What makes a final memorable?
A memorable final is not just about the final score or the winning team. It's about the moments that capture the imagination and create lasting memories. These moments can be a spectacular goal, a heroic save, a dramatic comeback, or even an unexpected turn of events. They are the instances that leave fans breathless, make their hearts race, and remind them why they fell in love with the game in the first place. A memorable final is a combination of skill, passion, and drama, where every second counts and every play has the potential to change the course of the match. It's the culmination of months of hard work, determination, and sacrifice, and it's what every player dreams of when they step onto the pitch.
The 5 most memorable MLS Cup finals
MLS Cup 1996: The inaugural final and a thrilling shootout
The first-ever MLS Cup final took place on October 20, 1996, at Foxboro Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. It was a historic moment for Major League Soccer as the league's two best teams, D.C. United and the Los Angeles Galaxy, faced off in front of a sold-out crowd. The match was a tightly contested affair, with both teams creating chances and testing each other's defenses. However, neither side could find the back of the net during regulation time, and the game went into extra time. As the clock ticked down, the tension in the stadium reached its peak, and the fate of the inaugural MLS Cup would be decided by a penalty shootout.
The shootout was a rollercoaster of emotions, with players from both teams stepping up to take their spot-kicks. It was D.C. United's goalkeeper, Tony Meola, who emerged as the hero of the shootout, making a crucial save to give his team the advantage. With the pressure on, United's captain, John Harkes, stepped up and calmly slotted the ball into the back of the net to seal the victory. The final whistle blew, and D.C. United was crowned the first-ever MLS Cup champions. It was a moment of pure ecstasy for the players, the fans, and the league as a whole. The inaugural final set the stage for what would become a storied tradition in American soccer and left an indelible mark on the MLS Cup's history.
MLS Cup 2001: The "Dos a Cero" final and the rise of the LA Galaxy
The MLS Cup final in 2001 will forever be remembered for the dominance of the Los Angeles Galaxy and their star player, Landon Donovan. The Galaxy faced off against the San Jose Earthquakes in a match that would go down in history as the "Dos a Cero" final. The term "Dos a Cero" refers to the final scoreline of 2-0 in favor of the Galaxy, a result that would become synonymous with their success in the years to come.
From the first whistle, it was clear that the Galaxy meant business. They controlled the game from start to finish, dictating the pace and creating numerous scoring opportunities. Landon Donovan, in particular, was in scintillating form, scoring both goals for his team and showcasing his immense talent. The first goal came in the 41st minute when Donovan unleashed a powerful shot from outside the box that left the Earthquakes' goalkeeper rooted to the spot. The second goal came in the 71st minute, with Donovan once again finding the back of the net with a clinical finish.
The "Dos a Cero" final marked the beginning of the Galaxy's dominance in Major League Soccer. It was the first of five MLS Cup titles for the club, cementing their status as one of the league's most successful teams. The final also showcased the talent and potential of Landon Donovan, who would go on to become one of the greatest American soccer players of all time.
From Worst to First. How the Quakes became 2001 MLS Cup Champions.
MLS Cup 2010: The Colorado Rapids' underdog triumph
In 2010, the Colorado Rapids defied all odds and captured their first MLS Cup title in franchise history. The Rapids faced off against FC Dallas in a final that would become a classic example of the underdog overcoming adversity and emerging victorious. The match took place on November 21, 2010, at BMO Field in Toronto, Canada, and it was a cold and rainy day that set the stage for a memorable showdown.
The game started slowly, with both teams struggling to find their rhythm in the difficult conditions. However, it was FC Dallas who struck first, with David Ferreira scoring in the 35th minute to give his team the lead. The Rapids, undeterred by the setback, continued to fight and claw their way back into the game. Their perseverance paid off in the 57th minute when Conor Casey scored the equalizer, sending the Rapids' fans into a frenzy.
As the game went into extra time, the tension in the stadium was palpable. Both teams had their chances, but it was the Rapids who capitalized on a defensive lapse by FC Dallas in the 107th minute. Macoumba Kandji pounced on a loose ball inside the box and slotted it past the goalkeeper to give the Rapids the lead. The final whistle blew, and the Colorado Rapids were crowned MLS Cup champions, completing an improbable journey to the top.
The victory of the Rapids in the 2010 MLS Cup final demonstrated the power of belief and determination. It showed that in soccer, anything is possible, and that even the underdogs can rise to the occasion and achieve greatness.
MLS Cup 2016: The Seattle Sounders' comeback victory
The 2016 MLS Cup final will forever be remembered as the match that showcased the Seattle Sounders' never-say-die mentality. The Sounders faced off against Toronto FC in a thrilling showdown that went down to the wire and ended in the most dramatic fashion possible.
The match took place on December 10, 2016, at BMO Field in Toronto, and it was a cold and snowy day that added to the drama of the occasion. Both teams started the game cautiously, aware of the stakes and the importance of not conceding an early goal. The first half ended goalless, with both teams creating chances but failing to find the breakthrough.
It was in the 67th minute that the deadlock was finally broken, with Toronto FC's Jozy Altidore scoring a stunning goal to give his team the lead. The Sounders, however, refused to be beaten and mounted a relentless comeback. In the 88th minute, they were rewarded for their persistence when Roman Torres rose highest and headed the ball into the back of the net to equalize.
The game went into extra time, and the tension in the stadium reached its peak. Both teams had their chances, but it was the Sounders who struck the decisive blow in the 94th minute. Stefan Frei, the Sounders' goalkeeper, made a miraculous save to deny Toronto FC's Altidore and keep his team in the game. The rebound fell to Seattle's Victor Rodriguez, who made no mistake and slotted the ball into the back of the net to give the Sounders the lead.
The final whistle blew, and the Seattle Sounders were crowned MLS Cup champions, completing a remarkable comeback and etching their names into the history books. The victory was a testament to the Sounders' resilience, determination, and never-give-up attitude, and it will forever be remembered as one of the greatest comebacks in MLS Cup history.
MLS Cup 2018: Atlanta United's record-breaking performance
The 2018 MLS Cup final will forever be remembered as the game that showcased the dominance of Atlanta United and their record-breaking performance. Atlanta United faced off against the Portland Timbers in front of a record-breaking crowd of 73,019 fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. The atmosphere was electric, and the stage was set for a memorable showdown.
From the first whistle, Atlanta United asserted their dominance and took control of the game. They played with flair, creativity, and an attacking mindset that left the Timbers reeling. It was clear that Atlanta United was on a mission to win their first MLS Cup title in franchise history, and they were not going to be denied.
The breakthrough came in the 39th minute when Josef Martinez, Atlanta United's star striker, scored the opening goal of the game. The goal was a testament to Martinez's incredible goal-scoring ability and his importance to the team. The Timbers, desperate to get back into the game, pushed forward in search of an equalizer, but Atlanta United's defense held firm.
In the 54th minute, Atlanta United doubled their lead through Franco Escobar, who scored a sensational goal that sent the crowd into raptures. The Timbers tried to mount a comeback, but Atlanta United's defense stood tall and denied them any clear-cut opportunities.
The final whistle blew, and Atlanta United were crowned MLS Cup champions, capping off a historic season and cementing their status as one of the league's most exciting and successful teams. The victory was a fitting end to a record-breaking campaign that saw Atlanta United set new highs for attendance, goals scored, and average points per game.
MLS Cup 2018: Atlanta United vs. Portland Timbers | December 8, 2018
Honorable mentions: Other notable MLS Cup finals
While the 5 finals mentioned above are undoubtedly the most memorable in MLS Cup history, there have been several other finals that deserve honorable mentions for their drama, excitement, and historical significance. These finals have provided soccer fans with unforgettable moments and have added to the rich tapestry of the MLS Cup's legacy.
Some of these honorable mentions include:
- MLS Cup 1997: D.C. United's back-to-back triumph - MLS Cup 2003: The Chicago Fire's double-overtime victory - MLS Cup 2008: The Columbus Crew's dominant display - MLS Cup 2012: The LA Galaxy's third title in four years
These finals, along with many others, have contributed to the growth and success of Major League Soccer and have provided fans with countless memories that will last a lifetime.