Oct. 20, 1996 – First MLS Cup final. D.C. Utd. 3:2 (aet) LA Galaxy at Foxboro Stadium (Att.: 34,643) / Oct. 20, 2002 – Revolution 0:1 (aet) LA Galaxy (61,316)
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Foxboro Stadium was named to play host to the initial MLS Cup final on Jan. 19, 1996, kickoff set for 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 20.
“When it comes to sports cities in the world, Boston is one of the best,” MLS commissioner Doug Logan said during a press conference at the stadium. “Sports are part of the fabric, the makeup of the area. It is a location conducive to fandom in all sports, particularly soccer.”
On the weekend of the game, a northeaster hit, cancelling the Head of the Charles regatta for the first time in its 32-year history, leaving the Kenmore Square T Station under 10 feet of water.
The Boston Globe’s John Powers wrote: “The inaugural championship was held in the middle of a gale-force Nor’easter on an NFL game day with the World Series opener following at night in a town whose team didn’t even make the playoffs with the game on free TV – and still drew more than 34,000 paying customers, enough to fill Fenway Park.
“The MLS Cup was up against Patriots-Colts on TV, the Head of the Charles regatta (which was canceled) and peak foliage season. Yet the advance sale was still more than 42,000, and had the day come up sunny and mild, attendance probably would have approached 50,000.”
“This sport is here to stay,” D.C. United coach Bruce Arena said. “We by no means think we’ll replace football or baseball or basketball or hockey. But we think there’s room for a fifth professional sport in this country.”
Eduardo Hurtado (fifth minute) and Chris Armas (54th) opened the scoring for the Galaxy, playing without former Williams College defender Dan Calichman (suspended). Arena switched to a three-back setup (replacing future Revolution defender Mario Gori), substitutes Tony Sanneh (73rd) and Shawn Medved (83rd) equalizing off Marco Antonio Etcheverry free kicks. Eddie Pope headed in the 94th-minute deciding golden goal off an Etcheverry corner.
According to my Globe story, Arena said: “… if he (Etcheverry) were a bandit, none of this would have happened.”
“My goal was to learn English and become champions of the league with Washington,” Etcheverry said in Spanish.
He accomplished at least one of those goals.
“This was great for football in this country,” Etcheverry said. “We tried to leave something for the young players in the US, to give them some lessons in how to play.”
The United lineup also included future Revolution players Raul Diaz Arce and John Harkes, and the Galaxy substitutes included former Connecticut club and high school star Curt Onalfo.
Oct. 20, 2002 – Revolution 0:1 (aet) LA Galaxy, MLS Cup final at Gillette Stadium (Att.: 61,316)
Six years later, the Revolution made an improbable run to the final. After failing to achieve a plus-.500 record over their first six-plus seasons, the Revolution made a late-season charge (5W-0L-1D), then eliminated the Bob Bradley-coached Chicago Fire and Columbus Crew on the way to the final.
Steve Nicol’s resourcefulness and motivational abilities kept the Revolution going, but their offensive failings became apparent in the final. Carlos (El Pescadito) Ruiz scored the 113th-minute golden goal past a diving Adin Brown as the Galaxy won the first of its five MLS titles. The Revolution came close to an upset as substitute Winston Griffiths’ extra time shot went off the crossbar.
This was a rematch of the 2001 U.S. Open Cup final, the Galaxy lineup including former Boston Bulldog midfielder Simon Elliott, former Revolution defender Alexi Lalas and future Revolution defender Chris Albright.
Mauricio Cienfuegos and Cobi Jones played in both the 1996 and ’02 MLS Cup finals. Both also played in the 1999 MLS Cup final, a 2-0 loss to D.C. United at Foxboro Stadium.
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