After a long journey it all comes down to this, the 2014 MLS Cup Final. For the third time in the last four seasons, the match will take place at the StubHub Center in Carson, CA as the Western Conference Champion Los Angeles Galaxy play host to the Eastern Conference Champion New England Revolution.
This also marks the third time that the two clubs have met in the Final. The first meeting took place on October 20, 2002 in front of 61,316 fans at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. The Galaxy came in as the winners of the Supporters’ Shield in 2002 while the Revolution came in just barely clinching a playoff spot despite winning the Eastern Conference in the Regular Season.
Guatemalan legend Carlos Ruiz scored the Cup-winning goal in the 113th minute to give the Galaxy their first MLS Cup Championship after three previous losses. Ironically, two of those previous losses in the Final came in Foxborough though those were both to DC United.
Their second meeting in the MLS Cup Final came on November 13, 2005 at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas. This would be the start of three straight appearances in the final for New England Revolution though they would lose all of those games. To this day, they have the most appearances in the MLS Cup Final without a win at four.
The hero of the 2005 MLS Cup Final was another Guatemalan footballing legend who really struggled during his short tenure with the Galaxy. That would be Guillermo Ramirez who played just one season on loan with the Galaxy during the 2005 season. He scored just two goals in his year of action with the team but one of them would be a stunning volley from outside of the penalty box in the 2005 Final.
New England does not need to worry about a Guatemalan beating them again in 2014 as the Galaxy do not have a player from that country on their roster. In fact, they only have one player from Central America, that being goalkeeper Jaime Penedo who is from Panama.
The two sides have met once before in 2014 back in July. That game did not turn out very well for the Revolution who left the StubHub Center with a 5-1 defeat in a game which saw both clubs play with ten men for the last 54 minutes of the match.
It was already 2-0 in favor of the Galaxy when Lee Nguyen pulled a penalty kick back in the 38th minute to bring the score to 2-1. Gyasi Zardes scored his second of the match right after halftime to bring the score to 3-1 before Stefan Ishizaki and Robbie Keane (his second) finished off the scoring. That match would be the sixth consecutive defeat at the time for the Revolution who would see the streak reach eight games and over two months without a league win.
The Revolution have only lost twice since that losing streak ended in late July. They are playing their best soccer at the right time and look to finally get that elusive MLS Cup Trophy in their Cabinet.
League MVP finalist Lee Nguyen is the engine that makes the Revolution go but his play has elevated since the team signed Jermaine Jones. The presence of Jones on the field has allowed Nguyen to focus more in the attack which has paid some serious dividends for the club. Nguyen finished with 18 goals in the regular season and has added two in the playoffs to this points.
One of the other big players on the team has been forward Charlie Davies. The former United States Men’s National Team player has reaped the most benefits from Nguyen more attacking approach. He has scored four goals in the postseason including both goals in their 2-2 draw in the Eastern Conference Final.
On the other side is the favorites, the Los Angeles Galaxy. They survived a classic Western Conference Final with the Seattle Sounders FC to advance to their MLS-record 9th Cup Final. The Galaxy have scored 76 goals this season (playoffs and regular season) but their goal scoring at home has been off the charts. They are averaging 2.6 goals per game at home and have scored four or more goals in six of those matches.
As good as they have been on offense at home, their defense has been even more impressive allowing less than a goal per game (0.7 per game). They have not allowed more than two goals in any match at the StubHub Center this year.
Most of the attention is going to be on Landon Donovan as it will be his final match in Major League Soccer. The players to look in this game though for the Los Angeles Galaxy will be Marcelo Sarvas and Juninho. They will have another tough task in trying to contain Lee Nguyen but it doesn’t stop there as they will square off with Jermaine Jones when they push forward into the attack.
Stay tuned with VAVEL USA for more coverage of the 2014 MLS Cup Final.