CARSON, California (Reuters) - The LA Galaxy hope to give Landon Donovan a fairytale finish to a storied career when they shoot for a record fifth MLS title in Sunday’s championship game versus the New England Revolution.
The league’s all-time top scorer announced in August that will retire at the end of this season, putting added focus on the playoffs with each tie potentially his last.
The Galaxy beat Real Salt Lake and Seattle Sounders to reach their ninth MLS Cup and their better regular season record means they will host the final in what is sure to be an emotional day for the 32-year-old Donovan.
But Galaxy’s Irish international forward Robbie Keane, named the league’s most valuable player this week, believes there is no risk of distraction.
“If anyone deserves to go out on a high, it’s certainly Landon because of all that he’s done for this league and the U.S. national team, but it’s not going into our thinking,” said the former Tottenham striker.
“(His retirement) is something that has been going on for years and it hasn’t affected us since ... I just hope that since it’s his last game that he’ll put forth his best performance and do as well as he can.”
The Galaxy and DC United have both won four titles while the Revolution have lost each of their four previous trips to the championship game, including losses to LA in 2002 and 2005.
Donovan and Keane were both on target in a 3-1 win over Houston Dynamo in the championship game in 2012 while the former grabbed the winner in the 2011 final versus Houston.
But while well aware of the threat presented by Keane and Donovan, Revolution coach Jay Heaps, who featured in all of his club’s MLS Cup losses as a player, says his team can’t over-focus on big-name opponents.
“If you focus on individuals then someone else is going to beat you,” said Heaps. “It has to be a group defending a group.”
New England certainly present plenty of threats of their own as German-born U.S. international Jermaine Jones is a dominant presence in midfield while Lee Nguyen provides a creative spark.
In attack, Revolution forward Charlie Davies, whose career nearly ended after a horrific car crash in 2009, has four goals in four playoff games and is a predator in the penalty area.
Editing by Frank Pingue