Through Their Eyes: 2002 MLS Cup Final (part 2 of 3)

Galaxy greats and fans discuss their roles & emotions in LA’s first MLS Cup championship (pt 2)

On Saturday, the Galaxy honored the 2002 MLS Cup champions by inducting them into the club’s Wall of Legends at The Home Depot Center. But before the induction, LAGalaxy.com spoke to those that were at the MLS Cup Final about their role in the Galaxy’s first MLS Cup title.

(Part 2 of 3. Read Part 1)

THE RAZOR

The 2002 MLS Cup Final would take place in the sparkling new Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. When the Galaxy and their fans arrived, they were greeted by a capacity crowd of more than 61,000 screaming Revolution fans. In true maniacal New England sports fashion, the fans at Gillette immediately let themselves be heard.  

Linda Pickle: “It was daunting. The stadium was so huge, you could just see the tiers of people and they packed it. They put us in a little section all to ourselves, way up high behind the goal so we were perched high above the field.”

Cobi Jones (Galaxy captain): “For MLS matches, there weren’t many times that the stadium had 61,000 plus people there. It was great to have that many people there, but then the realization sets in that 60,599 are rooting for New England. It was kind of imposing, but we were a strong unit and a strong team so that gave us motivation.  We realized that as usual, everyone is cheering against LA and against the Galaxy and it was just one more step that we needed to take to get the monkey off our backs.”

Alexi Lalas: “It was really full circle for me. I made a point when I came back to MLS in 1996 of going to New England and it was where I wanted to go and I had a blast for the two seasons that I was there, even though we weren’t very successful. I spent many years, traipsing around MLS trying to find some success and the elusive ring that every athlete wants at some point in their career.  So to have it come back to playing against the Revolution in their home ground for MLS Cup, it was pretty surreal. It was a good Revolution team at the time and we had never been in front of that type of crowd in terms of the numbers as a Galaxy team. We certainly knew that we had our work cut out for us and if we were to win, we were going to disappoint a lot of people in that stadium. Not that we cared too much.”

EXTRATIME

Scoring chances were at a premium for a heated 90 minutes, but heading into extratime, which was still decided by Golden Goal at that time,  the message was clear…don’t buckle and get the ball to Ruiz.

Cobi Jones: “The big thing was talking about each other, I was captain of that team and it was my responsibility to keep everyone up beat and tight. We had created chances, but it was about finishing this game off. We knew that we’d create chances; we were a team that scored goals because we had a great goal scorer in Carlos Ruiz. We knew if we got him another chance, with Carlos Ruiz, if you give him two chances then he’s going to make one of them. We knew that we needed to give him the ball in front of net.” 

Linda Pickle: “The whole time, we were scared. We’d been through this before and we were just so scared that we weren’t going to win. It was our third time and we were urging them to score. It was sudden death and we had lost in sudden death before so it was back and forth. We were just scared.”                                   

THE CROSSBAR

In the 112th minute, it appeared that once again, luck would not be on the Galaxy side. A Steve Ralston corner kick fell perfectly for Jamaican—and ex-Galaxy player—Winston Griffiths. The Jamaican launched his shot just outside the box, but it took a deflection and rattled the crossbar after sailing past Kevin Hartman.

Alexi Lalas: “Time stood still as that ball went up in the air.”

Cobi Jones:  “He took the shot from our right back position, his left wing position and literally, deflects and starts looping up and over the head of Hartman. We’re doing windshield wipers, jumping up and down and thinking ‘Oh my gosh, this can’t be it. It can’t fall into the back of the net.’ Thankfully, it hit the cross bar and bounced back.”

THE GOAL

Moments after Griffiths’ nearly gave the win to New England, the Galaxy would break through in the 113th minute. On the counter sparked by Albright, Tyrone Marshall would break down the right side with Ruiz streaking down his left. With Marshall powering down field, he fired a cross into the Guatemalan that Ruiz calmly placed in the back of the net. Final score: LA Galaxy 1, New England Revolution 0.

Alexi Lalas: “When that fast break came as it often did for us and we countered with speed, Carlos was able to get on the end of it. I could see it all develop from where we were. Whether it was Chris Albright’s outside of the left foot pass or Marshall who hit it up there, you could see it develop. We had seen it so many times during the year that Carlos had scored that one goal. That was his moment to continue what he had done all year…the shot caressed in and that’s all she wrote.”

Cobi Jones: “It was amazing. All I remember afterward is just everyone sprinting to the corner and making a big dog pile celebration.”

Click here to read part 3, where we look at the aftermath of the championship win.

Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com