MLS Cup: 5 Reasons the LA Galaxy Won

November 21, 2011

The LA Galaxy defeated the Houston Dynamo Sunday night 1-0 in fantastic MLS Cup Final. While the Dynamo put together a great late season run to get into the playoffs and blaze a trail to the finals, the star power of the Galaxy proved too much in the end. Here are 5 reasons the Galaxy are MLS Champions.

David Beckham

His five years in Major League Soccer were not the easiest for Beckham or for his teammates, especially in the early going. Beckham’s first year with the Galaxy was marred by injury and for his first three years with the team he seemed more interested in his off-season overseas loan spells than helping the Galaxy to a championship.

However, he did not take an off-season loan deal prior to this season and instead spent his first full season with the Galaxy. Beckham also stayed healthy and the combination of the two showed. He seemed more in tune with his teammates, more of a leader and the team played more like a … well, team.

Beckham’s warrior-like effort in the final was remarkable with him covering loads of ground, tackling, tracking back defensively and fighting through challenges with a disregard for his own health. His desire to win was evident and his teammates fed off that energy and commitment. Assuming he leaves the Galaxy in the off-season, Beckham will have finished his last season with all three of his professional clubs with a championship, a remarkable achievement.

Robbie Keane

What a week for Robbie Keane. Following a 4-0 victory over Estonia in Ireland’s first-leg playoff qualifier for Euro 2012, Keane had the honor of playing in the 1-1 home leg fixture which was more a coronation than a competition after Ireland built up such an impressive lead in the first leg. His efforts with the Irish National Team has them going to their first major international competition in a decade.

Keane then returned to the Galaxy to help propel the team to victory Sunday night. Keane’s fantastic runs ,slick passing, nose for goal and competitive attitude were apparent all evening and, of course, Keane set up the game-winning goal with a beautiful through ball to Landon Donovan.

The Designated Player Rule

Without this rule, the collection of talent accumulated by the Galaxy would not have been possible. The initial rule, sometimes called The Beckham Rule, allowed teams to sign players over their team’s salary cap. The 2010 changes to the rule allowed teams to go above two designated players creating the potential for the Galaxy to put David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane all on the field together.

Bruce Arena

Following three disastrous seasons in which the Galaxy failed to make the playoffs, including Beckham’s first two years with the club, Arena has turned the ship round leading the Galaxy to the finals in 2009, the semi-finals in 2010 and, of course, the MLS Cup this year.

Arena also led the team to three consecutive first place finishes in MLS’s Western Conference and two Supporter’s Shields. Did he have the most talented roster in the league, probably, but talent doesn’t guarantee success and managing egos on a talented team can prove to be harder than the X’s and O’s. Don’t believe it? Ask Hans Backe how enjoyable and easy it has been to manage the egos and disaster that is the New York Red Bulls.

Landon Donovan

Just how much better can things get for LD? While there were times in his early career he was guilty of petulant play and an ego that was bigger than his boots, Donovan’s maturity over the past several years has been a joy to watch. Following a disappointing runner-up finish in the 2009 MLS Cup, partly because of his missed penalty, Donovan has looked to be on a mission.

He played spectacularly in his 2010 January loan stint to Everton winning player of the month honors, gave every American perhaps their most unforgettable soccer moment with his clutch goal against Algeria in the World Cup and managed to lead his team to both the Supporters Shield and MLS Cup this year even with detractors saying he’s lost a step.

American soccer fans should savor every minute they have left with Donovan because he will be sorely missed among MLS and USMNT fans alike when he’s gone. Last night he put another exclamation point on his career with a fantastic finish for the game-winning goal.

John D. Halloran

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