Other than the fact that it comes on an NFL Sunday (why not Saturday?), MLS has basically lucked into what should be a tremendous showcase event for its league, which is still growing. The New England Revolution travel to Carson, California this weekend to take on the host Los Angeles Galaxy at the StubHub Center (Sunday, 3 p.m., ESPN). New England should get a boost in the TV ratings since the Patriots don’t play until Sunday night down the coast in San Diego. Befitting of the biggest match of the season with two very supportive groups of fans, there is no lack of interesting storylines or subplots for what you have to conclude are the two rightful conference champions. Here are three things to watch for:
1. MLS Cup History
Los Angeles is bidding for its fifth MLS title. They are currently tied with DC United for the most Cups in league history at four apiece. There have been 18 MLS Cups and LA has been involved in nearly half of them (4-4), so they lead in all-time appearances. Most recently, the Galaxy won back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012. Conversely, New England is trying to shed its label as the Buffalo Bills of MLS. The Revolution are 0-4 in MLS Cups, including a stretch where they lost three years in a row (2005-07). It’s been a while, but these clubs have some past history in the MLS Cup as Los Angeles won 1-0 in overtime over New England in both 2002 and 2005.
2. Landon Donovan’s Last Game, Again
Generally regarded as the top American player of all-time, Galaxy forward Landon Donovan announced earlier this season that 2014 would be his last. That means that Sunday’s game is the final time that you’ll ever see Donovan in a competitive setting. He has already won five MLS Cups and he’s the league’s all-time leading goal-scorer (136). He was unceremoniously dumped from the US national team this summer right before the World Cup in Brazil but its all-time leader in goals and assists still got his moment in October with one last appearance for the U.S. in a friendly match vs. Ecuador in Hartford, Connecticut. He certainly has enough hardware and accolades to spare, but no doubt, neutral fans will be rooting for Donovan to go out on top one last time.
Part of the reason that this matchup is so appealing even to casual viewers is because there are great players all over the field for both squads. Irish forward Robbie Keane captured the 2014 MLS MVP on Wednesday, beating out Revolution midfielder Lee Nguyen among others. Donovan is also very familiar with his former US teammate, New England midfielder Jermaine Jones. Revolution forward Charlie Davies used to play with Donovan on the US national team as well and Galaxy central defender Omar Gonzalez was one of the pleasant surprises for the Americans in Brazil.