On the eve of the MLS final between the Houston Dynamo and the LA Galaxy, most of the conversation centers on what’s going on off the pitch.
And for understandable reasons. David Beckham moving on is huge. He’s made a great impact on the MLS and on the Galaxy, but he will be leaving the league more popular and more competitive than when he joined it. And, that won’t change with his departure, nor will that change with the potential loss of Landon Donovan.
Donovan’s jadedness has been a talking point throughout the year, and although it would be unfortunate for Major League Soccer to see him hang up his boots, I think it will be a bigger issue for US Men’s National Team.
In the last World Cup in South Africa, the USMNT relied on Donovan to pull them out of some very difficult positions with last gasp efforts. He’s been a critical part of the team for years, and as we saw with the US scraping by to the next round of World Cup qualifying, his presence throughout this year was clearly missed.
Still, the US managed. Clint Dempsey, although not looking as strong as he did last year at Fulham, has proven himself as a top class striker. Michael Bradley has marshaled the midfield with confidence, and Tim Howard has continued to turn in great performances game after game for the USMNT. Overall, the team dug deep when they had to and got to the next round.
However, it has not been comfortable. The competition will only get more intense, and where it stands, the USMNT is on shakier ground. Time and time again, Donovan has raised his own level and the level of his team to lift the United States through, but he may not do that anymore.
It would be difficult to lose Donovan at this point although it will force the USMNT players to step up more. Hopefully, they can get through the next challenge of qualifying so their team has more time to become more cohesive and rising stars the chance to become more established.
For the Galaxy, if Donovan leaves along with Beckham, next season should be an interesting transition. No doubt the Galaxy will purchase another exciting name, but Donovan has been a defining member of the team for 7 years. Regardless of who they bring in, someone as consistent as Landon Donovan is not easy to replace.
Before we get too comfortable with saying goodbye to Donovan, though, we do have a match tomorrow, and Donovan may not leave at all.
In light of all the focus on the Galaxy and their departures or potential departures, Houston has been able to fly under the radar. This relative peace during their preparation may benefit Houston greatly. Moreover, this year, they have their set piece expert Brad Davis back. It will be fascinating to see the two best MLS dead ball experts in Davis and Beckham go against each other in the final. Both with something to prove, and I’m looking forward to see who makes a bigger impact.
Tomorrow, LA has home field advantage, but Houston has the drive from lost opportunities. Both teams have every chance to win, the players to do it, and some with a serious point to prove. I think with teams this on par it’s going to come down to a matter of moments and a few stellar plays.
We’ll find out soon not only who makes the biggest impact and but also who’s made their final impact on their team.