‘‘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.’’