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Donovan, Beckham lead LA Galaxy to MLS title

Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder David Beckham celebrates a goal by forward Landon Donovan during the second half of their MLS Cup championship soccer match against the Houston Dynamo, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011, in Carson, Calif. The Galaxy won 1-0. Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder David Beckham celebrates a goal by forward Landon Donovan during the second half of their MLS Cup championship soccer match against the Houston Dynamo, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011, in Carson, Calif. The Galaxy won 1-0. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
By Greg Beacham
AP Sports Writer / November 21, 2011

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CARSON, Calif.—David Beckham thrust the shiny silver trophy above his Los Angeles Galaxy teammates' heads, and a sold-out stadium roared for its hometown team through a blizzard of confetti.

Although Beckham's five-year American odyssey hasn't always gone according to script, he clearly learned a little something about Hollywood endings along the way.

Landon Donovan scored in the 72nd minute on passes from Robbie Keane and Beckham, and the Galaxy's three superstars won their first MLS Cup together with a 1-0 victory over the Houston Dynamo on Sunday night.

The trio's beautiful goal highlighted another brute demonstration of the Galaxy's dominance in perhaps the greatest season for any MLS club. Los Angeles had the second-best record in league history during the regular season before barreling through the playoffs without a loss to win the franchise's third title.

Beckham was brilliant throughout the postseason, contributing four assists and controlling play in midfield despite injuries to his back and hamstrings.

"We've been through a lot this season," Beckham said. "We've had a lot of games. Bruce and his staff are the ones that got us to this game tonight."

Los Angeles had the most expensive and eye-catching roster in MLS history, but the Galaxy got full value from their three highest-priced players, particularly in the playoffs. Along with Beckham's brilliance, Donovan scored in each of the Galaxy's final three playoff games, and Keane was a constant offensive threat despite crisscrossing the globe in his spare time on Irish national team duty.

Galaxy coach Bruce Arena felt the championship justified every expense and expectation of the experiment they started in 2007 with Beckham's groundbreaking move to America.

"David is a champion," said Arena, the first coach to win three MLS titles. "I've been around great athletes and competitors in my life, and this guy is as good as it comes. Unbelievable desire to win. He's a great teammate, a great person. He's done it all in every country he's been in. What more can you say about a guy like this and what he's brought to this organization and this league in five years? He gutted it out tonight. He obviously wanted to be there."

Donovan, chosen the MLS Cup MVP after his record 20th playoff goal, was lifted off his feet with a hug from Beckham after the final whistle. Beckham's three sons then joined him on the field, with 12-year-old Brooklyn carrying the Cup after they made their way over to the Galaxy's most ardent supporters in the north end of Home Depot Center, where the Galaxy didn't lose all season long.

Although the 36-year-old global icon insists he hasn't decided where he'll play next year, the Galaxy hope Beckham extends his California sojourn for at least another season. The Galaxy fanatics in the Angel City Brigade supporters' section chanted "We want Beckham!" after the match as Beckham took a long tour of the pitch with his sons.

"It's been the most enjoyable time of my career in America over the last year, and this just tops it off," said Beckham, whose services are coveted by Paris Saint-Germain and a handful of British clubs. "I've said before, I need to sit back and relax and enjoy this moment, and then I'll figure out what I'm going to do next year. I might talk in the past tense sometimes, but that doesn't mean I'm leaving. It's been an amazing five years."

Despite his injuries, Beckham plans to participate in the Galaxy's friendly tour of Indonesia, the Philippines and Australia in the next few weeks before his contract officially runs out in December.

"Knowing David the way we do, he'd go out there with his leg hanging off," said Keane, who led Ireland to a place in the Euro 2012 finals last Tuesday in Dublin. "From a selfish point of view, I want him to stay. He's been great to me. I've enjoyed the few months I've had with him."

Beckham put a stylish finish on the best season of his five-year stint with the Galaxy, finishing second in MLS with 15 assists. After the game, Donovan revealed Beckham strained his hamstring during training earlier in the week, while coach Bruce Arena said Donovan has been struggling with undisclosed injuries for several weeks.

Beckham grinned at mention of his injury.

"I just had a little bit of champagne and beer, and I can't really feel it anymore," he said.

A sellout crowd of 30,281 cheered Los Angeles past the Dynamo, who hadn't lost in nine games since Sept. 10. Houston struggled for offense in the MLS Cup after losing leading scorer and league MVP runner-up Brad Davis to a torn quadriceps in the Eastern Conference championship.

"It's a well-balanced team," Houston coach Dominic Kinnear said about the Galaxy. "They've been the best in the league from Day 1 to now. They are a deserving champion. ... We gave ourselves a chance. It took one goal to win it, which is sometimes what finals are about."

This championship had been the Galaxy's to lose since early in the season. Los Angeles won the Supporters' Shield for the league's best regular-season record for the second straight year, but didn't disappoint in the playoffs this time.

"To be honest, the actual goal doesn't mean a lot to me," Donovan said. "I, for the last month, have been so determined. I didn't care who scored. I didn't care if it was an own-goal that won it. Winning feels so good. Goals come and go, but when the whistle blew, that's what I'll remember."

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