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Aligned stars lead Galaxy to final

Martin Rogers
Yahoo Sports
Aligned stars lead Galaxy to final
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David Beckham (left) celebrates with Landon Donovan on the Galaxy's second goal

CARSON, Calif. – It was just another one of those impossible scenes that became reality for the strange soccer team that now finds itself on the brink of destiny by believing in itself when it had no right to.

Just a few months ago, David Beckham and Landon Donovan didn't particularly like being in the same zip code, let alone on the same field, following a rift that went public and looked set to rip apart the Los Angeles Galaxy at the very seams.

Yet as Donovan sprinted for the sidelines in celebratory bliss late Friday night after scoring the penalty that sealed the Galaxy's place in the MLS Cup final, there was Beckham alongside him, grabbing his colleague for a joyous hug that summed up the extent to which their fractured relationship has healed.

All the bad feeling, the controversy, the failure and ineptitude that plagued North America's most famous and, until recently, most ridiculed franchise was forgotten on this wild night, as the Houston Dynamo were dispatched 2-0 in extra time in a game twice interrupted by power outages that cut the floodlights.

Now, with just one more win against either the Chicago Fire or Real Salt Lake in next Sunday's title game, those twisted memories will be resoundingly expunged.

The story is not yet complete without the MLS Cup tucked away in a Home Depot Center trophy cabinet that was collecting only cobwebs of late. However, this revival – spearheaded by three men and an intelligent and committed supporting cast – is nothing shy of remarkable.

The relationship between Donovan and Beckham did not need to be mended after the American's critical published comments because, frankly, it never even had got off the ground and had to be built from scratch. Head coach Bruce Arena was the man to facilitate that, making both men realize that, in actuality, they shared more in common than they thought.

"Those two have a great relationship now," Arena said. "They are classy people and great characters. They both want the same thing. They both want to lead. They both want a good team. They have to give a lot of themselves.

"There is no doubt the ability of those two to work together has made a big difference to this team. It tells you a lot about them as people and players."

Both the Galaxy's big stars played critical parts in Friday's victory. Beckham's pinpoint free kick created confusion in the Houston defense at the 103-minute mark, and Gregg Berhalter capitalized to score with a low, left-footed shot. Donovan iced it 6 minutes later with a cool penalty after Alan Gordon was fouled in the box.

Cue Galaxy rapture, frantic preparations for Seattle and that celebration.

Standing in the locker room afterward amid empty champagne bottles and wincing from a gimpy foot, Beckham claimed the furor between himself and Donovan may even have had a positive effect.

"There is nothing wrong with a bit of controversy in a club," the English midfielder said. "It brings players and teams together, and it has done that. Once we crossed the line, it has not been a problem. We just had a few misunderstandings about each other. It is forgotten.

"It is nice to prove people wrong, but a lot was said about this team and about me. I don't have to say anything about myself. I love playing soccer. I work hard for the team, for my teammates, for myself, the manager and the fans. I hope that is enough."

Whisper it now, but the Galaxy have the look of a team of destiny. Andrew Hainault seemed to have given the Dynamo the lead late in regulation time, but referee Terry Vaughn waved it off, ruling that Houston striker Luis Angel Landin committed a foul.

It was a 50-50 call, but L.A. is riding its luck just now. It doesn't have to ride much further to reach the finishing line, the end of an extraordinary tale featuring two stars who have learned to race together, rather than in opposition.