CARSON, Calif. --There was only one word to describe Omar Gonzalez's performance in Saturday's MLS Cup -- omnipresent.
Throughout the opening stages of the match, Gonzalez provided an immense presence in the air, consistently batting away crosses and dangerous chances from the Houston Dynamo. But Gonzalez's presence wasn't just on defense as in the 60th minute, the Galaxy defender scored the tying goal off a lofted cross by Juninho to pull LA level. Five minutes later, the Galaxy would take the lead for good off a Landon Donovan penalty kick that was won, in part due to another header by Gonzalez.
When the Galaxy took the lead, Gonzalez's work did not stop there as he was able to repeatedly able to silence the Dynamo defense en route to being named MLS Cup MVP -- becoming the first defender ever to win the honor. Following the match, Gonzalez admitted that his presence in the air was vital to LA's victory.
"I think that's just what I have to do, game in and game out. That's what I'm known for, it was just like any other game. I had to get out of the nerves out of it and just focus on playing a good game. The whole team did well," said Gonzalez. "For me, winning MVP is great. I never thought that I would be winning it, it was pretty emotional for me because at the beginning of the year, I didn't see myself getting back to this level and I was just thinking if I was ever going to come back the same way. Today was really special for me, I know that I'm able to go even further now."
After a season that saw him battle back from a serious knee injury to become the Galaxy's fulcrum in central defense, Gonzalez took a moment after the victory to reflect on the 2012 season.
“I think I was looking at it from a totally different perspective at the very beginning of this year. I was coming in maybe once a week when those hard times were happening and those days that I would come in, everyone’s heads would be down. I think Bruce’s experience just took over and said ‘we’re going to be fine,' we ended up being just that," said Gonzalez. "In the very middle of the season everyone started turning around and everything turned out the way Bruce said. Everyone started fighting for each other and it just turned out to be an amazing season for me, myself, the organization. It’s just truly outstanding players and friends on this team that I’ve made. It’s been a really special year.”
CARSON, Calif. -- When A.J. DeLaGarza was felled by a left MCL sprain in late September, many worried that the Galaxy would struggle to repeat their MLS Cup title, but rookie Tommy Meyer stepped up when needed.
On Saturday, Meyer was tested early and often, but provided a solid contribution as he helped blanket childhood friend Will Bruin and forward Calen Carr. Meyer was at his finest during the final stages of the match as he as well as MLS Cup MVP Omar Gonzalez were able to shut down Houston.
“They have dangerous guys making runs out there, that is how they scored their goal," Meyer said. "I didn't do as well as I should have, but they are dangerous with Brad Davis on the wing, he served in some good balls, but Omar [Gonzalez] just cleared out everything. He is unbelievable, the best defender in the league by far, he was hurt for the first part of the year, but the way he came back, he helped out defense out unbelievably.”
Following the MLS Cup, Meyer was quick to reflect on a crazy first season.
“There is always a possibility when you come into an organization like this, but honestly I am just happy to be a part of it," said Meyer. "I have never won a championship before so this is unbelievable. I learned stuff from earlier in the season and tried not to make those mistakes again, but once the playoffs started I listened to Omar and the coaches, the guys in front of me helped me along."
CARSON, Calif. -- Below are thoughts from Robbie Keane after the LA Galaxy's 3-1 victory over the Houston Dynamo.
CARSON, Calif. -- The LA Galaxy began the season poor going 3-8-2 in the first 13 matches, but finished as strong as they qualified for the postseason, eventually charging to the MLS Cup Final.
Perhaps then, it was fitting that LA would win MLS Cup by facing even more adversity, this time due to an early match miss by Landon Donovan in the 13th minute and a Calen Carr goal just a minute away from full time to put them down 1-0 into the half. As was the case throughout the season, timely play from Omar Gonzalez proved to be part of LA's saving grace as Gonzalez powered home a diagonal ball by Juninho in the 60th minute to level the match. Five minutes later, Mike Magee earned a penalty kick on a Ricardo Clark handball that set up a Donovan penalty. LA would add a third in stoppage time off a Robbie Keane penalty kick to add an exclamation point to the victory.
After a rocky start to the match -- and the year -- it was a fitting end.
"It was the perfect microcosm, the whole thing really came full circle really," said defender Todd Dunivant. "we dealt with the adversity again and came out at halftime. That was a goal that could break your back and that's what happened in the Seattle series...with this team at halftime, we've been through it enough to know that we did well enough in the first half and had some good chances, but were a bit unlucky because it was a good run by Calen Carr and a good finish,we came out and we responded like we did all year."
Although the win was analogous to LA's run, head coach Bruce Arena admitted that LA's run began after LA's trip to Washington, D.C. and the White House.
"When the season ended last year, we had an endless tour of obligations and we couldn't put the 2011 season behind us and I think that it finally came to closure when we went to the White House in May. I just said...let's put it past us and now we have to start putting this behind us," said Arena. "The guys responded well, but oddly enough in June, we still had a horrible run, but you could see things were getting better. There's an important game in Salt Lake, which was a character test and we kind of got that back then we just literally battled everyday."
After those key moments, Arena set forth calculating the proper formula that would ultimately make the Galaxy MLS Cup winners.
"We just laid it out to the guys and one thing, our local media was convincing me everyday that it was impossible to make the playoffs and I showed our guys the math. They told me that you're freaking crazy and it can't be done so I laid out an equation for our guys that with 17 games left, we had to get 27 to 30 points to make the playoffs," said Arena. "We ended up getting 34, which is more than anyone had. We had a focus about it, but the great part was that we started our first game playing Philadelphia at home and we lost. We had actually had 34 points in 16 games, but we made it clear that was the target. We reminded them everyday that we had to chip away at it and we managed to do it, but it was a real focus on a part of the whole team and the whole organization.
"It was a test of character, obviously, a test in leadership. I could write a pretty good book with a five star general now on leadership. I've been through the wars this year," said Arena. "It's really just, we have enough talent to win games, you just have to really, do the best job that you can to maximize performance. We focused on that, did it and got it done."
CARSON, Calif. -- Much speculation has followed Landon Donovan over the past few weeks and much will center around him now the LA Galaxy's season has concluded, but Donovan admitted that the MLS Cup title as well as some added family news has provided him some much needed perspective as he prepares to contemplate his future.
Donovan played a key role in LA's 3-1 victory over the Houston Dynamo, but the night did not start as planned as he missed a shot from close range in the 13th minute that could have given LA an early lead. However, Donovan gave LA the go-ahead-goal in the 65th minute as he slotted home a penalty kick to seal LA's win.
After his fourth MLS Cup title, Donovan was quick to admit that the win provided some perspective as he contemplates his future during the postgame press conference.
"It's been a long two years, for all of us. It's not a woe-is-me story, but I have to listen to my heart and my gut and right now my gut says to get away for a while," said Donovan. "I had a really nice moment where my sister just had a baby and she came down on the field and he was sleeping on her, and it sort of puts it all in perspective and makes me realize I want to be closer to my family for awhile and then figure out the soccer later."
A few notes from the LA Galaxy's 2-1 victory over the Houston Dynamo to secure MLS Cup 2012.
*David Beckham left the match in stoppage time, ending his six year career for the Galaxy.
*Donovan now has 146 MLS total goals in regular season (124) and postseason (22), breaking D.C. United forward Jaime Moreno's record of 145.
*Donovan is now tied with Jeff Agoos and Brian Mullan with five MLS Cups as a player.
*Bruce Arena has now won four MLS Cups, more than any other manager and is the first manager to win back to back titles for two different clubs.
*This is the first time that the LA Galaxy have won back-to-back titles.
*Omar Gonzalez was awarded the 2012 MLS Cup MVP award. He is the first defender to win the award.
Below are a few tweets from the celebration
— Adam Serrano (@LAGalaxyInsider) December 2, 2012
— Adam Serrano (@LAGalaxyInsider) December 2, 2012
MLS Cup is finally here and in a few hours, either the LA Galaxy or the Houston Dynamo will be crowned the champions of Major League Soccer for the 2012 season.
The Galaxy have the chance to win their fourth MLS Cup in franchise history and Bruce Arena has the chance to be the first coach to win four MLS Cups as well as first to win back-to-back titles with two different teams. If Houston wins, it will be Dominic Kinnear's third MLS Cup and he'd join Arena as the only coaches to win three MLS Cup titles.
*The match will be the final game for David Beckham with the LA Galaxy and on Thursday, he addressed the end of his Galaxy career.
*The head coach at the start of Beckham's time in MLS, Frank Yallop addressed the hoopla that surrounded Beckham's first year in MLS.
*Beckham will be matched up against the talented Brad Davis, who the Englishman is quick to label one of the "great" players in MLS.
*Despite the praise from Beckham, Davis was quick to say that Houston is not distracted by the fact the match is David Beckham's final game.
*There are no injury concerns for LA as Marcelo Sarvas has declared himself fit for tonight's match.
*Tommy Meyer will face off against his old friend Houston forward Will Bruin and in my feature of the week, I chronicle Meyer's rise from St. Louis to MLS Cup.
*During his press conference on Friday, Robbie Keane declared that he is incredibly pleased to be in Southern California and committed his future to the Galaxy.
*For your listening pleasure, listen to Joe Tutino's conversations with Bruce Arena and Edson Buddle in the latest editions of the All-Access Podcast.
*For a more general look at the game, read LAGalaxy.com staff writer Larry Morgan's preview of the match.
MATCH UPS TO WATCH:
ROBBIE KEANE VS. BOBBY BOSWELL
*For my money, the match up of the game, Boswell was fantastic against D.C. United in shutting down their attack, but he'll face Robbie Keane , who has scored five postseason goals to date.
DAVID BECKHAM'S SET PIECES VS. BRAD DAVIS' SET PIECES
Two of the finest strikers of a set piece in MLS, expect the game to turn based on a strike by one of these two.
TODD DUNIVANT VS. BONIEK GARCIA
Dunivant will have his hands full dealing with the talented Honduran who has been a nuisence for opposing defenses this year. Expect Dunivant to look to frustrate the Honduran with high pressure early and often.
BRUCE ARENA VS. DOMINIC KINNEAR
Arguably the two best head coaches in MLS history and the only coaches to win back-to-back MLS Cup titles. Kinnear was the last to do so in '06-'07 and he'll be eager to prevent Arena from going back-to-back for a second time.
PREDICTED LINEUP: Saunders; Franklin, Gonzalez, Meyer, Dunivant; Wilhelmsson, Juninho, Beckham, Magee; Donovan, Keane
The LA Galaxy will go for back-to-back MLS Cup titles this evening against the Houston Dynamo at 1:30 p.m.
LA will have their hands full with a much improved Dynamo side that boasts a number of weapons including Boniek Garcia and Brad Davis as well as tenacious midfielder Ricardo Clark. In my Three Points to the match, I break down how the Galaxy will be able to defeat Houston.
Check out my Three Points below...
We're just hours away from MLS Cup 2012 between the LA Galaxy and Houston Dynamo at The Home Depot Center
For those that are attending the game, which begins at 1:30 p.m. be sure to heed this important gameday information.
*Parking Lots opened at 7 a.m. and are expected to start filling up soon.
*Gates open at 11 a.m.
*Umbrellas are not allowed at The HDC so fans are encouraged to wear jackets depending on the weather.
*Fans who decide not to park at The HDC can park at South Bay Pavilion and Artesia Transit Center then travel to the stadium on special shuttles. The shuttles begin at 9 a.m. and end at 5:30 p.m.
CARSON, Calif. -- Make no mistake, Robbie Keane is loving his time in Los Angeles.
Keane has played a key role in the Galaxy's run to MLS Cup by tallying five goals n the postseason after finishing the regular season with 16 goals and nine assists en route to an MLS First XI selection. Ahead of his second straight final in less than two years, the Irish forward declared that he's pleased to be a member of the Galaxy.
"I'm really enjoying my time here, and as long as I keep enjoying myself and as long as I keep letting my football do the talking I'll be very happy to stay," said Keane. "I look forward to a number of years here.
"I'm very happy and very content here," Keane added. "When you're playing in a team like this and getting to championship finals every year, for me this is the second year in a row, so that certainly does help."
The Irishman was quick to admit that he has become so integrated with the Galaxy that he is not considering an offseason loan.
"It isn't something I've even thought about to be honest with you," he said. "My main focus now is tomorrow's game and let's see how I feel, but for now my first prerogative is the LA Galaxy and that will always be the case."