CARSON, Calif. — The New England Revolution found themselves on the wrong end of history Sunday, falling to the L.A. Galaxy in an MLS Cup Final that served as a farewell present to the greatest American player.
“I’ve known Landon on all levels — as a teammate for some national team where I was a benchwarmer and he was a starter. And he’s done it the right way all the way,” Revolution head coach Jay Heaps said after L.A. notched its third MLS Cup triumph over New England, to go along with overtime victories in 2002 and 2005. “It’s tough that we were a part of his storybook ending, but the guy deserves everything you guys write about him.”
The Revolution believed they could have given Donovan an alternative finish, one not nearly so happy, and it looked like it might happen when Chris Tierney struck in the 79th minute to forge a 1-1 draw and Teal Bunbury followed with a shot off the post six minutes later.
“It hurts a little more, because I thought we were going to win,” said Bunbury, who was a handful for L.A.’s defense on both flanks. “We had 10 to 12 minutes left (after Tierney scored), and I had a feeling we were going to win this whole thing. But credit to L.A., a great team, and they had a great game.”
The Revolution had more possession but weren’t as sharp in the attacking third, although they created several dangerous opportunities. The best chances before Tierney’s strike were halted by the Galaxy defense, with A.J. DeLaGarza sliding to block a Charlie Davies shot in the 23rd minute and Juninho stripping Lee Nguyen of the ball in the L.A. box in the 51st.
The Revolution thought Nguyen was fouled on the play, but referee Mark Geiger didn’t budge.
“We thought we had a couple chances there to win it,” Heaps said. “I really felt like the penalty on Lee was close. Those are the ones that decide. Teal hit the bar. Those were close. That’s late in the game, and it’s unfortunate. I thought we could’ve gotten a little help on that.”
Nguyen, the Revs’ top attacker, had to depart with cramps just before the end of regulation and missed the 30-minute overtime session. That didn’t help either.
“It’s tough to lose your go-to playmaker, and we tried to get him back in there, but he just didn’t have enough. He was cramping,” Heaps said. “He did a lot of work, and I thought he was really pulling the strings after (Gyasi Zardes gave the Galaxy a 52nd-minute lead). And then after we scored, I thought we had a lot of good chances, and to be honest with you, I really thought that was a penalty.”
MLS MVP Robbie Keane decided things in the 111th minute, beating goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth from a long ball by Marcelo Sarvas.
“It’s tough,” Bunbury said. “You go the whole season pursuing a goal and a dream to win a championship, but at the end, the Galaxy are a great team. A lot of respect to them; they had a hell of a game.
“I am proud of our guys, though. They put the work in the whole 120 minutes. Everyone was pushing each other, so I couldn’t be more proud right now. It is devastating and disappointing for all the fans that came out (to Southern California), family members and all the people that have supported us the whole season. They have to be proud as well.
“We gave everything we got. We move on now to next season and start preparing.”
Thumbnail photo via Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports Images