Galaxy show their dynasty credentials
Brian Wright - Soccer Editor|
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Los Angeles Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena has said on numerous occasions that his club is the premier club in Major League Soccer.
While other big-market clubs such as the New York Red Bulls and Seattle Sounders FC might disagree, Sunday's MLS Cup title win proves that Galaxy are the dominant team in the league.
The Galaxy won the first of their impressive five titles back in 2002, coincidentally against the New England Revolution, and their second title came in 2005, again a win over the Revolution in 2005.
The club then failed to reach MLS Cup in each of the next three seasons before getting back to the final in 2009 and falling short against West rivals Real Salt Lake.
Motivated by falling short, the team returned to the showpiece event in 2011, this time armed with a trio of superstars in Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane and David Beckham.
It is with those three mega-stars that the Galaxy have done their best work, knocking off the Houston Dynamo in both 2011 and 2012, while sending Beckham off into the sunset with a title.
The Galaxy essentially dominated the league those years, but this season's triumph speaks volumes about the club's resiliency, given the path they took to reach their ultimate goal.
Arena's club got off to a slow start, but came on strong in the summer, roaring up the Western Conference standings courtesy of a 10-match unbeaten streak from Aug. 20 to Oct. 4.
The team headed into the final two weeks of the season level on points with the Seattle Sounders and battling for the Supporters' Shield. They came up short in the race for the Shield, but the setback seemed to serve the club well heading into the postseason.
After battling Real Salt Lake to a scoreless draw in the opening contest of the Conference semifinals, the Galaxy clicked into gear in the second leg, thrashing RSL, 5-0, to set up a date with Seattle in the West finals.
In the West finals a goal from Marcelo Sarvas gave the Galaxy a 1-0 opening leg win, but heading to Seattle for the second leg would certainly be a challenge.
Seattle grabbed a 2-1 aggregate lead with goals from Brad Evans and Clint Dempsey, but the Galaxy didn't panic in a hostile environment, showed some intestinal fortitude and grabbed the all-important road goal to advance via a tiebreaker.
Heading into the final, all the storylines centered around Donovan, who was looking for his storybook ending to an outstanding career. But it was the Galaxy's other stars that came up huge.
Gyasi Zardes, often looked upon as a bit of a forgotten man next to the blinding star power of Donovan and Keane, got the party rolling for the hosts in the 52nd minute with a well-taken left-footed strike.
The Revolution pulled one back through Chris Tierney, sending the game into extra time, where the visiting side had the better of the play. But just when the Galaxy needed a superstar to step up, Keane did the trick as the Irish international got in behind the defense via a nice through ball from Marcelo Sarvas before depositing it into the back of the net.
Keane, the newly-minted league MVP, came up with an MVP-level play right when they needed it, which is what dominant teams do -- they come up large in the clutch.
The win marks the club's third title in the last four years, and Keane's third title with Los Angeles since arriving from Tottenham-Hotspur in 2011.
For Donovan, there is no other way the greatest player in American soccer history would want to end his career, with a sixth title. Donovan joins some impressive company on the list of athletes that have won a championship in their final season, which includes Ray Bourque, John Elway, Bill Russell and Joe DiMaggio.
Of the club's five titles, Sunday's win is probably the most satisfying given the route they took to get there in the regular season.
It certainly cements the Galaxy's place as Major League Soccer's greatest dynasty.