Kick Off: As Beckham bids farewell, focus turns to MLS Cup matchup
OK. Is everyone ready? MLS Cup 2012. Saturday, December 1, at 4:30 pm ET, on ESPN, TeleFutura, TSN, and RDS, with a live chat on MLSsoccer.com. The LA Galaxy vs. the Houston Dynamo.
And in case you haven't heard — which, frankly, seems impossible — the match will be David Beckham’s grand finale after six years in MLS. In a press conference on Thursday, Beckham bid farewell and reiterated his intent to stay involved with MLS after he is gone.
"Just because I’m not playing here anymore after the weekend, my commitment stays the same and I will do anything to keep these players coming over like Robbie Keane, like Thierry Henry," he said. "I want to see this league continue to grow."
Don't expect to see it grow with the New York Cosmos, as has been rumored. "That's definitely not true," he said. Same goes for for recent rumors linking him to AS Monaco: "I heard about Monaco on the way to training this morning from a friend in London who said, 'I hear you are going to Monaco.' That was the first I'd heard of that."
And he's definitely not headed to Chelsea, if manager Rafa Benítez's assessment is anything to go by.
So, again, your guess as to where he's going is as good as ours. Maybe even as good as his.
"I've got some interesting and exciting options on the table," Beckham said. "I am very flattered by some of the options that I've got. I still feel I can play and I'm not considering retiring."
Now onto to the Cup.
The latest injury news is that in-form Galaxy midfielder Marcelo Sarvas is struggling with an ankle injury after picking up a knock in training on Monday.
“Today I feel good," he told FutbolMLS.com. "I was able to run. Tomorrow, I'm going to train normally with the team and I'm going to be ready for Saturday."
But after just doing laps instead of training with the team on Thursday, Sarvas’ fitness remains a question mark.
The A.J. DeLaGarza watch continues in LA camp. DeLaGarza admitted he is “about 90 [percent]" fit and has played in just “a couple of game practices” since injuring his left knee two months ago. So who will partner Omar Gonzalez at center back for LA? DeLaGarza or rookie Tommy Meyer? Some big decisions on the eve of the Cup for Bruce Arena.
On the positive side for LA, Christian Wilhelmsson has added something to the Galaxy's attack since coming into his own in the last few months of the season. The Swede is impressing his teammates: “He's another look for us, another dimension to our game," Todd Dunivant says. "He's crafty, smart and a seasoned pro – I think that's the best way to put it.”
Great. So Wilhelmsson is another attacking threat Houston have to worry about. But, wait, when have the Dynamo ever really worried about an opponent? Dominic Kinnear's sides have always just gone about their business at this stage of the season. And they're doing that again this year.
They got a huge boost when it was revealed that both Ricardo Clark and Calen Carr are fit for MLS Cup 2012. Two weeks off has certainly helped the banged-up Dynamo squad to recover.
“To be here on Sunday and be integrated that early in the week and have a full, normal week of training is going to serve really well,” Carr said. “I should be available no problems for Saturday.”
So with those two back in the mix it seems as if Kinnear can put out his strongest side to face the Galaxy at the HDC. The Guardian spoke to Adam Moffat on his journey from Elgin, Scotland, to MLS and looked at the five key moments that got both LA and Houston to the MLS final.
But one player Houston didn’t come up against in their only other meeting with LA this season — a 2-1 victory on May 26 when Andre Hainult scored a set-piece winner — was Omar Gonzalez. The towering defender is looking to put on a show in the national spotlight, and maybe get himself back into the USMNT picture.
LA certainly have a better chance of winning with red-hot striker Robbie Keane in the side. Keane has been in sensational form since returning from the Euros, scoring 18 goals in 24 regular-season and playoff games.
“It's the same as I always do — score goals and help the team do well," he told ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle. "I've been doing it all my career. Nothing has changed on my behalf."
Good point, Robbie.
ESPN's Taylor Twellman makes more than a few good points about Landon Donovan when he appears on the latest edition of ExtraTime Radio, direct from the Home Depot Center. Newly crowned 2012 Volkswagen MLS MVP Chris Wondolowski also joins in, telling the guys which team he's rooting for in the Cup final.
Speaking of Donovan, who has hinted he might step away from the game after this season, Beckham weighed in on the topic, urging his Galaxy teammate to stay on at LA. “Landon is a great player, a special talent in this team and this country and he is still young. So I personally hope that he doesn't stop playing because I believe that he has still got a good few years left in him.”
No word from Donovan himself, though he is expected to talk to the media on Friday. So we wait with bated breath to see what he decides.
The two managers will also speak on Friday at the official press conference. MLSsoccer.com's Jonah Freedman looks at Bruce Arena's and Dominic Kinnear’s impressive managerial records.
Neither manager will have these award winners at their disposal. On Thursday, Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando was awarded the MLS Save of the Year and Seattle defender Patrick Ianni's stunning volley won the 2012 AT&T Goal of the Year. Both worthy recipients.
In other MLS news, D.C. United have extended their jersey sponsorship with Volkswagen. “The team is thriving again, the product is strong,” Kevin Mayer, VW vice president of marketing, told The Washington Post. “Down the road, if a new stadium is built, we would like to be part of it.”
Down the road, the potential Homegrown signings on TopDrawerSoccer.com's list of MLS academy products could be the next big things.
One player who is already a big thing is Real Madrid star Kaká. It seems that the rumored MLS target's time in Spain is well and truly up. Madrid are looking to offload Kaká in January, with MLS and his native Brazil the most likely destinations, according to reports.
Also in Spain, former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola has reportedly agreed to take over as Manchester City manager. With Pep spending a one-year sabbatical in New York City, some were predicting a longer stay in the US, but this news seems to quash the "Guardiola to the Red Bulls" rumors.
There's not quashing the ascent of US international goalkeeper Brad Guzan, who made the team of the week after posting clean sheets against Arsenal and Reading over the past week.
A USL Pro club showed off its own bright future. The Tribune Review takes up the story of the Pittsburgh Riverhounds and their stadium plans in hopes of bringing an MLS team to the Steel City.
There are big hopes this weekend for regular MLSsoccer.com contributor Joe Prince-Wright, who is a player for Arbroath United, in Scotland. The Red Lichties travel to Glasgow on Saturday to take on giants Celtic in the Scottish Cup. Good luck, Joe.
And finally, watch this clip of EPL side Southampton FC’s mascot. Sammy the Saint certainly brought down the house with his Gangnam style.
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