We wanted a Galaxy-Real Salt Lake Western Conference final, but FC Dallas stuck its ugly head in the way, and now we’ve got Los Angeles and Dallas from the Home Depot Center on a Sunday night, live in HD. It’s a little harsh to call Dallas ugly, they actually play some of the best soccer in MLS, and really do deserve to be here. I just wanted RSL. Call me bitter, fine.
Pregame – John Harkes and J.P. Dellacamera tell us that Kevin Hartman is better than Dario Sala. That’s some expert commentary right there.
Lalas says he’s played with Hartman in the past. Wow, Hartman is 50? Only kidding. Seriously, Lalas brings up a good point that Hartman does bring calm to a somewhat inexperienced back line. I’ll buy that. I still think he’s weak on crosses.
Lalas heaps praise on Brek Shea and Schellas Hydnman’s handling of Shea, even though he was benched recently, and then talks about set pieces being the key. I think Lalas just does that every game, doesn’t he? He goes out on a limb and picks the Galaxy to win. After the game, provided LA wins, I’m sure he’ll remind us. If they don’t, he won’t.
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Lalas finally sends it to Dellacamera and Harkes. Thank God. Wait, did I say that out loud?
To the lineups: Bruce Arena makes no changes, which isn’t a surprise. Dallas replaces Jeff Cunningham with Atiba Harris, who according to the graphic, will be a lone striker up top.
To the sideline, Rob Stone talks to Hyndman, who asks him directly why the Harris for Cunningham switch? Hyndman says Cunningham is a burst of energy off the bench, and he thinks Harris’ size will give the Galaxy back line problems? Was that just a legitimate interview in an MLS game on strategy? Someone hire Rob Stone and put him on these broadcasts more often, please. Honestly, I would have started Cunningham, but at least I have an answer.
0:00 – And, we’re under way, with Dallas going left to right.
1:00 – Good crowd at the Home Depot Center, sounds a little like Seattle. A little. But the HDC crowd has been great all year.
2:00 – LA gets an early corner on a Ugo Ihemelu mistake, but Beckham’s first contribution is cleared fairly easily.
3:00 – Galaxy are not pressuring early high up the field, which is interesting. Are they looking to play on the counter? That could be slightly dangerous, but in Arena I trust.
4:00 – George John seems to be aware of the counter thing, he’s not coming high up the field when his team attacks. We’ll keep an eye on that one.
6:00 – A cagey start, as you’d expect. Either the crowd is louder than usual, or ESPN has messed with the crowd mics. Leaning toward the latter, but we’ll see.
7:00 – Harkes questioning the amount of space LA is giving Dallas early. Are you questioning Bruce Arena, sir? Didn’t think so.
8:00 – The first shot in anger comes from Mike Magee of all people, parried away easily by Hartman. I just wanted to write “shot in anger”. Beckham is dumped down the right side, and it’s a set piece.
9:00 – It bounces around and Landon Donovan gets a shot, but it’s blocked. Dallas on the counter the other way gets a 3-on-1 briefly, it comes to Dax McCarty, who makes a fantastic move, but his shot is blocked. Game springs to life, at least briefly.
10:00 – Juninho crosses, and Edson Buddle just misses. Hartman is nowhere near it. Am I the only one who sees this about Hartman every game? I feel like I’m in some kind of bizarro world where no one else notices that.
11:00 – Donovan and Jackson come together. They’ve come together before. Good tackle by Donovan this time, though.
Stone with more insight on why Hartman is not taking goal kicks, and how it could play a role in the game, complete with how the Galaxy plans on attacking it. Someone get Stone off of bowling and onto some soccer coverage, ESPN.
13:00 – Jackson wins that battle against Donovan. LA seems to want to go direct, and I can’t argue with that strategy right now. Dallas back line is struggling in the air early.
15:00 – We’ve slowed down a little again, as LA backs off and Dallas possesses. David Ferreira has the ball for perhaps the first time tonight, and I haven’t noticed Harris yet. Just figured out that Jair Murrufo is our man in the middle.
16:00 – HDC fans now copying the “Seattle” “Sounders” chant with an “LA” “Galaxy” one, except that the word Galaxy has three syllables and it doesn’t work.
18:00 – A long ball over the top almost sends Harris in (there he is). Gonzalez deals with it, and the foul goes against Harris, but it wasn’t real convincing from Gonzalez there. Harris, by the way, can become the first St. Kitts and Nevis international to ever appear in MLS Cup. Not sure if he’s from St. Kitts or Nevis, though.
21:00 – Marvin Chavez gives the ball away, Juninho pounces on it and hits a missile from 18 yards out, but it’s right at Hartman. That sucker was moving in the air, what a clean strike, Hartman did well to push it wide.
22:00 – On the ensuing corner, it bounces around, and Gonzalez can’t quite pull the trigger. Would have been a Stoke City-like goal there, but those are dangerous.
23:00 – Magee pulled down by Jackson, and Maruffo keeps his cards in his pocket. Wise, I think, at this stage.
24:00 – Off the free kick, Buddle’s header is deflected and Hartman makes a fine save. On the replay, I don’t think it was touched by anyone, and it was eerily similar to last night’s goal. That would have been really odd, but we stay scoreless.
25:00 – Some nice movement and a great pass by Beckham to Juninho leads to Buddle, who lays it back for Juninho, but his shot is high from 6 yards out. Tough angle, but a bad miss. One way traffic right now.
26:00 – GOAL! And it’s Dallas. And it’s David Ferreira. Harris takes a long ball, gives it to Chavez, plays to Ferreira at the 18, turns quickly and fires past Ricketts for a seemingly undeserved 1-0 lead. Neither Gonzalez nor A.J. DeLaGarza stepped to Ferreira, and the Colombian shows why he’s MVP of the league. He’s involved in every goal Dallas scores and look where they are.
28:00 – Now it’s the Los Angeles defense that is out of sorts. Brek Shea almost gets in off a mistake, but DeLaGarza clears.
29:00 – Now Harris giving Gonzalez problems on a long ball again. Maybe Hyndman knew what he was doing.
31:00 - Magee finds Donovan streaking down the left side. Great first touch, hits a hard left-footed shot and Hartman pushes it around the post. Tough angle, but decent save again.
Meanwhile, Dema Kovalenko is booked. No, I didn’t type that two hours ago and just wait for it to happen. Didn’t seem like he deserved it that time, actually, but it’s Dema, people.
33:00 – Buddle thinks he was elbowed by John, Buddle protests, Daniel Hernandez comes in to argue, and we’ve got some extras. Broken up quickly, and on we go.
35:00 – The LA momentum has subsided for now, haven’t seen much of Beckham in the last 10 or 15 minutes. Harkes thinks Beckham is hurt, he actually doesn’t look 100 percent when running.
36:00 – Ten men behind the ball for Dallas right now. They need them all to stop Donovan on that play, cleared away by John.
37:00 – Jackson takes down Donovan, but there’s no call. Didn’t Maruffo get the memo that Donovan is supposed to be treated like Kobe Bryant? Guess not, Donovan looks stunned.
38:00 – Ferreira dumped late by Kovalenko. He should be off. Really. He was already on a yellow and that tackle was as late as they come. Lucky that it’s the playoffs, and Maruffo didn’t have the guts to show the red card. I think he’ll be done at halftime. LA might have used up their hometown call advantage with that one, though.
40:00 – Dax McCarty has been fabulous in these playoffs as he gets forward again. LA tries a long ball to Buddle and John deals with it. Didn’t look terribly attractive doing it, but he dealt with it.
41:00 – Stone reports that Bruce Arena is badgering Michael Kennedy, the fourth official. Kennedy might be the worst center official in MLS, so he deserves it. But, seriously, haven’t seen much that hasn’t gone the Galaxy’s way thus far.
43:00 – Beckham still hasn’t done much. If he needs to come off, that’s two subs right there.
44:00 – Corner to Dallas, their first, cleared away. LA tries to counter, but Dallas has plenty of numbers back in a hurry.
45:00 – DeLaGarza flattens Harris with a shoulder, no call. Not sure how with that one, Harris is taking a beating when the ball comes near him.
Halftime – Dallas leads it 1-0 and everyone in Los Angeles is a little stunned. We’ll see what the halftime adjustments are. Arena tells Stone the Galaxy need to pass the ball better and ticks him off by asking about Kovalenko. I vote Rob Stone Man of the Match so far. Dallas started to defend a little deep at the end of that first half, I don’t think they will be able to hold out for 45 minutes. But they’ve still got Cunningham on the bench. Sets up to be a very intriguing 45 minutes coming up.
46:00 – And we’re back. No subs, I guess, which is slightly surprising. Actually, it’s very surprising.
Ferreira fouls Sean Franklin, and they’re both holding their head.
Stone tells us Hyndman is surprised that Chris Birchall didn’t replace Kovalenko. We’re all surprised. Maybe Arena was going to, then when everyone told him to, he told us all to go screw ourselves. Who knows?
48:00 – Corner to Los Angeles. Beckham’s corner is short, and handball on Buddle lets Dallas off the hook.
Meanwhile, Ferreira found Chavez is on a breakaway, but it’s just, just too far or it was a clear breakaway and a probable goal. DeLaGarza has gotten hurt in a collision with Harris and was hobbling back into the play, keeping Chavez onside. Big letoff for the Galaxy.
49:00 – At the other end, Jackson with a casual header back to Hartman, but Magee nearly got there to intercept. Hartman grabs it at the last possible instant, almost a disaster for Dallas.
50:00 – Eddie Lewis looks like whatever magical youth tonic has worn off this week as he gives the ball away again. It’s not been his night thus far.
52:00 – Hideous build-up by Dallas, but it almost worked. A few shanked passes, some shanked clearances, a couple of beautiful Ferreira passes almost sent Shea in, but it was cleared.
53:00 – Meanwhile, McCarty gives the ball away to Beckham who streaks downfield, but his shot – a hopeful one – is blocked. Very sloppy on both ends right now.
54:00 – McCarty makes up for it by slipping Ferreira in between Gonzalez and Franklin, who look lost right now. Franklin gets back in time to block Ferreira’s shot.
GOAL! Dallas. Seconds later, George John has scored. John stayed up on the corner, LA couldn’t clear it completely, Chavez headed it forward, Ihemelu (also still up from the corner) – of all people – with some nice skill to find Shea, who played a perfect ball across to John, who couldn’t miss from 4 yards out. Nice goal in the end.
56:00 – Some confusion in the back, Hartman collides with John, the ball goes straight to Donovan, who connects on the volley with his left foot from 25 yards out. With the Dallas net empty, it clips the crossbar and goes over. Not LA’s night?
57:00 – Alex Cazumba is in for Magee. When you’re down, throw more Brazilians on the field, I always say.
59:00 – Dallas trying to finish this, Jackson’s long cross finds Shea, but he couldn’t get anything on the header. Dallas will be dangerous counering from here on out.
60:00 – Jackson fouls Buddle, don’t want to do that, set piece chance for the Galaxy and Beckham. But Dallas heads away, it’s Hernandez. Harkes is about the fourth announcer this weekend to cry for a penalty call on grabbing in the box on a set piece. Good luck with that.
61:00 – On the counter, Chavez played it across for Harris, who had a great chance, but whiffed. That’s going to be a problem for the Galaxy here.
63:00 – Dallas can start entering “Kill the game off” mode. This is not the Galaxy’s strength, coming from two goals down, it’s just not.
64:00 – Decent possession leads to a Beckham cross. Looks for Buddle, but the whole Dallas team is alert to the danger (at least the Buddle danger) and it amounts to nothing.
65:00 – Hartman is smart enough to let the ball roll out of bounds and walk after it slowly. Very slowly. I think we’ll see that a lot.
66:00 – Now it’s Birchall for Kovalenko. Why wait? Why make this change now? Shouldn’t you put an attacker on? I’m questioning Bruce Arena, and it feels good.
67:00 – Yea, the Galaxy are not exactly Arsenal going forward. They look more like Chelsea earlier today against Sunderland, but there’s still 25 minutes to go.
68:00 – When I say Harris is by himself, he’s really by himself. Everyone else back for Dallas. Where art thou, Landon Donovan? Save your team.
69:00 – A couple of Beckham crosses wreak havoc in the box, eventually the second one falls to Birchall, whose shot is deflected over for a corner, LA’s sixth.
70:00 – Buddle is down off the corner, Arena wants a penalty I think. The crosses are coming fast and furious now, are we set up for a finish like the one Dallas had at Rio Tinto last week. Dallas would rather not.
71:00 – LA is 20-2-1 in playoff history at home. That’s a lot of games. And their last loss was in 1998. Wow. You waited 72 minutes to give me that stat, ESPN?
73:00 – GOAL! Dallas. 3-0. Ferreira with a sublime pass that sent Chavez in to finish this one off. What a pass. What a pass. What a pass. Cesc Fabregas-like. And Chavez made no mistake. It started with a long ball that Harris fought off about 26 Galaxy defenders to win, laid it off to Chavez, who waited for Ferreira, and gave it back to Chavez, who walked past the static LA defense. Great counter goal, and the party is beginning on the Dallas bench.
Zach Loyd comes on for Chavez, who had a good game. Time to close up shop. Beckham was booked for dissent, by the way.
75:00 – Gonzalez with a hard challenge on Harris, which was clean, but allows Harris to lay on the ground for a little while as the clock runs.
76:00 – Beckham loose on a counter, but his cross goes to no one in particular. Beckham has looked old at times, and some boos from the HDC crowd. You can almost hear a couple of Dallas fans, if indeed they do exist.
79:00 – Ferreira has been a treat tonight, as he makes another pass that is perfect for Shea. Some fans are heading to the exits.
80:00 – Johan Kirovski in for Lewis. Too little, too late? Yup. Lewis’ career ends like this, which is a shame, but we love you, Eddie, and we’ll always have 2002.
82:00 – Birchall cuts down Loyd and is booked. He’s required by law to get a yellow card, so that takes care of that.
84:00 – Cazumba booked. This one’s over, folks.
85:00 – Loyd booked for a little retaliation. Pretty stupid, actually.
86:00 – Beckham’s cross finds Franklin, but he shanks one into the stands. He hasn’t had a good night, Franklin, but who has for the Galaxy?
87:00 – Eric Alexander on for McCarty, giving the youngster some time. We haven’t even seen Eric Avila in this one, who had that spectacular goal at Pizza Hut Park a couple of weeks ago.
88:00 – Decently worked play from LA, but Birchall lashes at it. Just not enough quality from the Galaxy to break Dallas down tonight.
89:00 – Harkes is right, as much as I think Hartman is a bit overrated, he deserves the plaudits tonight, getting released, looking like he might be out of the league, then coming back and leading Dallas to MLS Cup over his former Galaxy squad. That’s a heck of a job. I’ll shut up. Four minutes of stoppage time.
91:00 – The chants are getting softer and softer. I think they’re dead. Time of death for the 2010 Galaxy, 11:09 p.m. EST.
92:00 – Jackson fouls Donovan. Again. Jackson has been a bit careless tonight, but it won’t matter now. Beckham is denied by Hartman, who wasn’t really athletic getting there, but kept it out, and that’s what he’s paid to do.
93:00 – Buddle misses by about 10 yards on a turning shot. About as close as he’s come.
94:00 – Brek Shea is the only one running, as the Galaxy are mercifully put out of their misery by the final whistle.
Hydnman puts on his lucky jacket. I wasn’t his biggest fan before this season, but – like Hartman – he deserves everything he has gotten and will get. Hartman refuses to throw anyone under the bus. Very classy, as he’s always been, a credit to MLS for his whole career.
Donovan credits Hartman, and says he’s not too mad. That’s Landon Donovan for you, I guess. Stone asks Donovan what’s next, and Donovan says he’ll be back next year. We shall see.
Final analysis -
So it’s Colorado and Dallas for MLS Cup, a matchup the league probably wants no part of, but for us diehards who watch the league every week, it’s a good matchup, with Conor Casey and Omar Cummings against the MVP-elect David Ferreira. Unfortunately, neither team has a rabid fanbase and the game is in Toronto, but – hey – it is what it is.
Tonight, it was always going to be about the first goal, and once Ferreira scored, Dallas had Los Angeles where they wanted them. Donovan wasn’t necessarily invisible, but wasn’t a factor, and Dallas was not going to let Buddle get on the end of any Beckham crosses. At the other end, the LA defense was too slow for the skill of Ferreira, Chavez, Shea, and the strength of Harris.
We’ll be back with a preview of MLS Cup later in the week, but until then, thanks for reading.