MLS Cup, a tale of two owners

Los Angeles Galaxy’s Robbie Keane, center, of Ireland, scores against New England Revolution goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth during the second extra time of the MLS Cup championship soccer match Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014, in Carson, Calif.
Associated Press / Jae C. Hong

The Los Angeles Galaxy became the first MLS team to win five MLS Cups, five championships, when it defeated the New England Revolution, 2-1, last Sunday at StubHub Center in Carson (CA), home of the Galaxy. The game not only added to a long list of statistics between the teams, but mirrored the opposite fortunes of the franchise owners, both founding members of MLS.

Philip Anschutz, owner of the Los Angeles Galaxy, and Robert Kraft of the New England Revolution, are billionaire philanthropists, which partly explain their investments in MLS, but one is a five-time MLS Cup winner, the other a five-time loser.

Anschutz, a Denver billionaire worth US$11.00 billion according to Forbes Magazine, began to make millions whenhe bought his father’s Denver drilling business and went on to invest in real estate, entertainment and a host of other businesses. His millions virtually carried MLS in its early days when he owned five of the franchises in the 10-team league back in 1996 (the Galaxy, Chicago Fire, Houston Dynamo, San Jose Earthquakes and the New York/New Jersey Metro Stars) and is now enjoying the fruits of his investments. Anschutz franchises have appeared in over 15 of the 19 MLS Cup finals and have won 10 MLS titles, including the Galaxy’s fifth on Sunday.

Kraft, the Revs owner and worth US$4.00 billion, according to Forbes, owns a not-so-successful record. A graduate of Columbia University, who received an MBA from Harvard Business School, he built Kraft Foods Company with his family, and has numerous investments in myriad businesses such as real estate, entertainment, media and sports. He owns the NFL New England Patriots and Gillette Stadium, home of the Patriots. His Revolution has now made five appearances in MLS Cup and lost all five games – three times to the Galaxy.

Anschutz and Kraft were at the game on Sunday, and despite their different fortunes in MLS, both seemed proud of their association with the league, which played its 19th championship. Without men such as Philip Anschutz and Robert Kraft, MLS may not have survived its early lean years. So, despite their contrasting fortunes on the soccer field, both owners are winners off it because of soccer’s success in the U. S.

The game, which brought the curtain down on the 15-year MLS career of Galaxy forward Landon Donovan, was scoreless at the half, but Irish international Robbie Keane, who was not having his usual good game in the contest, scored the winner in the 111th minute for the Galaxy when he received a long pass from midfielder Marcelo Sarvas and beat Revs goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth.

Local boy Gyasi Zardes had put the Galaxy ahead in the 52nd minute with a low hard shot from inside the six yard box, his 17th tally for the season, but Chris Tierney equalized for the Revs in the 79th minute off a cross from the overlapping left winger Mullins to beat Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo between his legs. Both teams had opportunities to win the game, but tired legs prevailed and sent the contest into overtime.

The statistics eventually were numerous; Keane scored his 23rd goal of the season and became only the fourth player to be named MVP for the season and for the MLS Cup in the same year; Zardes, who grew up in nearby Hawthorne, is the only local player to score in an MLS Cup game, and Revolution head coach Jay Heaps is one of thee players to play and coach in an MLS Cup.

Donovan retired as the most successful player in MLS: he scored 144 goals and had 136 assists in the league, is the only player to win six MLS Cups (with Los Angeles and San Jose Earthquakes), and he has the record of 25 goals and 14 assists in his six title games.

Donovan, deservedly, left the game as a champion and Keane agreed. “No one deserves to go out on a high as much as he does,” said Keane. “What (Landon’s) done for MLS and the U.S. national team – he’s been a great credit to both and his teammates. It’s just a great honor to play these last four years with him – just delighted for him more than anybody to go out on a high because he deserves it.”

Said Donovan: “There’s a lot of excitement, some sadness, there’s uncertainty and there’s pure joy for this team and what we did. All in all I’m really proud of what this team accomplished this year. It was so nice to be in that locker room and see so many happy faces – that’s as enjoyable as anything as you get older.”

The game also marked the successful return of Revolution forward Charlie Davies, who suffered a life-threatening car accident in 2009 while a player with DC United. Davies struggled with his return for a number of years; he tried a comeback with DC United and other teams before making it with the Revolution.

Philip Anschutz.
Associated Press / Str

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