Carson, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - It all comes down to one final game.
The New England Revolution and Los Angeles Galaxy will clash in the MLS Cup final on Sunday at StubHub Center.
The Galaxy are one the premier franchises in the league and will be aiming to become the first team in league history to win five MLS Cup titles, while New England will be shooting for its first title after losing in three straight MLS Cup finals from 2005-2007.
The Galaxy reached their third MLS Cup final in the past four seasons after advancing past rivals Seattle Sounders FC via the newly-instituted away goals rule in the Western Conference Championship.
Bruce Arena's team earned a 1-0 first-leg win against Seattle on Nov. 23 courtesy of a lone strike from Marcelo Sarvas, who did well to corral a pass from defender A.J. DeLaGarza at the top of the penalty area and have a strike on target. The ball took a deflection off Seattle's Chad Marshall and wound up past Stefan Frei in the back of the net to give the hosts the lead.
In the second leg of the tie, the Galaxy struggled in the first half as goals from Brad Evans and Clint Dempsey gave the Sounders a 2-1 aggregate lead.
Despite suddenly being down, the Galaxy were still in the game, needing just an away goal to take control of the series. That road goal came in the 54th minute as Juninho made the most of his look at goal from 20 yards as he pounced on a loose ball and lashed a first-time shot off the left post and into the net.
Galaxy star Landon Donovan announced his retirement from the game during the summer and he has a chance to end his career on top with another MLS Cup win, while fellow star forward Robbie Keane, the reigning 2014 MLS MVP, will be looking for his third Cup title since joining the Galaxy in 2011.
Keane, 34, scored an impressive 19 goals and added 14 assists to win the individual honor, but would much rather claim a championship.
"To be in the running the last few years, it just goes to show how consistent I have been, you know?," said Keane. "To win it, it's actually great to be recognized by your fellow professionals and the media. I'm delighted with the award, but I'd certainly trade it in for a championship on Sunday."
The Galaxy will go into Sunday's finale riding an undeniable sense of togetherness forged by a baby boom and an unfortunate tragedy.
I've played on some pretty good teams with great locker rooms. This is one of the best, if not the best," said right back Dan Gargan. "We've gone through a lot together. Obviously, we've had some pretty substantive success here, and there's also been a lot of things off the field that has brought us together as well."
Eleven Galaxy players have had children or are expecting, which has made for a positive locker room environment.
"I don't know what the actual number is, but between the staff and the players, I think there's 24 kids under the age of five. Which is a lot of kids," said Gargan. "Apparently, the family suite is basically a daycare during games."
The team was also brought together following a terrible tragedy when defender A.J. DeLaGarza's son was born with a congenital heart defect and lived for just one week.
"What I went through, I think we bonded together," DeLaGarza said. "Everyone supported me. I think it made us into a family, and that was fairly early in the season when we all found out [in May that Luca had a heart condition], so they were all invested in this as much as I was. We all went through it, the pain, and the support has been tremendous."
The team would also love to send Donovan off into the sunset with another MLS Cup title.
New England advanced to its fifth MLS Cup appearance after outlasting the New York Red Bulls, 4-3, on aggregate in the Eastern Conference championship. Among their four MLS Cup final defeats are setbacks against the Galaxy in 2002 and 2005.
The Revs claimed a 2-1 first leg win at Red Bull Area, but New York battled back to make it 3-3 on aggregate through goals from Tim Cahill and Peguy Luyindula.
But Charlie Davies came to New England's rescue in the 70th minute as the decisive goal came to cap a spell of relentless offensive pressure from New England as Chris Tierney got free on the left wing and served a great ball into the box where Davies was there to nod it home and give the hosts a 4-3 aggregate lead.
New England is poised to spoil Donovan's potential fairytale ending.
"All these other storylines around the game, we're not really focused on," said Tierney. "Personally, I have full respect for Landon, what an amazing career he's had and done so much for this league. That's all stuff that we can talk about after the game. We're focusing on what we have to do and preparing ourselves to play the best game we can possibly play here in the finals."
"I have respect for these guys," said New England Designated Player Jermaine Jones. "Donovan, he does a lot for US soccer and MLS. He wins already a lot of cups, he got four or five. Me and my team, we want one, and we will do everything to get it."
For New England defender Kevin Alston, playing in Sunday's final is a happy challenge.
Alston, 26, was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia in April of 2013. It forced him to miss three months of last season, but he continues to handle the situation with class and bravery.
"I'm still doing checkups, I'm still taking medication," said Alston of his continued treatment of the leukemia. "I'm not technically in remission, but things are, for the most part, stable now. I'm just trying to take it one day at a time."
It's awesome," Alston said of playing for a title. "It's my sixth season. This is the ultimate goal. It's special alone, but being able to have the opportunity to participate in MLS Cup is even more special considering everything that happened last year."
The sides met once during the regular season with the Galaxy claiming a comfortable 5-1 win over the Revs. Keane and Gyasi Zardes scored twice, while Stefan Ishizaki added a fifth goal.