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Impact players come through for Galaxy
by Ridge Mahoney, November 21st, 2011 4:16AM

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TAGS:  houston dynamo, los angeles galaxy, mls

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[MLS CUP ANALYSIS] A substitution and tactical shift garnered much of the credit for the breakthrough goal scored by Landon Donovan in the 72nd minute by which Los Angeles downed Houston, 1-0, Sunday night in the MLS championship game.

Midfielder Chris Birchall replaced forward Adam Cristman in the 57th minute, with Birchall taking over at right mid for Landon Donovan, who moved up top alongside Robbie Keane. Los Angeles broke open the goalless game when Keane collected a ball from David Beckham and evaded a tackle to slip through a pass Donovan knocked home for his league record 20th playoff goal and fourth in an MLS Cup final.

Yet the vital difference on that play, and for much of the game, stemmed from the simple fact the Galaxy impact players did their job, and seldom did their counterparts on the Dynamo match their performance.

GALAXY OVERCOMES MISSES. Cristman, paired up top with Keane, failed to convert three good chances; he drove two headers wide and wasted another opportunity when he tried to trap an inviting cross instead of hitting it first-time, and slipped trying to shoot. But despite his misses and those of others, the Galaxy dominated play for most of the 90 minutes through the interplay of Keane, Beckham and Donovan, supplemented by heady midfield play from Juninho and very solid defending.

The Dynamo fended off numerous attacks and stayed in the game by some dogged tackling and the Galaxy’s poor finishing. Houston’s attack, missing playmaker Brad Davis, worked the flanks to good effect at times yet seldom set up a clear opportunity that forwards Brian Ching and Calen Carr could direct on goal.

Corey Ashe ranged up the left side from his midfield position and right mid Danny Cruz did the same; Ashe’s crosses were expertly handled by right back Sean Franklin or centerback Omar Gonzalez, and aside from one slashing dribble and shot late in the first half, Cruz wasn’t much of a factor.

DYNAMO NEVER THREATENS. In the postgame comments, Galaxy players credited coach Bruce Arena’s move as the deciding factor. A few minutes before Donovan scored, a very close offside decision nullified a goal by Keane, who had early in the second half fired a shot narrowly wide.

Before and after the switch, the Galaxy controlled most of the play, and though a team as dangerous on set plays as Houston can’t be counted out if the score is close, only one team looked likely to score. Eventually, thanks to its major players, it did.

Nov. 20 in Carson, Calif.
Los Angeles 1 Houston 0. Goal: Donovan (Keane, Beckham) 72.
Los Angeles -- Saunders, Franklin, DelaGarza, Gonzalez, Dunivant, Juninho, Beckham, Donovan, Magee, Keane, Cristman (Birchall, 57).
Houston -- Hall, Hainault, Boswell, Cameron, Taylor, Cruz (Clark, 78), Camargo, Moffat, Ashe (Watson, 84), Ching, Carr (Costly, 65).
Referee: Ricardo Salazar.
Att.: 30,281.



0 comments
  1. Amos Annan
    commented on: November 21, 2011 at 11:33 a.m.
    money was the difference

  1. I w Nowozeniuk
    commented on: November 21, 2011 at 1:12 p.m.
    Eficacy was the difference and Christman is proof of total ineptness on the pitch.

  1. Brian Something
    commented on: November 21, 2011 at 4:39 p.m.
    Players? What are you talking about? Was there anyone on the pitch other than Becks? If so, someone should've mentioned this to the rest of the press.

  1. Carl Grover
    commented on: November 21, 2011 at 6:36 p.m.
    The Galaxy were the best team because that was planned by MLS(money). Keane who was picked up by the Galaxy in mid-summer was the deciding factor. If Beckham leaves the Galaxy probably will not repeat. Seattle and RSL will see to that.

  1. Carl Grover
    commented on: November 21, 2011 at 6:41 p.m.
    I did feel sorry for Christman replacing the starting forward in the championship game but he was the reason it was closer than it should have been.

  1. Karl Schreiber
    commented on: November 21, 2011 at 9:42 p.m.
    Some comments, not a comprehensive critique: It was a dull game reminiscent of high school soccer at times. ESPN turned it into a commercial for Beckham. Beckham for me performed like in his last season with Real Madrid, when his contract was not renewed. I didn't realize Donovan was playing until he suddenly got the pass from Keane and scored. After watching EPL, La Liga and Bundesliga games the same weekend, this MLS final was a letdown. The ultimate insult was the choice of the ball with a dark finish. What were they thinking?! -- Okay, Beckham’s underperforming was explained with a hamstring injury a couple days before and that he was playeing in pain; and he was still one of the better players. His passes are a joy to watch. And so he's another foreigner who earned the right to brag about “having developed soccer in the United States”. Sorry for Harkes that he got laid off as color commentator by ESPN. But I for one have hopes that the next person will NOT expose me to endless opinions on coaching and stuff that distracts me from watching a game. -- Now, without sarcasm: I have a lot of respect and gratitude for Anschuetz and other visionaries who believe in pro soccer and support its development! I sincerely hope that the women's game will get similar support; that is THE segment of the sport where we can still mix it up at the top international level, perhaps the only one for years to come.

  1. Dannie Whitehouse
    commented on: November 22, 2011 at 12:17 p.m.
    Well, I'd like to kick the Galaxy, but those guys have a pretty good front office and staff. everyone wants to over-simplify the program and the big three are the huge piece of the puzzle. But without the other pieces, L.A. is the Red Bulls. L. A. has picked up other players over the last few years, that actually contribute,Juninho is a great example. Also, developing young defensive players. The first year or two of the Beckham experiment was painful to watch he and Landon try to carry the load with a second tier cast around them. But Arenas got the most out of the guys they drafted or picked up (mcGee, Barrett, etc...) Hats off Galaxy you deserve it.

  1. Karl Ortmertl
    commented on: November 24, 2011 at 5:21 a.m.
    With Beckham, Keane and Donovan, the Galaxy are an interesting team to watch. I hope Beckham stays. There's obviously a drop off after those three, but most of the others hold their own well enough. After that, though, the lack of depth really shows. Christman seems like a nice guy, but his ineptitude was glaring. Unfortunately, except for watching the Galaxy with the Big 3 and maybe the Red Bull with Thierry Henry, you almost can't be an international soccer fan and then watch the MLS. Luckily for the MLS, I think there's a lot of fans out there who are MLS-only types.


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