The husband of the woman formerly known as Posh Spice and the inspiration of the hit movie Bend It LIke Beckham concluded his time in the United States with style, as David Beckham ended his six-year tenure with the Los Angeles Galaxy by helping the team win their second consecutive Major League Soccer championship at Home Depot Center on Saturday, beating the Houston Dynamo 3-1 in the MLS Cup.
An overflow, standing room only record crowd of 30,510 (the Home Depot Center seats only 27,000) saw the Galaxy, who finished in fourth place in the Western Conference and had to climb out of last place and win a play-in game just to qualify for the playoffs, come back from a 1-0 deficit in the second half as Omar Gonzalez scored the tying goal in the 61st minute, which I’m sure drove the Angel City Brigade – the Galaxy’s official fan club that always sits in a corner of Home Depot Center with many flags and other decorations – delirious with glee.
Landon Donovan, who at 30 years old has played in more soccer games than anyone in MLS or U.S. National Team history, got the honor of getting the title-winning score when off a penalty kick he put his league record 5th MLS Cup finals goal – and 22nd post season goal, also a record – into the back of the net.
As it is unknown whether Donovan will continue with the Galaxy next season as it is evident from his interviews that he’s suffering from burnout, it was only fitting that he scored the winning goal.
Robbie Keane, the Irish star who led the Galaxy in goals this year, put the icing on the cake with another penalty kick goal in stoppage time to provide the final margin after goalkeeper Josh Saunders made two great saves during the closing minutes beforehand.
Perhaps the biggest significance of this championship was the fact that the Galaxy went through their final 16 regular season games with only two losses, which propelled them into the post-season; there was no room for error as they did what they had to do, which was to go on a hot streak.
An elated coach Bruce Arena, who called this win among the most rewarding in his career, said after the match, ‘Thank God I had 35 years under my belt to deal with (the team’s early struggles and finishing fourth).”
Donovan called this championship run “…a little surreal, to be honest. In (soccer), to repeat, it’s really hard to do.”
As for Beckham, who has stated that he’s not ready to retire and will seek playing opportunities elsewhere, he summed up his feelings of winning his second crown as a member of the Galaxy and his six years in Los Angeles like this:
” The feeling of making the final, the preparation…it never gets old. I’m 37 and I’ve been able to play in quite a few finals and championship games, and I still love it like I did when I won my first.”
“I just hope I’ve brought a bit of interest to the game…I think the foundations are there now in (Major League Soccer). It’s a 17-year old league and…it will continue to grow.”
One thing is for certain:
Soccer in America in general, and Major League Soccer in particular, owes Beckham a huge gratitude of thanks for being a big factor in the sport – which has always trailed baseball, basketball, and especially football in popularity on this side of the Atlantic – growing more and more popular as MLS has added several new teams and has had its revenue grow leaps and bounds since the former Manchester United and Real Madrid star arrived in L.A. in 2007.
The Galaxy may have to rebuild with Beckham and possibly Donovan gone, but as the Brit said, the foundations are there.