L.A. Galaxy wins its fifth MLS Cup
Galaxy forward Robbie Keane (left) celebrates with forward Alan Gordon (right) after scoring a goal against the New England Revolution in the overtime during the MLS Cup final at Stubhub Center. ( Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)
CARSON, Calif. — The L.A. Galaxy realized its “First To Five” titles slogan Sunday in a 2-1 extra time MLS Cup win over the New England Revolution at StubHub Center.
It was a result most outside Boston were resigned to before the first whistle — the big-spending Western Conference champs’ resume being far superior to their Eastern Conference counterparts.
No club has lost more MLS Cups than New England, a franchise that has finished second-fiddle in five MLS finals since 2002, giving “First To Five” a much different connotation on the east coast.
Moreover, when the Galaxy’s Robbie Keane provided the game-winner in the 110th minute, “First To Five” meant something sorely different to Revolution bench boss Jay Heaps.
The long-time Revolution defender turned manager became the only player/coach to lose the league’s biggest price an astonishing five times, making him the “First (and only) To Five” defeats in the league’s marquee fixture.
“It is what it is,” Heaps sternly said in a response to a Boston Globe reporter post-game.
Five tries. Five heartbreaking losses he wasn’t interested in talking about after coming within inches of securing a stunning come-from-behind win.
Had Teal Bunbury’s attempt found net instead of crossbar five minutes from full-time the Revs would have snapped their embarrassing Buffalo Bills-like winless run.
Instead, extra time arrived and the visitors, along with thousands of travelling supporters, left teary-eyed.
“I’m going to try and get the guys back here,” Heaps said.
After Chris Tierney’s equalizer 10 minutes from time cancelled Gyasi Zardes’ second half opener, the Revs looked like they could go on and find a winner.
They were disciplined at the back and every bit as good as their counterparts in the middle third.
New England just lacked that little extra bit of quality in the final third that eventually saw the Galaxy’s high-priced striker tip the scales in the end.
“I like the way we came out,” Heaps added. “I really felt it wasn’t our best game in the final third but we dictated a lot the game.
“I’m telling you, I thought we had it.”
With both teams looking resigned to penalty kicks, the Galaxy used a moment of class from league and MLS Cup MVP Keane to unlock New England’s defence.
The Irishman latched on to a through-ball from Marcelo Sarvas 10 minutes from full-time before calmly rolling his effort past Bobby Shuttleworth to give the home side its third title in four years, a stat that had reporters talking “dynasty” post-game.
“That’s impressive stuff,” Galaxy manager Bruce Arena said. “I think you can say that in a (salary cap) league like ours, which doesn’t want that to be the case.”
At the opposite end of the spectrum from Heaps stands Arena, the legendary U.S. manager who now has five MLS Cup titles — two with D.C. United and three with L.A.
Arena’s savvy halftime decision to move Landon Donovan up front and drop Zardes into midfield unlocked New England’s defence time and again.
“Keane suggested it,” Arena said as he periodically drank from a bottle of champagne post-game. “He should probably be player-coach.”
The 63-year-old Arena wouldn’t hint how long he plans to continue managing but did say Keane will “outlast” him in the game.
They’ll both outlast Donovan, who abruptly announced his impending retirement well before becoming the league’s all-time winningest player.
Amid a poor farewell performance, Donovan had the game on his foot moments before Keane’s goal but just missed placing his free kick into the upper corner.
“He’s able to go out a winner,” Arena said of Donovan, who he has coached since the U.S. soccer star was a teen.
“Don’t we all wish to be able to leave what we do like Landon left today? He leaves arguably the greatest player in the history of U.S. soccer.”
Those close to Donovan say there’s little chance he’ll pull a Michael Jordan and come back post retirement. At 32, he certainly has more left in his legs.
An English reporter asked him post-game if he has plans to return to the Premier League for a return stint with Everton, an invitation he politely turned down.
‘I’m in a daze, to be honest,” Donovan said. “There’s a lot going on. There’s excitement, sadness, uncertainty and pure joy.
“Not many athletes get a chance to play a majority of their career in their hometown.”
Or for a storied franchise that continues to collect championships and attract big players.
“This club is clearly more than one player,” Donovan added before a local reporter compared his success to Kobe Bryant’s.
“They do things right here (the Galaxy). There are a lot of organizations in this league that don’t do things right. It starts at the top.”
In terms of front offices, the Revolution were provided a big boost mid-season when owner Robert Kraft doled out millions to ink U.S. midfielder Jermaine Jones, whose yeoman’s work ethic in midfield made a game out of match many thought wouldn’t be close.
In the end, though, the pieces just weren’t there for Heaps. New England simply didn’t have the quality up top to finish off the West’s best club away from home.
“We thought we had chances there to win it,” Heaps said.
Instead, he said he’ll look to avoid becoming the “First To Six” next season and beyond.
The Galaxy will do the opposite.
MLS COMMISH TAKE JAB AT MIAMI BID
Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber was either caught off guard or exceedingly candid during Sunday’s MLS Cup.
The league’s head honcho sat in front of ESPN cameras during halftime at StubHub Center to do his usual song and dance.
Only he gave an answer that couldn’t have been prepared when asked to comment on A much-discussed expansion club potentially coming to Miami.
“We’re not sure what’s going on there,” ESPN analyst Kasey Keller said.
“Neither am I,” Garber responded with a chuckle.
Sounds like David Beckham’s dream to bring MLS to South Beach is going through a rough patch.
The league is struggling to secure a stadium in Miami, a prerequisite to awarding Becks a team to begin playing in 2017.
Instead, whispers here at MLS Cup have tipped Minnesota to land the next expansion team.
The league’s Board of Governors is working to decide between a Minnesota bid backed by the NFL’s Vikings and a second Minny bid backed by the Twins, Timberwolves and local club, Minnesota United.
Cities like Sacramento, San Antonio and Las Vegas appear to be long shots at this point.
It seems the league’s head office is getting tired of Miami dragging its feet.