten to them. In the first leg, once again, Robbie Keane would lead the way for LA. Keane had a brace and once again Magee added another goal to give the Galaxy a 3-0 lead in the first leg. Seattle would need to recover from a 0-3 deficit in the second leg, and at one point it seemed like a real possibility. With the Sounders up 2-0 in the second half, Keane would earn a penalty kick for the Galaxy, which he would convert himself. Ultimately, that was too much for the Sounders to overcome and the Galaxy would win the Western Conference Championship (4-2 on aggregate) and would advance to the MLS Cup for the third time in the past four years.

In the Eastern Conference, it was another lower-seeded team who would advance to the MLS Cup. The Houston Dynamo ended the regular season in fifth place, and like the Galaxy, would have to play a knockout round game to determine if their season would continue. The Dynamo visited the Chicago Fire in the knockout game, and behind a brace from Will Bruin, Houston would advance with a 2-1 victory. In the Conference Semifinals the Dynamo would face Sporting KC, who ended the season in first place in their conference. Similar to what the Galaxy did against San Jose, the Dynamo eliminated the top seeded team with a 2-1 aggregate result. In the Conference Final the Dynamo faced DC United, who looked to return to the MLS Cup final after many years. Houston took a 3-1 lead into the second leg and would advance to the MLS Cup after winning the series 4-2 on aggregate.

This edition of the MLS Cup will be a memorable one. Not only is it a rematch of last year’s championship game, but it has been announced that on December 1st David Beckham will play his last game for the LA Galaxy. Six years have passed since his arrival in Los Angeles, and Beckham will leave the Galaxy after having helped the team win 3 Western Conference Championships, two Supporters’ Shields and making 3 appearances in the MLS Cup.

But we can’t led the end of an era overshadow the MLS Cup. The Galaxy will be looking to win a fourth championship but will have a difficult task dealing with the Houston Dynamo, who will be making a fourth appearance in the MLS Cup since relocating from San Jose seven years ago. The Dynamo had not lost an MLS Cup up until last year, when Donovan gave LA a 1-0 victory.  Robbie Keane, who had 16 goals in the regular season, has scored five so far in the playoffs, while Mike Magee has added three to help the Galaxy advance to the final. The Galaxy has not been able to field a full-strength starting eleven in the playoffs, missing players such as AJ DeLaGarza, Sean Franklin, Landon Donovan, and Juninho for various reasons. That hasn’t been a problem for the team as players who have stepped in to replace them have gotten the job done

In their only meeting during the regular season, the Galaxy fell 2-1 to Houston. After Buddle gave LA a 1-0 lead, Magee scored an own goal and Hainault would give the Dynamo the victory with a header. This would be the Galaxy’s final game before the international break, after which they would work their way up the standings.

Here’s how the Galaxy and Dynamo ended their regular season:

LA Galaxy:

54 points, 59 GF, 47 GA

16-12-6, 4th in Western Conference

Home Record: 10-6-1

Away Record: 6-6-5

Playoffs:

LA Galaxy 2-1 Whitecaps

LA Galaxy 3-2 Earthquakes

LA Galaxy 4-2 Sounders

Houston Dynamo:

53 points, 48 GF, 41 GA

14-9-11, 5th in Western Conference

Home Record: 11-0-6

Away Record: 3-9-5

Playoffs:

Dynamo 2-1 Fire

Dynamo 2-1 Sporting KC

Dynamo 4-2 DC United

THIS IS LA!

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