Galaxy win MLS Cup over Houston

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Galaxy win MLS Cup over Houston

The longest season in Major League Soccer history ended Saturday, with the host Los Angeles Galaxy beating the Houston Dynamo 3-1 in a rematch of the MLS Cup final of 2011.
No American sports league has a season as long as MLS, which started training camp in mid-January and played its first-ever match in December this season. The 2013 campaign figures to be even longer, with the first regular season match slated for the second week of March a week earlier than the First Kick this season.
MLS hasnt announced its schedule for next season, and the clubs including the Fire have provided only sketchy details regarding their preseason plans, but the start of training is only about six weeks away. Already, Fire head coach Frank Klopas, assistant Mike Matkovich, managing director Javier Leon and vice president of soccer operations Guillermo Petrei spent time last week in Spain in preparation for some roster re-tooling.
The Fires full squad is expected to regroup again in Florida around Jan. 19 but the MLS re-entry draft (Friday), open tryout (Dec. 14-15) and combine leading into the Jan. 17 SuperDraft in Indianapolis will all be held before then.
Like the other 18 clubs, the Fire will have to deal with a bit different-looking MLS in 2013.
The champion Galaxy will undergo a major transformation, suggesting an even more wide-open competition is in the offing. (It was pretty wide open this season, with Los Angeles getting into the Western Conference playoffs as only the No. 4 seed, and the Dynamo was No. 5 in the Eastern Conference).
The Galaxy will lose David Beckham, the iconic English midfielder. His signing six seasons ago gave MLS a needed publicity boost, but at 37 he opted to move on with a club in Australia his likely next destination. He has, however, been rumored to be joining MLS as an owner, and the Galaxy is up for sale. Interestingly Anschutz Entertainment Group owns both teams in the MLS Cup final. AEG also brought the Fire into MLS before selling the franchise to current owner Andrew Hauptman in 2007.
Beckham was all about pizzazz in the beginning, but he played in four MLS Cup finals in his six seasons and was on the winning side twice. This season he had seven goals and nine assists in the regular season, proof that he still has significant skills.
The Galaxy will likely lose much more than him. Landon Donovan, just 30 but a member of a record six MLS Cup championship teams, talked about calling it quits, too, in the days leading into Saturdays match. Chances are Donovans just tired, and he should be. Between MLS and national team duty he played in 35 matches -- many of the high-pressure variety --in the last 36 weeks.
Omar Gonzalez, whose goal Saturday ignited the Galaxy and helped him win the games Most Valuable Player award, has received interest from European clubs with Germanys FC Nurnberg the leading contender. Brazilian midfielder Juninho was only on loan to Los Angeles for this season. He could be back with Sao Paulo in his homeland in 2013.
The Galaxy is already preparing for departures, with Chelseas Frank Lampard andor Real Madrids Kaka viable additions to the Los Angeles roster.
Houston wont be as decimated, but one key player figures to retire. Midfielder Brian Ching, 34, dropped from the starting 11 to a reserve role after undergoing his second meniscus surgery.
The Fire has been in three MLS Cup finals in its 15 seasons but won only the first one in 1998 and Josh Wolff the last active player on that seasons roster retired last week to take a full-time coaching position with D.C. United.
Chicagos connections to the 2013 championship match included former Fire head coach Dave Sarachan, one of Bruce Arenas key assistants in Los Angeles, and Houston forward Calen Carr, who scored the Dynamo goal.
The Fire made the playoffs for the first time since 2009 this season and figures to be in the mix again in 2013. To be a title contender, however, the Fire will need to find a standout playmaking midfielder. The Fire played some good soccer after Sebastian Grazzini decided to return to Argentina in mid-season, but that position was clearly a deficiency down the stretch.

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Catch first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies at 7:05 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

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