In what might have been his final match before an extended break or even retirement, Landon Donovan overcame an uncharacteristic early miss to seal the L.A. Galaxy's second straight MLS Cup win over the Houston Dynamo in front of their home fans. After the match, he dedicated his go-ahead penalty in the 3-1 win to his friend Cody Ottersberg, who passed away at the end of October at the age of 22 following a six-year fight against Leukemia.
Though the pre-match hype was almost entirely dedicated to the fact that it was David Beckham's last in MLS and the game ended with the 30,510 people in attendance chanting "thank you Beckham," the win wasn't down to any one player. The defending champions started out strong, nearly getting a goal in the 12th minute when Beckham, who put in a fine performance, and Robbie Keane set up Donovan perfectly for what is usually an easy goal for him. But to the astonishment of everyone (including the trigger-happy confetti cannon operator), he put the ball just wide (video above).
Houston eventually took advantage of that gift by snatching a 1-0 lead before halftime with a Calen Carr goal on the counter attack. LA regained their fight in the second half though, getting a 60th-minute equalizer from defender and eventual man of the match Omar Gonzalez. Just five minutes later, Donovan had his chance at redemption and cooly slotted in his penalty to put the Galaxy up 2-1 (video below).
Robbie Keane went on to add a penalty of his own in stoppage time just for good measure. After the final whistle blew, Donovan told ESPN that his goal was for Ottersberg, whom he met through the Make A Wish Foundation and became a friend.
"A good buddy of mine, a few weeks back -- a Make-A-Wish kid -- unfortunately passed away," Donovan said. "Cody Ottersberg. And I kinda wanted to play for him today. We get some special moments with these kids and to the Ottersberg family, that was for you guys."
Earlier in the week, Donovan spoke to the LA Times and made it clear that he's feeling burned out. "I'm going to take as much time as I need and decide if and when I'm ready to come back," he said. "I can't put a time frame on that. If it takes two weeks and I'm ready to go again or two months or a year or two years. Or never. I don't know." At the Home Depot Center, while he and his teammates celebrated their latest title, he expressed a desire to spend some time with his family and "figure out the soccer later."
With this title, Beckham ends his time in LA with a winner's medal as he did at Manchester United and Real Madrid and Donovan equals a league record with his fifth MLS Cup. In addition to that, his penalty makes him the league's all-time leading scorer in the regular season and playoffs combined with 146 career goals. As premature as retirement at 30 years old might seem, there are worse ways to go end a career.