CARSON, CA - NOVEMBER 20: Landon Donovan #10 of the Los Angeles Galaxy celebrates after scoring against the Houston Dynamo in the second half to take a 1-0 lead in the 2011 MLS Cup at The Home Depot Center on November 20, 2011 in Carson, California. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)
It's that time of year ladies and gentlemen, when media outlets put out top five lists to fill space. It's not different here covering the MLS and the LA Galaxy, as today we'll count down the top five moments from last season. Did I miss something? Disagree with the order? Well let me know in the comments. Without further ado, the LAG Confidential Top Five Galaxy Moments of 2011:
Honorable Mention: Who is Luke Rodgers?
The Galaxy vs. Red Bulls match had received a great deal of hype. The story was Beckham vs. Henry, Angel versus his old team. However, the match ended in a draw, and for most people the biggest takeaway was Landon Donovan and Luke Rodgers jawing on the pitch. When asked after the match about the incident, Donovan said calmly "Who's Luke Rodgers?" When the Galaxy met again in the post-season, the hot headed Rodgers remained a controversial figure.
5. LA Galaxy go undefeated at home
So I'm cheating a bit, as this isn't a moment. Still, if one were to say what made 2011 great for Galaxy fans, never leaving the Home Depot Center nursing a defeat has to be part of it. It stood for all competitions, and it was made all the better by a fantastic atmosphere. Sure there was that weird penalty kick thing with Manchester City, but a draw's a draw. If the current EPL points leader is the only team to send Galaxy fans home unhappy, things aren't too bad.
Didn't happen on the pitch, but affected the entire season. Juan Pablo Angel just wasn't working out, and was ridding pine while making a cool million. Bruce Arena was able to pull off one of the most significant trades in MLS history, by not only bringing in a DP from the EPL in midseason, but offloading a DP at midseason as well. MLS has treated DPs as both saviors and albatrosses at the same time, yet Arena proved they can be treated like any other player on the roster. The change in atmosphere was instant, and that goodwill was ridden into the post-season.
3. Mike Magee records a clean sheet
Most of the LA soccer media was in the Rose Bowl for the Gold Cup final, but the LA Galaxy still had a game to play in San Jose. Donovan Ricketts going down with an injury was concerning, but it seemed like doom was at hand when Josh Saunders got sent off with a red card just before halftime. In steps 5'9" Mike Magee (he gives up 8" to Ricketts, 7" to Saunders) who procedes to keep a clean sheet making four saves including three in the last ten minutes. It was the best 0-0 draw ever.
2. LA Galaxy defeat Morelia to advance in CONCACAF Champions League
Great theater happens when the outcomes are simple. Great tournament matches (like the US hockey victory over the USSR, the 49ers "The Catch", or the Pacers beating the Knicks) are often so great they overshadow what happened next. It wasn't the final match of the group, but the Galaxy knew coming in that they'd have a great chance to advance with a win over Morelia. It was practically a neutral site match, with the Home Depot Center split between Galaxy fans and Morelia fans. Even though capacity was limited, it was as loud as any home match. Then the drama began. Mike Magee scored the first goal, but Morelia was able to equalize after halftime. All signs pointed to a draw, but Juninho had other plans scoring the game winner in the 90' to send the home fans, with the opposing fans within shouting distance, into ecstasy.
1. LA Galaxy win MLS title
Remember those things I said about great theater. The match got the appropriate hype, especially with a two week break between Conference finals and MLS Cup. The Houston Dynamo had been overshadowed since Bruce Arena took over in LA, but the Dynamo had a legitimate claim to the best club of the 21st century's first decade. They left behind some trophies in San Jose, but the club knew how to win Cup titles. Now they were back in the final against the team that had dominated over the last three years but didn't have a Cup to prove their mettle. It was a defensive battle in the first half, exasperated by Adam Cristman having a howler at the worst possible time. Arena moved Landon Donovan up top, and the move paid off. A.J. DeLaGarza to David Beckham to Robbie Keane on the left flank. Keane found a trailing Donovan who put in the game winner; the punctuation mark on the end of an almost perfect season. Undefeated at home, Supporter's Shield Win, Advance in Champions League, MLS Cup.