At some point, the New England Revolution will finally win that elusive MLS Cup. Then again, the odds seemed to be in their favor to get the job done on Sunday afternoon at StubHub Center as they fielded the hottest team in the league and one of their deepest ever. Unfortunately for New England, it was the same old story though as the Revolution fell 2-1 to the host Los Angeles Galaxy in extra time.
Now, New England is an astonishing 0-5 in MLS Cups, including 0-3 vs. LA with all three losses coming in overtime (2002 and 2005). The Galaxy became the first club to win five Cups while American legend Landon Donovan went out on top with his record sixth Cup. MLS MVP Robbie Keane certainly showed up on the biggest stage, scoring the game-winning goal in the 111th minute to earn him the MVP award for the final as well.
The Revs came out a little overanxious to start and the Galaxy nearly went up 1-0 in the first few minutes but Scott Caldwell was able to clear the ball off New England’s goal-line. After a while, New England settled down and it was scoreless at halftime. The Revolution started to control possession more in the second half and even started to carry the play a bit. Still when things started to open up, LA found some space in the 52nd minute as striker Gyasi Zardes took advantage of a defensive breakdown by New England in their defensive box to put his shot in the side netting past Bobby Shuttleworth (4 saves). Midfielder Stefan Ishizaki assisted on undoubtedly the most memorable goal of Zardes’ career.
New England responded in the 79th minute as an unlikely source tied it up. Wellesley native Chris Tierney played a 1-2 passing sequence with substitute Patrick Mullins and he was able to fire it under LA goalkeeper Jaime Penedo (6 saves). At that point, it felt like extra time was inevitable but both clubs had a great chance to end it in regulation. Keane somehow found himself 1-on-1 near Shuttleworth but the Revolution survived that scary moment. For New England, Teal Bunbury’s cross almost snuck in as it hit the crossbar above Penedo.
Revolution star midfielder Lee Nguyen came out with an apparent injury near the end of the second half and his absence was felt immediately. That meant that New England had used all three of its substitutes in regulation while Los Angeles made the daring move to wait until extra time but it still worked out for them. It wasn’t golden goal (meaning the game ended immediately after a goal) but nobody scored in the first 15 minutes so they switched sides. Keane’s goal wasn’t all that different from Zardes’: he received a long ball from Marcelo Sarvas then used his skill to beat the Revolution defender and Shuttleworth.
New England is in good shape to be one of the top teams in MLS for years to come but until they can get over the hump in the Cup, their fans cannot help but get used to this familiar empty feeling.