FRISCO, Texas (AP) – The MLS championship featured the season scoring leader against the career playoff scoring leader. So guess who scored the game’s only goal?
A guy coming off the worst offensive season in league history.
Guillermo Ramirez perfectly timed a deflected shot from the top of the penalty box, sending it past a fallen goaltender and between two would-be defenders in stoppage time of the first overtime, giving the Los Angeles Galaxy a 1-0 victory over the New England Revolution in the MLS Cup on yesterday.
“You can’t really describe what you’re feeling when you score a goal like that,” Ramirez said through a translator. “It was a beautiful moment.”
Nicknamed “Pando,” the Guatemalan term for someone who is bowlegged, Ramirez had just one goal on 62 shots this season, the worst ratio in the 10 years of the MLS. His only goal came in September, after he lost his spot in the starting lineup, and it came on a penalty kick, plus needed a carom off the post and the goalkeeper’s back.
But with the title on the line, he did what teammate Landon Donovan (14 career postseason goals) and New England’s Taylor Twellman (17 goals this season) couldn’t do – score.
Donovan started the play with a corner kick from the right side. Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis ran out to punch it away, only to send it directly to Ramirez. With no defender near him, Ramirez leaped and kicked the ball out of the air and into the net.
“I’m very proud of Pando Ramirez, a guy who suffered all year and didn’t score one goal in the flow of play all season,” Los Angeles coach Steve Sampson said. “If he had scored more goals during the course of the season, we would’ve won more ballgames. But he found the right time to get it done.”
As if to prove his lumpy touch, Ramirez missed a close-in chance for a second goal in the closing minutes. Regardless, he was selected the MVP, quite a feat for someone who entered in the 66th minute.
“I’m stunned, impressed and extremely happy for him,” said Donovan, who won his third MLS Cup, but first for his hometown team. “He deserves his reward.”
The Galaxy won their second championship in five finals. This was the least expected considering they went 13-13-7 this season and claimed the eighth and final playoff seed. They have both the fewest wins and lowest seed of any league champion.
“It was a great finish to a wonderful run,” said Sampson, best known as the coach of the 1998 U.S. team that finished last among 32 teams in the World Cup. “During the playoffs, we finally found our form.”