28 November 3:00 pm

CARSON, Calif. – Sean Franklin faces, perhaps, the most challenging match up in this Saturday’s MLS Cup.

The LA Galaxy right back will be tasked with the responsibility to shut down the Houston Dynamo’s dynamic left-sided midfielder Brad Davis. The Dynamo captain heads into the final with added motivation after a right quadriceps injury prevented him from appearing in the 2011 final that LA ultimately went on to win.

Davis caused Franklin a great deal of problems during the last time the two teams met on May 26 as the Houston captain helped the Dynamo erase an early deficit to beat the Galaxy, 2-1. Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of Davis’ game though will be his abilities on set pieces, but Franklin and the rest of the Galaxy defense have their own free kick taker to practice defending set pieces in David Beckham.

“It’s nice to have a specialist,” Franklin said with a smile. “They have a pretty guy of their own in Brad Davis and if we’re not sharp on our marks then he’s going to put the ball in good spots. Both teams have that guy who can change the game with one kick of the ball  so it’s all about who is going to take advantage of those opportunities to put the ball in the back of the net.”

While Davis will be just one part of a retooled Houston side, Franklin attests that the Dynamo haven’t been the only team to mature  since last year’s MLS Cup.

“We have more character, there were games this year that we came back from that we would have not won in the past,” said Franklin. “It’s good that we showed our character [during the early season struggles] in big games and getting wins on the road this year. Last year, it came easy and this year, we had to work for it.” 

28 November 12:50 pm

CARSON, Calif. -- Just a few days away from the MLS Cup between the LA Galaxy and Houston Dynamo, the Galaxy have been hitting the airwaves and radio waves as the buzz builds around Saturday's match at The Home Depot Center.

David Beckham spoke with Los Angeles radio personalities "Petros and Money" to preview the final and his exit and Landon Donovan had a stint on ESPN's SportsCenter to preview the match.

Also, provided this look at the match with views from goalkeeper Josh Saunders and defender Omar Gonzalez.

Watch the video below...

28 November 9:06 am

Here are a few morning links and notes to get you through your day.

*On Monday, I previewed the MLS Cup for Time Warner Cable SportsNet and spoke about the upcoming game with the Houston Dynamo as well as the departure of David Beckham.

*In a story that was on the front page of all Los Angeles Newspaper Group, Phil Collin discusses David Beckham's impact on the Galaxy and his final game with the club

*'s "Central Winger" column broke down the Houston Dynamo's style of play in a must read column.

*The San Jose Earthquakes are set to return English midfielder Simon Dawkins back to the fold for next season.

*Comeback Player of the Year Eddie Johnson looks to be back for 2013 as Seattle Sounders FC general manager Adrian Hanauer announced on Tuesday that the club intends to pick up his option.

*One GM who is not returning is Chivas USA's Jose Domene, who was officially let go by the club on Tuesday. 

*Below is the latest "Where is the MLS Cup?" video as the league championship trophy visits the Wildcard Gym, home to renown boxer Manny Pacquiao.

27 November 9:59 pm

CARSON, Calif. -- LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena  and midfielder Mike Magee spoke with journalists from around the country this afternoon for a teleconference in lead up to Saturday's MLS Cup against the Houston Dynamo at The Home Depot Center.

Below are a series of select quotes from Arena.  The complete audio can be found here

(On Robbie Keane & Landon Donovan’s partnership…)

ARENA: “I think they are two good players who know how to react off one another. They are technically similar and they both understand each other well. Regardless of where we play Landon, he connects with Robbie. If he is in the midfield it’s still the same kind of relationship. It comes down to two soccer players who understand each other.”

(On Robbie Keane after the Euros 2012…)

ARENA: “There is a noticeable change in that he has obviously scored a lot of goals since his return. I think we see this all the time with players that are involved with national teams. When there are significant competitions their focus is sometimes on those championships with the national team. Maybe they hold back a little bit so they don’t pick up an injury.  I think when Robbie came back in late June he was 100% committed to the Galaxy. He’s played as well as any player in the League since late June.”

(On what he did to turn things around this season…)

ARENA: “Just like with any team there are things inside the team that you have to correct. Whether its chemistry, players understanding their roles, a coach doing a better job with leadership and trying to really get at some of the issues. Things like that we keep inside our team. But they are issues that are inside every team. All teams go through good stretches and bad stretches. Our bad stretch lasted a little longer than we would have liked but in 2011 we had similar types of issues. You just have to get together as a team and sort through those issues and help steer everyone in the right direction. That’s essentially what we did in general terms.”

(On if it was a steeper challenge considering the expectations…)

ARENA: “If you’re in coaching long enough or if you’ve been playing long enough, you understand that these issues are all part of the process. One isn’t any easier than the other. That’s why our profession is so unique and challenging. People from the outside don’t understand it. It’s equally challenging every year whether you’re having an outstanding season or a poor season. Coaching at these levels is simply challenging. It’s an everyday process and you can’t step away from it and you have to stay focused at all times. So I can’t say that this year has been more difficult than some others but it’s certainly been challenging.”

(On the turning point in the Galaxy season…)

ARENA: “It was right along that period of time where we had that game against Salt Lake, beat Vancouver at home and then lost to San Jose on the road but I thought we played well, I was okay with that. Right before the game in Philadelphia we were at the midway point. We set our goals and we knew what we had to do in the next 17 games and that was get 30 points. We ended up getting 34 but we went out and lost against Philadelphia. Maybe on a day when we were a little bit sharper we win by 3 or 4 goals to be honest. Then we went on a good run beating Chicago on the road, Portland on the road and then pulled out a draw against Vancouver in the last minute. Right around the Salt Lake game was when it started.”

(On Houston’s changes since last year…)

ARENA: “They are more dangerous. Brad [Davis] is an outstanding passer who has great service on set pieces. In [Boniek] Garcia, you have a player that’s different. He’s creative and dynamic with the ball at his feet. He’s a threat to both score goals and set up goals. Those are two very good attacking players to add to group who scores goals on set pieces, who has a goal scorer in [Will] Bruin. They are two midfield players who are among the best in the League. When you have that, their team is going to be considerably better.”

(On the play of Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall…)

ARENA: “Tally has been outstanding. I think he’s turned into a really good goalkeeper. He has a lot more experience after playing consistently over the past couple of years.”

(On how the Galaxy compare to the D.C. United team he coached…)

ARENA: “It was a different era so I don’t think you can make comparisons. My D.C. United team had some outstanding stars and some players that contributed and supported them. Then we had a nucleus of players who blended in well with our star power. I guess you could say we have that here at the Galaxy. Guys understand their roles and understand how to play with Robbie, Landon and David which in the end up being a team. That’s what this is about, developing good teams. So in that way those similarities are certainly there. I would also say this. Our League is not going to have dynasties. The make-up of the league and how we do our business doesn’t permit that.  There are going to be teams that are good for a couple of years and then they fall out of it for a while and they come back again. That’s just the reality of Major League Soccer. I don’t think you’re going to see the LA Galaxy be a team for the next ten years that will be competing year-in and year-out for the championship. It’s just not possible in our single entity.”

(On the play of midfielder Christian Wilhelmsson…)

ARENA: “I think he gives us some width in our attack. He’s a player who is comfortable playing out wide and he’s good on both sides of the ball. He’s an experience player and he’s technically sound. He’s a player that when we add him to the equation he makes us more dangerous as an attacking unit.”

(On Houston’s left back Corey Ashe…)

ARENA: “Over the last two or three years he’s gotten a lot more consistent. He’s physically strong and is quick to deal with any issues in his space. He’s also good going forward.  He’s developed into one of the best left backs in Major League Soccer.”

27 November 9:15 pm

AEG President and CEO Tim Leiweke spoke to this blog for a two-part interview on the future of the LA Galaxy (part 1 and part 2 here) last week and on Tuesday, he caught up with Joe Tutino for the LA Galaxy All-Access Podcast. 

In his latest interview, the Leiweke spoke with Tutino on a variety of topics including David Beckham's legacy with the Galaxy, Landon Donovan's future the sale of AEG and a potential Designated Player to replace the spot vacated by Beckham. 

The Designated Player talks will likely heat up in the coming weeks and months after Beckham's depature and Leiweke gets into that around the 23:00 minute mark of the nearly 33 minute conversation, which you can find below. 

Galaxy All-Access Podcast with Tim Leiweke

27 November 8:02 pm

Centerback A.J. DeLaGarza was upgraded to questionable and three LA Galaxy players were removed entirely from the club's injury report issued on Tuesday evening. The report is the second to last injury update issued by the Galaxy and the Houston Dynamo ahead of Saturday's MLS Cup at The Home Depot Center. 

DeLaGarza has been listed as out with a left knee sprain since he suffered the injury during a Sept. 30 match with the Colorado Rapids. The news comes after DeLaGarza told reporters earlier in the day that his knee was "almost 100 percent" and that he was confident he could play if called upon on Saturday. Also, Landon Donovan (R hamstring tightness), Edson Buddle (L plantar inflammation) and Juninho (R Achilles inflammation) were all removed from the club's injury list. 

Meanwhile, on the Houston side, forward Calen Carr and midfielder Ricardo Clark were each upgraded to probable after being listed as questionable in the club's last injury report. Carr has been unavailable since Houston's Eastern Conference Semifinal Second Leg against Sporting Kansas City due to a left hamstring strain while Clark was forced to start the Dynamo's Conference Championship Second Leg against D.C. United on the bench because of a left adductor strain.

Below are the complete reports for the Galaxy and the Houston Dynamo as of Tuesday. 

LA GALAXY: OUT: DF Leonardo (R knee inflammation); MF Kyle Nakazawa (back spasms); QUESTIONABLE: DF A.J. DeLaGarza (L knee sprain)

HOUSTON DYNAMO: PROBABLE: FW Calen Carr (L hamstring strain); MF Ricardo Clark (L adductor strain)

27 November 5:01 pm

CARSON, Calif. -- MLS Cup is just days away and centerback A.J. DeLaGarza is confident that he'll be able to play some role on Saturday after being unavailable since late-September.

The Galaxy centerback has been training with the club for nearly a month and told reporters on Tuesday that his knee is feeling the best it has felt since he suffered a left MCL sprain during a Sept. 30 game with the Colorado Rapids. 

"It's good, almost 100%," said DeLaGarza of his injury. "I'm not limited whatsoever, so no reason I can't play if I'm needed." 

Following training on Tuesday, head coach Bruce Arena was quick to echo DeLaGarza's optimism about a potential return to the field against the Houston Dynamo. 

"We'll monitor him through the week of training and see how he holds up," said Arena.  "But I'm optimistic that he'll be part of our team on Saturday." 

Whether it is in a starting role alongside Omar Gonzalez or on the bench as a substitute with rookie Tommy Meyer inserted into the starting lineup, DeLaGarza is confident that he can contribute in some way on Saturday. 

"I'm confident, I'm just getting my rhythm back," said DeLaGarza. "This last week has really helped by confidence."

27 November 4:15 pm

CARSON, Calif. -- The Houston Dynamo will arrive at The Home Depot Center for Saturday's MLS Cup with a number of dangerous options in the midfield, be it Brad Davis, Ricardo Clark or Boniek Garcia and central to shutting down those Dynamo lynch pins will be LA Galaxy midfielder Juninho. 

The Brazilian has been integral part of the Galaxy's run to the postseason, participating in all five of the club's MLS Cup Playoff matches this season while starting four. On Saturday, the Brazilian will need to be at his best again as he looks to shut down a Dynamo attack that has been clinically efficient on offense this postseason, notching eight goals to date. 

"They've changed since last year. They have different players this year and good players in every position," said Juninho. "They have Davis back and that's very important for them so we have to be prepared. We are prepared for that and we're hoping to win again." 

Injury concerns do linger for Juninho, however, as he has battled through an inflamed right Achilles for several weeks, but on Tuesday, head coach Bruce Arena affirmed Juninho is healthy and is expected to participate fully on Saturday.

There will be a familiar face on the other sideline as he will face off against another former Sao Paulo youth product, Houston midfielder Luiz Camargo. The two are old friends dating back to their teenage years and Juninho admitted that the discussions between the two old friends about the final have already begun. 

"I've talked to him a few times last week and spoke to him about the final," said Juninho. "We're both excited. I hope that he's starting so that we can play against each other. 

27 November 10:11 am

A few notes and links to get your morning started right...

*San Jose Earthquakes head coach Frank Yallop was named 2012 MLS Coach of the Year. Yallop led the Earthquakes to the Supporters' Shield before falling in the Western Conference Semifinal to the LA Galaxy.

*Seattle Sounders FC forward Eddie Johnson was named 2012 MLS Comeback Player of the Year. After a turbulent few years in Europe, Johnson scored 14 goals and notched three assists in 28 games for Seattle this season while helping them reach the Western Conference Championship for the first time in franchise history where they were defeated by the LA Galaxy. Johnson also made a return on the international stage, playing a role in two games for the U.S. National Team and scoring twice against Antigua and Barbuda. 

*D.C. United President Kevin Payne has left the club after 17 seasons with D.C. to seek another job in MLS. Multiple sources including Soccer by Ives and the Washington Post are reporting that he is bound for Toronto FC. 

*Voting has begun for the 2012 U.S. Soccer Female Athlete Player of the Year and 2012 U.S. Soccer Young Female Athlete Player of the Year.

*Still need tickets to MLS Cup? SB Nation blog LAG Confidential has three pairs of tickets to give away.

*Lastly, Marcelo Sarvas has reached the semifinals of's Latino del Ano. Vote for the Brazilian here

26 November 11:03 pm

This Saturday's MLS Cup against the Houston Dynamo may be David Beckham's final game for the LA Galaxy, but according to MLS commissioner Don Garber, he could return to the organization as an owner.

During his state of the league teleconference on Monday, MLS commissioner Don Garber confirmed that interest exists between Beckham and the league for the 37-year-old midfielder to own an MLS club when he decides to retire. The MLS commissioner admitted that the only place that Beckham could not exercise his option was with a potential club in New York City, leaving an option open for investment in the Galaxy.

“There is a possibility for him to work with the league office to find ways to transfer that option into an opportunity in LA,” said Garber. “It is way too premature to even talk about that or to even speculate what that would look like, but that opportunity does exist, if it meets the approval of the league, who in essences holds that value. David holds the option and the LA Galaxy would need to be part of the discussion.”

The Los Angeles Times mused on this possibility last week after Beckham announced that he’ll play his final game with the Galaxy on Dec. 1 in the 2012 MLS Cup against the Houston Dynamo.   

In his press conference last week, Beckham reaffirmed his interest in an ownership stake in an MLS club.

“My commitment to the league since I came six years ago stays the same,” said Beckham. “I still want to be part of the league; I still want to be an ambassador for this sport in this country and around this country and that continues.”

Garber stated that there was “a lot of work to do to figure out how this option gets exercised,” but six years removed from Beckham’s signing, the commissioner admitted there are “no regrets” with the decision to offer Beckham the option to become an owner. 

“At that time, remember where Major League soccer was.  I believe we had 12 teams in the league. We had not yet had the television relationships that we have today. We had probably half the number of soccer stadiums and the league was just more immature,” said Garber. “What we were looking for was a long-term partner in building this league, someone who was committed to working with us in creating more value for everyone. That’s the role that David played. ”

Audio of commissioner Garber's complete state of the league address can be found here