Landon Donovan of the Los Angeles Galaxy holds the MLS Cup. (Rafael Orellana/LOL-LA)
In a season where seemingly all the talk has been of retiring legend Landon Donovan, MLS Most Valuable Player Robbie Keane capped off a phenomenal season by netting the game-winner in added extra time to give the Los Angeles Galaxy their fifth MLS Cup.
“It wasn’t the greatest game, to be honest with you,” said Keane, who was also named MVP of the game. “It was tough and New England played really well. We went 120 minutes, and in the end, it’s whichever team pulls out stronger [that wins these games].”
Keane’s game-winning goal in the 111th minute came on a long pass from Marcelo Sarvas and redeemed the 34-year-old Irishman after a lackluster performance just days after being named MLS MVP.
But he wasn’t the only star player who underperformed in this game. Save for Jermaine Jones, who Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena called a “warrior” after the game, none of either team’s star players played a great game.
The first half ended in a scoreless draw, but could have easily been 1-0 in favor of the hosts inside 90 seconds after a brilliant play between Donovan and Robbie Rogers was saved at the goal line by New England midfielder Chris Tierney.
The second half was much different, however, and in the 52nd minute, Gyasi Zardes received a pass inside the 6-yard-box from Stefan Ishizaki and finished with a killer instinct to give the Galaxy the lead.
The goal was Zardes’ first of the playoffs, and it came after Arena moved him from striker to the left wing.
“It’s an amazing time to do it, but I wasn’t stressing that I haven’t been scoring,” said the Galaxy Homegrown Player. “It’s a team sport, not my sport. It’s a team effort. If I’m not scoring but we are still winning, that’s okay with me.”
The Revs did great in holding the Galaxy to just one goal in the first 90 minutes, especially considering the Galaxy had all the momentum for 10 minutes after Zardes’ goal, and looked poised to make it 2-0.
The Galaxy dominated the pace of the game in the second half despite having only 44 percent possession for the game. Although the Galaxy only held a 1-0 lead, it seemed as if Zardes’ goal was going to be enough to give the Galaxy the cup.
But a seemingly innocuous pass from the New England backline made its way to Patrick Mullins in the 79th minute, who fought his way past Omar Gonzalez after Gonzalez jogged after the ball, and Mullins found Tierney running into the box. Tierney cleverly got past Samuel Goncalves, and then put the ball past Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo to tie the game.
The Revs had another opportunity late in the game when Teal Bunbury’s left-footed shot from the outside the box beat Penedo, but hit the crossbar and bounced away from the goal.
“[The loss] hurts a little more because I thought we were going to win,” said Bunbury after the game. It seemed that way in the final moments of regulation, but in added extra time, the Galaxy began to impose their will on New England until Keane broke through.
Once the final whistle blew Galaxy players and staff stormed the field, but much of the focus went to Donovan, who played his last game as a professional.
“[My emotions are] so mixed [at the moment] and I’m so wrapped up in so many different emotions, but more than anything it is joy,” said Donovan. “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.”
Donovan was asked whether he thought this championship–the team’s third in four years–will be considered a dynasty.
“When this league was founded, it was founded on the idea of parity,” he said. “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. We are team that has the same rules as everyone else has. So, when you put it in that real context it’s a lot more special that just winning three out of four.”