Final FCD barrage punched away by L.A.

Playing for the trophy bearing the name of its owner, Lamar Hunt, FC Dallas' attacking prowess was rendered virtually non-existent Wednesday night due to a collection of injuries, which all but hindered any chance of Dallas claiming ownership to the U.S. Open Cup.

Herculez Gomez's 25th-minute strike stood up as the Los Angeles Galaxy hoisted the Open Cup championship following a 1-0 triumph at The Home Depot Center. Night classes at California State University at Dominguez Hills, the campus for which the stadium rests on, limited spectator capacity to 10,000 fans.

Gomez scored his 2005 Open Cup-best sixth goal on a brilliant scissors kick two yards left of the penalty spot inside the far post. The tally stood as the Galaxy won their fourth major trophy -- first since the 2002 MLS Cup -- and second Open Cup (2001).

FC Dallas, whose lone trophy in franchise history was earned after capturing the 1997 U.S. Open Cup title, demonstrated their desire to win a second Open Cup by including only three players in the starting 11 that started in Saturday's 1-1 draw at San Jose -- midfielders Arturo Alvarez, Carey Talley and Ramon Nunez.

Dallas coach Colin Clarke's plan was to save the legs of his first-choice group, though he opted for a cautious 4-5-1 formation while playing without captain Simo Valakari (sent off in the semifinal vs. Chicago) and the premium attacking talent of strikers Eddie Johnson and Carlos Ruiz, whose hamstring made him a match-day decision and was too bothersome to allow for his fitness.

Both teams were feeling each other out in the first 15 minutes, cautious not to let a mistake open the door for their counterpart.

Dallas brought very little danger to the first half, and its attacking potency took a further blow five minutes in when right winger Ronnie O'Brien took a jab in the lower back from Galaxy holding midfielder Marcelo Saragosa. While O'Brien played on, his constant limping showed he was clearly struggling.

Though the visitors often pulled nine and 10 players behind the ball to defend, the Hoops got the first look at an opener in the 17th minute when Roberto Mina, who hit for a double a week ago in a 4-1 league home win against the Galaxy, was played in behind the defense.

However, Galaxy rookie centerback Ugo Ihemelu caught Mina from behind and tackled the ball out of the penalty area on the right for a corner kick.

Speedy, slithery Galaxy forward Joseph Ngwenya first stamped his presence on the match in the 24th minute after maneuvering past two defenders on the ball only to unleash a curling, left-foot shot that bounced two yards wide of the left goalpost.

A minute later, Los Angeles star Landon Donovan played a ball to the right side of the penalty area where Chris Albright muscled out Dallas' Arturo Torres, who tracked back and had position on the ball at the end line, for the ball. Albright served a chip towards Gomez for his clean, clinical finish, his 15th goal in all competitions.

The Hoops' only shot of the half came in the 40th minute when Donovan misjudged a high ball in his own penalty area. Bobby Rhine ran onto the ball atop the box on the left and sent in a near-post chip for Clarence Goodson's header, ahead of Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant, that missed the top left corner of the goal.

Clarke moved O'Brien centrally into midfield to start the second half, but the injury did not relent and O'Brien was replaced by Aaron Pitchkolan in the 54th minute.

The Galaxy sat back for most of the second half in preserving the goal lead and the Hoops could not mount a serious threat on the target.

Donovan's knack for coming through in the big-match limelight could have been raised yet again in the 55th minute as he took Ngwenya's lay-off pass, but he turned and rolled a nine-yard, steep-angled shot two feet wide of the far left goalpost with the active Cobi Jones arriving a step late to the back post.

Testy nerves were on display four minutes later as Goodson fouled Ngwenya, who got up and took offense by shoving Goodson. Dallas' Mark Wilson came over to confront Ngwenya and both engaged in more violent pushing with Ngwenya ripping the front of Wilson's jersey. All three players were awarded cautions by referee Alex Prus.

Continuing to look for the counterattack, the Galaxy had many prime opportunities to seal the Cup.

Gomez was alone on goal in the 75th minute after rounding Hoops 'keeper Scott Garlick, but he hit the near, left post from seven yards after regaining his balance in settling his dribble. The rebound came back to Gomez but Goodson recovered and forced Gomez in to falling over his own dribble.

Peter Vagenas' curling effort from inside the Dallas area in the 82nd minute was bound for the far corner until a diving Garlick got his right hand to it to push it wide. Four minutes later, Garlick blocked Ngwenya's point-blank attempt from 10 yards.

Facing his first action on the ball after coming into the match a minute earlier, defender Steve Jolley slid to redirect Donovan's centering ball to the goalmouth in the 87th minute.

Meanwhile, Dallas struggled to create anything substantial until five minutes of stoppage time ensued. Nunez tried a 23-yard effort from straightaway that whisked a few yards wide of the left post.

Moments later, Wilson had a loose ball bounce his way. He put Dallas' first shot on frame from inside the top of the box, only for Galaxy 'keeper Kevin Hartman to tip it over the crossbar. The corner kick followed with Mina attempting a bicycle kick from 16 yards that just flew over two teammates' heads and out of play.

Finally, the harsh reality of an Open Cup championship defeat set in when Nunez's corner was headed away by the Galaxy, prompting Prus' final whistle.

Damian Secore is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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