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MLS Cup: Galaxy defeats Dynamo, 1-0, to win championship

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He came, he saw and finally on Sunday, David Beckham conquered U.S. soccer, teaming with Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane to give the Galaxy a 1-0 victory over the Houston Dynamo in Major League Soccer’s Cup final before a soggy sell-out crowd of 30,281 at Home Depot Center in Carson.

The championship, which came on Donovan’s goal in the 72nd minute, was the third for the Galaxy and their first since 2005. And it gave Coach Bruce Arena a league-record three titles.

But it may have been most important for Beckham, who needed a title to add an exclamation point to his controversial and transformative five years in MLS –- years in which the former captain of the English national team brought the Galaxy unprecedented levels of credibility and cash yet couldn’t bring them a title.

Now, however, he’s a triple-crown winner, with his MLS championship joining those won with Manchester United and Real Madrid.

And it was Beckham who set up the game’s only goal, teaming with the oldest members of the team.

 The play started with Beckham heading the ball ahead to Keane in the penalty box. Donovan, one of just three players remaining from the Galaxy’s last championship team, was trailing the play and took a touch pass from Keane to the left of the goal, then managed to curl a right-footed chip shot just inside the post to the far side.

The Galaxy entered the MLS Cup final having won more games –- in both the regular season and the playoffs -- over the last three seasons than any team. Until Sunday they had never won their final one.

And it was fitting that the drought ended on the Galaxy’s rain-soaked home pitch, where the team hasn’t lost since last year’s Western Conference final.

The road the Galaxy took to redemption was not an easy one, rutted by a season-long series of injuries that sidelined every starter for at least one match. And they remained a team in transition until mid August, when they added forward Keane, giving them the scoring threat they lacked up front.

Tellingly the Galaxy hasn’t lost a match Keane has played in.

The rain that pelted Southern California all day stopped shortly before kickoff but returned briefly midway through the first half.

By then the Galaxy had squandered three good scoring opportunities with the slick turf possibly costing them a goal on the final one.

In the 12th minute a Beckham corner found Adam Cristman directly in front of the goal but Cristman, starting in favor of the injured Chad Barrett, headed the ball high and wide.

Beckham –- at 36, the oldest starter in the game and one playing with painful hamstrings and the remnants of a stress fracture in his spine –- set up Cristman again with a beautiful cross in the 27th minute and again Cristman’s header from the inside the goal box missed. Then a minute after that Cristman slipped while trying to knock home a feed from Robbie Keane at close range.

The Galaxy attack never flagged, though, and in the 35th minute a long Beckham pass proved just a half-step too long for a charging Keane, with Houston keeper Tally Hall rushing out of the net to knock the ball away.

The ultra-conservative Dynamo, meanwhile, appeared content to defend, managing just three shots in the first half.

And the script didn’t change in the second half with Keane missing an open net to the far side after running down a loose ball deep in the penalty area four minutes after intermission.

Keane finally found the back of the net in the 57th minute, taking a splendid feed from Beckham down the left wing and driving a low shot between Hall’s legs. But again Keane’s timing was wrong –- this time he was a half-step offside -- and the goal was disallowed.

Seconds later Arena pulled Cristman for midfielder Chris Birchall, pushing Mike Magee up front beside Keane. And 15 minutes later the Galaxy had the goal that made them champions.

--Kevin Baxter

Photo: Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant clears the ball on a pass to Houston's Danny Cruz on Sunday in the MLS Cup at Home Depot Center. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

 
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