While most of America was consumed by the Eagles upsetting the Giants, the American Music Awards, or almost any other show on television I was watching the MLS Cup Final between the Los Angeles Galaxy and the Houston Dynamo. Though, this wasn’t just any soccer match. This matchup pitted David (Dynamo) vs. Goliath (Galaxy). Like the St. Louis Cardinals in the MLB or the Butler Bulldogs in March Madness, the Houston Dynamo caught fire at the right time and made an impressive run through the MLS Cup Playoffs. Los Angeles was the host team and had their version of a big three with Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan, and David Beckham. This game had the recipe for a great final. So I decided to analyze not only the game but the entire event.
Announcers: Normally I cannot stand listening to anybody speak while I watch soccer. But Ian Darke, the prominent English-speaking FIFA World Cup announcer, gives the best play-by-play since Joe Tait. He has a different verb for every play and never says anything that leaves you thinking, “What?” Darke even has good jokes. And his color commentator, John Harkes who is the most notable MLS announcer, did not speak at an annoying rate. Though he made a handful of comments that left me rolling my eyes it was no where near Chris Collinsworth’s level.
Fans: The game was played in Los Angeles at the Home Depot Center in front of a packed crowd. LA hosted because they were the higher seed. The fact that it wasn’t a neutral sight was brilliant. It made sure that it was sell out and that the atmosphere would be electric. I heard chants, saw flags, and anything else you would typically see at a soccer match overseas (except vuvuzelas, thankfully). In the final minutes during a corner kick, Houston fans even lit smoke flares and pulled a trick out of the Cleveland playbook by throwing empty beer cups at Donovan and Beckham. It was fun to watch.
Players: As I mentioned earlier, LA had Robbie Keane (a former English Premier League star), Landon Donovan, and David Beckham. The MLS’s version of a big three. But, they also have their own version of the St. Louis Cardinals’ David Freese. His name is Mike Magee. All he did was score in every game in the playoffs up until the final. The Dynamo did not have any big name stars besides an aging Brian Ching. They were missing their MVP candidate Brad Davis who they lost to injury earlier this month. But all of that made the underdog story even more impressive.
Coverage: ESPN did a great job presenting the final as a David vs. Goliath matchup. They also highlighted the Galaxy’s “Big Three.” And as if there weren’t enough quality story lines, whichever coach won the Cup would set the record for most MLS Cup championships. And to top it off, the final may have been Beckham’s last in a Galaxy uniform. It’s too bad the season had to end with all of these great story lines. It could definitely help fill the NBA void.
The Game: During the entire presentation of the MLS Cup the game was the worst part. It was very sloppy on a wet field with the ball being played in the air more than a volleyball match. The first half was scoreless with LA dominating play and having the majority of the scoring opportunities. One player in particular, Los Angeles’ forward Adam Christman, should have had three goals in the first half. The Dynamo worked hard and their defense had a bend-don’t-break attitude. The second half lacked rhythm and was just as sloppy. The Galaxy continued to dominate while the Dynamo picked their spots to attack. In the 57th minute Robbie Keane was played a ball from Donovan that he slotted into the net, but Keane was called offside. Replays showed he was onside, though. But, soccer does not have replay and the goal was called back. Finally in the 72nd minute, David Beckham flicked a ball onto a running Keane who found Donovan who promptly poked the ball past the goalkeeper and into the back of the net. Los Angeles 1 Houston 0. That score held up and the Galaxy won their third MLS Cup in franchise history.
Overall, the MLS Cup was fun to watch not because of the level of play but because of the atmosphere at the stadium, seeing the story lines play out, and all that was at stake at the final whistle. Now, we’re left with one less sport to watch this winter. I guess it’s down to football, hockey, and NCAA basketball. Hurry up March!
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