The LA Galaxy were the better side throughout most of the first half of the MLS Cup Final, but they failed to take advantage of their scoring chances.
Meanwhile, the Houston Dynamo had much less of the ball and nothing as clear-cut as Landon Donovan's best chance of the match, but Calen Carr fired Houston ahead just before the stroke of halftime. It was the worst time for the Dynamo to score from a Galaxy perspective, and Bruce Arena might have to adjust his tactics now that his side is down 1-0.
Houston was well on top for the first five minutes of the match, as LA struggled to find their footing. Ricardo Clark hit the target with the first shot of the game two minutes in, and Houston continued to push afterwards. Things changed when David Beckham found Christian Wilhelmson over the top of the Dynamo defense with a quick free kick. Even though Tally Hall was able to claim the ball, it was a wake-up call for Houston and sparked a good period of play for LA.
The best chance of the first half came by way of Beckham and Robbie Keane, who set up Donovan for what should have been the first goal of the game. Much like he did with Wilhelmson eight minutes prior, Beckham played Keane over the top with a great long pass in the 13th minute. Keane laid the ball across to Donovan, who had an empty net to shoot at, but finished wide of the near post.
From then until around the half-hour mark, things remained lively going both ways. Mike Magee nearly scored in the 19th minute on a Beckham free kick, but couldn't quite get around Adam Moffat to get his entire body into a headed attempt at goal. Juninho had a decent chance with a long-range shot in the 24th minute, and that was quickly followed up by a Dynamo chance that was both their best of the half to this point, as well as a sign of things to come.
In the 25th minute, Boniek Garcia played Kofi Sarkodie in on goal down the right flank. He made a perfect run, cut inside and won a race to the ball, but Josh Saunders was able to stay in front of the ball and make a solid save.
Houston's eventual goal came in a manner very similar to Sarkodie's chance, after a lengthy lull. Neither team did much for the 15 minutes following that chance, but Houston broke the deadlock with a goal similar to the Sarkodie chance. Moffat set it up with a great chipped ball over the top of the Galaxy defense, and Carr got in behind Tommy Meyer to latch onto the ball. Meyer provided little opposition to the Dynamo forward, who struck a composed finish into the roof of the net, over the hands of Saunders.
The goal was a massive game-changer for the Galaxy, who were comfortably in control and picking their spots to attack up until that point. Beckham has been arguably the best player on the pitch, with brilliant distribution from deep in midfield and on set pieces all night. LA will need to get a bit riskier in the second half, which could change his game and open things up for the Dynamo.