2002: Carlos Ruiz ends Galaxy drought by silencing New England
LA Galaxy -- then Los Angeles Galaxy -- spent the first seven years of MLS playing second fiddle. D.C. United (1996, 1999) and San Jose Earthquakes (2001) handed the Galaxy three MLS Cup defeats during that successful and ultimately frustrating stretch. The story changed in front of the largest crowd in MLS Cup history. New England made an unexpected run under interim coach Steve Nicol to reach the final at Gillette Stadium, but the Galaxy -- courtesy of one sweeping counter from Guatemalan striker Ruiz -- dashed those dreams and ended the drought by securing a 1-0 victory in extra time.
Getty ImagesDoug Pensinger
2009: Galaxy dynasty starts with penalty kick heartbreak against RSL
There were great expectations surrounding this LA Galaxy team. Bruce Arena integrated David Beckham into the team, leaned on Landon Donovan and structured a particularly capable supporting cast. Everyone -- including the second-largest crowd in MLS Cup history packed into Qwest Field in Seattle -- expected the Galaxy to complete the task. RSL triumphed instead on penalties to mark the start of the Claret-and-Cobalt’s rise to prominence. It took the Galaxy two more years to eventually claim the title with Beckham on board.
MLS via Getty ImagesRobert Mora
2006: Revs, Dynamo trade extra-time goals within seconds
Taylor Twellman thought he broke the Revs’ duck in MLS Cup finals when he slotted home in the 113th minute in a previously sleepy final. The hope and expectation lasted a mere matter of seconds as Brian Ching produced an immediate equalizer to force penalties in a MLS Cup final for the first time. Houston eventually emerged victorious 4-3 on penalties to secure its first title after the move from San Jose. Dominic Kinnear’s side compounded the Revs’ misery by defeating them again the following year.
2003: San Jose completes compelling postseason run against Chicago
The first MLS Cup meeting between two previous champions lived up to the hype to produce the highest-scoring final. Pat Onstad saved an Ante Razov penalty kick with the match firmly hanging in the balance just before the hour. Landon Donovan scored his second goal in the final 20 minutes to eventually cinch the Earthquakes’ 4-2 victory. This game wasn’t even the wildest for the Earthquakes in that postseason: Chris Roner struck in the 90th minute to complete a four-goal comeback on aggregate and force extra time against bitter rivals Los Angeles Galaxy in the Western Conference semifinals.
Getty ImagesJeff Gross
1996: D.C. United wins inaugural title in soggy Foxboro
Pelting rain turned the old Foxboro Stadium into a mud bowl for the first MLS Cup final. The awful conditions heighted the drama around the league’s initial championship match and paved the way for an epic, extra-time affair. Los Angeles Galaxy took a two-goal lead through Eduardo Hurtado and Chris Armas, but D.C. United equalized through Tony Sanneh and Shawn Medved in the final 20 minutes. Pope sealed the title with a header in the 96th minute to claim the precious golden-goal winner and spark a soggy slide for the ages in celebration.