With a day to digest it all, here are 10 final points from the L.A. Galaxy's win Sunday at the Home Depot Center.
- LA Galaxy was the best team in Major League Soccer wire to wire, as I've said, before. They are a deserving champion. As for these questions of whether the Galaxy 2011 is the best club in MLS history? Well, I like Bruce Arena's answer to this one: there's simply no way of knowing. I understand this is stuff falls under "cherished debate" for soccer supporters. But if we're honest, there's just no way of saying. In terms of accomplishment, the 2011 Galaxy (Supporters Shield winners, CONCACAF quarterfinal qualifiers and MLS Cup champion) certainly is a standard bearer. But it was a team built for results, not for perennially overwhelming hapless foe; plenty of Galaxy matches ended 1-0 or 2-1. They weren't whacking and cracking to the tune of 3-0 or 4-0 very often. So, some of this question depends on your definition of "best."
- I hope Landon Donovan is having some fun in life. Seriously. I first noticed this in South Africa last summer, where the serious Donovan showed up and never let the fun-loving Donovan have a moment of sunshine. He let out a yell of raw emotion at the final whistle Sunday night, so we knows he's not some Blade Runner replicant. But a few minutes later, there were curiously few smiles as he answered questions at the press conference. He retained the overly serious, overly contemplative pose of someone determined to be too cautious about it all, someone insistent on showing everyone how grown up and dug in he's become. Seriously, Landon … lighten up, man! You just won!
- Anybody else think Donovan's nifty little chipped shot was actually going wide (or perhaps off the post) until Tally Hall tipped it? Sure looks that way from one angle on the replay. Not that it matters. Just askin'.
- For me, David Beckham was the game MVP, never mind this silly habit of awarding MVP or Man of the Match honors to the goal scorer. The Galaxy midfield simply overwhelmed Houston's and midfield, and so much of that was Beckham's intelligent passing and positioning. Beckham was involved with pretty much every successful offensive thrust. But for better finishing, the Galaxy might have won 2-0 or 3-0, and Beckham would have two or three assists in his pocket.
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- Elsewhere, I think every single member of LA's back line did well. The Galaxy's tightly organized midfield ensured that very little got through. That said, Omar Gonzalez, A.J. DeLaGarza, Todd Dunivant and Sean Franklin were up for the job the few times they needed to be. Franklin, for instance, knew exactly where Corey Ashe wanted to go, and simply would not let him get there. Across the field, Dunivant had a relative easy time taming Danny Cruz.
- While it's hard to pick out players who handled things well on the other side, I thought Geoff Cameron was having a terrific match before getting his knee twisted up just before the break. He was sticking those long legs in and poking balls away from Galaxy attackers, or controlling balls sent his way and finding teammates with his passes. With Jurgen Klinsmann in the house, it was probably a good night for Cameron in the long run, albeit a bummer for him in the short term.
- Next to him, Jermaine Taylor was shockingly bad. His positioning was awful and his work on the ball even worse. By the second half, it appeared that Dominic Kinnear had instructed Taylor (probably in no uncertain terms) to keep a better link with the other defenders and simply kick the freakin' ball forward at every opportunity. By the way, how far has Hunter Freeman fallen? Brought to Houston to play right fullback (but presumably able to man the left side, too), he couldn't get on the field ahead of Jermaine Taylor. And did I mention how shockingly bad Taylor was?
- Referee Ricardo Salazar did a nice job. I'd quibble only with a couple of his decisions. Good for him, and good for MLS for making the right choice here. Mark Geiger won MLS Referee of the Year. But referee awards are mostly about politics -- like so many other awards. In my opinion, Salazar is easily the best MLS referee, and he capped another year of MLS referee controversy by giving the men in the middle a much-needed strong finish.
- I don't think a lot of us realized how much ability to possess in midfield would be lost when Brad Davis went down. We talked so much about his set piece strikes, we (and by "we," I'm putting some blame on journalists like myself here) forgot that he gives the Dynamo midfield a little something, too, in terms of movement and possession. Replacement left midfielder Corey Ashe didn't have a bad match, exactly. But having played so little in midfield this year, he just wasn't at the level needed to help link his defense with his strikers in smart ways.
- David Beckham's future? It's just a guess, but I'd say winning the MLS title helps close a loop in his mind, enhancing the chances that he'll leave MLS. We can't forget our history lessons on this one; these choices really are about Brand Beckham more than anything else. And we can't forget a truism of life, that the women in our world often have a lot to say about these big decisions. So, the ability to live in Paris (a fashion capital) and have the Beckham boys schooled in this world class city, plus the boon to Brand Beckham of storming Europe anew simply might be too much to resist. My best guess: he's leaving.