Three Points: Los Angeles vs. New England
CARSON, Calif. -- The L.A. Galaxy won a record fifth MLS Cup, prevailing over the New England Revolution 2-1 in extra time, giving Landon Donovan his sixth title and a proper send-off into retirement.
Gyasi Zardes put the home side on top with an opportunistic strike in the 52nd minute, but Chris Tierney equalized for New England in the 79th minute to send the game into extra time. But league MVP Robbie Keane delivered the winning goal in the 111th minute to give L.A. its fifth MLS Cup.
Here are three of the biggest takeaways from the 19th MLS Cup:
1. Keane delivers in the end
Much was expected of Keane, the league MVP, but he struggled early on and seemed oddly out of sync with Donovan, squandering several chances to score. In the 21st minute he shot straight at Revs goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth, but that paled in comparison to the chance he had with 20 minutes remaining in normal time. Marcelo Sarvas released Keane with an inch-perfect pass and had a good look at goal after evading Jose Goncalves, but he was denied by Shuttleworth. The misses nearly were L.A.'s undoing, as New England managed to crawl back into the match despite being outplayed for the majority of the game.
Keane more than made amends, however. In the 111th minute, he latched onto another long ball from Sarvas and hit his shot low past Shuttleworth to give L.A. the win.
As for New England's MVP candidate, Lee Nguyen, he had little effect on the proceedings. He managed just 15 touches in the attacking third for the entire game, his third-lowest mark of the entire season. Nguyen likely will feel that he was denied a clear penalty in the 51st minute, when he appeared to be bowled over by Sarvas. He did perk up a little after New England's goal, but then had to be substituted off because of cramps. Overall, his influence was minimal.
2. Familiar script for Revs
It's a storyline that New England just can't get away from. The defeat marked the Revs' fifth MLS Cup final defeat and its third to the Galaxy, all of which came in extra time, matching the finals in 2002 and 2005.
There was a haunting sense of déjà vu about Zardes' opener as well. In 2006, it was a deflected cross from Houston's Brian Mullan that found the head of Brian Ching, who equalized just seconds after Taylor Twellman had given the Revs the lead. On this occasion, Stefan Ishizaki's delivery deflected off Tierney and found Zardes at the back post. Zardes calmly evaded the attentions of Andrew Farrell and Kelyn Rowe to fire home past Shuttleworth.
It proved to be a day of extreme highs and lows for Tierney. He went from zero to hero when he equalized in the 79th minute after neat work from substitute Patrick Mullins. But he went back to being the goat, as it was his positioning that allowed Keane to stay onside on the game winner.
It was a game in which New England showed massive amounts of heart, but it ended in familiar disappointment.
3. Donovan goes out a winner
Donovan's influence on the proceedings probably wasn't what he hoped heading into the match. Like Keane, he struggled to connect with his teammates, though he nearly got the match off to a rollicking start when he released Robbie Rogers on a mazy run that ended with a shot being cleared off the line by the Revs' Scott Caldwell. But the match soon degenerated into a seemingly endless processing of poor touches and wayward passes. Even Donovan's telepathic relationship with Keane went missing at times. Donovan had more success connecting with Zardes later in the first half, but either the ensuing short or subsequent return pass were off target.
Donovan's first-half frustration was made complete when he was booked in first-half stoppage time for clattering into Revs defender A.J. Soars.
But a tactical switch at halftime saw the Galaxy gain the edge they needed, and it benefited Donovan. The MLS' all-time leading scorer was moved centrally from the left wing, while Zardes moved out wide. The move worked a treat, as it allowed Donovan to get on the ball more while Zardes gave Farrell a torrid time out wide. Ishizaki also perked up after halftime and became more influential on the right flank.
It was from just such a matchup that Zardes broke the deadlock, collecting Ishizaki's deflected cross and firing past Shuttleworth in the 52nd minute.
L.A. was unable to land the knockout blow, however. Donovan nearly capped off his career in perfect fashion when he found himself in front of goal in the 68th minute only to shoot weakly at Shuttleworth.
In the end, it didn't matter. Keane delivered as he has so often this season, allowing Donovan to claim his sixth MLS Cup.
At the final whistle, Donovan's joy -- and that of the Galaxy -- was evident, as he was mobbed by his teammates. It proved to be a fitting ending for arguably the greatest U.S. player.
Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.