David Beckham's bid for a fairytale finish to his five-year Major League Soccer stint with Los Angeles stayed on track as the Galaxy advanced to the Major League Soccer playoff semi-finals.
Los Angeles defeated New York 2-1 in the second leg of their playoff series on Thursday, giving the Galaxy a 3-1 aggregate victory that advances Beckham's club into a Western Conference final at home on Sunday against Real Salt Lake.
Beckham set up a goal from a corner and was fouled to produce a penalty that provided the other as the 36-year-old English midfielder hopes to cap his contract with a victory in the MLS Cup Final on 20 November.
The Galaxy or Real Salt Lake will face the Eastern Conference champion, Houston or Kansas City, in that title match on the Galaxy's home pitch, where Los Angeles has won 13 times and drawn five matches without loss this season. "It has been good to us," Galaxy star Landon Donovan said. "We're going to come out guns ablazing and give it our best shot."
Beckham has not said where he wants to play after this season, with France's Paris Saint-Germain and English Premier League sides Tottenham and Queens Park Rangers expressing interest. A new deal with the Galaxy is also a possibility.
Los Angeles won 1-0 at New York last Sunday to seize the lead but the Red Bulls erased that edge quickly as Luke Rodgers opened the scoring in the fourth minute thanks to a Thierry Henry pass.
Mike Magee answered for the Galaxy off a Beckham corner kick in the 42nd minute, setting the stage for another pivotal moment involving Beckham. The Galaxy were awarded a penalty after Beckham was fouled from behind in the area by New York's Roy Miller in the 74th minute. Beckham was replaced by Michael Stephens in the 79th minute.
Donovan converted the penalty with a right-footed shot into the bottom left corner of the goal past New York goalkeeper Frank Rost, giving the Galaxy their final margin in the match and the series. "I wanted to make sure I could keep my eyes open, see where he was going and put it the other way," Donovan said.
Rodgers took a clearing pass up the middle from the right foot of Henry and netted his 10th goal of the year but was hit with a yellow card moments after the restart following Beckham's complaint of a high challenge.
"Give New York a lot of credit. A great ball from Henry and a great finish," Donovan said. "They had us on our heels but we battled back."
The Galaxy's Robbie Keane blasted a left-footed shot off the woodwork in the 19th minute and the Irishman was denied again by New York goalkeeper Frank Rost on a rebound from point-blank range in the 38th minute.
Beckham went down in the 33rd minute when he leaped high to make a pass off a header and collided with Jamaican Dane Richards of the Red Bulls, but Beckham recovered and made the Red Bulls pay less than 10 minutes later.
In the 42nd minute, Beckham lofted a kick from the corner to the right of Rost into the heart of the penalty area, where Magee headed the ball over Germany's Rost into the net for the match equaliser.
Henry received a yellow card in the 61st minute that would have kept him out of Sunday's match had the Red Bulls advanced.
Houston bust Union
In the Eastern Conference semi-final second leg, Brian Ching netted at the end of the first half to give the Houston Dynamo a 1-0 winning margin and a 3-1 aggregate victory over the Philadelphia Union.
Ching headed home a Brad Davis free-kick from 12 yards to set up a final against Sporting Kansas City in Kansas - also on Sunday - and maintain Houston's hopes of a third MLS Cup in six years.