LA Galaxy shooting for the stars
LA Galaxy will be out to win the MLS Cup for the first time since 2005 when they take on Houston Dynamo in the final on 20 November. The match could be David Beckham’s last appearance for the Galaxy, and the Western Conference champions will be keen sign off in style at the end of what has been a near-perfect season.
“It’s our year,” LA Galaxy’s Omar Gonzalez told FIFA.com ahead of his side’s final match of the season. “We’ve been playing well since the start of the season, and we’ve done what was needed to get to within one match of the title. If we maintain the same level of play on Sunday, then we have to go all the way. It’s our season,” added the centre-back, who was recently named MLS Defender of the Year.
The Galaxy lost the MLS Cup to Real Salt Lake in 2009, and were well beaten by FC Dallas in the Conference finals last year. However, the Californians have shown greater consistency since coach Bruce Arena’s arrival in 2009, and they now appear to be reaping the rewards. “We’re all benefiting from the words and methods of the coach,” said Gonzalez, who was drafted by Arena in 2009. “The 2009 defeat has helped us to grow, and we’ve learned a lot. We’ve played really well all season, without any real dip in form. We’ve been consistent and we’re ready to finish the job.”
Two years after beating Houston Dynamo in the Western Conference final, the Galaxy are poised to take on the Texan outfit once again. They will be without forward Chad Barrett for the rematch, however, after the former Toronto FC man suffered a serious injury. Barrett’s absence is a blow, but the Galaxy do have other options up front, with Mike Magee in particular proving to be their unlikely hero with three crucial goals since the start of the play-offs.
“I’ve never played so well in my entire career. Mentally and physically, I feel really good,” said Magee, a former New York Red Bulls player who appears to be thriving on the service of team-mate Beckham. “When you play with him [Beckham], even if he’s not looking at you, you know you need to break forward.”
“Last year, against Dallas, we were poor,” added Magee, an important figure in the Galaxy’s play-off campaign. “We won’t be making the same mistakes twice. Our reaction in the second half against Salt Lake in the Conference final shows we have a different mindset. We’ve been putting huge pressure on ourselves since the start of the play-offs, because not only is it great to play the final at home, it’s also a big advantage.”
With just five days to go until the MLS Cup final, LA Galaxy’s Home Depot Center is already sold out. The home support will no doubt be desperate for a Galaxy success, particularly with Beckham approaching the end of his contract. “If David leaves, we’ll be losing a friend first and foremost,” said Gonzalez, referring to the Englishman’s considerable effect on the LA Galaxy dressing room, of which star striker Robbie Keane is also now an integral part.
The MLS Cup final on Sunday 20 November could be Beckham’s last outing in an LA Galaxy shirt, and he will be keen to finish his five-year spell by adding to the single Western Conference title he won in 2009. Beckham finished the MLS regular season as best passer, after a campaign largely dominated by his team. The midfielder now has just ninety minutes to add to his already impressive trophy cabinet. “Houston are on a great run; nobody expected to see them here,” said Magee. “We know it’s going to be tough.”
Both sides will have been out of action for two weeks by the time the big day comes around, but Gonzalez is not unduly concerned. “The schedule has been very strange all season,” said the Dallas native. “But we’re using it to work on the more specific aspects of our game, which is something we don’t have time to do during the season.” Magee shares Gonzalez’s view, adding: “Our bodies are tired, it’s been a very long season and this break is welcome. We can look after ourselves.”
Such is the importance of the MLS Cup final that USA talisman Landon Donovan even declined a recent international call-up, opting to stay and train with the Galaxy instead. “Since I’ve been here, I’ve never felt so much confidence within the group,” Gonzalez concluded. “We need to maintain this positive energy. With it, nothing bad can happen to us.”