And so, Landon Donovan’s long, well-documented, roller coaster of a career comes to a close Sunday, as his Los Angeles Galaxy plays host to the New England Revolution in the MLS Cup final in Carson, California (3 p.m., ESPN).
What a fitting finale it would be if Donovan, the greatest and most popular American player of all time, adds a sixth league title to his remarkable résumé and leaves the game with a true Hollywood ending. The charming, balding 32-year-old star is the career leader in goals and assists for the U.S. national team and MLS. He has provided American fans with countless highlight moments, none more thrilling than his late-game winner against Algeria at the 2010 World Cup.
After suffering the indignity of being left off the U.S. World Cup team earlier this year, it would seem somehow justified for him to end his terrific but tumultuous career hoisting a final trophy in front of a home crowd at StubHub Center.
But a scriptwriter isn’t in charge of this match. The reality is that the Galaxy is in for a heck of a challenge against the hottest team in the league. The Revolution, coached by former Miami Fusion player Jay Heaps, has lost just one game in the past four months. Not coincidentally, that is exactly when U.S. World Cup star Jermaine Jones joined the team.
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The Revs are 11-1-2 since Jones signed in August and were 3-6-1 in the games before he signed. He and Lee Nguyen are a dangerous duo in the midfield, which is a big reason New England leaped from a losing record and sixth place in the Eastern Conference to the MLS Cup final.
New England has been particularly impressive in the postseason, beating the Columbus Crew 7-3 on aggregate and then the New York Bulls 4-3. Bostonians have taken notice. A team-record crowd of 32,698 showed up for the Eastern Conference final.
This will be the fifth trip to the final for the Revolution, and the team is still seeking its first Cup. Heaps played in the first four. Now, he’s there as the coach and is determined to finally win the trophy that has eluded him.
Los Angeles is in the final for a record ninth time. The Galaxy has won four times, tying D.C. United for the most in league history. The Galaxy leads MLS this season with 69 goals and 75 assists. The defense, led by World Cup player Omar Gonzalez, has allowed a league-low 37 goals.
Oh, yes, and L.A. also boasts Robbie Keane, the recently crowned league Most Valuable Player. He scored 19 goals and had 14 assists this season. Donovan also had a great year, with 10 goals and 19 assists.
Despite the media focus on Donovan’s farewell, Galaxy coaches and players insist they aren’t letting that become a distraction.
“It’d certainly be nice [to win for Donovan], but our focus is on winning this for the Galaxy, for the team and for the organization,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena told Los Angeles reporters.
“It just happens to be Landon’s last game, but it would be very nice to send him out on a high.”
U.S. WOMEN TO BRAZIL
U.S. WOMEN TO BRAZIL
U.S. coach Jill Ellis named 24 players to travel to Brazil for the International Tournament of Brasilia, a four-team competition being held from Wednesday through Dec.21 at the National Stadium Mane Garrincha.
Among the players on the roster are Hope Solo, Ali Krieger, Christie Rampone, Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, Abby Wambach and Amy Rodriguez. Morgan Brian, a University of Virginia midfielder, will join the team after playing this weekend in Boca Raton in the College Cup.
“It’s a chance to travel to a new environment and play international matches in unfamiliar territory, which is always valuable when getting ready for a World Cup,” Ellis said. “It’s pretty exciting to get to play in a World Cup stadium, and many of our players have never played or even been to Brazil before. It’s a unique opportunity to go to a fantastic soccer country, have a great cultural experience and get four competitive games to end the year on a high note.”
The United States will open Wednesday against China PR, faces Brazil on Dec.14 and Argentina on Dec.17.
HOWARD TO MIAMI?
British tabloids last week reported that David Beckham has approached U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard about joining his Miami MLS team — when and if he can ever find an adequate stadium site in or on the edge of downtown Miami.
Neither Beckham nor Howard confirmed those reports, but it’s fun for South Florida fans to dream.
EPL: Chelsea (36), Manchester City (30), Southampton (26), Manchester United (25), West Ham (24).
La Liga: Real Madrid (33), Barcelona (31), Atletico Madrid (29), Sevilla (26), Valencia (24).
Serie A: Juventus (34), Roma (31), Genoa and Napoli (23), Sampdoria (22).
Ligue 1: Marseille (35), PSG (34), Lyon (30), ASSE (29), Rennes (28).
Bundesliga: Bayern Munich (33), Wolfsburg (26), Bayer Leverkusen (23), Augsburg (21), Monchengladbach (20).
On the Tube
Sunday: Hamburger vs. Mainz (9:30 a.m., GOL-TV), Barcelona vs. Espanyol (11 a.m., BeInSport USA), MLS Cup, Galaxy vs. Revolution (3 p.m., ESPN), America vs. Monterrey (7 p.m., Univision).