L.A. Galaxy end David Beckham era with second straight title

CARSON, Calif. — For the past six years, whether or not their play justified it, the Los Angeles Galaxy have been branded as America’s answer to the superclub. In the parity-driven culture of MLS, the presence of international icon David Beckham and American star Landon Donovan put them a cut above the rest in terms of sheer talent, name value and exposure.

At times, the hype seemed overblown. But in the past two years, there’s been no denying it: The Galaxy have been as good as advertised.

In the final MLS game for Beckham — and perhaps Donovan as well — Los Angeles on Saturday added its second straight MLS Cup to the trophy case with a 3-1 win over the Houston Dynamo at the Home Depot Center, tying D.C. United with a league-record four championships.

“It’s been a successful six years here,” Beckham said. “Now that we’ve won the second one, it’s even more satisfying.”

Much like the Galaxy’s 2012 campaign, which saw Los Angeles sitting at 6-10-2 in July before rallying to wrap the season at 16-12-6, the final was far from a smooth ride.

But after Calen Carr shocked Los Angeles with the opener one minute before halftime, the stadium-record 30,510 in attendance rallied behind the home side for a ferocious second-half comeback paced by Omar Gonzalez’s equalizer and penalty kicks from Donovan and Robbie Keane.

“It’s a little surreal, to be honest,” said Donovan, whose fifth career MLS Cup goal marked a league record. “The playoff run was great, but what got us here was the turnaround in July. We have to give ourselves a lot of credit for how we did when we were down. And that’s the sign of a champion.”

Added Galaxy coach Bruce Arena, who celebrated his fifth title: “We had to go through this whole ordeal in public, and it was challenging. And it was a special group of people who were able to do that.”

Although the contest was a replication of last year’s finale, won 1-0 on a Donovan goal, the rematch was anything but inevitable. Los Angeles, the fourth seed in the Western Conference, and Houston, the fifth and final team to make the Eastern playoff field, both had to pass through a play-in game before pulling off upsets in conference semifinal and final series.

Los Angeles nearly took the lead 13 minutes in. Re-creating the star-studded combination that created Donovan’s winner last year, Beckham found Keane with a long ball before the Irishman set up Donovan for a seemingly simple finish — only for the shot to go awry.

Just when it seemed the teams would enter halftime deadlocked, Carr broke through. Using his speed to slip a perfectly timed run behind Los Angeles rookie Tommy Meyer, Carr ran onto an Adam Moffat pass on the right flank, cut inside and blasted a shot over goalkeeper Josh Saunders.

As the second half unfolded, Los Angeles built pressure in “little increments,” in Houston coach Dominic Kinnear’s words. When Gonzalez rose in the 61st minute to nod a Juninho cross past Tally Hall, the momentum boiled over.

At that point, there was no stopping Los Angeles.

“In the second half,” Keane said, “we showed the confidence and the determination we’ve been showing in the last few months of the season.”

Just four minutes later, Gonzalez headed a Beckham free kick across the goalmouth, setting off a scramble that ended with Houston midfielder Ricardo Clark being called for a handball.

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