Galaxy 3, Real Salt Lake 1
David Beckham put the Los Angeles Galaxy's commemorative Western Conference championship hats on his three sons as they all headed to the locker room, keeping his own head bare and clear.
Beckham isn't interested in celebrating his best season in MLS unless the Galaxy can get another win and raise another trophy in two weeks.
Mike Magee scored the go-ahead goal on a pass from Beckham in the 58th minute, and Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane also scored as Los Angeles advanced to the MLS Cup with a 3-1 victory over Real Salt Lake on Sunday night in the conference final.
With spectacular plays from their trio of superstars, Los Angeles advanced to face the Houston Dynamo in the MLS title game Nov. 20 at Home Depot Center, where the Supporters' Shield-winning Galaxy haven't lost all year.
Beckham will play for his first MLS title in the final game of his groundbreaking five-year contract with the Galaxy. His sublime crossing pass set up Magee's third goal of the postseason for Los Angeles, which advanced to its record seventh MLS title game with three victories in the past eight days.
''When we walked through the tunnel for the second half, we heard some of their players saying we were tired, we were done,'' Beckham said. ''I think that inspired us a little bit. ... We're happy to be winning the Western final tonight, but we're not getting carried away.''
Beckham left Thursday's playoff victory over New York with back spasms, but played well to extend his MLS tenure for at least two weeks. Beckham excelled throughout the season, finishing second in MLS in assists, despite rumors swirling about his future.
He served up yet another phenomenal scoring pass to Magee and several additional chances before leaving to a standing ovation from the crowd of 23,437 in stoppage time.
''I've seen that before,'' Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. ''David has been remarkable in the playoffs, and his experience and desire have been remarkable all season.''
Beckham never does it alone in Los Angeles: Donovan scored his MLS-best 19th playoff goal on a first-half penalty kick, and Keane made a stellar run in the 68th minute for the Irish striker's fourth goal in 10 games with his new team.
''The three games we played this week were as difficult as any we've played all year,'' said Donovan, who must do U.S. national team duty in France before the MLS Cup. ''Our energy was still great. We created a number of chances. We could taste it.''
Alvaro Saborio scored for Salt Lake, which beat Los Angeles in the 2009 MLS Cup.
Salt Lake missed two golden opportunities to keep up with Los Angeles. Robbie Russell put a heavy strike from deep in the penalty area squarely into Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Saunders' chest in the fifth minute, and Fabian Espindola hit the crossbar in the second half moments after Magee's goal.
''We both created a lot of chances,'' said Salt Lake midfielder Kyle Beckerman, who hit the post late in the first half. ''They were able to finish two more than us. It seems like they are really on a mission to win the Cup.''
The Galaxy had MLS' best regular-season record for the second straight year, but they finally added playoff success after falling short in the postseason in the past two seasons. Los Angeles is 14-0-5 at home in MLS games this season after two playoff wins, along with three CONCACAF Champions League victories.
Both teams took chances and tried for big plays from the opening minute, showing no caution while playing for such high stakes.
Donovan scored on a penalty chance for the second straight playoff game, connecting in the 23rd minute after Omar Gonzalez drew a penalty in the box from Andy Williams, who apparently made contact with Gonzalez's back on a header.
But Saborio evened it on a header 2 minutes later, putting an initial header from Robbie Russell past Saunders.
''Salt Lake threw an awful lot into that game, and I thought as the game slowed down, it would favor us,'' Arena said. ''Some of the passing that we had to get behind them and create chances was terrific.''
Magee put the Galaxy ahead by bending down to head home the cross from Beckham, who connected with Magee for the third straight game. Just 10 minutes later, Keane thoroughly undressed Salt Lake's Jamison Olave on a 1-on-1 run, stutter-stepping around the defender and putting the ball in the far corner before setting off the Los Angeles party with his trademark cartwheel-somersault celebration.
Keane, who bounced back swiftly from injury to return to his new club late last month, could have had another goal in stoppage time, but inexplicably missed an open net.