After three seasons of losing, melodrama and internal turmoil, the Los Angeles Galaxy will play for Major League Soccer’s championship.
Gregg Berhalter and Landon Donovan scored in overtime to put the Galaxy into MLS Cup final with a 2-0 victory over the Houston Dynamo on Friday night.
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The Galaxy will play in their first MLS Cup final since 2005 in Seattle on Nov. 22 against the winner of Saturday’s Eastern Conference final match between Chicago and Real Salt Lake.
Los Angeles will make its sixth MLS Cup final appearance since the league began in 1996. The Galaxy won championships in 2002 and 2005.
But after that, the Galaxy had to endure three successive losing seasons, the media frenzy surrounding David Beckham’s arrival and his public feud with Landon Donovan.
“It hasn’t been easy,” Donovan said. “It’s been a lot of hard work. But the reality is that this is a real team. You don’t win games with only two, three players. You win with 11, 14, 18, 22 players throughout the year.”
If the Galaxy‘s recovery wasn’t easy, neither was defeating the Dynamo.
“It was a game that could’ve gone either way,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “But our concentration was great. Our center backs (Berhalter and Omar Gonzalez) were terrific against three forwards who are a handful.”
Houston had other problems to deal with.
“There were a lot of gaps out there and I think we were trying to get the ball forward too fast,” Dynamo coach Dominic Kinnear said. “It was just bad decisions on the ball.”
Beckham’s free kick set up Berhalter’s goal in the 102nd minute. The Dynamo’s Eddie Robinson tried to clear Gonzalez’s header off the free kick but Berhalter poked the ball into the net from 7 yards.
“I saw Omar go up and I was waiting for something,” Berhalter said. “It just popped to me and that’s when you just go to the ball.”
When did Berhalter last score?
“It was awhile ago,” he said. “It probably was a penalty kick for 1860 Munich.”
Donovan then converted a penalty kick in the 109th minute to set the MLS record for career playoff scoring with 17 goals.
Houston’s Ricardo Clark tripped Alan Gordon in the penalty area. After goalkeeper Pat Onstad dove to his left, Donovan scored his third goal in this year’s playoffs.
The Dynamo’s Brian Ching had the best chance to score during regulation. He headed a 7-yard line drive off Brian Mullan’s right-wing cross but goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts used his right hand to deflect the ball off the crossbar.
Houston’s Andrew Hainault scored on a header off Brad Davis’ ensuing corner kick in the 80th minute but Luis Angel Landin’s foul before Hainault’s shot nullified the goal.
“I’d like to see a replay of our goal,” Kinnear said. “If you can call a foul on that, you can pretty much call a foul on every set piece that’s been in Major League Soccer this year.”
Play was suspended twice after the stadium lights went out because of power dips, a release from the Home Depot Center said. The game was stopped for a 18 minutes in each half.
The Dynamo’s Wade Barrett made his first appearance since Aug. 30 when he started for Mike Chabala at left back. Chabala was suspended for receiving yellow cards in each of the two conference semifinal games against Seattle.