By Ridge Mahoney
Polish and flair were in short supply at StubHub Center
Sunday, yet still a moment of high quality earned the Los Angeles Galaxy its unprecedented fifth MLS Cup title with 2-1 win over New England. Robbie Keane
’s crisp finish in stoppage time gave the Galaxy its second lead of the game and 15 minutes of resolute defending held off New England’s
desperate attacks. The Revs, which were back in the championship game for the first time since 2007, lost at the final hurdle for a record fifth time largely due to an inability to get its
freewheeling attack in gear.
The last two Galaxy players to leave the podium with the MLS Cup trophy were Marcelo Sarvas
; Keane’s goal proved to be the decisive moment, but during the two hours of play the team’s Brazilian midfielders were major factors for success.
They compressed the center of the field to smother the play of Lee Nguyen
, the Revs’ leading scorer with 18 goals, and minimize the influence of Jermaine Jones
, who got a lot of ball but rarely applied a penetrating pass or dangerous cross.
Central defenders Omar
shackled forward Charlie Davies
, who was the first attacker substituted by Revs coach Jay Heaps
, and A.J. DeLaGarza
played strongly at both left back and right back. DeLaGarza raced back to snuff New
England’s only good chance of the first half with a sliding block on a point-blank Davies shot.
Only rarely were the Revs able to attack the Galaxy quickly through midfield and
create the one-v-one situations they had exploited often during the regular season and playoffs. The only New England goal resulted from a quick ball that bypassed midfield and provided an
equal-numbers setup in the attacking third.
Still, the Galaxy’s own offensive struggles left its fans at StubHub Center frustrated and Coach Bruce
searching for answers. Maybe the occasion of Landon Donovan
’s last match jangled the nerves of very experienced Galaxy players and offset the
homefield advantage but whatever the reason, seldom did their confident, crisp combination play materialize. And though they struggled offensively, the Revs were careful not to open up too much and
get caught on the counter.
Keane and Gyasi Zardes
scored despite playing rather tepidly, and in his final competitive match -- should his
retirement take hold -- Donovan labored as well. On two occasions, Keane took weak shots rather than play the ball to an open Donovan, and in overtime Donovan passed up a shot to find Keane and the
opportunity was lost.
The Revs' defense deserves some of the credit, though the Galaxy had its way with right back Andrew Farrel
l, whom the Galaxy
successfully targeted for much of the match. Zardes scored by collecting a Stefan Ishizaki
cross near the edge of the goal area and fending off Farrell to smack
a shot low inside the far post. The Galaxy overran Farrell and center back A.J. Soares
on numerous occasions without rewards.
Revs left back Chris Tierney
hit the same spot to equalize, after Heaps’ decision to bring in rookie forward Patrick Mullins
the attack and relieved some pressure on the back line. Center back Jose Goncalves
highlighted an excellent game by playing a long ball up the left wing that
Mullins ran onto; he avoided a weak challenge from Gonzalez and laid the ball back for Tierney, who slipped past Leonardo to shoot past Jaime Penedo
Arena brought on Alan Gordon
for overtime. Gordon did his battles in the air, and his run down the center froze the central defenders and gave Keane the
space to drift in behind Tierney in the channel. Keane collected Sarvas’ long ball out the Galaxy half and before Tierney could close him down the Irish international smacked his shot into the
On a day during which neither team’s attack came close to an optimum performance, the league’s MVP gave its all-time top player a memorable farewell. MLS Cup Player Ratings LA GALAXY Starters:
Keane 5 Subs:
Husidic 5 NEW ENGLAND Starters:
Davies 3 Subs:
(1=low; 5=average; 10=high)