Monday November 21st, 2011

LOS ANGELES -- Three thoughts on the Los Angeles Galaxy's 1-0 win over the Houston Dynamo in the MLS Cup final:

You get what you pay for. For the first time since MLS started using the Beckham Rule in 2007, a team with a Designated Player has won the MLS Cup -- and the decisive goal came on a marvelous passing sequence involving the Galaxy's three DPs. Robbie Keane took David Beckham's pass and laid off for Landon Donovan, whose exquisite finish brings back MLS's top trophy to L.A. for the first time since 2005. It was fitting that the big-money men came through when it mattered most for the Galaxy, not least because they have during the entirety of the postseason. Finally we can retire the notion that teams who are willing to drop some coin for star power are at a competitive disadvantage in MLS. With any luck, the Galaxy's success will prod other MLS owners to invest more money in the kind of players whose quality can make the difference.

Beckham can feel good about his on-field MLS legacy. If this was Beckham's last game in MLS, he can leave with the knowledge that in 2011 he finally proved himself on the field in MLS. Healthy, free of national-team distractions and fully-committed to the Galaxy for the first time in his American adventure, Beckham had his finest MLS season and topped it off with a virtuoso performance in the playoffs. Not only did he show plenty of grit, fighting through the pain of a back injury, but he tracked back on defense, sprayed dangerous passes all over the field and earned every bit of credit that goes with the championship trophy. Who knows if he'll leave the Galaxy -- I happen to think the chances increase slightly now that he has won a trophy -- but more power to him.

The superlatives don't end there. From a results perspective, this Galaxy team can make a case to bethe best in MLS history. No MLS team has ever had a better regular-season performance and gone on to win the MLS Cup trophy. While this Galaxy outfit didn't dominate teams like D.C. United's 1998 team, it did find ways to ruthlessly finish off opponents all season long. Alexi Lalas said the Galaxy was more like a Ford truck than a Ferrari, and he's right, but there's real value in that, too. If anything, Sunday's unlovely final was a microcosm of the Galaxy's championship season. Nobody will show this replay as an example of the best entertainment MLS has to offer, but championships are championships. Give plenty of credit to L.A. coach Bruce Arena, who turned this team around and won his record third MLS Cup trophy as a head coach.

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