Many are calling the LA Galaxy’s 3-1 win over Real Salt Lake in last night’s Western Conference Championship the best postseason game in league history for the emotions, the action and the way the match unfolded. Watch the full match highlights here.
The win meant more than you can imagine for LA manager Bruce Arena, who admits that the entire 2011 season was a pressure cooker for him because the Galaxy and the Home Depot Center were hosting MLS Cup: “It wasn’t the most comfortable feeling knowing we were going to host the final and go through this season. There was a little bit of pressure on us to get there.”
Real Salt Lake point to the Galaxy’s second goal as the back-breaker with an unmarked Mike Magee heading home a David Beckham cross early in the second half. The visitors admit they should have done a much better job defending against the service: “When a player like David Beckham gets the ball, you have to be marked up,” says RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando. "If you make mistakes in a game like this, they’re going to cost you."
Arena credits the goal to another factor: “Maybe the luck of the Irish. I would assume Magee’s Irish, right?” Turns out Magee is Irish and his father also gives tips to Beckham: “His dad said to me the other night: 'You keep finding his head.' And he's right. ... Dads are always right,” Beckham says.
Soccer is a family affair. Beckham’s kids were at the game and the papers in England made sure to document it. Here’s a shot of Beckham’s daughter watching intently and another of his sons eating sushi during the match.
The Galaxy’s other two Designated Players didn’t have too many hours to celebrate clinching a spot in the MLS Cup final. The Los Angeles Times says that a few hours after the victory, Robbie Keane was on a flight to join the Republic of Ireland for their two-leg Euro 2012 playoff against Estonia, while Donovan was getting set to head to Paris to join the USMNT. Keane talks about his upcoming travels in this exclusive postgame interview.
Keane will likely be doing battle for the second time in a week against a New York Red Bulls player after Joel Lindpere was called up by Estonia for the Euro playoff series.
The DPs changed the game for LA and that’s how RSL’s Will Johnson sums it up: “We were fighting, battling, but they had the best big-time plays.”
But perhaps RSL had a hand in waking LA’s giants? This, according to Beckham: “When we walked through the tunnel for the second half, we heard some of their players saying we were tired, we were done. I think that inspired us a little bit.”
Have Galaxy fans fallen in love with Beckham again? That is definitely the case if this video is any indication. (VIDEO)
The critics are second-guessing RSL manager Jason Kreis’ decision to field central defender Jámison Olave, who was less than 100 percent due to a quad injury: ESPN.com’s Jeff Carlisle writes: “While Schuler was solid for most of the evening, Olave looked a step slow. His usually solid one-on-one defending and decision-making was very suspect, and he was partly to blame on the last two LA goals.”
They enjoyed the match broadcast by ESPN’s Ian Darke last night in Salt Lake City. In this article, one writer highlights Darke’s best lines, including Darke’s call on the replay of the foul that led to LA’s opening PK: “Is this a penalty, really?”
While the Designated Players decided the match for LA, the big question in Sporting Kansas City camp is whether forward and Designated Player Omar Bravo could have done the same in the East title match, which Sporting lost 2-0 to what they admit was a better Houston Dynamo side. Watch the full match highlights here.
Manager Peter Vermes was asked for the reason why he didn’t introduce Bravo before the 85th minute: “It’s not the easiest of decisions to throw a guy on and you’re not sure how he’s going to go. … So, could I have? Sure. But I think in the end, the guys that were out there did a good job.”
So why did Kansas City lose this Eastern Conference Championship? Vermes believes it has a lot to do with inexperience and getting caught up in the emotions of the day: “Maybe we’re just a little bit too young still with the group that we have.” Aside from two starters, every other Sporting player was 27 or younger.
Given the youth, Vermes believes there may not be many chances heading into next season except for adding depth at certain positions. Goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen believes that’s the way to go: “I just really hope the coach and the organization are able to keep this roster together because we’ve got some great years ahead of us.”
In what is sure to rank as one of the most dramatic moments in MLS playoff history, Houston's Brad Davis went down with a first-half injury and in this moving postgame interview he tells MLSsoccer.com: “I know I’m finished.”
Does Beckham know something we don’t? In expressing his hope that Davis can somehow recover for the MLS Cup final, Beckham calls him the MVP of the league: “He's got the MVP, and rightly so, the service that he provides for their team. … I hope that he plays because he's a very good player, and it's disappointing if he doesn't because he's had a great season.”
Dynamo veteran Brian Ching admits that the injury to Davis “took a little life out” of the team to end the first half but that one player does not make the Dynamo: “No one piece is bigger and more important than the entire team. The guys stepped up. We've done that over the past two months, and hopefully we'll continue to do that.”
Houston manager Dominic Kinnear had a message for those who doubted his team earlier in the season: “To all those people who did [doubt], just always remind them that on Nov. 20 there's a game and we're involved.”
Should Kinnear take the following as a backhanded compliment by Vermes toward his team? KC’s manager says: “They did a very good job of playing half-court soccer. … They rarely let themselves get too stretched out. I think if we had been a little more disciplined in our play, we would have had more space to play in behind them.”
Halfcourt soccer or not, the Eastern Conference Championship was the official debut of the “Crazy Horse” celebration by Andre Hainault. If you’ve never heard of it before, the Canadian international talks about it here. (VIDEO)
In a detail that might have gone unnoticed in the lead-up to the LA-RSL match, Arena admits that he almost made the move to coach abroad right after the 2006 World Cup but that “US Soccer made it very difficult for me. … That would have been the time I would have taken a leap."
Speaking of coaching jobs, the New England Revolution’s Mike Burns provides an update on the coaching search in this interview.
The Montreal Impact’s new manager, Jesse Marsch, talks about important topics in this radio interview, including his participation in The Price is Right back in 2009 and studying Rosetta Stone French program. But more importantly, he admits the Impact are engaging the idea of adding Nicolas Anelka as a Designated Player. (AUDIO)
You may recognize the name: Charles Renken is a US youth national team player who now says that he’d be open to playing for Zambia at the international level.
Meanwhile, here’s Part 2 of a lengthy Soccer America interview with USMNT boss Jurgen Klinsmann in which he says professional experience – not age – will determine future call-ups involving young players.
Lastly, we leave you with another FIFA controversy. The world body has banned England from wearing poppies on their jerseys to commemorate Remembrance Day when they face Spain on Saturday. War veterans are irate: “If it wasn't for us blokes, FIFA wouldn't be here."
Player ratings for LA Galaxy vs. Real Salt Lake Western Conference Championship
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