Fitting end for a LeganD

The confetti had all rained down. They had accepted their prize. They broke out bottles of champagne and began setting them off in celebration. They crowded around one man clutching the massive trophy. His icon number 10 shirt wet with champagne as he hoisted the cup in triumph while his teammates cheered, “One more year! One more year!”

This was the scene in the LA Galaxy locker room following their MLS Cup victory over the New England Revolution. The Galaxy had just won their MLS record fifth title and the man holding the trophy was US soccer icon Landon Donovan. The 32 year old had just walked off the field for the final time in his professional career. Arguably the most decorated MLS player of the league’s 19 year history had just wrapped a campaign full of anguish and disappointment but ultimately marked by pure joy with this final development. Donovan’s final MLS season did not go exactly as he had always dreamed but in the end he walked off the field the way he desperately wanted: a champion.

The disappointment I refer to actually has nothing to do with MLS season and all to do with Jürgen Klinnsman’s decision to drop Donovan from the US World Cup roster headed to Brazil. That was all the US captain had been working towards, a chance to take center stage one last time on the world stage and show everyone that he was one of the best to ever do it. Instead, Donovan was left to sit at home and wonder what could have been. Particularly when US striker Jozy Altidore went down with an injury, Donovan must ponder his potential role on that team.

All of that aside, Donovan came back and played with a vengeance in the second half of the MLS season. Records fell around the famous attacker and when the dust settles from this championship run, Donovan can look back at his accolades knowing he truly was the best. He became the MLS all-time goal scorer and the league’s all-time assist leader. He scored his league record 41st game-winning goal and tied the MLS mark for game-winning assists. He demonstrated his longevity by finishing his career with the third most minutes logged. But above all, he showed his knack for getting it done when it mattered. This last title of Donovan’s career made him the player with the most cup wins ever.

Donovan’s leave is a saddening one for American soccer fans. It means we won’t see the iconic penalty kick run up or the unmatched passion we have been spoiled to see throughout Donovan’s illustrious domestic career. The MLS will be missing some of its most recognizable faces next year with the loss of Donovan and Thierry Henry. But the league will see the influx of international players like Kaka, Frank Lampard and David Villa. The league will always have its superstars, but there will truly only be one LeganD remembered as being the best to roam the US turf. So farewell LD, thanks for all of the great moments this nation has been so fortunate to share with you over this exhilarating ride. You will be missed.


MLS Cup Clash

First time really talking about the MLS here. I did a lot of stuff about the World Cup back in June but now it’s time to look at some American-based soccer. Specifically, it’s time to give the MLS final a second look. This Sunday will wrap up the 2014 MLS campaign as the New England Revolution battle the Los Angeles Galaxy. This is the fifth time that the Revs will be in the MLS final but this squad is 0-4 in the big game. The Galaxy on the other hand have four championships already heading into the match, this being their ninth appearance in the league final.

There are dozens of storylines leading up to the game. This will be Los Angeles attacker and US international legend Landon Donovan’s final game ever. It would be incredible for him to end off his professional career with a fifth title, which would give the Galaxy the most in MLS history. Donovan led the league this year as the best setup man with 19 assists. His teammate, LA’s captain Robbie Keane, finished third on that same list and ranked third in goals this season. Keane’s all around excellence earned him MLS MVP. These two will be leading the charge on Sunday for LA.

On the Revolution side, José Gonçalves captains his team in just his second year with the team. He will lead the defense while Revs’ superstar Lee Nguyen handles the offensive end. The central midfielder only accounted for nine goals over the past two years before exploding for 18 this season, the fourth best mark in the league behind Keane. The Revolution has its own US international as well in Jermaine Jones. The midfielder was acquired during the midseason transfer window will bring some physical play to the midfield this weekend. These three will be counted on heavily if they want to avoid a repeat of the 5-1 loss New England was dealt when these teams met in July.

This Sunday should be a very different affair then the previous matchup. LA comes into the game having struggled away from home. Luckily for them, the finals are held at their home stadium because their last road win came all the way back in late August against Chivas USA. New England on the other hand, is riding a hot streak into the game, as the club has not dropped a game since mid-September.  Jones is also stateside this time while he was still playing in Europe at the time of their first match up.

Sunday will be highly competitive and contested until the whistle is blown to end the match. I think LA will strike first and hold the lead until late in the second half when Nguyen hammers home an equalizer. Nguyen did have the most game-winning goals this year with nine and was tied for second in road goals with nine as well. In the end though, I think LA will walk away with its fifth title as Keane sets up Donovan one last time for the winner in overtime. After all, Donovan does have the most game-winners in MLS history. The home crowd will just be too much for New England as it comes away empty handed once again. Let me know what you think is going to happen or if I missed anything that will be crucial to this game.