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Beyond the Boxscore

Abject failures: Landon Donovan carries David Beckham, but win over ESPN-dissed Dynamo cannot change dismal legacy

Brian Ching scores
Brian Ching and the Dynamo had a storybook playoff run, but they didn't have enough to capture another MLS Cup. Courtesy of Houston Dynamo
Landon Donovan & David Beckham
Brian Ching scores
David Beckham
News_Chris Baldwin_managing editor_arms crossed

Imagine if Shaq and Kobe managed to win only one title in their time together with the LA Lakers. It'd be considered an abject failure by all involved.

Which is exactly what the David Beckham and Landon Donovan's team up in Los Angeles turned out to be. Yes, the LA Galaxy finally won a title, beating the valiant, but completely ESPN ignored, Houston Dynamo 1-0 in the MLS Cup on Sunday night. Yes, Beckham gets to jet to Paris, telling himself he's a champion.

But please. Let's get real.

One title in five years for an MLS team with Beckham, Donovan and a host of other stars is hardly a great accomplishment. The LA Galaxy are much more like the Miami Heat of Eric Spoelstra than the New York Yankees of Joe Torre. They're expensive flash with underwhelming results.

Even playing the final in their home stadium against a wounded Houston team missing its MVP candidate, the Galaxy merely survived rather than dazzled. No matter how much ESPN's entire broadcast team seemed determined to try and convince everyone who cares about soccer otherwise.

Normally, fans who charge national announcers with being homers for the other side (it's always for the other side) are idiotic dolts. But in the case of the 2011 MLS Cup, Dynamo fans have a legit beef. Houston was barely mentioned in the two-hour-plus broadcast, unless it was to note that Dynamo were dodging bullets. It was like the star-studded Galaxy were playing the Washington Generals, not one of the proudest, toughest franchises in MLS history.

Couldn't ESPN have given the national audience at least a little of Houston's story between shots of the glamour boys?

 The LA Galaxy are much more like the Miami Heat of Eric Spoelstra than the New York Yankees of Joe Torre. They're expensive flash. 

It took Donovan — the MVP — to note how hard Dom Kinnear's team pushed everyone's presumptive champs.

"Give Houston a lot of credit," Donovan said as he accepted his trophy. "They made the game really difficult."

Donovan went on to note that the game could have ended up in a very different result if MLS-assist-leader Brad Davis, the Steve Nash of the Dynamo's intricate set pieces, had played. It's a wonder ESPN allowed those remarks on air.

Then again, Donovan always hits the right notes.

He absolutely carried his overpaid, French-dreaming teammate in this game. The Galaxy needed soccer's Mr. Clutch to rescue them from having their title shot drag on into overtime or get decided on the fickle nature of penalty kicks.

Donovan's goal in the 72nd minute off a beautiful feed from Robbie Keane (started by a Beckham flick header) gives him an MLS-record 20 playoff goals. Donovan finds a way to finish when it matters most.

And after the final whistle, he goes out of his way to wrap up Beckham in a hug and make him feel like a huge part of it.

"Well, let me tell you something about David that not a lot of people know," Donovan said to the ESPN cameras, which didn't want to hear about anything else. "He pulled his hamstring earlier this week and basically played on one leg tonight.

"A real warrior-like effort."

Donovan is a great teammate, one who gladly put aside his prior feuds with Beckham over the Englishman's wishy-washy commitment to the Galaxy, in the goodbye moment. But that doesn't make this a great tandem.

The Dynamo overachieved to reach this MLS Cup in a "rebuilding" year — somehow coming within one game of winning the franchise's third Cup in a season in which the team's roster received a severe youth makeover. The Galaxy underachieved even in winning the league.

 Beckham plays the game to win like Brett Favre does. When he's wrung as much money as he possibly can out of as many teams as he possibly can, Beckham will have won. 

Yes, the favorites could have easily scored on a questionable offsides call on Keane before Donovan's bit of finishing magic. Yes, they proved themselves to be the best team in the league all season, but one borderline dominant season out of five years of Beckham?

Sorry, that's no triumph. Even Beckham seemed to realize how long overdue this title was.

"It's about time," he said. "We've been planning this for a few years now. I play the game to win. Whether I stay or not, it's been an amazing five years."

No, it's been a pretty disappointing five years. Beckham plays the game to win like Brett Favre does. When he's wrung as much money as he possibly can out of as many teams as he possibly can, Beckham will have won.

That's his real scorecard.

The Dynamo on the other foot?

Well, they get to move into a brand new stadium in EaDo next season, get to work on building on a run of three MLS Cup appearances (and two championships) in six years. They can look forward to a healthy Davis and a more experienced Tally Hall, who made gigantic leaps himself this season. Not a bad place to be at all.

Maybe, ESPN will even learn some of their names next season.


Watch Landon Donovan's game-winning goal:

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