Mark this day on your calendar: December 1, 2012 will mark the end of an era in the City of Angels.
Midfielder David Beckham will end his run as a member of Bruce Arena’s Los Angeles Galaxy, if not end his long and storied careerm in MLS Cup 2012 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. No matter what happens on that fateful Saturday afternoon (kickoff: 1:30 p.m. PT/4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, ESPN Deportes), the Beckham Experiment as depicted by the effervescent Grant Wahl will have been rendered a success, with two Supporters’ Shields, three MLS Western Conference titles, and at least one MLS Cup going on two.
The effect David Beckham has had on the Los Angeles Galaxy will be felt for many years to come. There is no question that he has transformed the face of Major League Soccer forever with his six years spent in the white, blue and gold of the Galaxy. It has had its ups, it has had its downs, but it has never left anyone feeling bored.
And indeed, true to a city known for its drama and suspense—I’m talking about Hollywood and their film industry—the 2012 Los Angeles Galaxy season has never left anyone feeling bored at all. This team had a start to the season that all but conceded their Supporters Shield to their in-state rivals, the San Jose Earthquakes.
In spite of winning the preseason’s Desert Diamond Cup, the Galaxy started off the year on the wrong foot, losing in the quarterfinals to Toronto FC 4-3 on aggregate in the 2011-12 CONCACAF Champions League. 3-1 defeats to Real Salt Lake and the New England Revolution more than offset a 3-1 victory over D.C. United in March.
April was a little bit more friendly to the Galaxy, with a 1-0 shutout defeat to Sporting Kansas City countered with a 3-1 victory over the Portland Timbers, a 2-1 win over the Colorado Rapids and a 1-1 draw with FC Dallas. But the wheels fell off in May. May 2012 was one of the most futile months in recent Galaxy history, with zero victories, one draw (1-1) and five defeats (Seattle 2-0 LA, LA 0-1 New York, Chivas USA 1-0 LA, LA 2-3 San Jose, Houston 2-1 LA).
Things started to simmer down in the month of June, with Los Angeles earning a 1-0 shutout of Portland, a big 3-2 road win over Real Salt Lake, and a 3-0 shutout of the Vancouver Whitecaps. After a couple of tough one-goal defeats (San Jose 4-3 LA, LA 1-2 Philadelphia), the situation stabilized a bit more with the Galaxy racking up a five-match unbeaten run (Chicago 0-2 LA, Portland 3-5 LA, Vancouver 2-2 LA, LA 3-1 Chivas USA, Dallas 0-1 LA).
The turning point of the season was their worst performance of the year: a 4-0 impaling by the Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink Field, a venue that the Galaxy would fail to win at this season, on Aug. 5. This scoreline was the proverbial kick in the backside that would trigger the Galaxy’s comeback trail. A 4-0 hammering of Chivas USA was followed by a 1-1 draw with the Columbus Crew; 2-0 shutout wins over Dallas, Vancouver and Colorado and a 1-1 draw with the Rapids.
Real Salt Lake would affirm that home field advantage would not amount to much in their series with the Galaxy, stemming the tide with a 2-1 victory over Los Angeles on Oct. 6. But the Galaxy kept plugging away, managing an impressive 2-2 draw with the San Jose Earthquakes and a 1-0 shutout of Seattle at the Home Depot Center.
Enter the playoffs. With Los Angeles being the No. 4 seed, they hosted the Whitecaps, who hoped to give Canada a chance at surprise postseason glory. It was not meant to be for Martin Rennie’s crew. Despite going down three minutes into the contest, second-half goals from lightning rod Mike Magee and team captain Landon Donovan paced the Galaxy to a 2-1 win and a spot in the conference semifinals.
Awaiting them was one of a few bogey teams for the Galaxy this season: the San Jose Earthquakes. They lost the first leg in second half stoppage time thanks to the Quakes’ Victor Bernardez 1-0, but he was the same Bernardez that would get injured early in the first half of the second leg. A brace from the club’s leading goal scorer, Robbie Keane, in the 21st and 34th minutes of play combined with the aggregate decider from Magee in the 39th minute was enough for the Galaxy to win 3-1 and prevail on aggregate, 3-2.
In the conference finals, they took on the Sounders, and they took them out of their game in the first leg. Another Keane brace in the 46th and 67th minutes combined with another Magee goal in the 64th minute of play gave the Galaxy the upper hand, 3-0. In the second leg, a penalty conversion from Keane in the 68th minute was enough to hold off a furious comeback from Seattle and give the Galaxy their best performance at CenturyLink this year, a 2-1 defeat that was enough to give the Galaxy a 4-2 aggregate win and the right to host MLS Cup 2012.
One cannot stress the importance Robbie Keane brings to a team. He is someone that can create chances and score when he has space. Keane finished the 2012 regular season with 16 goals and now has five playoff goals, all scored during this postseason.
Then you have to consider the leadership of the captain, Landon Donovan. He has nine goals to his name and a team-high 14 assists this regular season. Donovan’s hamstring issues prevented him from starting last Sunday against the Sounders but should not hinder him from getting back to work on Dec. 1.
But the one player on the Galaxy team that everyone will want to pay attention to is David Beckham. This game, MLS Cup 2012, is his curtain call. And while the Dynamo are off to play spoiler, Beckham knows that it takes one goal or one assist and the effect it makes on a contest is massive. Beckham finished the 2012 regular season with seven goals and nine assists and had a solid performance on Sunday against Seattle, as per the View from Avalon’s ratings.
Bruce Arena’s Los Angeles Galaxy will have more to lose from this contest than Dominic Kinnear’s Houston Dynamo: their MLS Cup, keeping their scudetto, a fourth star, keeping up with D.C. United in terms of domestic titles won…the list goes on and on.
But if all goes according to plan and the Los Angeles Galaxy simply play the same brand of LA Galaxy soccer that powered them to glory last season, the stars will be aligned for a rather heavenly sendoff for a player in David Beckham whose long and storied career has changed the face of American soccer forever…and their fourth MLS Cup.