Records are made to be broken, and broken records continue to torment the New England Revolution.
The Revolution suffered their latest bout of heartbreak Sunday at StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., falling to the Los Angeles Galaxy 2-1 in extra time in the 2014 MLS Cup Final. The defeat was the Revolution’s fifth in an MLS Cup and their third extra-time loss to the Galaxy in the league’s biggest game. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
Galaxy forward Robbie Keane scored the game-winning goal in the 111th minute. He joins Carlos Ruiz, who scored the game-winner in the Galaxy’s 1-0 win over the Revolution in MLS Cup 2002, and Guillermo Ramirez, whose goal sealed the same result in 2005, among L.A. heroes who aren’t welcome in some Boston-area homes.
Keane claimed the MLS Cup MVP award, but Landon Donovan was at the center of attention before, during and after the game. Donovan, 32, now is retired, having won his record sixth MLS Cup title in his last game as a professional soccer player. Donovan was lively throughout the 120-minute game and had a few bright moments, but his overall performance was understated compared to many of the other big contests in his glittering and consequential career.
While the Galaxy celebrated their league-high fifth championship (their third in four years), the Revolution are left to wonder what they could have done differently in order to claim a first MLS Cup triumph rather than a record fifth defeat at the last hurdle. They were the underdogs heading into the game, but the result and balance of play prove that head coach Jay Heaps and his players were no pushovers.
The Revolution showed great determination, ran themselves to the point of collapse and were tactically flexible. But they lost defensive focus at key moments in the build-up to the Galaxy goals. Andrew Farrell should have defended Gyasi Zardes with more authority before the Galaxy striker scored the opener in the 52nd minute.
The Revolution also lacked the technical proficiency required to translate their possession advantage into meaningful scoring chances. Chris Tierney scored the game-tying goal in the 79th minute, but it came via the direct approach and against the run of play. For most of the game, they struggled to link together their lines, which left their attacking players stranded and starved for service. Many of their attacking moves broke down due to misplaced passes or heavy touches.
MLS Cup 2014 was a tense contest but desperately lacked quality for long stretches. Maybe it was nerves, but the Galaxy, the Revolution and even the referees failed to perform to their normal level in the pressure-packed cauldron that is MLS Cup and produce a classic final.
The difference between winning and losing ultimately came down to the wasteful Galaxy starting at a slightly higher level than the Revolution, who weren’t outstanding in any particular facet. But the history and record books probably will leave that out, as is the case in the past.
Thumbnail photo via Jae C. Hong/The Associated Press