2002 Club by Club
The number of teams competing in MLS during the 2002 season was reduced to 10 as both Floridian sides, Miami Fusion FC and the Tampa Bay Mutiny, ceased operations. This saw the league revert to its original setup of two five-team conferences in the East and West.
The story of the season however was the Los Angeles Galaxy finally breaking their unlucky streak in the MLS Cup Final, winning in their fourth attempt, securing a narrow 1-0 extra-time win against the New England Revolution.
The final was played at Gillette Stadium in front of a crowd of 61,316, the majority supporting New England. But the Galaxy players thrived in the hostile atmosphere as a tight encounter saw league MVP and leading goal scorer Carlos Ruiz score the game-winner with just seven minutes of overtime remaining.
Ruiz stole the show for the 2002 season, scoring 24 times in the regular season and adding eight goals in the MLS Cup Playoffs. But an emerging talent in Taylor Twellman proved equally as effective in front of goal as he hammered home 23 goals and provided 6 assists. He was the focal point of a wonderful year for the Revs under the guidance of wily Scotsman Steve Nicol. The head coach’s first season in charge proved a roaring success as they won the Eastern Conference title and narrowly missed out on bringing MLS Cup to the Northeast.
A rising star was also making his mark on the league as Carlos Bocanegra, rookie of the year in 2000, was named MLS Defender of the Year. His Chicago Fire side finished the season with a 1.36 goals against average, only bettered by the Galaxy’s and San Jose Earthquakes' defenses. The league schedule had been reduced to 28 games and this showed in terms of the number of goals which top-scoring side New England put up. With just 49 goals, they were the lowest-scoring leading team since the league was formed in 1996. However that defensive approach took nothing away from the supreme goal scoring ability of individuals such as Ruiz, Twellman, Jason Kreis and Jeff Cunningham who shone in the 2002 season.
Most Valuable Player: Carlos Ruiz – LA Galaxy
Goalkeeper of the Year: Joe Cannon – San Jose Earthquakes
Scoring Champion: Taylor Twellman – New England Revolution, 52 points
Rookie of the Year: Kyle Martino – Columbus Crew
Defender of the Year: Carlos Bocanegra – Chicago Fire
Goal of the Year: Carlos Ruiz – LA Galaxy vs. Columbus Crew – July 27, 2002
Coach of the Year: Steve Nicol – New England Revolution