Los Angeles Soccer: Dario Sala
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Goalkeeper Kevin Hartman of FC Dallas applauds the fans after the Western Conference Finals of the MLS playoffs against the Galaxy at Home Depot Center.
TORONTO -- Kevin Hartman thought it might be time to go on to something else when the Kansas City Wizards told him as kickoff neared for the new season late last winter that his services no longer were required.
The veteran goalkeeper had few options: The other Major League Soccer clubs' goalkeeping hierarchies were in place, and most weren't looking to make a chance, no matter the former UCLA star's pedigree.
Schellas Hyndman , who had what he believed a title contender after a 21-month rebuild of FC Dallas' roster, was intrigued. And Hartman thought he had more to give.
Theirs turned out to be the perfect partnership, and it's led to Sunday night's MLS Cup in Toronto (ESPN and Galavision, 5:30 p.m. PT), where the Hoops or Colorado Rapids will claim their first league title in what could be the most dynamic of the league's 15 championship games.
Hartman could be -- should be -- the difference.
The Palos Verdes product, who played at Palos Verdes and Peninsula high schools and started his college career at Cal State Dominguez Hills, was the final, and perhaps most important, piece of Hyndman's remake. He rewarded the coach with often spectacular play that sparked a league single-season record 19-game unbeaten streak, saw FC Dallas lose just four times -- tying an MLS mark -- and took the club into its first MLS Cup final, the last of the surviving remaining original clubs to do so.
Juninho’s volley just 31 second into the second half lifted the Galaxy to a 2-1 victory over FC Dallas at Home Depot Center in their regular-season finale, giving L.A. its second successive Western Conference title and its third Supporters’ Shield.David Beckham also tallied for the Galaxy (18-7-5), which overcame a 22nd-minute deficit. They needed at least a draw to win the conference and Shield titles after Real Salt Lake rallied Saturday night to tie Colorado.
The Galaxy will face the Seattle Sounders in the first round of the MLS playoffs. The opener will be next Sunday at Qwest Field in Seattle (ESPN 2 and ESPN Deportes, 5 p.m.), and the finale in the home-and-home series is slated for Sunday, Nov. 7 at HDC (ESPN and ESPN Deportes, 6 p.m.).
The Supporters' Shield, for best regular-season record, gives the Galaxy a berth in the group phase of next season's CONCACAF Champions League.
Edson Buddle failed to score and finished second, to San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski, in the Golden Boot race. Wondolowski netted his 18th goal of the season in the Earthquakes’ loss Saturday at Kansas City; Buddle’s best opportunity for his 18th, a header from Beckham’s corner kick in the 67th minute, was parried by FC Dallas goalkeeper Dario Sala.
Former Chivas USA midfielder Atiba Harris gave Dallas the lead after a Sean Franklin giveaway, but Beckham tied the score in the 33rd after Landon Donovan got away with shoving Hoops defender Jackson Goncalves, who was shepherding the ball over the end line, and played the ball back. Beckham hit a low drive inside the left post from 20 yards.
Juninho scored the winner after Dallas defender Zach Loyd headed away a cross from Donovan.
Midfielders Chris Klein and Eddie Lewis, who are retiring, were brought at the finish.
The playoff matchups:
Galaxy (18-7-5) vs. Seattle Sounders (14-10-6)
Real Salt Lake (15-4-11) vs. FC Dallas (12-4-14)
New York Red Bulls (15-9-6) vs. San Jose Earthquakes (13-10-7)
Columbus Crew (14-8-8) vs. Colorado Rapids (12-8-10)
The Galaxy would be home for the one-game Western Conference final if it beats Seattle. The MLS Cup championship is Nov. 1 in Toronto.