SEATTLE – Getting to the MLS Cup playoffs appeared unlikely when the LA Galaxy sat in the Western Conference cellar as spring turned to summer. Making the MLS Cup final was a long shot when they failed to secure a top-three spot in the West. Playing the MLS Cup final at home? Not a chance, or at the very least an extremely slim one.
Now that it's so, with the Houston Dynamo set for a Dec. 1 visit to the Home Depot Center in a rematch of last year's championship game, David Beckham is doing his best to comprehend how his final game as a member of the Galaxy ended up in LA.
“It's kind of amazing that we're at home again,” he said after Sunday night's 2-1 loss at Seattle gave the Galaxy a 4-2 aggregate triumph in the Western Conference Championship. “I still can't get my head around it. ... I still find it strange that were home again in the final. It's very strange. I'll have to get someone to explain it to me properly – I don't understand it.
“Obviously, it's always nice being at home in any kind of game, and especially it being an MLS final. It's extra special.”
There was only one way the defending champs could be home for the title game under the new playoff format, which awards MLS Cup to the finalist with the most regular-season points, and it required the Dynamo – the East's No. 5 team – to find a way through their bracket.
“I don't think anybody predicted this was going to happen,” said forward Robbie Keane, whose fifth goal of the postseason, a 68th-minute penalty kick, cemented the Galaxy's passage. “It's amazing. I think the chances at the start were very, very slim, so listen, we'll take it. Most important thing is we're in the final. We didn't pick where it's going to be, we just have to keep winning games, and we've done that.”
The Galaxy haven't done so as often as they'd like at HDC this season. They dropped five of their first eight across all competitions, including the CONCACAF Champions League decider against Toronto FC, all before their resurgence began in mid-June. They’ve also have lost two of their past five home games, an Oct. 6 decision to Real Salt Lake and the first leg of the Western Conference semifinals against San Jose.
The Dynamo have lost just five times in 28 games since the last week of June. They toppled three of the top six regular-season teams – ousting Chicago on the road in the Knockout Round before felling Eastern winner Sporting Kansas City, the No. 2 team, and No. 3 D.C. United in home-and-home series – to reach their fourth MLS Cup final.
“[Houston head coach Dominic Kinnear]'s done a great job, as always,” captain Landon Donovan said. “And I'm sure after last year they're going to be real motivated to come in and try to win, so we're going to have our hands full. But we feel any team that we play against at home we should beat no matter what the scenario, and that's going to be our attitude.”