Beat

26 November 11:03 am

CARSON, Calif. – The match up -- LA Galaxy vs. Houston Dynamo -- and the location -- The Home Depot Center --  may be the same for the 2012 MLS Cup. But this isn’t the 2011 Houston Dynamo.

Gone is a team that relied on physical play in the box and devastating set pieces from midfield Brad Davis, only to be replaced by a team with a number of intriguing attacking dimensions. Whether it’s the success of forward Will Bruin, who has scored four goals this postseason or the return of tenacious midfielder Ricardo Clark, the Dynamo promise a serious challenge for the Galaxy.

But perhaps the biggest x-factor of all is Honduran Designated Player Boniek Garcia, who has shined in his first season in Houston making 22 appearances in regular season and postseason matches. During that time, the two-way midfielder has scored five goals along with seven assists.

Ahead of a week of preparation for Dec. 1’s MLS Cup, Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena cautions that Garcia is just one of Houston’s many dangers.

“Boniek Garcia has arguably been their best player this year, not that there isn’t an argument for Brad Davis, Will Bruin and many others. Ricardo Clark as well, who has joined their team midyear,” said Arena.  “But Garcia gives them a different dimension, a player that can run with the ball. Bruin is a goal scorer that plays in the penalty area on a full time basis.”

“Davis is Davis, a great passer of the ball on the run of play as well as on set pieces and they’ve gotten good play out of their back line and goalkeeper,” Arena added. “I think that Bobby Boswell in the D.C. series was outstanding so I think that they’re bringing a complete team in here for the MLS Cup for sure.”

25 November 6:33 pm

CARSON, Calif. -- On Sunday, the LA Galaxy returned to the practice field with a near 90 minute session at The Home Depot Center ahead of Saturday's MLS Cup against the Houston Dynamo. 

Bruce Arena offered these thoughts on the holiday break and Sunday's session: "I think it was a good break for our guys, obviously, it was a little slow getting back into things, but I think for the first day back, it was a good training session."

LA will train for the remainder of the week ahead of Saturday's Cup final. 

A few other notes to get you through your Sunday evening.... 

*Just eight teams remain in the race for the NCAA's College Cup. In the Elite Eight, Indiana will travel to face North Carolina, Georgetown will host University of San Diego, Creighton heads to Connecticut, and Maryland will host Louisville.  The winners will advance to the College Cup in Birmingham, Ala. which run from Dec. 7 to Dec. 9

*The Liga MX Apertura finals are set as Toluca will face Club Tijuana. Toluca defeated Club América while Club Tijuana bypassed Leon. Both Toluca and Club Tijuana now advance to the 2013-2014 CONCACAF Champions League. Could we see a potential LA vs. Club Tijuana match up in the 2013/2014 tournament? It'd sure be a tantilzing one. 

*Staying in Mexico, former Colombia and Pachuca goalkeeper Miguel Calero was hospitalized on Sunday after complications from a stroke. [Link in Spanish] Galaxy fans may remember Calero for making two saves in Pachuca's penalty kick shootout victory over the Galaxy in the 2007 Superliga Final.

*Take your last chance to vote for Marcelo Sarvas who is in the quarterfinals of FutbolMLS.com's Latino del Ano.

*MLS Commissioner Don Garber will announce MLS' 2012 Best XI during his "State-of-the-League" teleconference at 1 p.m. PT on Monday.

25 November 6:23 pm

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times' Kevin Baxter, LA Galaxy forward Landon Donovan hints that the 2012 MLS Cup may be the final match of his illustrious career. 

Donovan has discussed his playing future at length numerous times this year, but the Galaxy captain told Baxter that he'll take time to consider his future after Saturday's MLS Cup.

Perhaps the most intriguing factoid from Donovan's interview with the LA Times was this nugget -- while amassing 313 MLS appearances and 144 caps for the U.S. national team, Donovan has averaged a game every eight days for the past 12 years.

Read Baxter's piece below.

Landon Donovan hints MLS Cup may be his last game with L.A. Galaxy

25 November 5:16 pm

The folks at KickTV have compiled a video of all 30 goals scored in the 2012 MLS Cup Playoffs so far.

Check it out below. 

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Do you have a favorite?

Share your thoughts below. 

25 November 4:03 pm

CARSON, Calif. – Saturday’s MLS Cup between the LA Galaxy and Houston Dynamo will certainly be the final MLS game for Galaxy midfielder David Beckham, but it may also be the final match for Dynamo forward Brian Ching. 

The Houston Chronicle’s Jesus Ortiz spoke to the player affectionately known as “Mr. Houston” among his teammates about the possibility hanging up his iconic number 25 shirt for good. Although Ching is adamant that any decision on his future would come a month into the offseason, there possibility lingers that Houston may enter the 2013 without their long-time captain. 
 
Considered the face of the Dynamo franchise, Ching joined the San Jose Earthquakes in 2003 and followed the franchise when they moved to Houston in 2006. When the club completed the move to Texas, Ching quickly became one of the club’s leaders on and off the field, tallying 43 goals in regular season and postseason play for the Dynamo. 
 
During his 12-year professional career, which began with the forward being drafted by the Galaxy in 2001, Ching became a staple on the U.S. National Team for nearly a decade. The Hawaiian native was named to the U.S.' squad for the 2006 World Cup, amassing 45 appearances for USMNT while notching 11 international goals.
 
Now at age 34, the player who made a name for himself as a physical forward has seen persistent injuries limit him to a substitute's role for much of the 2012 season. 
 
If Saturday is Ching’s final match, the forward’s former national team head coach and current Galaxy boss Bruce Arena admits that Ching deserves to called one of the league’s greats. 
 
“Brian is a great player,” Arena said of Ching. “He’s been a fixture on our all-star teams; he’s had a very good presence on the national team program.“
 
"He’s a terrific guy off the field, not on the field,” Arena added with a smirk. “He’s a great competitor on the field, so it’s nice to see that he had the opportunity to finish his career in Houston if he does finish it this year or next year, but Brian has been a great player in MLS and made great contributions to the national team program as well.”
25 November 2:59 pm

CARSON, Calif. – While his teammates were enjoying three days off for the Thanksgiving holiday, LA Galaxy defender A.J. DeLaGarza was hard at work with his sights set firmly on making the game day roster for Saturday’s MLS Cup.

The 25-year-old centerback has been sidelined with sprained left MCL since September, but resumed training prior to LA’s Conference Championship series with Seattle Sounders FC.  With less than a week until MLS Cup, DeLaGarza admits that his condition is improving.

“I’m good. I’ve been training the last week or so, but I’ve been doing fitness for a couple weeks before that,” said DeLaGarza on Sunday. “Right now, I’m just trying to get my timing back, I gave up a PK [in training] today so it wasn’t good.”

As part of his quest to return to full health, DeLaGarza was one of several LA Galaxy players including forward Edson Buddle, who came in on Saturday for fitness work ahead of the final week of preparation for Saturday’s final against the Houston Dynamo.  Although he remains listed as out on the club’s injury report—which will be updated for the first time since Nov. 16 on Tuesday—DeLaGarza believes that the holiday break may have helped his recovery.

“I’ve been running a lot, so maybe it helped me.  I only took two days off, I did fitness yesterday so I didn’t take it completely off,” DeLaGarza said. “I was riding a bike and doing a little bit of stuff. I feel like I’ve already had my offseason, I didn’t play for a month so I’m just trying to get back into it.”

In DeLaGarza’s absence, rookie centerback Tommy Meyer has flourished alongside Omar Gonzalez, starting LA’s last nine matches since DeLaGarza’s injury.  Even though DeLaGarza has repeatedly stated that he has the utmost confidence in Meyer’s abilities, he’s hopeful that he’ll be able to—at the very least—suit up on the bench come Saturday.

“That’s my goal, to be able to dress and be able to help the team if I can, no matter where that might be,” asserted DeLaGarza. “If that’s just a role player or playing, I’m ready for whatever.” 

24 November 3:38 pm

CARSON, Calif. – The match up in the MLS Cup may be the same, but the LA Galaxy know that the Houston Dynamo are a significantly different team this season than they were when they fell 1-0 to LA in the 2011 final.

When the final kicks off next Saturday, Houston will bring a high-powered squad to The Home Depot Center, one that includes midfielder Brad Davis—who missed the 2011 MLS Cup with a torn right quadriceps –, electric Honduran midfielder Boniek Garcia and midfielder Ricardo Clark, among others.

After a dominating performance that saw them slice through the Eastern Conference, the Galaxy are well-aware that they will face a challenge from Houston next Saturday.

“They're a better team,” Mike Magee said when asked about how this Houston team compares to the 2011 edition “They're definitely a better team. They've got more speed and, obviously, having Brad Davis back is going to help them. They got [second-year forward] Will Bruin scoring a ton of goals. They know what it's like [to be in a final] and they're similar to us in terms of experience and leadership, which is something we can't overlook.”

The experience of being in the final isn’t the only parallel that the two teams share as both advanced through the Knockout Round with Houston traveling on the road to defeat the fourth-ranked Chicago Fire.  From there, the Dynamo defeated the Conference’s top-seed Sporting Kansas City in the Eastern Conference Semifinal before advancing past D.C. United in the Conference Championship to reach MLS Cup.  While the Dynamo were mowing through the East, the Galaxy bypassed Vancouver Whitecaps FC in their Knockout Round match before defeating the Supporters' Shield winning San Jose Earthquakes and Seattle Sounders FC for the right to play for MLS' ultimate prize. 

“They’re the same as us,” said Magee. “They definitely had their backs against the wall with that play-in game like we had. They definitely have a good story going.”

Although Houston began the postseason as the lowest seed in the Eastern Conference, with the second-lowest point total among all teams in the MLS Cup Playoffs, the Dynamo boast head coach Dominic Kinnear, who is one of two head coaches to lead his team to back-to-back MLS Cup titles, performing the feat during the 2006 and 2007 seasons. 

 The only other coach to repeat as champions? Current Galaxy boss then D.C. United head coach Bruce Arena from 1996 to 1997.

 “Houston's not a team you want to overlook, no matter what seed they were," said Magee. “I think you always kind of get a feeling like they were going to win [the Eastern Conference], and any time Kinnear puts a team out there, they're going to give it their all. He's one of the best coaches the league's seen. You know what you're going to get. You're going to get a battle, and you've got to prepare for that.”

While the MLS Cup promises to be a battle, Magee believes LA stack up well with the Dynamo. 

“I like my match up. I like all our match ups,” said Magee. “We’ve kind of proven in big games, we have players that can step up and rise to the occasion so I’m not worried about us.”

24 November 12:18 pm

A week from now, the LA Galaxy will go for back-to-back MLS Cups against the Houston Dynamo at The Home Depot Center

If you're unable to make it out to The HDC on Dec. 1 then you'll have to catch the game on ESPN. The coverage from "The Worldwide Leader in Sports"' begins at 1:30 p.m. PT. 

Ahead of next week's festivities, check out ESPN's "This is MLS Cup" commercial. 

24 November 11:14 am

A few notes to get you through the morning and into your Saturday.

*Landon Donovan appeared on ESPN's College Gameday on Saturday serving as the "celebrity picker" for Saturday's College Football slate. The LA Galaxy captain revealed that he would have attended UCLA had he not signed for German club Bayer Leverkusen at age 16. During his picks, Donovan selected No. 1 ranked Notre Dame over USC -- a selection that he admits was influenced by Mike Magee -- and No. 8 Stanford over No. 17 UCLA.

*There are still two more days to vote for Marcelo Sarvas, who is in the quarterfinals of FutbolMLS.com's Latino del Año 2012 (Latino of the Year). The semifinalists will be announced on Monday.

*Across the hall at The Home Depot Center, Chivas USA's Juan Agudelo is making a good impression during his training stint with Scottish club Celtic. Could it lead to an extended training stint or perhaps a transfer?

*Voting has begun for the final round of MLSsoccer.com's Goal of the Year and Save of the Year. No LA Galaxy goals or saves made it to the final round. 

*Lastly, a programming note, I'll be on Philadelphia's 860AM "Vuvuzela-blast" radio show at 1 p.m. PT talking MLS Cup and David Beckham. Be sure to listen along.

23 November 8:53 pm

As you start to wind your night down, here are a few evening notes.

*LA Galaxy Under-18 midfielder Paul Arriola started and went 45 minutes, earning an assist as well as a yellow card in the U.S. Under-18 squad's 2-2 draw with Canada on Friday. 

* U.S. National Team midfielder Jose Francisco Torres completed a move from Mexican club Pachuca to Tigres UNAL.

*2012 Rookie of the Year Austin Berry will join teammate Jalil Anibaba in a training stint with Spanish giants Atlético Madrid from Nov. 25 to Dec. 9. Anibaba is training with Atléti from Nov. 18 to Dec. 2

*Soccer By Ives released the first edition of their 2013 MLS Draft Big Board on Friday evening. Included in the 40-player list are seven players from five different California universities.