MLS Cup 2009: L.A. vs. Salt Lake
SEATTLE -- As the reborn Los Angeles Galaxy prepare to take on Real Salt Lake in the MLS Cup final on Sunday (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, Galavisión), I can't help but think back to a scene in Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium on Sept. 13, 2008.
There were two players left in the visitors' locker room that day --
By then, the '08 Galaxy season was a lost cause. Not a single member of the L.A. media bothered to attend the game. As I sat interviewing Donovan at his locker, Beckham walked out of the shower and headed toward his locker right next to us.
"Hey," Beckham said. He looked ashen. Drained. Sort of ill, in fact.
Donovan, for his part, said nothing to Beckham. They long since had stopped talking on a regular basis as Beckham had withdrawn from the American star and Donovan had grown increasingly frustrated with what he saw as Beckham's lack of leadership and commitment to the team. In that tense moment, as the Galaxy limped toward a last-place finish in the Western Conference, it seemed as though the Beckham Experiment was over. Finished. A failure.
Now look. Beckham and Donovan are 90 minutes away from an MLS championship, 90 minutes away from capping a remarkable turnaround, 90 minutes away from showing once and for all that Beckham's American adventure really is about the soccer, not just a giant marketing opportunity.
L.A. will be the heavy favorite on Sunday, not least because Salt Lake had the worst record of any of the eight MLS playoff teams. But RSL has pulled off two major upsets, taking out Columbus and Chicago on the road, and I think coach
Beckham will almost certainly play despite carrying an injury to his right ankle that prevented him for practicing most of the week. (His spokesman,
The dreadlocked Beckerman has made a big leap this season, not just in his play on the field, but also in his leadership, taking over the RSL captaincy and showing that he deserved it. If Beckerman can frustrate Beckham and close down the space he needs to send his long diagonal passes, then Salt Lake has a chance.
For my money, two of the most underrated performances of the MLS playoffs have been turned in by RSL center backs
Donovan won three titles in his first five MLS seasons, earning the nickname "Big Game Lanny" and comparisons to
Could it be RSL goalkeeper
Whose speed will stand out most: Donovan's or RSL forward