Kick Off: LA's Beckham recognized for heroic performance vs. NY
Keep calm and carry on.
David Beckham is taking a very British approach to the Americanized idea of playoffs. The LA Galaxy Designated Player earned the plaudits for helping his side overcome an early New York Red Bulls goal to coast into the Western Conference Championship 3-1 on aggregate. View match highlights here.
Mike Magee scored the equalizing goal from a Beckham corner minutes before the half. “David was a different class tonight,” Magee said. “He took a knock and probably a concussion and he changed the game. You saw his work ethic – we all had to follow suit.” (VIDEO)
The 36-year-old followed his assist up by winning a penalty kick in the second half. New York's Roy Miller committed the challenge that led to the final goal of the 2-1 scoreline. "I was surprised when I found his boot behind my ear," Beckham said of the foul that led to the PK converted by Landon Donovan.
LA coach Bruce Arena praised Beckham as “a player with an unbelievable desire to win and compete.” However, rival coach Hans Backe could only bemoan the manner in which his side capitulated after equalizing the aggregate score four minutes into the match. “It's been too many goals from set plays during the whole season.” (VIDEO)
Goalscorer Luke Rodgers wasn't impressed with the defending either in what he called a “deflating” loss: “Whenever a team scores just before halftime, it gives them a massive lift. That's what killed us.” (VIDEO)
With the win, the Galaxy advance to play Real Salt Lake (9 p.m. ET Sunday, ESPN and TSN 2 — GET TICKETS HERE). Beckham and Sean Franklin were already looking forward to the clash and gave some preview thoughts to the cameras. (VIDEO)
Of course, even if the Red Bulls had advanced, Designated Player Rafa Márquez would have been unavailable. The Mexican international is suspended for the next two MLS matches after the Disciplinary Committee tacked an extended sentence onto his ban for the fracas following the first leg against the Galaxy.
While Márquez will have to wait several months before suiting up again, RSL coach Jason Kreis is impatient. Despite winning MLS Cup as recently as 2009, Kreis wants another. “For me, it is time.”
If Kreis feels the pull of destiny, imagine what's going through Brian Ching's head. The Hawaiian scored the first-ever goal in Robertson Stadium and he scored the last before the Houston Dynamo move into their new soccer-specific stadium in 2012.
The goal came in a 1-0 win over the Philadelphia Union, allowing the Dynamo to advance to the Eastern Conference Championship 3-1 on aggregate. Watch match highlights here.
Naturally, the goal came from a set piece. Brad Davis dished in the service and Ching headed home. The US international explained how he wriggled free atop the box: “On those set pieces, they weren't man marking, they were zone marking. I just stayed off the back and made a late run into the box and the ball found me.” (VIDEO)
The goal snuffed out any lingering hope Philly had of mounting a comeback. The Union may very well use the offseason to practice defending against free kicks. "We were confused when defending set pieces," Carlos Valdés said. "Sometimes we need to work on concentrating more."
In the East final, Houston will travel to Livestrong Sporting Park to face Sporting Kansas City (5:30 p.m. ET Sunday, Fox Soccer — GET TICKETS HERE). The Dynamo lost 3-0 there earlier in the season, but this time will be different, claims Geoff Cameron. “We're going to play our game, man.” (VIDEO)
On Monday either Sporting KC or Houston will join the rest of the teams in the league in the dreaded early offseason. For the sides on the outside looking in, plenty of retooling is going on. In Chicago, the Fire officially made former technical director Frank Klopas the full-time coach, removing his interim tag.
Klopas will likely build his defense around goalkeeper Sean Johnson. In the meantime, though, Johnson will join Manchester United "on trial", much like the scenario taking D.C. United's Bill Hamid to West Bromwich Albion this winter.
In another similar deal, Brek Shea will spend December training with Arsenal. Shea was one of the many call-ups by US coach Jurgen Klinsman for upcoming friendlies against France and Slovenia. The other MLS invites include Hamid, Kyle Beckerman, Robbie Rogers and Donovan.
When Rogers settles into his seat on the plane headed for Europe, the Columbus Crew winger won't know if he'll be returning. The 24-year-old's contract expires in December and his future is up in the air. “I have no clue,” he said.
If Rogers does leave, he'll be heartened to see former teammate Alejandro Moreno proving there's life after Columbus. The striker was called in again by Venezuela.
Canada also called in a swath of MLS players, including Ante Jazic, Ashtone Morgan, Julian de Guzman, Matt Stinson, Will Johnson and Dwayne De Rosario. They'll compete in two World Cup qualifying matches against St. Kitts and Nevis. The Canucks need just one point to advance to the next round of CONCACAF qualifying.
In Vancouver, the Whitecaps hope Russell Teibert can emulate Toronto FC's Morgan and Stinson in his development. The 18-year-old missed most of the 2011 season through injury, including an embarrassing gash on his toe earned while riding a bike in flip-flops.
Like the Whitecaps, the San Jose Earthquakes didn't make the playoffs. But that didn't stop Chris Wondolowski from picking up the 2011 Castrol Index MLS Player of the Year gong.
Wondo will be amped up to follow the accolade up with a team medal next season. Gary Smith would be too, assuming he's still at the helm of the 2010 MLS Cup champs Colorado. The coach continues to press the issue, and it looks increasingly likely that Rapids managing director Jeff Plush will have to pick between technical director Paul Bravo and Smith.
Then again, MLS has yet to see any coach achieve the longevity of Sir Alex Ferguson, who celebrated 25 years with Manchester United this week. The British press was packed full of articles commemorating his success. ESPN picked a Best XI of Fergie's Man. United players.
The FCF spent several thousand words remembering when Real Madrid beat Man United 3-2 in 2000, a match credited with changing Ferguson's tactical approach to matches.
The BBC looked back at the slate of managers in charge at the time, all of whom were outlasted by Ferguson, of course.
And the Telegraph humorously highlighted Ferguson's first hair-dryer treatment, given to a poor bus driver on the first and last occasion he attempted to sit next to the Scot on the bench.
If Ferguson tributes aren't your thing, flick on the tube. At 3:30 p.m. ET in the German Bundesliga, Mainz 05 take on Stuttgart on ESPN Deportes. Then at 10 p.m. ET, UC Santa Barbara squares off against Cal Poly in men's soccer on Fox Soccer.
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