The New England Revolution were never going to make it easy. Even in Carson, even with the home field advantage, it took the Galaxy a grueling 120 minutes to grind out a 2–1 win. But in the 111th minute Robbie Keane connected with a lofty overhead pass and one-timed it into the back of New England’s net. It was the shot that sent Landon Donovan into retirement with one final ring.
“I’m in a little bit of a daze to be honest,” said Landon Donovan, still sweaty from the game. “There is a lot going on. A lot of excitement, some sadness. There is uncertainty. And, just pure joy for this team and for what we did.”
”There is a lot going on. A lot of excitement, some sadness. There is uncertainty. And, just pure joy for this team and for what we did.”
The first half saw 45 minutes of stalemate, with the momentum shifting back and forth with every ten minute interval. But when LA ended the first half with nothing to show for their work but a yellow card for Donovan, things were looking grim.
“It’s the spell of the game, up and down,” said Gyasi Zardes about that first half. “But we got it together. We had a great halftime speech and went on to play extremely well.”
”We got it together. We had a great halftime speech and went on to play extremely well.”
It was Gyasi who put the Galaxy ahead. Seven minutes into the second half Stefan Ishizaki found Zardes in the box, just a yard from the goal. Zardes took his time with the ball, he took a breath, collected himself, and buried it in the far corner netting.
“It was just kind of a scramble in the front,” recalled Revolution goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth. “It’s one of those things when 50 percent of the time it gets blocked and 50 percent of the time he gets the shot off. I think he did well to kind of open his hips and hit it towards the corner.”
”It’s one of those things where 50 percent of the time it gets blocked and 50 percent of the time he gets the shot off.”
—Bobby Shuttleworth, goalkeeper, New England Revolution
But this never felt like a one-goal game. Despite good chances to seal the win with a second tally, LA couldn’t find a way to finish. In the 79th minute, Patrick Mullins sent a cross into the Galaxy’s penalty box and onto the foot of Chris Tierney. Jaime Penedo managed to deflect the shot, but not quite enough — and it sailed into the right side of LA’s goal.
It was a low point for the Galaxy. “A couple of times this year, we’ve gone after that first goal, and then given up another one after that, and lost games,” said A.J. DeLaGarza. “That plays with your mind a little bit, but at the same time you are just trying to get the job done.”
”A couple of times this year, we’ve gone after that first goal, and then given up another one after that, and lost games. That plays with your mind a little bit.”
The 1–1 deadlock held to the end of regulation time, sending the MLS Cup final into thirty minutes of extra time. Now Bruce Arena finally made his subs, replacing Robbie Rogers with Dan Gargan, and pulling Stefan Ishizaki in favor of Alan Gordon.
Despite the fresh legs, both teams were dragging. It wasn’t until the 111th minute that anyone could break through — and when the goal came, it came from a gorgeous assist and smart finish between Marcelo Sarvas and Robbie Keane.
Gyasi Zardes remembers exactly what it felt like to watch that goal. “Put it in. Put it in. Put it in,” was all he could think. And then: “He puts it in.” And then? “I’m a champion.”
“Put it in. Put it in. Put it in.”
—Gyasi Zardes, on Robbie Keane’s game-winner
It wasn’t quite that easy. The Galaxy bunkered in for the final ten minutes, and New England managed to find chances and get shots off. But when the final whistle blew, the result held: 2–1, Galaxy. LA is the first team to win five MLS Cups, earning an astonishing three in the last four years.
For Landon Donovan, though, the celebration held mixed emotions.
“As much excitement there is about the game, there is excitement that tomorrow I don’t have to train anymore,” he said afterward. “I don’t have to do a lot of the not-fun parts of the jobs anymore. But I also don’t get experiences like today anymore, either.”
“There is a lot of good; there is going to be some bad. It feels good to go out like this.”