Redskins

Beckham bows out in LA-Houston rematch for MLS Cup

Beckham bows out in LA-Houston rematch for MLS Cup

CARSON, Calif. (AP) David Beckham wraps up his six seasons with the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday in the MLS Cup.

He just hopes fans realize they'll miss an excellent game if all eyes are focused only on him.

Los Angeles goes after its second straight MLS title in a rematch with the Houston Dynamo, who lost 1-0 to the Galaxy last season at Home Depot Center. The field was soaked with rain last year, and it's likely to be soggy again this weekend.

They're perfect conditions for the Galaxy's attempt at replicating last season's result in a watershed game for their franchise and MLS, which is losing Beckham's magnetic appeal after a half-decade of impressive league-wide growth.

``I know I'm quite an emotional person,'' Beckham said. ``I'm just really excited about the game, to be in a third MLS Cup final, especially the second one that's being played in our own stadium. It's going to be special. ... I'm happy the team are in the position we are, and the reason we've done well this season is because we're a complete team. We've got character.''

Los Angeles' late-season run to another championship game has carried a certain sense of destiny for a franchise that's in for big changes in the offseason. Beckham could be joined in departure by U.S. star Landon Donovan, who's thinking about walking away from the Galaxy in an apparent mid-career case of burnout.

Even if the Galaxy's core is breaking up, they're eager to go out with the franchise's fourth MLS Cup, tying D.C. United's league record.

``It's been quite a ride, and with one more win, it will all be worth it,'' said Los Angeles defender Omar Gonzalez, who also might leave in the offseason. ``We're similar to last year, but they're a totally different team. They're going to be tough.''

All that uncertainty will be discarded for at least 90 minutes when the eighth-seeded Galaxy host ninth-seeded Houston in an unlikely final between veteran teams that gathered momentum at the perfect time, barreling through the playoffs with style after barely making the postseason.

``We've got two good attacking teams, and I expect some goals this year,'' said Los Angeles coach Bruce Arena, who could win his fourth MLS title. ``Last year's final, poor weather conditions were a factor. This year should make for a more attractive game. Having a rerun of last year is kind of interesting, and certainly they're going to have a lot of motivation. But so are we.''

While the world watches Beckham, the Dynamo believe they're better prepared this year to spring an upset for their first title since 2007. Key Houston playmaker Brad Davis is healthy after missing the final last season with an injury, and the Dynamo have been every bit as impressive as the Galaxy lately.

``When Houston and L.A. got into the playoffs, I think a lot of teams weren't happy about it,'' said Dynamo coach Dominic Kinnear, who could win his third MLS Cup. ``I think they saw something inside of us that's going to make us difficult to knock out, and I think they thought the same thing about the Galaxy.''

Although Beckham is still the star attraction for one more game, the Galaxy increasingly belong to Robbie Keane, the Irish national team captain who scored 16 regular-season goals and five more in the playoffs during an outstanding first full season with the Galaxy. While Beckham and Donovan contemplate their futures, Keane confirmed he isn't going anywhere after playing for his second MLS Cup in his short stateside tenure.

Donovan swatted away questions about his future in both English and Spanish on Friday, claiming he's focused only on the match. The Galaxy are hopeful he'll return after a break - and particularly with the motivation of another title defense alongside Keane and whatever third designated player Los Angeles lands in the next few months, whether it's Kaka, Frank Lampard or another big name.

The Dynamo aren't on the Galaxy's level in international cachet or payroll, but their consistent success is a model of clever coaching and judicious management by Kinnear and the front office. While the MLS Cup isn't really a referendum on those two starkly different approaches to building a team, it's yet another wrinkle of intrigue in the matchup.

Yet the day is likely to belong to Beckham, who hasn't revealed where he'll play next, or where he plans to invest as an MLS owner in the near future. After his rocky MLS arrival turned into an exemplary run under Arena's leadership, the English midfielder hopes to finish up his tenure with a few more bending passes and one more trophy.

And the Dynamo are eager to spoil it all.

``We're all happy and thankful for what David has done, but that's not what makes the world go round,'' said Davis, one of Beckham's few MLS peers on setpieces and free kicks. ``I was playing here before he came here, and hopefully I'll be playing after he leaves.''

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The details on Alex Smith's gruesome injury are even worse than you expected

The details on Alex Smith's gruesome injury are even worse than you expected

When Alex Smith went down in Sunday's loss to the Texans, the injury looked bad. From his reaction and the instant reaction of his teammates and coaches, it became obvious the severity of the situation. 

As soon as the video replays showed Smith's leg bend in the way it wasn't intended, the whole world knew bones were broken. 

Now, though, as details begin to emerge after Smith had successful surgery on the injury, it sounds even worse than it looked. 

On Monday, Jay Gruden explained that Smith faces a recovery time of six to eight months. That timeline puts Smith on pace to return for training camp in 2019, but that also assumes no complications from surgery and a full recovery. Smith will be 35 in May.

The Redskins acquired Smith via trade during the 2018 offseason, and immediately agreed to a contract extension with the quarterback. That deal includes $71 million guaranteed for injury.

In his first season as Redskins starter, Smith was completing 62 percent of his passes for 2,180 yards to go with 10 TDs against five INTs in 10 games before the injury. Smith guided the Redskins to a 6-3 record before leaving the Texans game and eventually landing on the injured reserve list. 

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Undermanned Capitals finish road trip in style with 5-4 overtime win in Montreal

Undermanned Capitals finish road trip in style with 5-4 overtime win in Montreal

Alex Ovechkin stared into the rafters at Bell Centre but he was not looking at all the championship banners. 

Ripping a shot from his office in the left faceoff circle with under one second remaining in Monday’s game against the Montreal Canadiens, Ovechkin assumed he had just won a wild one for the Capitals. 

Instead, goalie Carey Price’s desperate dive allowed him to get the knob of his stick in the way. Ovechkin looked upward and then all he could do was clap and tap Price as he skated away with a wry smile.

The smile was broader a few minutes later after teammate Lars Eller slipped a shot through Price’s pads at 3:34 of overtime to earn Washington a comeback 5-4 win and end a difficult road trip with a 3-1-0 record with two overtime victories.

Ovechkin scored twice and was robbed of a hat trick multiple times by Price, who allowed four goals but made some astounding saves. The fact that Washington won anyway epitomized a road trip where they played shorthanded from the start. 

Evgeny Kuznetsov and T.J. Oshie haven’t played since getting hurt in the second game of the trip at the Winnipeg Jets. Braden Holtby was a surprise scratch before the first game against the Minnesota Wild last Tuesday. He didn’t make an appearance until the second period against the Canadiens, who chased Pheonix Copley from the net with three goals in the first 95 seconds of the second period. 

Just like that a 2-1 lead was a 4-2 deficit and Holtby, out three games with an upper body injury, was needed. He stopped all 22 shots Montreal sent his way and gave Washington a chance to rally. Nicklas Backstrom, Ovechkin and, finally, Eller scored on Price to win it. 

“Those are huge for the season as it moves on,” Holtby said. “When you are in those situations, you get more and more comfortable. It’s been one of our big strengths the last couple years and to see it happening again, I think that’s a good sign for us.”

It IS a good sign going forward – provided Oshie and Kuznetsov are able to return to the ice soon. With a day off Tuesday and games Wednesday (Chicago Blackhawks), Friday (Detroit Red Wings), and Saturday (at New York Rangers) in a busy Thanksgiving Week there isn’t much practice time.

But for a short time at least missing two of their top five scorers wasn’t a problem. The depth the Capitals showed during last year’s Stanley Cup playoff run is still there. They needed it. And with another four games in six days upcoming, they might need it longer still. 

Copley wasn’t as good as he’d been in starts against the Wild, Jets and Colorado Avalanche. But Eller was able to handle a top-six role, Tom Wilson was again a factor in his fourth game back from a 16-game suspension and Washington got a goal from Connolly, who began the game on the fourth line after a rough night in Denver and by the second period against the Canadiens he was on the second line with Eller and Jakub Vrana.   

So after losing back-to-back games to end a five-game homestand, the Capitals have stabilized even without a full lineup. At 10-7-3 and with 23 standings points, Washington is in third place in the Metropolitan Division through 20 games. 

The Caps have made it through a dangerous first quarter of the season in a reasonable spot. They could be like the Pittsburgh Penguins (7-8-4), who are already making trades and sit in last place after four losses in a row, or the Philadelphia Flyers (9-9-2), who have lost three straight. 

Instead, they knocked off one tough road trip (Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Montreal) in late October and then this one in mid November with a 5-3-0 record. Things could have gone off the rails. That they did not is a victory in itself.     

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