CARSON, Calif. — The LA Galaxy will get to enjoy some home cooking at MLS Cup 2011.
Mike Magee and Robbie Keane scored second-half goals to lift LA to a 3-1 win over Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference Championship at the Home Depot Center on Sunday, sending the Galaxy through to the title match on their own turf.
The Galaxy will play Houston at the HDC on Nov. 20, becoming the third team to play an MLS Cup at home, and the first since New England hosted MLS Cup 2002.
Despite the seemingly comfortable scoreline, the result did not come without a struggle.
RSL's Robbie Russell nearly put an early goal off a corner kick as he knocked a bouncing ball on goal just five minutes in, but the shot hit Galaxy 'keeper Josh Saunders in the chest and Salt Lake were turned away.
That signaled the Claret-and-Cobalt’s early intent, but after 15 minutes of dominance, they allowed the Galaxy to creep back into the contest.
And true to form, LA pushed through that opening to take a 1-0 lead. Andy Williams was whistled for a penalty in the 21st minute after he pushed Omar Gonzalez from behind as the Galaxy center back attempted a header from point-blank range.
Landon Donovan stepped to the spot and, unlike the last time he took a penalty against Nick Rimando — in the shootout at the end of MLS Cup 2009 – he buried his chance.
Álvaro Saborío answered less than two minutes later, though, as the match went back to level terms. Javier Morales lifted a corner kick to the far post, and defender Jámison Olave lost his man and headed on goal. Saborío showed his natural poacher’s instincts, drifting in front of Todd Dunivant and easily heading the ball into the back of the net to make it 1-1.
Keane had a pair of chances to put the Galaxy back in front but he hit the post in the 32nd minute and curled a shot wide of the goal in the 43rd minute after some nifty footwork.
RSL pressured the Galaxy goal and nearly took the lead heading into the intermission, but Kyle Beckerman's shot banged off the post in first-half stoppage time after a scrum in front of goal.
The second half began with more fireworks. Will Johnson came up with a save in the 52nd minute on a Galaxy counterattack, as Keane found Chad Barrett alone on the far post. Barrett’s header was labeled for the back of the net, but it bounced off Johnson's face and away from danger.
Eventually, LA took the upper hand and began to tilt the field. They finally took the lead as Magee punched in a header from point-blank range in the 58th minute. The midfielder smashed the header past Rimando after David Beckham curled in a trademark cross to the back post, marking the third time in three games the two have hooked up for a goal.
Fabián Espíndola nearly answered right away, though, but his spectacular, twisting attempt just one minute later rattled the crossbar and bounced out.
With RSL pushing numbers forward to look for the equalizer, they began leaving gaps for the Galaxy counterattack to exploit. That gave Keane room to put the game away in the 68th minute when he knocked in a goal on a counter after a feed from Donovan.
RSL made some late attacking subs, and drew a flurry of top-notch saves out of Saunders, but just couldn’t break through.
The victory also gives the Galaxy their second MLS Cup appearance in three years, and their league-record seventh overall.
LA -- Landon Donovan 2 (penalty kick) 23
RSL -- Alvaro Saborio 3 (Jamison Olave 1, Javier Morales 3) 25
LA -- Mike Magee 3 (David Beckham 3, Robbie Keane 1) 58
LA -- Robbie Keane 1 (Landon Donovan 1) 68
LA -- Juninho (caution; Reckless Foul) 56
RSL -- Javier Morales (caution; Reckless Tackle) 70
LA -- Sean Franklin (caution; Delaying a Restart) 93+
Real Salt Lake -- Nick Rimando, Robbie Russell (Ned Grabavoy 70), Jamison Olave (Tony Beltran 82), Chris Schuler, Chris Wingert, Andy Williams (Luis Gil 75), Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales, Will Johnson, Fabian Espindola, Alvaro Saborio.
Substitutes Not Used: Yordany Alvarez, Paulo Araujo Jr., Nat Borchers, Kyle Reynish.
LA Galaxy -- Josh Saunders, Sean Franklin, Omar Gonzalez, A.J. DeLaGarza, Todd Dunivant, Landon Donovan, David Beckham (Michael Stephens 89), Juninho, Mike Magee, Chad Barrett (Chris Birchall 63), Robbie Keane.
Substitutes Not Used: Paolo Cardozo, Adam Cristman, Frankie Hejduk, Dasan Robinson, Donovan Ricketts.
Referee: Jorge Gonzalez
Referee's Assistants: Greg Barkey; Jeff Hosking
4th Official: Andrew Chapin
Time of Game: 1:53
Weather: Partly Cloudy and 57 degrees