CARSON -- Adam Cristman, like the rest of his teammates, was utterly elated when Landon Donovan put away the MLS Cup-winning goal Sunday night to give the Los Angeles Galaxy their third league championship.
Yet Cristman -- perhaps even more than the goal scorer himself -- felt an overwhelming sense of relief. He could breathe. He would be able to sleep following what promised to be a nightlong team celebration in downtown Los Angeles.
The forward, making his first start of the playoffs in place of the injured Chad Barrett, missed a pair of clear scoring opportunities in the first half that surely had local fans at the Home Depot Center pulling their hair. Cristman was very much a part of the game plan, playing an integral role in the Galaxy’s relentless approach. David Beckham sought him, and found him, on two perfect crosses but Cristman misfired.
The Galaxy could have easily been up by a couple of goals at the break but instead settled for the 1-0 victory against the Houston Dynamo.
“Obviously in those situations it would mean the world to score those goals,” Cristman said, “but I just couldn’t get down on those two headers. I personally exerted a lot of energy. I think in the end we wore them down and that helped us break through. I think they were dead. We didn’t let them breathe.”
The yearlong trend continued for the Galaxy, which went undefeated on their home turf. A suffocating pursuit cleared things up in front of goalkeeper Josh Saunders, who had to make only one save all night.
Donovan’s goal in the 72nd minute, on assists from Robbie Keane and Beckham, got Cristman off the hook, but it was deserved. The Galaxy outshot the Dynamo 14-8, and also had an apparent goal by Keane in the 57th minute waved off on what replays proved to be a bad offsides call.
“They created more opportunities, scored a great goal and played great defense,” Dynamo coach Dominic Kinnear said. “I think our effort was there but sometimes you don’t play the way you want to play.”
By the time the record crowd of 30,281 had cleared out of the venue, and all that remained scattered on the bleachers were rain-soaked ponchos, a loud roar from the Galaxy locker room echoed down the hallway. Inside the champagne drenched room, Juninho grabbed an unsuspecting Cristman from behind and hugged him tightly.
“That was probably the wettest and most torn up I’ve ever seen that field,” Cristman said. “It wasn’t much of a factor, though, and still played well. Everything ended up being OK.”
In more ways than one.