Galaxy star power faces RSL grit in MLS Cup final

Galaxy star power faces RSL grit in MLS Cup final

Published Nov. 20, 2009 10:54 p.m. ET

It all comes down to Sunday night as the Los Angeles Galaxy will face off at Qwest Field against Real Salt Lake with the MLS Cup on the line.

Seattle — which itself hosted the MLS' most popular franchise this season — is expected to see a near-sellout 65,000 crowd for the game, which would be the largest crowd ever to see an MLS final.

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If it comes to pass, it would be an emphatic punctuation mark on an MLS season that has seen some ups and downs in key metrics, but closed strong with an exciting and well-attended playoff series.

For the Galaxy, the match represents a stunning turnaround in fortunes, with Bruce Arena guiding them back from the wreckage of the Beckham experiment to a shot at the club's third MLS Cup title, its first since 2005.

Blending solid veterans like Eddie Lewis and Donovan Ricketts alongside MLS MVP Landon Donovan and Mr. Beckham, the Galaxy have deserved everything that's come to them this year, with an exciting style of play that masks a somewhat scattershot defense.

For Real Salt Lake — who raised eyebrows just in getting here — the match is vindication for the blistering criticism they have tasted in their short existence. This team is not flashy, not exciting, and to some folks' minds, not very watchable. This is a team, after all, that finished with an 11-12-7 record and squeaked into the playoffs as the final seed, after finishing fifth in their conference.

But the vitriol aimed at manager Jason Kreis' men has still been surprising. Two notable examples — D.C. United president Kevin Payne was fined $5,000 for making disparaging comments about the team's style of play to the Washington Post earlier this season, and ex-GM Steve Pastorino blitzed his former team in the pages of the Salt Lake Tribune.