Carson, CA – The MLS Cup will double as the David Beckham farewell match Saturday, when the Los Angeles Galaxy host the Houston Dynamo in the championship for the second straight season.
Los Angeles edged Houston last season to secure its first Cup since Beckham joined the club, and he will end his six-year stay in MLS with a second title for him and a record-tying fourth for the Galaxy on the line.
"It's been a quiet week as you can imagine," Beckham joked ahead of his final match in the league.
L.A. was at home last season as the pre-determined host and edged the Dynamo, 1-0. This season, the Galaxy return to The Home Depot Center to host the game, as determined by the best record among the finalists.
With the future cloudy in L.A., mainly the departure of Beckham and the career uncertainty for star Landon Donovan, the Galaxy may have their best chance to tie D.C. United with a record four MLS Cup titles this weekend.
L.A. has not been flawless in the postseason, winning three matches and losing two games, but it has but it has done enough to reach the final again.
After winning the knockout-round game against Vancouver Whitecaps FC, 2-1, the Galaxy rebounded from a home loss to the San Jose Earthquakes in the first leg of the Western Conference semifinals with a 3-1 road win to advance.
L.A. took a huge 3-0 lead in the conference finals against Seattle Sounders FC and advanced to the final despite a 2-1 loss in Seattle in the second match.
With the majority of their team back from last season, the Galaxy - despite a slow start this year - are back in the title game and once again the favorite to lift the Cup.
Defender Omar Gonzalez, who missed time early this season after suffering an ACL tear, is back in the heart of the defense to help the Galaxy return to old form.
Gonzalez could play a huge role against Houston, which is dangerous in the air and off set pieces. Gonzalez missed the lone meeting this season, and Houston used a goal from Andre Hainault off a set piece to edge L.A., 2-1.
Houston midfielder Ricardo Clark, who returned to the Dynamo midseason after a stint in Europe, acknowledged Gonzalez will be a key factor.
"We may do what we can to maybe drag him out of those spaces or disrupt him in those areas," Clark said. "Mostly we'll just try to keep doing what we've been doing on set pieces."
While Houston will have to contain Beckham, Donovan and Robbie Keane, the trio who combined for the goal last year in the final, L.A. will focus on midfield duo Brad Davis and Boniek Garcia for Houston.
Davis is Beckham-like with his free kick prowess, while Garcia has been a huge asset since joining the team midseason. Their ability to roam the wings and slip into the middle could be the difference for Houston.
"If we're going to be successful against Houston, we've got to do a good job against (Davis and Garcia)," L.A. manager Bruce Arena said.
Houston received good news ahead of the match with Clark and Calen Carr both fit for the final following a two-week break from the conference finals, and Houston coach Dominic Kinnear can use all the firepower he can in L.A.
"To be here ... and be integrated that early in the week and have a full, normal week of training is going to serve really well," Carr said.
Houston had more turnover from last season compared to L.A., including the loss of Geoff Cameron to Stoke City of the English Premier League, but the Dynamo are a "team that has a lot of different ways to hurt you," L.A.'s Todd Dunivant said.
Whether Houston has an answer for Beckham - especially in his last MLS match - and company this time still remains to be seen.