MLS Cup 2014: LA Galaxy-New England Player Ratings

By Ridge Mahoney
(@ridgemax)

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 and Juninho; 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 Gonzalez and Leonardo 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 Arena 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 Farrell, 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 energized 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 net.

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:
Penedo 7
DeLaGarza 7
Gonzalez 6
Leonardo 5
Rogers 6
Juninho 7
Sarvas 7
Ishizaki 5
Donovan 5
Zardes 5
Keane 5
Subs:
Gargan 5
Gordon 4
Husidic 5

NEW ENGLAND
Starters:
Shuttleworth 5
Farrell 3
Goncalves 6
Soares 6
Tierney 6
Caldwell 5
Jones 6
Rowe 4
Nguyen 4
Bunbury 4
Davies 3
Subs:
Kobayashi 5
Mullins 7
Dorman 4

(1=low; 5=average; 10=high)

6 comments about "MLS Cup 2014: LA Galaxy-New England Player Ratings".
  1. Michael Lurey, December 7, 2014 at 9:08 p.m.

    Thanks for the player ratings. As always, you are spot on. Keane seemed almost disinterested in the match. He was caught 10 yards offside time and again. Donovan's passing was poor in the second Seattle match and again today. Glad Zardes showed up to put us on the board early. Not a great match for the Galaxy but a third MLS Cup win at home in four years.

  2. Rick Estupinan, December 7, 2014 at 9:28 p.m.

    Rick Estupinan
    commented on: December 7, 2014 at 8:31 p.m.
    If The Revolution had played the whole time the way they did the last 15 minutes,today they would be MLS Champions.But in all honesty,it wasn't a game to remember.The play for the most part,was very sloppy.Every few minutes,players of both teams made tremendous mistakes in passing the ball,and neither team could keep possession of the ball for more than two minutes.The dribbling in all these MLS players is horrendous.These is why they can't keep possession of the ball for too long.Like LD said,'IF YOU DID NOT LEARN TO PLAY THE GAME SINCE YOU WERE 5 YRS OLD,FORGET ABOUT IT",and this a big handicap American players have.When parents in this great country realized that it is safer to have their children play World Football than the American version,starting very early in their life,then this country will have a formidable team,capable of competing with any World Football power.By the way,I just finished watching Aston Villa / Lester City in England.My God,what a difference.

  3. Kent James, December 7, 2014 at 10:41 p.m.

    I thought the game was not particularly well played (boy were there a lot of errant passes), but it was reasonably entertaining and I thought LA did enough to win. That being said, I thought the game presented some challenges for the referee. The first was the no-call when Nguyen went down in the box; when I first saw it, it seemed like a good no call, but when they showed it in replay (only once? only one angle?) it looked like Nguyen was dribbling, stopped, and was then run over from behind by a defender who never touched the ball (so a pretty clear penalty). Then there was the no card for Jones' tackle on Donovan, which looked bad initially (Jones really launched himself at LD), but in replay, though maybe excessive force was used (because of the launch), but only his trailing leg hit LD and Donovan did exaggerate it a bit. But the lack of that card led to the retaliation against Jones a minute later (which I think would not have happened had Jones been carded). And there was the potential foul on Keane by the last defender (which was a no call, and had it been called, would have required a red card). And finally, Keane's tackle on Jones easily could have been a red card (since it was from behind, and clearly had no intent to play the ball, though it did not seem particularly vicious). The game was not particularly violent, and I think the team that should have won did, but had those calls gone differently, it would have been a very different game. Which I think just go to show refereeing is an art, not a science, and can be quite challenging to get it right. In spite of potentially missing some significant calls, Geiger did reasonably well. I think importantly, in none of the cases I mentioned did the players act maliciously (though Keane's was clearly intentional, I think it was frustration not malice that inspired it), so Geiger seemed to get the spirit of the game right.

  4. Reuben Valles, December 8, 2014 at 12:09 p.m.

    Kent James....what you wrote about the referee was so spot on. Rarely do people (me included) appreciate the art of refering a soccer match. Its such a tough job and i thought Geiger did a nice job all things considered. Great post Kent

  5. beautiful game, December 8, 2014 at 10:39 p.m.

    Game was sluggish and more than a few players had sub-par games; Davis in particular. Couldn't understand why the Revs pushed up so much in overtime, knowing that LA can counter with venom, which it did.

  6. Rick Estupinan, December 10, 2014 at 4:05 p.m.

    I am surprise that no one says anything bad about this Championship match.It was a poor performance by both teams,with very sloppy plays,(terrible passes),unskillful players who could not keep possession of the ball for more than a few minutes,and then,without looking,would give it to the opposition.What a shame that a final,watched by millions would have to be so poor.

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