By Paul Kennedy
There are a lot of milestones to the LA Galaxy's 2-1 victory over the New
England in MLS Cup 2014:
-- The Galaxy is the first team to win five titles.
-- Bruce Arena
is the first coach to win five MLS titles
(three with the Galaxy after two with D.C. United).
-- And Landon Donovan
became the first player to win six MLS Cups (four with the Galaxy after
two with the San Jose Earthquakes).
But for both Arena and Donovan, the biggest accomplishment was that they had just won their third championship in four years. Arena joked that if the
league had its way, it would pass the trophy around from team to team each year.
“When this league was founded," said Donovan, "it was founded on the idea of parity. The league does
everything in its power to ensure parity. So, when you have a team that wins three titles in four years, it’s pretty special. When you put it in that context, it’s not like we are
Manchester United or Chelsea winning three out of four years. We aren’t the Yankees who won three out of four years. We aren’t the Celtics or the Lakers who won three out of four years. We
are team that has the same rules as everyone else has. That’s a huge credit to [AEG owner] Phil [Anschutz
], [AEG CEO] Dan
, [Galaxy president] Chris Klein
, Bruce Arena for being able to do that. So when you put it in that real context, it’s a lot more special
that just winning three out of four.”
For Arena, who won five college titles at Virginia before moving to MLS and has spent time with three clubs -- D.C. United, the New York Red
Bulls and Galaxy -- in addition to eight years with the national team, this had been a special season. "This has been one of my most rewarding seasons," he said. "I'm so happy."
No one in
the crowd of 27,000 at the StubHub Center didn't know it was Donovan's last game, but that doesn't mean that's all Donovan's teammates were focused on.
“We weren’t going into
the game thinking about that," said Galaxy captain Robbie Keane
, "and he wasn’t going around the dressing room telling everybody that. We were obviously
aware of it and we’ve known for the last year, so it was really just about the team and concentrating on winning the game. No one deserves to go out on top as much as he does.”
There were plenty of hugs and tears on the field after the game as Donovan celebrated with his teammates. He said it was all part of what makes playing sports so special.
many ups and downs as you go through a season," he said, "and when you're part of that, you go through so many different emotions throughout the year. You sit next to guys in the locker room and talk
about life. Some guys lost parents; others went through difficulties with pregnancies. They had things going on off the field that are difficult. They go through good runs of form and bad runs of
form. They had difficult personal things. And when you go through a year like this, all of that sort of comes out. Couple that with being part of the group for so many years -- some guys have been
here five, six, seven, eight years -- and it's family. When you celebrate in that way, it's so pure."
Donovan said it might be hard for others to understand.
no experience like what just happened," he said. "If you work a desk job or a 9-to-5 job, there is no experience where you get to feel that. I can’t imagine that anything can replace that and
that is why I think a lot of athletes struggle after they retire because you can’t get that back. I have to be aware of that and find other things that I am passionate about.”
By Donovan's own admission, he didn't have his greatest game. There was no Derek Jeter
moment to his final game. The closest Donovan came to scoring was late in
the second half when the Galaxy was leading 1-0 and Keane and he broke in alone on Revs goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth
. But with Donovan open to his side, Keane
chose to shoot and was stoned by Shuttleworth. It was a decision Galaxy fans came to rue as the Revs rallied to score and send the game to overtime.
Donovan put in one final shift, mostly
in a support role, moving from the left wing to the middle in the second half. It was a decision Arena said his "player-manager" Keane suggested at halftime to get Zardes more involved -- and it paid
off as Zardes put the Galaxy ahead with the game's first goal.
Arena admitted he thought Donovan had very little left to give. "So I’m so happy that he’s made this decision."
Later, he was more blunt. "He’s spent. He’s done. And my hat is off to him." Arena has been one of Donovan greatest admirers. "He ends his career," he said, "as arguably the greatest
player in the history of the U.S. national team program, and in the league the all-time leading goalscorer, assists, championships. What more can you say?" Donovan was able to go out a winner.
Said Arena, "Don’t we all wish to be able to leave what we do like the way Landon left today?" Dec. 7 in Carson, Calif. LA Galaxy 2 New England 1 (OT).
Goals: Zardes (Ishizaki) 52, Keane (Sarvas) 111; Tierney (Mullins 79). LA Galaxy --
Penedo; DeLaGarza, Gonzalez, Leonardo, Rogers (Gargan 91); Ishizaki (Gordon 91), Sarvas, Juninho (Husidic 96), Donovan; Keane, Zardes. New England --
Shuttleworth; Farrell, Soares, Goncalves, Tierney; Caldwell (Kobayashi 56), Jones; Bunbury, Nguyen (Dorman 90), K. Rowe; Davies (Mullins 72). Yellow
LA Galaxy -- Donovan 45+, Keane 92, Gordon 113; New England -- Farrell 62, Jones 113. Att.: