Top Galaxy Playoff Moments: #5 Galaxy advance to MLS Cup Final 2009
After dispatching Chivas USA in the Western Conference Semifinal version of the SuperClásico a round earlier, the Galaxy were just one win away from reaching the 2009 MLS Cup—their first in nearly four years—, but first they needed to get by the Houston Dynamo in the Western Conference Championship.
The veteran Dynamo side entered the Conference Championship after scrapping by the expansion-Seattle Sounders, needing an extratime goal by Brian Ching in the second leg at Robertson Stadium to move one step closer to a third MLS Cup berth in four years.
Once the match kicked off, the two teams were locked into a fierce physical battle. The physicality and back-and-forth nature would have been enough to make the match memorable, but a pair of power outages in both halves caused the match to be etched in MLS playoff lore.
The outages caused two 18-minute-delays, and following the match The HDC explained the outages as "two significant power dips in the Southern California Edison industrial grid in which the facility sits" which caused the stadium lights to reset. When the lights went back on the second time, the deadlock extended past the 90 minute mark, forcing extra time.
LA finally broke through in 103rd minute when a David Beckham free kick in the box, ricocheted off Omar Gonzalez and Houston’s Eddie Robinson, before falling to Gregg Berhalter, who squeezed a left-footed shot through a maze of bodies and into the back of the net, putting LA in front. The goal was Berhalter’s first ever for the Galaxy and by the defender’s own admission, first in quite “awhile.”
In the second half of extra time, Houston pushed for the equalizer, but LA would add a second in the 109th minute of play. Galaxy forward Alan Gordon drew a penalty after being taken down by Houston’s Ricardo Clark, setting up a penalty that LA’s Landon Donovan would place into the back of the net, starting the celebrations at The Home Depot Center.
The stage was set for the Galaxy at the 2009 MLS Cup Final in Seattle against surprise entrant Real Salt Lake. RSL, a Western Conference side qualified for the postseason on the final day of the regular season and proceeded to barnstorm through the Eastern Conference to reach the final for the first time in their history.
The match between RSL and the Galaxy was a back-and-forth battle, but after 120 minutes of a 1-1 draw, Salt Lake shocked MLS by winning MLS Cup on penalty kicks. Although the Galaxy would fall in the final, the match served as a coming-out party for goalkeeper Josh Saunders, who stepped up in the second half when starting goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts was injured in the second half.
Saunders and the bulk of the Galaxy side that fell in 2009 would play a key role for LA in a moment later in the list.
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com