No matter how Sunday’s MLS Cup final (3 pm ET) ends, the tale telling the victorious side’s season-long journey to the top of the Major League Soccer mountain will carry with it more than a hint of Hollywood motion-picture magic.
For the LA Galaxy, the swan song of US national team and MLS legend Landon Donovan is an obvious candidate to make the jump from the field to the big screen. His 15-year professional career says he’s the greatest American player of all-time, now he’s trying to leave the league he stayed home to help build as a champion in his final game as a pro.
For the New England Revolution, the plot is the standard group of misfits and castaways from elsewhere — Lee Nguyen, Charlie Davies and Teal Bunbury, to name a few — who banded together to form the league’s hottest team during the second half of the season after struggling and floundering badly early on. They’re essentially the Cleveland Indians from one of my all-time favorite sports films, Major League.
When calling the Revolution — losers of just one game since early August — “the hottest team to finish the regular season,” it’s not to say they’ve been far and away better than a Galaxy side with only two league losses in the same timeframe. As the two teams’ form to close out 2014 suggests, Sunday’s final is a matchup much tougher to call than perhaps recent memories coming to mind might suggest when speaking the names ‘Galaxy’ — hosts (and winners) of MLS Cup in 2011 and 2012, aiming to do it all over again — and ‘Revolution’ — a club who’s not been to a final since 2007, when they lost their unprecedented third-straight title game.
|GF||GA||Shots/gm||SoG/gm||Total passes/gm||Key passes/gm||Short passes/gm||Long passes/gm||Shots allowed/gm|
|Galaxy||69 (1st)||37 (1)||15.7 (1)||5.8 (1)||480.5 (1)||12.7 (1)||357.5 (1)||36.8 (4)||10.2 (1)|
|Revs||51 (9)||46 (8)||13.9 (5)||5.5 (3)||389.6 (16)||11.0 (2)||262.1 (16)||33.8 (9)||12.9 (10)|
Regular-season stats via WhoScored.com
Bruce Arena‘s Galaxy advanced to host their third final in four years by knocking off Real Salt Lake, 5-0 on aggregate, in the Western Conference semifinals and the Seattle Sounders, 2-2 on aggregate (1-0 on away goals) in the West’s championship series. Donovan led the way against RSL with a second-leg hat trick en route to the 5-0 home victory at the StubHub Center. Marcelo Sarvas and Juninho, the Galaxy’s Brazilian midfield duo, provided both goals against Seattle with the latter’s tally in the decisive second leg the difference in the series.
Jay Heaps’ Revs dispatched this year’s version of last year’s Revs, the Columbus Crew — an up-and-coming side that plays some attractive soccer but is ultimately full of youth and playoff inexperience — in the Eastern Conference semifinals, 7-3 on aggregate, to host the New York Red Bulls in the East’s championship series. Charlie Davies, scorer of four 2014 MLS Cup Playoffs goals, led the way to MLS Cup with a brace against the Red Bulls, including the series-winner, which came late in last Saturday’s second leg.
Galaxy star players: Robbie Keane — 2014 MLS MVP, 19 goals, 14 assists; Landon Donovan — 10 goals, 19 assists (2014), 144 goals, 136 assists (career, MLS records); Gyasi Zardes — Homegrown Player, 16 goals; Omar Gonzalez — 2014 World Cup starter, 4 career playoff goals, 2012 MLS Cup MVP; Jaime Penedo — starting goalkeeper, 29 starts, 33 goals allowed, 8 shutouts, 70% save% (5th among regular starters
Revolution star players: Lee Nguyen — 2014 MLS MVP second runner-up, 18 goals, 5 assists, 9 game-winning goals (most in MLS), ; Jermaine Jones — 2014 World Cup starter, 11 starts (including playoffs, signed in August), 3 goals, 6 assists; Charlie Davies — 4 goals, 1 assist in 2014 playoffs (4 starts); Teal Bunbury — 2 goals, 2 assists in 2014 playoffs (4 starts); Jose Goncalves — 2013 MLS Defender of the Year, starting defender, captain, 1 goal in 2014 playoffs (4 starts)