Will Landon Donovan ride of into the California sunset as the winner of a sixth MLS Cup, or will Jermaine Jones and the New England Revolution play Grinch this Sunday at the StubHub Center in Carson, California?
Mixed metaphors aside, Sunday afternoon’s matchup between the Galaxy and the Revolution shapes up as a fascinating game between the red hot Revs and a team that is almost unbeatable at home in the Galaxy.
Los Angeles has not lost a match at the StubHub Center since falling to Real Salt Lake in its home opener way back in March. The Galaxy compiled a 15-1-4 record along the way, including a 5-1 win over the Revolution in July.
To make matters worse for the visitors, the Galaxy have piled up a 15-2-1 playoff record since the opening of the Home Depot Center, now the StubHub Center, in 2003.
But the Revolution have been a team on the rise, both home and the away, as this season has progressed. Much, not all, of that improvement can be traced to New England’s winning the Jermaine Jones lottery, sorry Chicago.
Under coach Jay Heaps the Revolution have used the college draft, trades, and reclamation projects like Charlie Davies, to build this team. New England stepped out of character this summer when they added U.S. World Cup star Jermaine Jones, a move that has already been justified, regardless of Sunday’s result.
Jones has brought toughness and experience to a New England side that could be nicknamed “America’s Team,” for fielding a starting lineup that will likely feature 10 U.S. nationals. That total includes Jones and Teal Bunbury, who were born in Germany and Canada respectively, but have declared for the U.S.
New England come into this MLS Cup having outscored Columbus and New York 11-6 in four playoff games. A revitalized Charlie Davies has led the way for the Revolution, benefitting from good work by Jones, MVP finalist Lee Nguyen, and Teal Bunbury, who has been very effective since being deployed as a wing by Heaps.
Scott Caldwell is the stay at home midfielder that allows Jones to do his thing, while team captain Jose Goncalves and A.J. Soares form a solid duo in the center of New England’s defense.
Los Angeles led MLS in goals scored, while allowing the least goals in MLS during the season, but other than a 5-0 win over Real Salt Lake, the Galaxy’ attack has been quiet in the postseason.
Coach Bruce Arena’s defense has, however, pitched three shutouts, and cast aside Supporters Shield winning Seattle to advance to this final.
Donovan hit for a hat trick, and Major League Soccer’s MVP Robbie Keane added another in that 5-0 win, but L.A. has struggled to find the net since. The Galaxy’s three headed attack monster, Donovan, Keane, and Gyasi Zardes has been held in check since that first RSL game, with midfielders Marcelo Sarvas and Juninho scoring for L.A. versus Seattle.
Defensively the Galaxy will miss A.J. De La Garza, if he remains sidelined. His replacement Dan Gargan had a tough time with Seattle’s Lamar Neagle last time out, and an in form Bunbury could give Gargan nightmares on Sunday.
L.A. has to be given the edge in the coaching department, with Arena looking to add to his total of four MLS Cup wins, although Heaps has impressed in his three years at New England and is clearly a young coach on the rise.
The signs seem to point to a Galaxy win, but I think the hot hand will prevail on Sunday, with Jones inspiring a hungry New England club to an upset victory