CARSON, CA - NOVEMBER 06: Landon Donovan #10 of the Los Angeles Galaxy holds up the Western Conference trophy after playing Real Salt Lake in the MLS Western Conference Championship at The Home Depot Center on November 6, 2011 in Carson, California. The Galaxy won 3-1 to advance to the MLS Cup. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
The LA Galaxy captain Landon Donovan may not have done much outside the penalty, but the emotional leader of the team carried the Galaxy across the finish line, winning three games in eight days to advance to MLS Cup as the Western Conference Champion. David Beckham and Robbie Keane were the heroes in this game, as was Mike Magee. It was a night to remember, as the Galaxy defeated Real Salt Lake 3-1.
David Beckham certainly deserves all the praise that can be heaped upon him. When books about soccer are written, a picture of his cross to Mike Magee should be on every page of the crossing section. Young US midfielders should be made to watch a replay of that cross everyday before going to bed. As he's done before, Robbie Keane made the near post run that cleared up Mike Magee to dive onto that header - showing he's a team player.
That Magee goal turned out to be the game winner. His third goal in as many games, he wasn't at his best in the run of play, but he's made himself into a prime target for David Beckham. Oh course, at this point he's more legend than player anyhow.
Robbie Keane had extended a less positive streak by the end of the first half; he'd managed to hit the woodwork in three straight games. All of the clanks happend after great plays in the box, this time hitting the inside of the left post after getting himself space in the box. It seemed like one had to go in eventually, and luckily for Keane, one finally did in the 68'. He went one on one with Jaminson Olave, and just out maneuvered the ailing defender then smashed it past Nick Rimando.
Keane's attitude has been a wonderful change from the Galaxy's previous option at striker. Keane was calling for the ball all game, and his effort trying to get to goal was fun to watch. I really want David Beckham to come back for another year, just because those two are so good at what they do, that it's a real treat to get to watch them play.
Landon Donovan and Juninho both had a shot on goal, but in the case of Landon, it was a junk goal late in the game where he was all alone against Nick Rimando that was the better chance. Donovan's still the best penalty taker possibly in America right now, and he was up and yelling all through the game.
In the end, RSL exposed the Galaxy on set pieces, but the Galaxy were able to expose Jamison Olave who wasn't 100% ready to go. Olave's fitness cost RSL on Robbie Keane's goal, and on Magee's goal both Olave and Schuler marked Keane leaving Magee free to dive onto Beckham's ball. Even on the penalty, it was a midfielder marking Omar Gonzalez and ultimately pushed him in the back.
Problems on the back line are uncharacteristic for Real Salt Lake, and it's fair to say that compacted schedule and resulting injuries had a great deal of impact on the MLS playoffs this year. The Galaxy were lucky their injuries happend over the last month of the season rather than during this stretch run. The Houston Dynamo will meet the Galaxy in the MLS Cup, without Brad Davis. How much of an effect will that have on Houston?
Games like this are easy to stomach as a fan. There was brief drama, but then elation and ultimately satisfaction. This one felt special, like the culmination of five years of drama. Hopefully the Galaxy can wrap a neat bow around this whole period.