CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy got everything they wanted and more from Sunday night's regular-season finale, and that was before Mike Magee found the net late for a 1-0 victory over visiting Seattle.
The biggest plus was the minutes Landon Donovan and David Beckham saw in midfield: a full 90 for the captain and a little more than an hour for Becks, who had missed last weekend's game at San Jose because of injuries.
Donovan returned from, chiefly, a bruised left knee, with his starting point on the left side of midfield, and Beckham was in his usual spot in the middle (and anywhere else he chose to trod) after dealing with a tender left ankle for nearly two months. Both declared themselves ready for Thursday's playoff opener in the Knockout Round against Vancouver.
“Today I felt a lot stronger than I did against Colorado [in late September] when I came back after [suffering a sprained ankle Sept. 1 against Vancouver],” Beckham told reporters. “And, you know, the ankle didn't feel right [in the Colorado game]. I was honest with Bruce [Arena] and with the physios, and I'm not always honest, but with this I had to be, and the ankle wasn't great. I sat out [last weekend against San Jose], and it felt strong today.”
Donovan wasn't supposed to go the distance, but when Sean Franklin pulled out at halftime with tightness in his left hamstring, “It put us a little bit behind the eight ball,” he said. “I was fine. I was a little tired, but I was fine otherwise.”
He and Beckham were expected to play about an hour, not much more, and Beckham got the hook in the 62nd minute, not that he was happy about it.
“The plan was kind of 60, and then I kind of shouted over and said can I have 65 and then I said 70 – and then Bruce brought me off at 61, so I wasn't that happy,” Beckham said, a broad smile across his face and a little bit of a giggle in his voice. “It's been awhile for me being on the field, so it was good to get the minutes I did.”
Arena said he “didn't expect Landon to play 90. Beckham would have played 90 if I allowed it. ... I think he would have played, but we need to be smart about that. That was predetermined and we discussed that in advance of this game, so he understood the minutes he was going to play.”
The Galaxy coach said he gave Donovan “the call on whether to keep going, and he was fine. Landon generally needs a half to get fit, and he is one of those rare breeds, and I think that the 90 minutes was good for him.”
Both looked good if unspectacular in a grossly entertaining match, and their performances provide a foundation, it is hoped, for something bigger, something better as the postseason begins and LA take aim at repeating as MLS Cup champions.
“There's all sorts of benefits,” Donovan said. “The physical part, just knowing you can play 90 minutes, getting in a rhythm with the guys. The more time on the field, the better, so it was good, and we'll be ready to go.”