CARSON, Calif. – You could feel it coming in the moments after the kickoff. LA Galaxy had just scored their 60th minute equalizer, and with the energy from an ignited Angel City Brigade at their back, the defending MLS champions poured through Houston’s formation after the scream of Silviu Petrescu’s whistle.
A ball played left, Beckham closed. Tapped forward, there’s Juninho and Omar Gonzalez. It happened in second. Swarming, piercing through Houston’s attack, LA mobbed the Dynamo, winning back possession moments after the rulebook charitably gave it away. There was no way Houston was keeping the ball.
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For four minutes the Galaxy pushed their opponent to within a standing eight count, their pressure rewarded when Houston conceded a foul 30-yards from goal.
It’s was the edge of David Beckham territory – the area in which the set piece legend had made his career. On a night that was the Galaxy superstar’s Major League Soccer farewell, his storybook’s latest chapter would have gotten a fairytale ending had another long distance shot spun inside the opposition’s goal.
Instead, Beckham demurred, chipping to the edge of the six. There, Omar Gonzalez had an unchecked run toward Tally Hall.
The resulting chaos turned the match for good:
Throughout the night Tally Hall had been slow off his line, one of the few faults in the skillset of one of the league’s emerging talents. On Beckham’s restart, that hesitation cost him, though not as much as his defense forgetting to pick up LA’s most dangerous aerial threat cost their team on the scoreboard.
Bobby Boswell had been marking Gonzalez throughout the night, but in the chaos that followed the foul, the Dynamo center half failed to pick up his man. The mistake was understandable. At the end of an anarchic four minutes that left Houston begging for a reprieve, the dead ball seemed a moment to collect themselves. Surely Beckham would have his crack on goal, so all the team needed to do is erect Hall’s wall and be prepared.
Beckham defied them, and Gonzalez did his job, his header forcing Clark to try a desperation flick clearance. The ball was popped up to Tommy Meyer in the middle of the area, with his header put toward goal by an overhead kick from Mike Magee. Clark made another block, the ball dropping for Robbie Keane as Petrescu blew his whistle, pointing to the spot.
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The moment Magee’s shot makes contact with Clark’s arm, Los Angeles is en route to their title. Donovan almost assuredly will make his kick, and without the lead, momentum, or any solutions for Gonzalez at in defense, Houston are long shots to derail the Galaxy’s title defense.
What if Beckham takes the kick and puts it out of play? Houston has their reprieve. If Hall catches the cross? Or Petrescu swallows his whistle on the handball? Houston likely survives the Galaxy’s rush in the same way LA weathered the Dynamo’s opening match surge.
But they didn’t, leaving that one, turbulent sequence to give the Galaxy the final push they needed.