CARSON, CA (BDCi) – – In what only Hollywood could script, the Los Angeles Galaxy reached the impossible dream Sunday as they outlasted their eastern conference foes, the New England Revolution 2-1 to win their 5th MLS Cup in front of 27,000 at the Stub Hub Center.
The victory transcended the club’s “First-to-Five” campaign, as it was also the 6th and last MLS Cup that retiring U.S. Soccer legend Landon Donovan would notch, another all-time record for the native of Southern California.
Donovan told the media in a post game press conference how it felt to be on the field this way in his last game.
“I’m in a little bit of a daze to be honest. I don’t know. There is a lot going on. A lot of excitement, some sadness. There is uncertainty. And, just pure joy for this team and for what we did. It’s just feels a bit strange, is the best way to put it. I’m very proud of what this team accomplished this year, and it’s so nice to be in the locker.”
In the game, the 32-year old veteran midfielder didn’t take long to make clear his desire to win. He slotted a beautiful pass to defender Robbie Rogers in the 2nd minute of play who maneuvered in deep for a shot that was slowed down enough by Revolution defenders to get cleared away.
The rest of the first half was marked by scoring opportunities shut down by great defensive stops on both sides. Perhaps the closest of these chances was in the 23rd minute when Revolution striker Charlie Davies broke free for a one-on-one with Galaxy keeper Jaime Penedo only to get caught and cleanly slide tackled by defender A J DeLaGarza.
In the 2nd half, Los Angeles forward Gyasi Zardes opened up the game in the 52nd minute when he held off New England defender Andrew Farrell and scored after receiving a deflected cross to the left side by Stefan Ishizaki.
Down 1-0, New England revolted and earned an equalizer in the 79th minute. Striker Patrick Mullins directed a pass from the left side of the goal to defender Chris Tierney who found Galaxy defender Leonardo sleeping in the middle of the area and easily finished into the right side of the net past goalkeeper Jaime Penedo.
The momentum stayed with the Revolution who were seeking their 1st MLS Cup win in 5 tries. In the 85th minute, forward Teal Burnbury took a no-look back-pass from Lee Nguyen and stunned the crowd with a left-footed chip shot that Penedo could only look and pray wouldn’t go in. The shot bounced off the bottom of the top post, and a sigh of relief was heard from Penedo and the hometown faithful.
Tied at 1-1 at the end of regulation, the two teams went into extra periods, and the nail biting only got worse. In the 102nd minute of play, Patrick Mullins accepted a long pass deep on the left side, but his laser shot was blocked by Penedo who lunged correctly to his left preventing a sure go-ahead goal.
Then in the 111th minute, the tie was broken dramatically when Brazilian Marcelo Sarvas, from the midfield line, slotted a long pass upfield to a wide open Robbie Keane on the left side who scissored the ball firmly into the right side of the net easily passed Revolution keeper Bobby Shuttleworth.
Farrell and Mullins blew chances in the final dozen minutes, and the 2-1 score held up much to the satisfaction and jubilation of the Los Angeles Galaxy nation.
2014 MLS Cup MVP Keane described the battle after the match.
“It wasn’t the greatest game to be honest with you. It was tough, New England played really well. I have to give them a lot of credit. We went 120 minutes and in the end it’s whichever team pulls out stronger. I think we certainly came out stronger in extra time. We’re thankful that we got the goal. It was a great pass from Marcelo [Sarvas].”
For Los Angeles Coach Bruce Arena, it was his 5th MLS Cup win and 3rd with the Galaxy. After the game, he continued lathering praise on his Irish superstar.
“Robbie has been unbelievable since he stepped foot in MLS. I’ve been on record, I’ve said this, it’s very rare that an international player can step into this league, be adjusted instantly and not explain to us how you are supposed to do things and how it’s done elsewhere. Look of what we’ve done since we’ve acquired Robbie.”
And of course the ground and pound of 120 minutes only to lose your 5th MLS Cup in as many tries did not sit well with the New England Revolution team.
“It’s like someone just took a baseball bat to my gut. It’s really tough to take,” said striker Charlie Davies after the match.
Coach Jay Heaps, who played on New England’s first 4 MLS Cup teams, had to endure another heart wrenching result at the hands of the Galaxy who’d beaten his teams in similar fashion twice before. Still the coach was positive after the game about his team, their performance and future..
“Proud of the guys. I think there’s a real competitiveness in there and a real willingness to lay it all on the line and be aggressive. I thought we were the aggressor today a lot of the line. Of course they’ve got great players and they deserve everything. No one gave us a chance and I thought our guys rallied around that and we were pretty good on the day and on the year we were excellent the last half of the year.”
It is premature perhaps to discuss what the Los Angeles Galaxy will look like in 2015, especially without their legendary teammate Donovan. The club has ample young talent for certain, but their Brazilian participation is unclear as both Marcelo Sarvas’ and Leonardo’s contracts are up for renewal. Juninho will be back as he has one more year on his current contract.
Juninho played in every game this season and post-season, and in the post-game presser, Coach Arena called Sarvas his Germaine Jones, his warrior in the midfield. Leonardo was on each of the Galaxy teams who won MLS Cups since 2011, but this one must be special as it is the first one he could play in due to being injury-free.