The MLS Cup Top 20: Nos. 20-16
The Seattle Sounders cross the country and the border this week to take on Toronto FC in the 21st edition of MLS Cup, and it’s something of a dream scenario for the league.
Two big-spending, high-profile clubs will clash in front of a sellout crowd (tickets disappeared in three minutes!) in what everyone hopes will be an epic match. If it’s one iota as exciting as the Eastern Conference final series between TFC and the Montreal Impact, it will be an MLS Cup for the ages.
With 20 MLS Cups in the books, we decided to take a look back at the finals to date, and rank them based on how memorable and epic they were. Part of doing so means ranking how remarkable the game was in a nutshell. But, more so, what was its lasting legacy? What do we remember about it now, several years later? And what will we remember about it in the decades to follow?
MLS has a relatively short history to date, but there have been some particularly gripping finals (and some snoozers). Here’s how we rank them, from No. 20 through No. 1, starting with 20-16:
MLS Cup 2000
If you are a fan of defensive play, the 2000 Kansas City Wizards run to an MLS Cup title may have been thrilling. Otherwise, this game lacked much in the form of entertainment.
It was, however, an interesting final for one non-soccer reason: It was the first MLS Cup that did not feature D.C. United.
One former and one future U.S. men’s national team coach squared off in the fifth MLS Cup in history. Bob Gansler’s Kansas City Wizards squad was one of the better defensive teams in the history of MLS, allowing just 29 goals in 32 games – ninth-best all-time. It would be that defense that would secure the first title in franchise history.
Facing a Chicago Fire team with several recognizable names – Jesse Marsch, Carlos Bocanegra, Peter Nowak, Hristo Stoitchkov and Ante Razov, among them – the Wiz got an 11th-minute goal from Miklos Molnar and held on for a 1-0 win. It was Molnar’s only season in MLS, but he was effective. The MLS Cup game-winner was his fifth goal in seven playoff games.
Keeping a shutout wasn’t an easy task against that Fire attacking line, which scored 67 goals, the most in franchise history. Tony Meola stood on his head with 10 saves to register his fifth shutout of the playoffs. It was a fitting end to a season in which Meola led MLS in shutouts (an MLS record 16 – nine higher than the next goalkeeper) and goals against average (0.92). In the end, though, it wasn’t a very memorable Cup final.
-- Paul Tenorio