MLS Cup Moments

Top 50 MLS Cup Moments: #23 A Glimmer of Hope

LA Galaxy 1 Revolution 0

Ruiz 113'

 
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Tampa Bay tried to acquire Marcelo Balboa as part of the 2001 midseason mega-deal that sent Carlos Valderrama to Colorado. The Rapids balked, but instead offered Adin Brown as the central figure of the deal. Balboa was traded to the MetroStars that offseason.

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#23. A Glimmer of Hope (2002)

With an 11-year pro career – and counting – currently under his belt, Adin Brown has been around long enough to make enough sensational saves to last a lifetime.

So forgive the current Portland Timbers goalkeeper if he can’t quite remember the best save of the 2002 MLS Cup, and one of the most dramatic one-handed reaction plays in the history of league’s biggest event.

For Brown and those who forgot, here’s the scene:

LA Galaxy striker Carlos Ruiz is 23 years old and one of the most dangerous scoring threats in the league. He’s inside the six-yard box and has the ball on his right foot, deep into golden-goal extra time. More than 61,000 fans at Gillette Stadium are gasping, because the New England Revolution’s season is about to end.

Ruiz pokes a shot that seems destined for history, until a long-haired and bearded Brown somehow steers it aside with his left hand, and pounces on the rebound.

“I haven’t seen that highlight in a good, solid seven years,” Brown said with a laugh. “I do remember it being to my left, right? It was a pretty decent save, definitely not the ordinary save. But that was a long time ago – I’m not one of the young guys in this league anymore.”

Brown wasn’t even expected to be the starter in that game if you looked in the Revs locker room earlier that season. Juergen Sommer seemed to have the position well staked out, but when head coach Steve Nicol took over midway through the season, he gave Brown his shot. The towering 'keeper started 16 games during the regular season and boasted four shutouts in seven postseason games that year.

He made six saves on the day, his only appearance in the MLS Cup of his career.

“Ruiz looked like he was going to slot him, and Adin got a hand on it,” recalled Seattle Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid, who manned the bench for the Galaxy in 2002. “When that happens, we’re thinking maybe it’s not going to be today. Maybe we’re just snake bit in the finals.”

Said Galaxy defender Alexi Lalas of the save: “When [Ruiz] didn’t score in that moment, I remember thinking it didn’t matter, because he had proven consistently that he will find his moment and score a goal. So all I had to be worried about was making sure that the Revolution didn’t score.”

Brown, meanwhile, remembers another save on Ruiz earlier in extra time just as well, and it’s no wonder. Ruiz attempted a bicycle kick in the first overtime and, although Brown largely snuffed it out, it gave him as much trouble as he wanted off the Gillette Stadium turf.

“The field was not in the best of shape, because the Patriots were playing at the same time that winter, and [Patriots head coach] Bill Belichick didn’t want to change the turf for their next matchup,” Brown said. “It was fairly bumpy, and Ruiz’s shot bounced up and hit me in the face. I definitely remember that.”

Brown’s performance that day was perhaps the saving grace for the Revs, who surprisingly struggled to generate the scoring chances against LA, even with striker Taylor Twellman riding a 23-goal regular season into the playoffs.

“Adin Brown stole the show in the final, with save after save after save,” Twellman said. “But we had nothing going forward and couldn't create anything. LA deserved that final, no doubt.”

Despite Brown’s heroics, however, the Revs bowed out of the MLS Cup when Ruiz slipped a shot to the far post in the 113th minute, giving LA the golden goal they needed and souring what the Revs hoped would be their day in the sun.

“We had a ton of fun on that team,” Brown said. “It was a huge family on that team. We weren’t the best group of soccer players, but we left everything we had on the field. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t our day.”

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