When the LA Galaxy take on the Houston Dynamo in MLS Cup 2012, two stories will compete for the official match narrative. Much will be made about David Beckham playing his last match with the Galaxy, and likely he'll be given some sort of send off no matter what the result. However, on the pitch the story will likely be about the partnership between Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane.
"I think they are two good players who know how to react off one another," said Bruce Arena. "They are technically similar and they both understand each other well. Regardless of where we play Landon he connects with Robbie. If he is in the midfield it’s still the same kind of relationship. It comes down to two soccer players who understand each other."
In 2010 the Galaxy were known as dangerous off free kicks with David Beckham sending them in and Edson Buddle getting on the end of them. That's completely changed though the last two years. This year the Galaxy have the most right footed goals (forty) and left footed (nineteen tied with Houston), but the third least headed goals with just six (all stats according to Opta).
As a result of this ground game, Robbie Keane and Mike Magee have four and three goals respectively and stand to possibly lock up the playoff golden boot in MLS Cup 2012. Keane is tied with Will Bruin for most total shot attempts at eleven, and Bruin is also sitting on four goals.
"There is a noticeable change in that [Keane] has obviously scored a lot of goals since his return," said Bruce Arena. "I think we see this all the time with players that are involved with national teams. When there are significant competitions their focus is sometimes on those championships with the national team. Maybe they hold back a little bit so they don’t pick up an injury. I think when Robbie came back in late June he was 100% committed to the Galaxy. He’s played as well as any player in the League since late June."
That's not to say David Beckham no longer has anything to contribute. Beckham has attempted more passes (319) than any other player in the MLS playoffs. While only one has been an assist, it shows that Beckham has been able to insert himself as a battery in the middle of the pitch then let Keane and Donovan take care of things in the offensive third.
The Houston Dynamo have only scored one goal in their last five visits to The Home Depot Center. Galaxy fans certainly hope that dearth of goals continues.