CARSON, Calif. – Major League Soccer's Most Valuable Player proved his value when it mattered most, scoring the goal in overtime that lifted the LA Galaxy to an unprecedented fifth MLS Cup crown.
Robbie Keane, the game's MVP, finished a long ball from Marcelo Sarvas in the 111th minute as the Galaxy, playing in front a partisan sellout crowd at StubHub Center, claimed their third championship in four years with a thrilling 2-1 triumph over the visiting New England Revolution.
Landon Donovan wrapped up his career with a title, winning MLS Cup for a record sixth time, as LA beat the the Revs in the championship game for the third time, all of them in overtime.
The Revolution, the only team to play in multiple MLS Cups without a trophy, lost their record fifth final, three in OT and another on penalties.
It was a pulsating final, a first-half tactical battle that evolved into an end-to-end slugfest, withGyasi Zardes providing LA a lead in the 52nd minute and Chris Tierney netting the equalizer in the 79th.
Keane missed a one-on-one opportunity and Teal Bunbury hit a post late in regulation, forcing overtime for the ninth time in 19 MLS Cup finals.
It was the fifth title for LA coach Bruce Arena, who won the first two MLS Cups with D.C. United and guided LA to back-to-back championships in 2011 and 2012.
Chances were few in the first half, a product of iffy passing – especially the Galaxy – and solid defending by both sides. Space was at a premium and the best opportunities came from direct play rather than buildup.
LA did a better job of penetrating in the final third, and they nearly went ahead in the second minute. Robbie Rogers weaved into the box after a charging run down the left flank and knocked the ball toward the far post, but a ricochet off Scott Caldwell took enough off the shot to give the Revs Homegrown time to clear off the line.
The Galaxy had two more solid chances before halftime, but Keane, with an open path just inside the box, fired hard at Revs goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth in the 21st minute and Zardes was wide of the target from a Donovan feed in the 39th.
The Revs had one superb chance in the first half, with Chris Tierney sending a ball to a streaking Charlie Davies. A.J. DeLaGarza matched the speedy striker step for step, then slid in the box to deny the shot.
The second half was played at a brisker pace, a more wide-open affair, and Zardes struck soon after Lee Nguyen had a penalty shout waved off at the other end, becoming the first Homegrown Player to score in an MLS Cup.
It came from a Stefan Ishizaki cross from the right, just outside the box, that deflected off Tierney and sailed to the second-year forward even with the far post.
Zardes' first touch took the ball wider, and he held off New England right back Andrew Farrellto create the needed space before firing across the goalmouth and into the far-post netting.
The Galaxy had opportunities to add to their advantage through Keane, who sprinted free from a Rogers long ball in the 70th minute, cut past Jose Goncalves to get one-on-one with Shuttleworth, then only got a piece of the ball, knocking it weakly at the goalkeeper.
Keane would have gone one-on-one again five minutes later, but he was flagged for a very tight offside.
Tierney tied it up soon after. Goncalves sent a long ball up the left wing for Patrick Mullins, who had come on for Davies seven minutes earlier. Mullins eluded Ishizaki and through Gonzalez’s legs for Tierney, streaking into the box. His first touch beat Leonardo, and he left-footed the ball under LA keeper Jaime Penedo and inside the right post.
Bunbury nearly gave New England the victory in the 85th minute, arcing a curling ball from the left that floated over Penedo and bounced high off the right post.
The Galaxy did well to neutralize Nguyen, an MVP finalist, who exited as stoppage time arrived after going down with a cramp as Bunbury took his shot.
LA made two changes heading into overtime. Rogers, hurt near the end of regulation from a crunching Bunbury tackle, was pulled in favor of Dan Gargan, who took his customary spot at right back with DeLaGarza moving to the left. Alan Gordon came on for Ishizaki, with Zardes moving to the flank.
The Revolution had two opportunities during the first overtime period. Jermaine Jones, through whom New England's attack flowed before halftime and again after regulation, fired just past the left post in the 100th minute, then sent a ball forward for Mullins two minutes later. Penedo got down to parry the rookie's sharp shot from the left, and DeLaGarza knocked the rebound from danger.
Keane scored his 23rd goal of the season for the Galaxy, all competitions, in the sixth minute of overtime's second stage. Sarvas sent a ball to the Irish striker on the left, and he slotted past Shuttleworth to the right corner of the net from inside the box.
The Revs pushed forward in a vain search for an equalizer. Mullins forced Penedo to the ground for a save at the left post in the 116th minute, and Bunbury fired wide from an abrupt angle on the right in the 118th.
LA Galaxy 2, New England Revolution 1
Sunday, Dec. 7 – 12:00 p.m. PT
MLS Cup 2014
StubHub Center – Carson, Calif.
LA – Gyasi Zardes (Assisted by Stefan Ishizaki) 52’
NE – Chris Tierney (Assisted by Patrick Mullins, Jose Goncalves) 79’
LA – Robbie Keane (Assisted by Marcelo Sarvas) 111’
LA – Landon Donovan (Caution) 45’+1
NE – Andrew Farrell (Caution) 62’
LA – Robbie Rogers (Caution) 82’
LA – Robbie Keane (Caution) 92’
NE – Jermaine Jones (Dissent) 113’
LA – Marcelo Sarvas (Caution) 113’
LA – Alan Gordon (Dissent) 113’
LA Galaxy: Jaime Penedo; Robbie Rogers (Dan Gargan 91’), Omar Gonzalez, Leonardo, A.J DeLaGarza; Stefan Ishizaki (Alan Gordon 91’), Marcelo Sarvas, Juninho (Baggio Husidic 96’), Landon Donovan; Robbie Keane ©, Gyasi Zardes.
Substitutes Not Used: Brian Rowe, Tommy Meyer, Todd Dunivant, Kenney Walker.
TOTAL SHOTS: 16; SHOTS ON GOAL: 6; FOULS: 20; OFFSIDE: 1; CORNER KICKS: 3; SAVES: 5.
New England Revolution: Bobby Shuttleworth, Andrew Farrell, Jose Goncalves ©, A.J. Soares, Chris Tierney, Jermaine Jones, Scott Caldwell (Daigo Kobayashi 58’), Teal Bunbury, Lee Nguyen (Andy Dorman 90’), Kelyn Rowe, Charlie Davies (Patrick Mullins 72’).
Substitutes Not Used: Brad Knighton, Diego Fagundez, Kevin Alston, Darrius Barnes,.
TOTAL SHOTS: 16; SHOTS ON GOAL: 6; FOULS: 14; OFFSIDE: 1; CORNER KICKS: 3; SAVES: 4.
Referee: Mark Geiger
Referee’s Assistants: Peter Manikowski and Joe Fletcher
4th Official: Armando Villarreal