CARSON, Calif. – It was a difficult night in some respects for veteran defender Gregg Berhalter as he watched the Galaxy defeat the Houston Dynamo 1-0 at The Home Depot Center for the third MLS championship in club history.
The 38-year-old central defender recently announced his retirement and Sunday’s season finale officially brought an end to a career that included 44 caps with the U.S National Team, three seasons with the Galaxy and lengthy playing stints overseas.
Berhalter has indicated he hopes to pursue a career in coaching, and he was a player/coach on Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena’s staff this season. Berhalter was on Sunday’s 18-man roster but saw no playing time.
“I’m going to miss being on the field,” he said, “but it’s time to start a new chapter in my career.”
Berhalter admitted the euphoria of the moment couldn’t mask the disappointment of looking on from the sideline.
“As a competitor you want to be on the field,” he said. “You want to be playing. That was bittersweet that I couldn’t be. But it didn’t really matter in my eyes. I felt like I was one of them.
“For us to accomplish this as a team is unbelievable. I’m excited and a little bit sad that this is my last time on the field and suiting up.”
Berhalter said he will consider all future coaching opportunities and hopes to make a decision “in the next couple of weeks,” but he also made it clear he would like to remain on the Galaxy’s staff. Arena has indicated he wants him back.
“This is my family,” he said. “This is where I feel the most comfortable. It would be great to be back. We’ll see what happens.”
Frankie Hejduk turned 37 in August and as one of the last remaining MLS originals, just completed his 16th season in professional soccer. He said he plans to take some time before he decides if he wants to suit up for a 17th season.
“I’m going to party for a few days and see how it goes,” he said with a laugh in the postgame locker room Sunday. “I would say right now that I want to play another year because I’m so excited and I’m having so much fun.
“Ending it on such a high; is an upper. It’s pointing more toward that direction (returning), but I’ll talk to the coaching staff and everyone and see where I stand. After I come back to reality I’ll figure it out. Right now I’m on top of the world.”
Sunday’s championship marked the second of his career. The first was in 2008 with the Columbus Crew, with whom he spent nine seasons, and it also was accomplished at The Home Depot Center.
Hejduk called this title particularly rewarding.
“Especially with what this team has to go through, with always being the favorite,” he said. “People really expected a lot out of us. To finish off the year with the Supporters’ Shield and now the best team winning MLS Cup, that doesn’t happen very often.
“This is a star-studded team, and everyone had high expectations.
You’ve got to live up to them and we did.”
LA'S BIGGEST FAN
Galaxy striker Chad Barrett didn’t play Sunday after suffering a dislocated foot during training last week, but he tried to lend all the support he could Sunday.
Barrett, getting around in a walking boot, was one of the first people to congratulate Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Saunders on the field after the final whistle.
“I was probably the biggest fan out here,” said Barrett, who was third in goals in all competitions this season behind Landon Donovan and Mike Magee. “I love these guys, from the very first one to the very last one.”
Barrett, who watched from one of The Home Depot Center’s luxury suites during the game, found Sunday’s game an often gut-wrenching experience.
“I wanted to be on the field,” he said. “I played hard and I did as well as I could this year to help the team. It really sucks when you put forth so much effort and you can’t be with your friends on the final day.
“It’s tough to take, but at the same time I wouldn’t trade anything.
Let me tell you from the get-go, I would trade all my goals if I could get a championship. I wanted a ring.”