The LA Galaxy spent all night on Sunday looking to land a decisive blow en route to a historic MLS championship, and finally got the moment from all three heavy hitters on The Home Depot Center marquee. Landon Donovan finished off a gorgeous buildup through fellow Designated Players David Beckham and Robbie Keane in the 72nd minute, pushing the Galaxy to a 1-0 win over the Houston Dynamo in MLS Cup 2011 and gift-wrapping the third league championship in franchise history.
For the first time since MLS started using the Beckham Rule in 2007, a team with a Designated Player has won the MLS Cup -- and the decisive goal came on a marvelous passing sequence involving the Galaxy's three DPs. Robbie Keane took David Beckham's pass and laid off for Landon Donovan, whose exquisite finish brings back MLS's top trophy to L.A. for the first time since 2005. It was fitting that the big-money men came through when it mattered most for the Galaxy, not least because they have during the entirety of the postseason. Finally we can retire the notion that teams who are willing to drop some coin for star power are at a competitive disadvantage in MLS. With any luck, the Galaxy's success will prod other MLS owners to invest more money in the kind of players whose quality can make the difference.
"We have established a fair and compelling format for the 2012 season," MLS Executive Vice President Nelson Rodriguez said in the league release."This regular season will include more games between regional rivals and less total travel than we have seen in recent years. Because of the wide geographic distribution of MLS clubs, this structure should improve the quality of play, while continuing to give every club an equal chance of qualifying for the MLS Cup Playoffs."
With the addition of the Montreal Impact to MLS in 2012, bringing the league’s total to 19, many have wondered how the schedule would look when there are 10 clubs in the Eastern Conference and only 9 in the Western Conference. Now we know. According to the plan approved by the MLS Board of Governors on Saturday, some things will remain the same, but there will be changes as the league shifts to an unbalanced schedule, or a conference-based schedule.
The MLS Cup Playoffs and the league's grand finale are getting new looks in 2012. The MLS Cup final will no longer be a neutral-site game, according to a plan approved on Saturday by the league’s Board of Governors. Instead, the league’s championship match will be played at the home venue of the participating team with a higher regular-season point total.
Would we be sitting here with this kind of commitment [without Beckham]? No way," Leiweke said. "David took us to another level here. And we always knew he would do that. I know a lot of people shot at us … they’re wrong, and this deal just proved it. At the end of the day, David Beckham had a huge impact in bringing these people to the table." Leiweke insisted that there is no component of the deal that makes certain Beckham will return after his current contract expires at the end of this season. What it does require from the Galaxy, however, is a continued focus on acquiring star players even after Beckham someday leaves MLS.
"I think Geoff deserves a shot, especially at center back," said 2006 MLS Defender of the Year Bobby Boswell, who's been Cameron's regular central defensive partner since September. "I’ve played with a lot of center backs and a lot of them are national team players at high levels, and no one’s got the footwork that he does. His transition from a midfielder to a defender, he’s phenomenal on the ball and you don’t see that a lot. He’s learning the organization part of it and he’s willing to learn and willing to listen."