The game was an entertaining one and the Galaxy deserved to win their third title, their first since 2005, although the 1-0 score line flattered the Dynamo who were comprehensively outplayed. They were fortunate that the Galaxy and Robbie Keane in particular were profligate in front of the goal. Landon Donovan’s decisive goal was worthy of winning any cup final and owed much to the collective ability of the Galaxy’s three designated players. Keane and David Beckham were involved in the buildup before feeding Donovan who adeptly finished the move past a helpless Tally Hall.
There are many things that can be leveled at Landon Donovan, but there can be no disputing the fact that he rises to the big occasion for both club and country. His winning goal for the USA against Algeria in last summer’s World Cup in South Africa is already the stuff of legend. His winning goal in the MLS Final adds to his impressive resume and there is still room for more accomplishments. All the talk in the aftermath of the game was about where his teammate Beckham will ply his trade next season; however, it will be interesting from an American perspective to see what Donovan decides to do. No one would begrudge him a move to Europe at this stage of his career.
The regular season was an exciting one with some excellent games, the development of players like Omar Gonzalez, the addition of talent like Robbie Keane and the opening of yet more soccer specific stadiums. The average game attendance for the league surpassed that of the NBA and NHL to provide much needed credibility with an unsupportive media. Too bad that then that the two best teams, LA and Seattle Sounders did not get the chance to meet in the final because of the vagaries of the MLS playoff format. Thankfully the powers that be have tweaked the schedule for next year and the top two teams have the possibility of facing each other in the final, as they should.
It may have taken him five years, but David Beckham will leave MLS a winner. His potential final game in a Galaxy shirt was well covered by the British media and was subject to the typical lazy soccer journalism. They would have you believe that Beckham has built MLS into what it has become today. Nonsense! MLS was on the road to being an established league long before Beckham joined the Galaxy. ESPN, Fox Soccer and the likes of the atmosphere at Seattle’s games to name but a few have helped established the league. Beckham has elevated the status of the league because he and his oxymoronic named wife are regular features in the tabloids and magazines. The Beckham brand has helped MLS, but MLS has helped brand Beckham in return.
There were a few minor negatives in the final. The referee, Ricardo Salazar tried to let the game flow as much as possible, but he was very lenient to both Beckham and the Dynamo’s Andre Hainault. Both players were cautioned in the latter stages, but a case could be made that both should have received red for a couple of naughty tackles each. Whose decision was it to use a silver ball for the final? I know my eyesight is waning as I get older, but I had a hard time picking the ball out especially from distance.
I like watching MLS games and I think the league has improved immensely in recent years. It will never supplant Spurs or Celtic in my emotions, but that is an argument for another day. Too many ex-pat fans on the blogs, forums, and Sirius phone-ins are critical of MLS and don’t give the league its due credit. These fans compare MLS to Barcelona, AC Milan, Celtic and Manchester United which is unfair. They say the games are boring; lack quality and lack intensity; yet, these same fans will then watch Wigan play Aston Villa or Inverness play Aberdeen and find them entertaining. MLS should be judged on its own merits and not compared to the EPL, La Liga or Serie A.