2014 MLS Cup Final Preview: LA Galaxy vs. New England Revolution

Galaxy Revolution

The stage has been set, the finalists now decided, and this Sunday the 2014 Major League Soccer season will come to a close as the Los Angeles Galaxy host the New England Revolution in the final of the 2014 MLS Cup.

For the LA Galaxy, a spot in the finals is familiar territory: it is the club’s third appearance in the finals in the last four years. The Galaxy won the title in 2011 and 2012, with David Beckham, Landon Donovan, and Robbie Keane combining alongside a cast of impressive up-and-coming players like Omar Gonzalez and Juninho to claim the top prize.

Times have changed a bit since then, but not by much. Beckham is no longer around, but Keane has had an incredible season, scoring 19 goals this year and earning the 2014 MLS MVP title in the process. Donovan continues to impress, breaking the top scoring record this season, but it is his last year playing the game after he announced his retirement at 32 years old.

Gonzalez is now a Designated Player and a rock in the Galaxy back line. Head coach Bruce Arena, who led this team to those last two MLS Cup final wins, is still in charge at the Galaxy. The LA Galaxy is a strong home team, going 14-1-4 in the StubHub Center. To put it plainly, the LA Galaxy are heavy favorites to win their fifth MLS Cup title. Should Arena’s men pull it off, it would be a new MLS Cup record in the league.

In New England, head coach Jay Heaps has assembled a group of players who have not only come together as one unit to succeed but did so in a year of some tremendous hardships, too. In the summer, the Revs lost nine out of 10 games, a stretch that saw the team hurting in the standings. But the acquisition of Jermaine Jones and the rise of Lee Nguyen spurred the Revs on, and the team won nine of its last 11 games of the season, pushing them into the playoffs.

The Revolution is on fire both offensively and defensively. With Nguyen and Charlie Davies scoring regularly and a healthy crop of other attacking players like Kelyn Rowe and Teal Bunbury, the Revs have plenty of firepower to call upon. Defensively, players like Andrew Farrell, A.J. Soares, and Jose Goncalves have come into their own, too.

This overachieving side has smashed expectations when they reached an all-time low in the middle of the year and are now a force to be reckoned with in the finals. It all sets up, in the end, for a heated finale between two very different teams.

The match itself promises to be a good one. Both teams have found the back of the net with regularity and ease throughout the year and both teams head into the final with a full cast of players, too. When considering the intangibles, though, the Galaxy holds every advantage, including the home field. But the Revolution have found results away from home, including a 2-1 win over New York in the Eastern Conference finals at Red Bull arena.

The Revs went 6-9-2 on the road this season.

On paper, the LA Galaxy has the stronger team, but not by much. On the field, the New England Revolution has beaten stronger teams on paper consistently. Except the Revs lost to Los Angeles in the regular season: that match, in July, ended 5-1. Robbie Keane scored twice, as did young forward Gyasi Zardes.

There is also something to be said of Landon Donovan in his last season as a professional soccer player. He’ll be dreaming of a fairy tale ending to an illustrious career and will be as motivated as ever to get the win. He is the league’s all-time record high goal scorer and would surely like to cap off his legacy with yet another MLS Cup win.

There is a certain resilient quality to New England that can’t be ignored. The team’s ability to come out of high-pressure situations and circumstances has made for a strong season. In a way, it is the LA Galaxy who faces more of the pressure, especially with expectations so high and a milestone win as the team’s target.

It won’t be easy for New England to win in Los Angeles. The Galaxy has only conceded 14 goals at home all year.

But in soccer, especially in Major League Soccer, just one goal can make all the difference. Evenly matched, these two teams will clash in one final game in 2014.

With expansion on the horizon, a rebranding of the league, and new star players entering next year, the 2014 MLS Cup final might just be the end of the chapter for MLS 2.0. As the league heads into its next generation, the Galaxy seek to round off its dynasty while New England seek to rise back and match its glory days from a decade past. Whoever comes out victorious, one thing is sure: this has been one of, if not the most exciting season in Major League Soccer’s history.

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Armen Bedakian
Armen Bedakian is a soccer writer covering every aspect of the game in Major League Soccer and around the world. I love a crunching slide tackle, but can't stand a bad offside call. Follow me on Twitter - @ArmenBedakian