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Monday, Dec. 3, 2012

Beckham ends American odyssey by winning MLS title


CARSON, California — David Beckham stood on the podium with his three sons, a Union Jack knotted around his Los Angeles Galaxy jersey. With a practiced lift and a broad smile, he raised the sparkling MLS Cup over his head to a raucous ovation amid a confetti blizzard.

News photo
Hollywood ending: David Beckham celebrates after the Galaxy's 3-1 win over the Dynamo in the MLS Cup. AP

Now that's a Hollywood ending worthy of a star.

Beckham wrapped up his MLS career as a two-time champion Saturday as the Galaxy came from a goal down to beat Houston Dynamo 3-1.

With a stirring second-half surge capped by penalties by Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane, Los Angeles won its fourth MLS Cup, tying D.C. United for the MLS record.

The Galaxy also gave an appropriate farewell to Beckham, the 37-year-old former England captain who transformed the league and his team over six seasons in Los Angeles.

"It's been a successful six years here, and now that we've won the second one, it's even more satisfying," Beckham said. "I just hope people have enjoyed me playing here. It's what I always hope for when I step on the field."

Beckham will play elsewhere in the new year before eventually returning to MLS as a team owner. With rumors linking him everywhere from Sydney to Paris, he hasn't disclosed his immediate plans beyond a Christmas vacation back home in England.

Los Angeles will miss Beckham, but the glamorous global icon is going out at an apex for MLS' highest-profile franchise.

"I just hope I've brought a bit of interest to the game in American," Beckham said. "If that's the single thing I've done, then great."

After Calen Carr put Houston ahead in the 44th minute, Beckham and his high-scoring teammates systematically broke down the defense of the Dynamo, who lost the MLS Cup 1-0 to Los Angeles on the same field last year.

The Galaxy equalized through Omar Gonzalez's long-range header in the 61st minute.

Donovan redeemed himself for missing an open net in the 13th minute by burying his penalty in the 65th after a Houston handball.

Keane played another stellar attacking game for Los Angeles before earning his own penalty in stoppage time when Houston's Tally Hall knocked him down, and the Irishman sealed the Galaxy's victory.

Beckham left the game to a raucous standing ovation from the packed stadium amid chants of "Thank you, David!" Beckham hugged Galaxy coach Bruce Arena, who won his fourth MLS title, and just about everybody on the Galaxy bench before the game ended moments later.

"Today was always going to be an emotional day for myself, win or lose," said Beckham, who also won trophies in his final seasons at Real Madrid and Manchester United. "Coming off was tough, but I enjoyed the win today."

Japan draws Brazil, Italy


SAO PAULO — Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni admits he cannot picture what it will be like facing his native Italy after being drawn against the European championship runnerup alongside host Brazil and Mexico in Group A at next year's Confederations Cup.

Japan will play Brazil in the tournament's opening match on June 15 before facing Italy on June 19 and Mexico three days later.

"It'll be the first time I've faced Italy and I just can't picture it at the moment, though I'm pretty sure it won't be your average game," Zaccheroni said.

"The important thing is to go and get a result. That's our number one objective. The three other sides are all above us in the world rankings, but the team has been improving and our players have picked up more experience abroad. I have to say, I'm very curious to see how we're going to do in this group."

Zaccheroni had told reporters before leaving for Brazil that he wanted to be drawn against Italy, saying, "I want to play them at least once while I'm coaching Japan."

Japan has yet to beat the Brazilians at full international level, although Blue Samurai came close to pulling off a massive upset with a 2-2 draw at the Confederations Cup in Germany in June 2005.

Japan has only met Italy once, Atsushi Yanagisawa scoring a cracker in a 1-1 draw in Saitama in November 2001. The Blue Samurai have one win against three defeats against Mexico.

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said he was excited at the prospect of taking on his friend Zaccheroni.

"It's very exciting to be facing Japan (and) coming up against a great professional and a friend like Alberto," he said.

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