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."