By Ridge Mahoney
Count the Houston Dynamo players and their head coach as among the believers that MLS will go on just fine without David Beckham, who will stand down after he and the Galaxy try to win a second consecutive title.
“That’s not what makes our world go ‘round, to be honest,” said midfielder Brad Davis, as he fielded questions along with head coach Dominic Kinnear and forward Will Bruin during the final pre-MLS Cup press conference before the and the Dynamo take on Houston Saturday (4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, TeleFutura).”I was playing before he came here and hopefully I’ll be playing after he leaves. We’re definitely very thankful for what he’s done in the promoting and all that stuff, but that type of stuff is for the media, I guess, to play.
“We still have go about our jobs every single day. We don’t know what he’s doing every day.”
Obsessing about the next phase of Beckham’s life has consumed a fair portion of buildup to the match, and the Dynamo contingent could have used the talents of keeper Tally Hall to deflect all the Becks-related questions that came flying their way from several members of the media.
“No, we’re not talking about David Beckham’s last game," said Kinnear, who will have a few more weapons for this match than he did last year, when the Galaxy beat Houston, 1-0, at the same venue. “We’re not dumb. We’re not blind and deaf to what’s going on around us. But our talk tomorrow is about 1:55 [p.m.] local time getting ready to play against these guys, not what they’re doing after the game.”
A torn quadriceps forced Davis to sit out year’s final, which he watched on crutches. He came back this year to lead the Dynamo in assists with 12 and also scored eight goals. Midseason moves brought Oscar Boniek Garcia and ex-Dynamo Ricardo Clark into the squad; they have greatly softened the loss of defender Geoff Cameron, who was sold to Stoke City of the English Premier League.
Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena points out that both teams come into MLS Cup 2012 healthier and stronger than they were last year. Houston has a fit Davis and a talented lineup despite the loss of Cameron; both Beckham and Robbie Keane were bothered by minor injuries in the 2011 final won by a Landon Donovan goal in the 72nd minute. Keane leads all playoff scorers with five goals and the potency of his pairing with Donovan up top has been shredding teams since he returned in late June from the European Championships.
The prospect of two potent teams going at each other, with rain and slippery conditions likely, offers hope the league’s showcase event will serve up better fare than last year’s rather dull presentation. Boniek Garcia, Clark and Macoumba Kandji, who is expected to start up top with Bruin, can inject the kind of high-speed play to test a Galaxy defense that has been stoutly shored up by the August return of centerback Omar Gonzalez.
And besides this being a Beckham farewell game, the former England international is a tremendous asset in big matches. Keane and Donovan’s formidable pairing up top and a move of Beckham to central midfield from the right flank has enabled the entire Galaxy lineup, not just its big three players, to maximize their abilities.
Donovan reiterated the old axiom that the only constant in professional sports, and life itself, is change. “Yeah, David won’t be here next year, but any team, from year to year, has a lot of turnover,” he said. “That’s the way sports are, that’s the way this league is.
“There’s no doubt David’s been an overwhelming success, both on the field, off the field. And also within our locker room and our organization. I certainly value his opinion and he’s been through a lot more than most of us in all walks of life, including the soccer arena. When he has something to say or input, it’s valued.
“What you guys see from week to week is one part, but what’s he meant to this team on the inside has been fantastic, and we’re very grateful for it.”