CARSON, Calif. – As the Los Angeles Galaxy’s title hopes collapsed amid a heap of red mist, the reality that star power counts for little in Major League Soccer has never been so brutally obvious.
The MLS Cup dreams of David Beckham, Landon Donovan and the league’s most famous club didn’t just drift away on Sunday night, they were blasted into orbit by an FC Dallas side short on celebrity but packed with passion.
A comprehensive 3-0 victory at the Home Depot Center sent Dallas into a championship game showdown with the Colorado Rapids in Toronto on November 21, and sent a powerful message that spirit and spark is a more valuable soccer currency than even cold, hard cash.
“Is there something more important that superstars – absolutely,” Dallas midfielder Dax McCarthy said. “We don’t have any designated players but we brought in the right guys and we were not afraid of L.A. We are not afraid of anybody.”
On a night where the L.A. crowd fully expected the home team to book its spot in the final, Beckham strove and grafted but was short on form and fitness, and Donovan disappeared as an attacking threat in the second half.
The Galaxy got angry, with themselves, with referee Jair Marrufo, and with their inability to get any meaningful foothold in the contest. Youngster Brek Shea and Colombian David Ferreira earn just five percent of star L.A. duo's combined salaries, yet they were the ones who dominated the game.
Shea’s power and indefatigable running struck fear into the home defense, while Ferreira, a leading contender for the season MVP award, made everything tick with a series of clever passes.
Ferreira got the first goal 26 minutes in, Shea set up George John for the second in the 54th minute and Marvin Chavez iced it with a cool finish from Ferreira’s pass in the 73rd.
“We have not excuses,” said Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena. “We were outplayed and outcoached and Dallas deserved their victory. We were beaten on most match-ups across the field.”
Television executives won’t exactly be salivating at a final between Dallas and Colorado, especially when one of the possibilities heading into the playoffs was L.A. against the New York Red Bulls.
But it is impossible to argue that this is the wrong final – not after Colorado’s impressive play throughout the postseason and Dallas’ excellent effort on Sunday.
Shea – delivering a performance that led teammate and goalkeeper Kevin Hartman to describe him as a “monster” – showed the sort of physicality that would make a switch to a European team no surprise in the near future.
Yet this is no one-, or two-man band, and Dallas has a togetherness made clear by the joyous and raucous celebrations that took place in their locker room afterwards.
“Our team is very close,” Shea said. “We hang out with each other and that’s pretty cool. There are never any fights or clashes and no one is negative. This is the kind of night when that all pays off.”
It was also one time when L.A.’s star power might even have worked against it, with Dallas clearly traveling to California with a chip on its shoulder and a desire to upset the league’s most high-profile team.
“For us,” said captain Daniel Hernandez, “this was the championship.”