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Saturday, December 1, 2012
Donovan, Galaxy win second straight MLS Cup

By Pedro Moura

Landon Donovan
Landon Donovan scored a goal in Saturday's MLS Cup victory and will decide his future later.

CARSON, Calif. -- Landon Donovan likes to talk about what he calls "being present" -- living in the moment and forgetting the past.

He found himself doing the exact opposite for a half-hour on Saturday afternoon. Donovan couldn't stop thinking about his 13th-minute empty-net whiff in the MLS Cup title game until halftime, when he finally collected himself and re-focused.

Twenty minutes later, his "present-ness" was tested. With Donovan's L.A. Galaxy tied, 1-1, with the Houston Dynamo in Saturday's season finale at the Home Depot Center, he took a crucial penalty kick.

"I'm not gonna fool anyone if I say I was calm about it," Donovan said. "I was pretty nervous. But you have to keep going."

Donovan kneeled for an extended stretch while Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall readied to defend the penalty, given for a Ricardo Clark handball in the 65th minute. Then, as soon as the whistle was blown, Donovan walked up to the penalty spot and delivered the ball to the right side of the net.

In extra time, the Galaxy tacked on another goal via a penalty kick -- which Donovan ceded to Irishman Robbie Keane -- and topped Houston 3-1. L.A. is the MLS Cup repeat champion for the first time in its history, after a 1-0 victory over these same Dynamo last year.

Donovan's early miss was so egregious stadium staffers set off confetti anyway, apparently believing a goal to be a sure bet. A great downfield ball from David Beckham and smart pass from Keane gave Donovan a clear look at an open goal, but his shot inexplicably went wide right.

He wasn't readily involved in the game for the rest of the half. But he then helped spearhead a mad Galaxy rush in the early portion of the second half and was rewarded with the penalty goal, the fifth of his career in an MLS Cup.

"It took some (guts) for him to step up and take that penalty," said Beckham, who played 89 minutes in his final game with the Galaxy, exiting the match to a massive ovation. "Because I could see what he was like after that (first) chance."

L.A. trailed, 1-0, at halftime, after mistakes by Tommy Meyer and Omar Gonzalez in defense let Houston's Galen Carr beat Galaxy keeper Josh Saunders near post for a 44th-minute goal.

But Gonzalez responded in the 60th with a powerful header off a Juninho cross that found net.

"That was obviously the moment that things changed," Donovan said afterward. "From there, it felt almost inevitable that the second goal was going to come."

The 30-year-old Donovan has admitted in recent weeks he's unsure of his playing future. He's under contract with the Galaxy for another season but is considering taking a year off, retiring or playing elsewhere. He spent last winter on loan for Everton in the English Premier League.

A similar move this season seems unlikely.

He says he plans to take a nice vacation -- he has talked about a desire to travel alone in the past -- and then figure out his preference. He called Saturday's championship win "more satisfying" than last year's because of lighter expectations.

Still, the last two years of non-stop soccer have exacted a heavy toll on his motivation and spirit.

"It's not a woe-is-me story," Donovan said Saturday, adding that many of his teammates were dealing with the same sort of burnout he has been fighting. "But I have to listen to my heart and my gut, and right now my gut says to get away for a while."

He said his feelings were reinforced when he saw his twin sister and her baby son share a moment on the field after Saturday's match.

"It sort of puts it all in perspective," Donovan said. "It makes me realize that I want to be close to my family for a while.

"I can figure out the soccer part later."

Galaxy coach Bruce Arena paused when asked Saturday if he'd be surprised if Donovan did not return to the team next season.

"I probably would be," he eventually answered. "We will be fully supportive of whatever Landon wants to do, but I think he still has so much to offer the game as a player."

Final notes: Donovan's delaying of a throw-in in extra time earned him a yellow card from referee Silviu Petrescu for "time wasting." It also earned him a ball to the head from Houston center back Bobby Boswell. ... The sellout crowd of 30,510 was the largest in the nine-year history of Home Depot Center. ... Arena and Beckham both campaigned for Gonzalez to earn a call-up to the U.S. national team in the postgame press conference. U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who's tasked with naming a new 23-man roster for next month's training camp, was in attendance Sunday. Gonzalez earned MVP honors. ... Arena, asked about Beckham's long-term contributions to the Galaxy and MLS: "Twenty years from now we're gonna look at this league and still talk about David Beckham as the one that helped turn us."