Alexi Lalas MLS blog: Beckham's USA stay could be branded a failure if he fails to lift the Cup
Welcome to MirrorFootball's MLS blog, brought to you in conjunction with ESPN. In his last blog of the season, USA legend Alexi Lalas breaks down this weekend's MLS Cup final...
In MLS, glory comes down to one game: the MLS Cup final. Win it, and you’re the champions. Lose, and you might as well have come in last place.
For David Beckham, a man who knows a thing or two about the importance of image and moments and how they can impact perception, this is huge.
Because the ultimate Hollywood ending is within his grasp.
The image of the one and only David Beckham raising the MLS Cup trophy in front of his home fans in Los Angeles, while confetti streams down and Queen’s “We Are the Champions” plays, would be instantly iconic the world over. It’s exactly what Beckham, the Galaxy, and, to be quite honest, MLS have dreamed about for the last five years.
Sunday is yet another chance for Beckham to ride off into the sunset a winner, something he did in his final seasons at both Manchester United and Real Madrid.
And the pressure is on to make that happen. The Galaxy are clear favourites against the Houston Dynamo. They’ve been a better team throughout the season, they’ve hedged their bets by spending more money than any team in MLS history and they are playing the final at home, a place where they have not lost the entire season. MLS Cup is theirs to lose.
If the Galaxy were to somehow lose, it would have to be considered an undeniable disaster and, without mincing words, a failure.
It would also require everything to go terribly wrong from the opening whistle.
The Houston Dynamo enjoy being the underdog. Two weeks ago they went into Kansas City and thoroughly beat a better team despite losing their best player and league MVP finalist Brad Davis to injury.
They are coached by one cool cat in Dominic Kinnear. He’s an Americanized Scotsman who doesn’t scare easily and has a knack for getting more out of less.
And perhaps most important, they have behemoths who can destroy anyone on a set piece, both offensive and defensive.
It’s no secret that I love set pieces. A set piece is to soccer what water is to life. You need it to survive, but it can kill you. So set pieces are the moment of truth for any team, I believe.
The Dynamo pull off set pieces better than any club in MLS. They boast six starters at 6-foot or taller, an overwhelming height advantage that could both negate the Galaxy’s dangerous Beckham-led offensive set pieces and create scoring opportunities. Sure, Davis’s pinpoint accuracy will be missed, but Houston still have a very good set-piece taker in Adam Moffat (another Scot!). If the Dynamo are going to get the win, I would bet a pint of Tennent’s Lager that it’s going to come off a set piece.
Whether that happens or not remains to be seen. But regardless, Sunday will be about David Beckham. It may be his last MLS match - and his most important. Fair or not, his legacy in America will go a long way to being defined by those 90 minutes.
Alexi Lalas is a lead football analyst for ESPN - the live and exclusive broadcaster of Major League Soccer in the UK. Watch ESPN’s live coverage of the MLS Cup Final this week – LA Galaxy v Houston Dynamo at 2am on Sunday 20th November. ESPN and ESPN America are the home of major sports from the US, including NBA, MLB, NFL Monday Night Football and NCAA US college sports. For details visit www.espn.co.uk/tv