North American soccer fans were treated to another exciting MLS Cup on Saturday, with the host LA Galaxy winning its second title in a row and fourth since its first ever in 2002 at the Home Depot Center, in Carson.
So many storylines in this one made for a memorable end to the 2012 season. We all know that a few stars may have played their last game in MLS on Saturday. Galaxy’s David Beckham is heading elsewhere to play, while teammate Landon Donovan is contemplating taking a break from soccer. Houston forward Brian Ching is in the twilight of his career.
But there were some really good narratives that played out on the field as well. For the first time ever, two penaltys were called in a final, on which, forwards Robbie Keane and Donovan both made good on their chances for the home side.
Keane was also a force throughout the run of play. The Irish striker scored on two occasions only to have his markers called back on an offside call. He set up Donovan for a clear break, but the American squandered his scoring chance and then Keane was stopped on a break of his own as well in the second half.
Another first in MLS Cup history came when the only player to have possibly outshone Keane on the pitch, Omar Gonzalez, became the first defender to be named as the title match’s MVP. LA’s centre-back was a force in the air, winning ball after ball on set pieces, and scored the equalizer on a header from a Juninho cross.
A bright light for the Houston Dynamo, forward Calen Carr was also part of its darkest moment in this one. Carr was probably Houston’s best player in the first half, roofing the game’s opening goal in the 44th minute, but a frightening injury 10 minutes into the second frame knocked him from the game and seemed to blow the wind out of the Dynamo’s sails.
With the victory, the Galaxy became just the third team to win back-to-back championships, joining its opponents from Houston (2006-2007) and D.C. United (1996-1997).
No team has ever won three in a row, and with the Galaxy in a sort of rebuilding stage with some of its stars leaving or heading elsewhere, LA will be in tough to try and become the first team to do so.
Who do you think will lift the MLS Cup next year?