BY ADAM SERRANO
In the end, it wasn't that close at all.
A match that was billed as the true final by many, ended with more of a whimper than a bang.
FC Dallas earned its first trip to MLS Cup with a convincing 3-0 victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy. The victory clinched the first MLS Cup Final appearance for the FC Dallas franchise and gave MLS its second straight final without the Supporters Shield winner.
FC Dallas goalkeeper Kevin Hartman stole the show against his old club with six saves on the night to propel Dallas into the Final. After contemplating retirement when he was cut by the Kansas City Wizards before the start of the season, to sit one win away from MLS Cup means the world to Hartman.
"We showed a great amount of fortitude against a pretty good team to get a pretty convincing win," said Hartman. "When you're contemplating retirement and then you're able to get into the MLS Cup Final, it's pretty rewarding."
It was a physical game throughout the first half with referee Jair Marrufo allowing much of the contact between the two teams to slide. In the early part of the match, the Galaxy dominated possession and began to pressure Hartman, who routinely preserved the stalemate. FCD used their explosive counter attack to take the lead in the 26th minute when Marvin Chavez found David Ferriera, who froze the Galaxy defense and beat Donovan Ricketts with a right-footed strike.
Dallas doubled their lead in the 54th minute of play. Brek Shea streaked down the left side and played in a ball that trickled past the Galaxy defense to George John, who slammed it in for a 2-0 lead. FC Dallas would add a third in the 73rd minute when a Marvin Chavez goal firmly placed FCD into the MLS Cup Final.
"We controlled the game a bit more after that first goal and became more confident," said FC Dallas Captain Daniel Hernandez. "When that second goal fell for us, I felt that we dominated the whole second half. I have a great deal of respect for LA because they had a great year, but after that first goal, we were able to dominate them."
The Galaxy dominated the chances early as they sought to put FC Dallas on their heels early. Time and time again however, former Galaxy goalkeeper Kevin Hartman proved too difficult to beat. His best save came in the 21st minute off a save from Galaxy midfielder Juninho, who broke free of the defense and fired a rocket that Hartman stopped.Throughout the match, Los Angeles struggled time and time again to find it's greatest weapon, MLS MVP candidate Edson Buddle. Buddle found contact with every touch of the ball as the FCD defense closed in on Buddle with every opportunity.
In addition to Buddle's inability to perform, David Beckham, who was so influential against the Sounders struggled to make an impact on the night. Beckham's struggled to connect as FC Dallas' defense was able to outwork the Galaxy to each opportunity and clear any chances. Following the match, the Galaxy announced that Beckham was nearly pulled from the match at the half with an abductor strain. With screams of joy easily heard from FC Dallas celebrating next door, Bruce Arena spoke of a season that ended due to missed opportunities.
"We have no excuses," Arena said. "We were outplayed. but maybe a couple of calls didn't go our way, but that's part of it. We were beaten on most matchups on the field, and we were out-coached. Dallas deserved the victory."
FC Dallas now sets their sights on MLS Cup Final against the Colorado Rapids on Sunday November 21st at BMO Field in Toronto, Canada. Dallas enters the final having knocked off the defending MLS Cup champion Real Salt Lake in the first round and then the 2010 Supporter's Shield winners in the Conference Final.
For a club that was not tabbed by many to be a legitimate threat for MLS Cup, confidence is brimming.
"We're a bunch of hardworking guys, Schellas brought in the right guys and we play to our system. I don't think we're under dogs and we showed that tonight," said McCarthy. "We are going to be ready because we know that it's going to be a dogfight up in Toronto."