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Galaxy exorcises years worth of demons with MLS Cup triumph

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Finally.

With its 1-0 triumph over the Houston Dynamo, the Los Angeles Galaxy did more than win MLS Cup on Sunday night; the team performed an exorcism.

Over the past three years, the Galaxy has been the best regular-season team in MLS. But, its playoff campaigns have been filled with wreckage; losses in MLS Cup, losses in Conference Finals and throw that CONCACAF Champions League preliminary-round upset to the Puerto Rico Islanders in there, too.

Until Sunday, the Galaxy had been the team that couldn’t win when it mattered. But then a trio of Designated Players combined to give Los Angeles the goal that ended years of frustration.

In the 72nd minute, David Beckham flicked a clever header into the path of Robbie Keane. The Irish forward then threaded a perfect ball through the heart of the Dynamo defence for Landon Donovan to take in stride. Donovan struck the ball with the outside of his boot. Houston keeper Tally Hall got his hand to the shot, but didn’t get enough on it to stop the ball from rolling across the goal line.

It brought relief to a nervy game played in the rain. Without the passing and vision of the injured Brad Davis, the Dynamo offered little going forward. It was clear that Houston was intent on soaking up the Galaxy’s pressure and hope for a goal on the counter or to nurse a 0-0 match into penalties.

Landon Donovan: Match-winner

And the Galaxy obliged for looking a lot like the Galaxy of previous playoff failures through the first 70 minutes. Just as it did in a playoff loss to FC Dallas in 2010, the Galaxy fluffed its lines. Adam Cristman, playing for an injured Chad Barrett, missed an open header. Mike Magee, who was addicted to scoring through the playoffs, skied a shot over the bar when he was alone in the box. So many other attacks were snuffed out because the Galaxy made one pass too many.

But, Donovan struck — and finally, the Beckham era Galaxy had its MLS Cup.

It was the end of an era for MLS and MLS Cup — on many fronts.

Not only does the match mark the end of Beckham’s five-year contract, but the new television contract with NBC and its family of networks, which takes effect in 2012, will likely spell the end of the Sunday prime-time MLS Cup. It was launched three seasons ago to accommodate ESPN. But NBC has Sunday Night Football; so how can it broadcast MLS Cup at the same time?

And, MLS has now committed to allowing the highest remaining seed host the game. That means the host city won’t be confirmed till a week or two before MLS Cup. If MLS Cup goes on Sunday, it could create some very uncomfortable conflicts. While it’s hard to imagine at this moment, what if the New England Revolution was to earn the right to host the big game? If the Patriots would already be schedued to play a home game that Sunday, well, you know what would win out.

And, even if a team didn’t share a stadium, would D.C. United want to sell tickets on a week or two’s notice to go head-to-head on a Sunday against the Redskins? Or would the Impact or Toronto FC or the Whitecaps want to duel with a CFL playoff Sunday?

It will be interesting to see how NBC — and the new home-team format for MLS Cup — will influence the championship game in the coming years.

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