One way or the other, history is going to be made when the Los Angeles Galaxy play the Houston Dynamo in the 2011 MLS Cup final on Sunday. How much history, and who makes it, is obviously yet to be determined.
A Galaxy win in regulation would be the motherload. That would give the Galaxy 28 regulation wins in all competitions this season, which would set a MLS record. The Galaxy currently share the record with the Seattle Sounders, who set it earlier this season when they beat Real Salt Lake in the second leg of their Western Conference semifinal.
If the Galaxy can get past the Dynamo without needing overtime or shootouts, they will set the record while playing 48 games, two fewer games than the Sounders played. The only other team in MLS history to win as many as 25 all-competition games in regulation is the 2000 Chicago Fire, who won 26 in 44 games.
Historically, teams that have played such a heavy schedule have struggled in the MLS Cup playoffs. The Galaxy would become the first MLS Cup winner to have also played in the CONCACAF Champions League group stage the same season. Of the six other teams who registered at least 24 all-competition regulation wins, only two had a win that included one in the MLS Cup final.
Taken in combination with their 67 regular-season points -- the second most in a MLS season -- and their +20 goal-difference, this Galaxy team will have made a very compelling case that they are the greatest in MLS history. Of the five other top regular-season point totals for Supporters' Shield winners, only the 1999 DC United team went on to also win the MLS Cup. That United team, though, claimed just 57 points. The 1998 Galaxy team that owns the record for most points in a regular season didn't even advance to the MLS Cup final.
Regardless of who wins on Sunday, there will be a new record holder for most MLS Cup wins by a coach. The Dynamo's Dominic Kinnear and the Galaxy's Bruce Arena are both tied with the San Jose Earthquakes' Frank Yallop and the Seattle Sounders Sigi Schmid with two MLS Cup wins apiece.
This is already Arena's record fourth MLS Cup finals appearance as a head coach. Kinnear is actually coaching in his fifth MLS Cup final, but two of those were as an assistant with the Earthquakes. He and Arena are the only two MLS coaches in history to have led the same team to the finals three times. Arena led DC United to three straight finals appearances (1996-1998).
Eddie Robinson can also tie the record for most MLS Cup wins by a player. After playing on two Cup winners in San Jose and two more with the Dynamo, this would be his fifth title, tying former teammates Jeff Agoos and Brian Mullan. While it wouldn't be a record, the fact that the Dynamo's Brian Ching and the Galaxy's Landon Donovan are both playing for their fourth MLS championship is impressive. Robinson, Ching and Donovan all played on the 2003 Cup-winning Earthquakes, which also included Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant.
Whoever wins on Sunday will also move to within one win of United's four all-time wins. The Dynamo, Galaxy and Earthquakes are currently tied for second place all time with two MLS Cup wins.
In the league's relatively short 16-year history, we have never been treated to a MLS Cup final quite like this one. The combined histories of these teams is barely even rivaled by any other matchup. Now, let's home the game can live up to the history.
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