CARSON, Calif. – It was just over six months ago when the LA Galaxy last met up with the Houston Dynamo.
Highlights: HOU 2, LA 1
It was on a 100-degree day at Houston’s brand new BBVA Compass Stadium that the Galaxy suffered a 2-1 loss and hit arguably their low point of the season. They were 3-8-2, in last place in the Western Conference and the playoffs appeared to be wishful thinking at best.
But the defending MLS Cup champions staged a remarkable turnaround and will try to win their second consecutive Cup against, of all teams, Houston in a rematch of the 2011 final on Saturday at The Home Depot Center (1:30 p.m., ESPN, Telefutura, LIVE CHAT).
“We’re really excited about tomorrow,” the Galaxy’s Landon Donovan said in a press conference on Friday. “Not too many players, not too many coaches, not too many teams have a chance to do what we have a chance to do.
“We want to make the most of it.”
Left back Todd Dunivant said his confidence in the Galaxy was never shaken, nor did he have any doubts they could recover from such a dismal start.
“There was never that question. It was would we,” he said. “It was kind of up to us. We always knew we had the ability. Certainly there were moments when things weren’t going well and it seemed like everything we did was working against us.
“We worked our way out of it.”
Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said he never doubted his team either. Well, not completely, anyway.
“This has been a season with a lot of ups and downs, no question about it,” he said. “A lot of low points as well as high points, which is pretty typical of every season.
“But I think we had a few more than we would have liked this year.”
Saturday’s game, the finale of David Beckham’s six-year Galaxy career, is a meeting between two teams that have traveled treacherous roads in this year’s postseason.
The Dynamo, for example, defeated the Chicago Fire in the Knockout Round, followed by victories over Eastern Conference top seed Sporting Kansas City and second-seeded D.C. United. The Galaxy rallied to beat Vancouver in the Knockout Round and got past West top seed San Jose and third-seeded Seattle to reach the final.
“This year we kind of went the hard route,” Galaxy right back Sean Franklin said. “Last year we were first throughout the whole year; we were sharp day in and day out. This year we weren’t like that. We had a lot more injuries this season, guys missing games and things not going our way.
“I’d say this year we have more character. Games this season that we came back from normally we would have lost in the past. It’s good that we showed our character in big games. Last year it kind of came easy and this year we had to work for it.”
The Galaxy, led by Robbie Keane’s five playoff goals – the most in MLS since former Galaxy standout Carlos Ruiz had eight in the 2002 postseason – will be taking on a Houston side that has been one of MLS’ hottest teams, not to mention stingiest. The Dynamo have allowed only four goals in five playoff games.
Brad Davis, who missed last year’s final because of a torn quad muscle, is healthy and has three assists in the postseason. Will Bruin, a teammate of the Galaxy’s Tommy Meyer at the Indiana University, has four playoff goals. Ricardo Clark, battling an adductor strain, is back from a two-year stint in Europe and midfielder Boniek Garcia, a summer acquisition with 70 caps for Honduras, has had a decisive impact as well.
“They’re a dangerous team,” Dunivant said. “They’re playing well. They came in as the fifth seed, but that really doesn’t matter at this point.
“They’re a confident, hot team right now.”