MLS Cup Player Ratings: LA Galaxy vs. Houston Dynamo
CARSON, Calif. — Over the next few weeks, we'll probably all be caught up discussing whether or not the 2011 LA Galaxy are the best team in MLS history.
Whether or not consensus says they are, what's clear is that they were certainly the best team on Sunday night in front of 30,218 fans at the Home Depot Center. They won this Cup in the Galaxy way, locking down the Dynamo for the entire game, avoiding silly fouls and turnovers, and punishing the defense when they made one too many mistakes.
It all spelled a 1-0 victory over a very game, but clearly overmatched Dynamo side.
Here are the ratings:
Josh Saunders (6) - Was hardly tested, but for a few punches and an 20-yard drive from Danny Cruz early in the second half. It was a far cry from his dramatics against New York, or two years ago in the Cup against Real Salt Lake. But it was all that LA needed on the evening.
Sean Franklin (6) - Kept Houston's left side pinned back and chose his overlaps smartly. Found acres of space in the first half and less in the second, but wasn't able to put in a telling cross or an accurate final ball. Defensively, his positioning was flawless.
Omar Gonzalez (8.5) - As good a game as any central defender in MLS Cup history. Sniffed out every combination, cleared out every second ball and even contributed with some accurate, dangerous distribution. Houston never got a look, and he's the biggest reason why.
A.J. DeLaGarza (7.5) - Nearly as good as Gonzalez, making himself a nuisance in the air and bumping Brian Ching and Calen Carr every time they tried a diagonal run into the area. As for his distribution ... this won't show up in the stat sheet, but it was his accurate, calm clearance that started the goal sequence.
Todd Dunivant (6) - Made an early gaffe with a handball on the edge of the area to give Houston their one dangerous set piece of the evening, and — like Franklin — didn't create much when he did get forward. But he didn't make any mistakes, and that was enough.
Juninho (7) - Hardly misplaced a pass all night, cleaned up the few midfield turnovers the Galaxy made, and never, ever overpursued the play. When he's in and on form, the rest of the Galaxy's midfield can take — and create — chances they wouldn't otherwise.
David Beckham (7.5) - Hampered by a hamstring injury, he didn't cover as much ground as we're used to seeing from him, especially in the playoffs. But it didn't matter, as he still was at the heart of nearly every chance on the evening, including the game-deciding goal.
Mike Magee (4.5) - After being perhaps the best attacker of these playoffs, Magee was off the pace much of the night. He popped up in his usual dangerous spots, but missed more touches than we've come to expect and squandered several chances to test Tally Hall or play a teammate in.
Landon Donovan (7.5) - Grabs his third MLS Cup goal and his fourth title in five Cups. Was all over Jermaine Taylor and Cory Ashe during the first hour, then proved to be the difference in the final 30 minutes. Passing could have been sharper, but physically, he looked fit for the first time in ages.
Robbie Keane (8) - What a week for the Ireland captain. First, he sees his national team into the 2012 European Championship, then he flies halfway across the world and shows no ill effects five days later. Didn't get on the ball much, but was dangerous every time he did. Should have had the game-winning goal; settled for the game-winning assist.
Adam Cristman (2) - In his 58 minutes, he managed to miss two wide-open headers and flub a one-on-one opportunity in the box. Put himself in position to be the hero time and time again, but only Donovan's goal spared him the goat's horns.
Chris Birchall (5.5) - Came on for Cristman in the 58th. Hardly figured on the offensive side of the ball, but didn't commit any turnovers and ran hard on defense.
Bruce Arena (9) - Since he came to the Galaxy, they've gotten better, deeper and younger every season. It's a remarkable run, and he's capped it by coaxing a clinical, vintage performance from his team. LA hardly put a foot wrong all night; they gave up just one dangerous set piece and just one corner. They dominated from wire to wire. Arena picked up his second Supporters' Shield/MLS Cup double, and with it, should now be considered — unequivocally — the greatest coach in MLS history.
Tally Hall (6.5) - Got tested twice on breakaways and was beaten both times. Saved by the linesman's flag once, but beaten cleanly on the second. Wasn't his fault, and he did well to parry a late Beckham free kick, but he'll probably feel that on his day he could have maybe gotten a better touch to Donovan's goal.
Andre Hainault (5.5) - Had the best night of all the Dynamo defenders, but was scrambling all evening trying to put the shackles on Keane. Didn't really get a chance to push forward in the run of play, and Houston's lack of set-piece chances meant he couldn't figure offensively at all.
Geoff Cameron (4) - Cameron matched Gonzalez clearance for clearance, interception for interception, outlet for outlet in the first 45. But as the night went on, his injury slowed him, and LA took advantage. He kept Keane onside on the incorrectly ruled off goal, and then was burned by Donovan on the winner.
Bobby Boswell (3.5) - It was him who let Cristman go free for an open header off an early set-piece, then was a step slow again when Cristman snuck to the back post several minutes later. Also was turned and burned by Keane on the game-winner. A rough end to two fantastic months of soccer.
Jermaine Taylor (5) - Had more than he could handle from Donovan in the first half, as the Galaxy built down the right side time and time again. Defended well in the final third, though, cutting out several passes and putting out some fires. Like Hainault offered little going forward.
Corey Ashe (6) - Had a few dangerous, marauding runs, but kept his head down and wasn't ever able to find the final pass. Would probably have been a better choice for left back, where he'd been improving week-by-week all season. Lack of a right foot was his undoing at times.
Danny Cruz (5.5) - Had one of Houston's few dangerous moments on the night, when he cut inside and uncorked a 20-yard drive that Saunders handled easily. He didn't offer much else in the attacking third on the evening, but worked hard in the middle and didn't make any costly turnovers.
Adam Moffat (6.5) - Showed up and battled for 90 minutes, even sneaking into the box for a dangerous header himself. Wasn't able to make any telling, decisive passes and wasted a late corner, but he switched the field several times in the last half-hour to open play and give Houston a bit more of the ball.
Luiz Camargo (4.5) - Got lost in the midfield shuffle all night, failing to get on the ball in dangerous spots and generally being a non-factor throughout his 90 minutes. He worked hard defensively, but committed a couple of dangerous turnovers and failed to rise to the occasion.
Calen Carr (4.5) - Ran hard, but not smart. Spent time pressuring by himself instead of joining up with Cruz or Ashe, and therefore wasted all his energy and was subbed off after 67 minutes. Never looked like he was going to get behind the LA defense, and never got on the same page with Brian Ching.
Brian Ching (5) - Had one very nice combination in the first half, but other than that wasn't able to carve out spaces because the understanding between Juninho and the LA central defense was simply too good. Fought til the end, but was almost entirely starved of service.
Carlo Costly (5) - Came on for Carr in the 67th. Looked more dangerous than his predecessor, dropping deep and trying to link play, but rarely to any great effect.
Colin Clark (4.5) - Came on for Cruz in the 78th. Was asked to add width and some one-vs.-one ability on the wings, but the Galaxy never let him get moving and he was non-factor.
Je-Vaughn Watson (NR) - Came on for Ashe in the 84th. Never got on the ball.
Dominic Kinnear (4) - Hard to give Kinnear a rate-down when he was going into a final without his most important player, midfielder Brad Davis. Nevertheless, he made the wrong choice with Taylor at left back, and his failure to pull the trigger on the Cameron sub ended up costing his team the game-winning goal. The truth was, though, that Houston was never even remotely in the game. They were simply outplayed by a superior team.