Capitals

Beckham wins 2nd MLS title, Galaxy beat Dynamo 3-1

201212011709617549110-p2.jpeg

Beckham wins 2nd MLS title, Galaxy beat Dynamo 3-1

CARSON, Calif. (AP) David Beckham stood on the podium with his three sons, an oversized Union Jack knotted around his Los Angeles Galaxy jersey. With a practiced lift and a broad smile, he raised the sparkling silver cup over his head to a raucous ovation amid a confetti blizzard.

Now that's a Hollywood ending worthy of a star.

Beckham wrapped up his MLS career as a two-time champion Saturday, with Landon Donovan's tiebreaking goal on a penalty kick in the 65th minute propelling the Galaxy to a 3-1 victory over the Houston Dynamo in the MLS Cup.

Omar Gonzalez tied it in the 61st minute with a long header for the Galaxy, who defended their title in a rematch of last season's championship game. For the second straight year, Beckham raised a trophy that stands as evidence of the 37-year-old English midfielder's indelible impact on American soccer during his six seasons in Los Angeles.

``It's been a successful six years here, and now that we've won the second one, it's even more satisfying,'' Beckham said. ``I just hope people have enjoyed me playing here. It's what I always hope for when I step on the field.''

With a stirring second-half surge capped by Robbie Keane's goal on another penalty kick in injury time, Los Angeles won its fourth MLS Cup, tying D.C. United for the league record.

The Galaxy also gave an appropriate farewell to Beckham, who will play elsewhere in the new year before eventually returning to MLS as a team owner. With rumors linking him everywhere from Sydney to Paris, he hasn't disclosed his immediate plans beyond a Christmas vacation back home in England.

Los Angeles will miss Beckham, but the glamorous global icon is going out at an apex for MLS' highest-profile franchise.

``I just hope I've brought a bit of interest to the game (in America),'' Beckham said. ``If that's the single thing I've done, then great. But I think the foundations are there now in this league. It's a 17-year-old league, and the foundations are great. It will continue to grow.''

After Calen Carr put Houston ahead in the 44th minute, Beckham and his high-scoring teammates systematically broke down the defense of the Dynamo, who lost the MLS Cup 1-0 to Los Angeles on the same field last year.

While Gonzalez got the equalizer on a cagey play by MLS' top defender last season, Keane played another stellar attacking game for Los Angeles before earning his own penalty kick when Houston's Tally Hall knocked him down in the box.

Donovan redeemed himself for missing an open net in the 13th minute by burying his penalty kick after a handball in the box by Houston's Ricardo Clark. The U.S. national team star, who is also contemplating a departure from soccer, won his record-tying fifth MLS title while scoring his fifth career MLS Cup goal and the record 22nd goal of his postseason career.

``It's a little surreal,'' Donovan said. ``In any sport, to repeat is really hard to do. ... For me personally, this felt more satisfying (than last year). We could enjoy it a little bit more.''

After Keane's goal clinched it, Beckham left the game to a raucous standing ovation from the packed stadium amid chants of ``Thank you, David!''

Beckham hugged Galaxy coach Bruce Arena, who won his fourth MLS title, and just about everybody on the Galaxy bench before the game ended moments later.

Beckham streamed onto the field with his teammates and waved thanks at the fans before he was joined by his three sons, all clad in No. 23 Galaxy jerseys.

``Today was always going to be an emotional day for myself, win or lose,'' said Beckham, who also won trophies in his final seasons at Real Madrid and Manchester United. ``Coming off was tough, but I enjoyed the win today.''

The pregame rain cleared long enough for MLS' sunny farewell to Beckham, who arrived in Los Angeles in 2007 from Real with designs on changing the American perception of the world's most popular game. The league has grown steadily during his tenure, with most MLS franchises on sound financial footing and in excellent stadiums, although the sport's popularity and TV ratings haven't matched the other American pastimes.

Beckham was wildly cheered by many of the same diehard Galaxy supporters who booed him three years ago after his loans to AC Milan and an injury-riddled start to his Galaxy career. The Home Depot Center souvenir stands were loaded with Beckham shirts, including one that said ``Take Me With You!''

These two franchises have combined to win eight of the last 12 MLS titles, dating back to the Dynamo's days in San Jose. Houston seems stuck as a supporting player in the Galaxy's story, despite its rally from the Eastern Conference's last playoff seed to the championship match.

``You have to be proud of what we've accomplished once again,'' Houston captain Brad Davis said. ``It isn't easy to get to this game, and this is the fourth time in seven years. It's a credit to this group of guys.''

After winning the title last year on a Beckham-to-Keane-to-Donovan beauty of a goal, Los Angeles nearly had another storybook score in the 13th minute when Beckham launched a long, high pass to a sprinting Keane, who slipped behind the defense and centered it perfectly for Donovan.

But he inexplicably pushed his shot inches wide of the post, leaving him with both hands on his head while the stadium released the usual post-goal confetti anyway.

``When you're in a moment like that, you feel like you let the team down,'' Donovan said. ``Candidly, it sat with me until halftime. I took a few minutes at halftime, sort of collected myself, and tried to stay present, because you can't change it.''

The Dynamo improved their pressure late in the first half, and Adam Moffat's long pass eventually set up Carr's impressive near-post goal past Josh Saunders.

Carr leaped the corner flag in celebration of a rare score for the forward, a Bay Area native who joined the Dynamo last season and managed just four goals this year.

But with Keane and Beckham leading the second-half charge, the Galaxy finally broke through when Gonzalez stuck around the box after a failed setpiece and managed to bounce a looping header past Hall. Gonzalez's delayed return from injury this season sparked the Galaxy's late-season surge.

``At the beginning of the season, I didn't see myself getting back to this level,'' said Gonzalez, named the game's MVP.

Clark was then called for a handball in the box in the 65th minute after an extended defensive scramble by the Dynamo. It was another high-profile mistake by the U.S. national team player whose turnover led to Ghana's first goal in the Americans' 2-1 elimination loss at the World Cup two years ago.

``When the penalty came, I'm not going to fool anyone and say I was calm about it,'' Donovan said. ``I was pretty nervous. But you have to keep going, and every one of these guys said, `Forget about it. Keep going.'''

After Donovan scored, Houston frantically pressed for an equalizer in the final minutes, but Saunders and his defense repeatedly denied the Dynamo. After Hall wrapped his hand around Keane's thigh to stop a chance in the box, Keane confidently ended it with his sixth goal of a spectacular six-game playoff run in the Irish national team captain's first full MLS season.

``Being successful doesn't come easy,'' Beckham said. ``You have to work at it. I tell my children every single day that if you want to be successful, it's hard graft. It doesn't come easy, and I think we proved that this year.''

Quick Links

What winning the Stanley Cup would actually mean, a fan's perspective

What winning the Stanley Cup would actually mean, a fan's perspective

Just four more wins. It hardly seems possible.

For only the second time ever and for the first time in 20 years, the Capitals will be playing in the Stanley Cup Final. And they could actually win it.

They’re not there yet. The Vegas Golden Knights have cruised through the playoffs thus far and continue to shock the hockey community with their postseason run. Washington’s players need to think about how to beat Vegas, not what happens after.

But while the players cannot and should not look ahead, for fans, it’s hard not to. It’s hard not to dream about that moment when Gary Bettman hands the Stanley Cup over to Alex Ovechkin.

Winning the conference is always a huge achievement that should be celebrated, but this year is different than 1998’s run. Back in 1998, the Caps played against a Detroit Red Wings team that is one of the greatest teams in NHL history. They were the defending champions after sweeping the Philadelphia Flyers the year before. Washington suffered the same fate as the Flyers, losing in just four games.

This year is a battle between two more evenly matched teams. Picking the Caps to win this series is not outlandish or crazy at all. This year, they could actually do it.

So before the puck drops for Game 1 and all dreams are pushed aside for the realities of what may happen, allow a fan a chance to think about what seeing the Washington Capitals actually hoist the Stanley Cup would actually mean.

Breaking news: Washington is not Canada and the Capitals are not an original six team. Hockey is not ingrained in the culture of D.C. the way it is in Canadian cities or in places like Boston and Detroit. Unlike in Vegas where the success of the team in its inaugural season has caught the city by storm, the Capitals won only eight games in their first year. Eight wins doesn’t exactly help a team grow roots in the community.

If you’ve been a fan of the Capitals long enough, chances are you’ve seen some pretty tough times. There have been plenty of playoff disappointments in this team’s history even before the current era. There was also the rebuild that began before the lockout that saw a very bad team play in front of a half empty stadium for several years. And they would not have even gotten to that point without the “Save the Caps” campaign in 1982.

But through it all, that small group of hardcore fans kept coming back. Some may have wavered from time to time, but they came back because being a hockey fan is different than other sports.

It’s hard to be a sports fan in any city with an NFL team and not follow football. Football may not even be your sport, but there is almost on obligation to following it because coverage and interest in football is so prevalent. It’s hard to avoid.

You have to seek out hockey

Hockey at times has been viewed as more of a niche sport than mainstream. Before the age of Alex Ovechkin, if you were from Washington and you were following the Caps, it was because you loved both.

So why did those Caps fans keep coming back after so much heartbreak? Because despite all of the disappointing seasons we always walked away telling ourselves, this will just make it that much sweeter when they do win.

One day, it will all be worth it.

That’s why we watch sports, isn’t it? We watch with the knowledge that sometimes, our hearts will be broken but it’s OK because the good will always outweigh the bad. And the worse the bad times are, the better the good times will feel afterward.

We kept telling ourselves that for a long time, but admittedly some years were tougher to get past than others. It’s hard to keep believing when you’ve seen your rival beat you nine times out of 10 in the playoffs heading into this year’s postseason. It’s hard when a team cannot seem to overcome its playoff history despite having one of the best players of all-time on its roster.

When Ovechkin was drafted, the question we all asked ourselves was not whether he would bring a Cup to Washington, but how many? He brought new fans with him, he brought excitement with him, he brought validation with him…at least initially.

But with every passing year, doubt began to creep into our minds. The upset loss to Montreal in 2010 stung, but Ovechkin was still 24. There was still hope that one day, he would still win the Cup.

Now at 32 years old, many did not know what to expect from the Great 8 this year. When would decline start to show in his game?

Ovechkin is part of why we want the Cup so badly. We want to see the best player in this franchise’s history honored. We want to see the player who transformed hockey in Washington from niche sport to mainstream take his proper place in the sport’s history. No one wants to hear him described as one of the best players to never win a Cup because he should be remembered as one of the best players, period.

But that’s not all of it.

This is about all those times we told ourselves this would all be worth it someday. This is about how we used to cope with the sting of another postseason heartbreak by thinking about what it would feel like when it was finally our year. This is about how we stuck with the team when the stadium was half empty. This is about the blue jersey in our closet with the eagle on the front and the black one hanging next to it with the capitol building on the front. This is about all the 5, 12, 32 and 37 jerseys. This is about replacing Esa Tikkanen as our lasting Stanley Cup memory.

When the Washington Redskins have a rough year, those fans who can remember them think about those three Super Bowl wins. When the Washington Wizards fall short, those fans who can remember it think about the championship in 1978. Even if you’re too young to remember the Super Bowls or NBA championship, those banners still give your team a sense of validation. They have their little piece of history to be proud of.

That’s what this would mean. A Stanley Cup would be not just for the players, it would be for the fans who stuck it out through thick and thin, those fans who despite everything still supported their team. This win would be about the Capitals forever earning their spot in the heart of Washington sports alongside the Redskins and Wizards.

This would be about never having to tell ourselves again that someday all the love we pour into this team will pay off.

A Stanley Cup would mean finally getting to experience a championship and realizing, yeah, it was all worth it.

Let’s go Caps!

MORE CAPITALS PLAYOFF NEWS:

Quick Links

Capital One Bank just made a Caps-themed update to its logo and we're here for it

Capital One Bank just made a Caps-themed update to its logo and we're here for it

Capital One is repping the district in a big way: by changing their logo to incorporate the Capitals' font and name. 

The new Capital One logo appears on the bank's websites and social media ahead of the Caps' Stanley Cup Final games, which begin on Memorial Day Monday in Vegas.

The McLean, Virginia, based bank recently purchased the naming rights to the Capitals' home arena, formerly known as "Verizon Center." And in the first year of its renaming, the Capitals have advanced to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 20 years. Coincidence? 

We've seen a small, Northern Virginia town change its name to "Capitalsville," and now Capital One Bank is all-in for the Caps.

MORE CAPITALS PLAYOFF NEWS: