Earthquakes Win MLS Cup

Times Staff Writer

All that talk about destiny? Turns out it was correct.

The San Jose Earthquakes, who two weeks ago were 60 seconds away from being knocked out in the first round of Major League Soccer's playoffs by the Galaxy, on Sunday won their second championship in three years.

Two excellent goals by Landon Donovan and one each by Ronnie Ekelund and Richard Mulrooney gave San Jose a deserved 4-2 victory over the Chicago Fire in front of an announced 27,000 fans at the Home Depot Center in Carson.

"We kept coming back and they kept sticking daggers in us," said Fire midfielder Jesse Marsch, whose foul on Earthquake forward Jamil Walker in the game's fifth minute led to Ekelund's goal and started a slew of records falling. For instance:

* Ekelund's strike 4:35 into the match equaled the fastest goal in an MLS final, tying the mark set by former Galaxy forward Eduardo "El Tanque" Hurtado in 1996.

* Donovan's two goals, in the 38th and 71st minutes, made the 21-year-old from Redlands the first player to score more than once in a championship game.

* The six goals in a wide-open and entertaining match on a blue-sky afternoon were the most scored in an MLS Cup.

* The 54th-minute own goal by San Jose's Chris Roner was the first of its kind in a title game.

* San Jose captain Jeff Agoos played in his record sixth MLS final and won his record fifth title.

"You go down a goal in the first five minutes of a game and you're forced to chase it," said Fire forward Ante Razov, who could have tied the score at 3-3 in the 57th minute but saw his poorly struck penalty kick easily saved by San Jose goalkeeper Pat Onstad.

"You dig yourself a hole, and when you get out of that hole, you fall right back in," the former UCLA forward said of a bizarre spell early in the second half when three goals were scored in five minutes. It might have been four goals in seven minutes but for Razov's missed penalty.

Razov, who was suffering from flu last week, missed another gilt-edged chance in the 82nd minute when he somehow contrived to redirect teammate Damani Ralph's excellent cross from the left wide of the net from only two yards.

"I just didn't get enough of it," said Razov, who left the stadium without speaking to reporters but later was made available by telephone.

"He's had a tough week," said Chicago Coach Dave Sarachan. "But he's been the heart and soul, in many ways, of the franchise and when he said he was good to go, we felt he was good to go."

Chicago, which came into the title match with the U.S. Open Cup and the MLS Supporters Shield already in its 2003 trophy case and which was seeking to become the first team to sweep all three honors by also winning MLS Cup, played well in the first 45 minutes but nevertheless found itself trailing by two goals at the half.

"We got slaughtered," said Donovan, who admitted to being "a little drunk" after making free with the celebratory champagne in the Earthquake locker room.

Donovan, who has scored 10 goals and assisted on five others in 12 career playoff games, was not old enough to imbibe when San Jose last won the title with a 1-0 victory over the Galaxy in Columbus, Ohio, in 2001.

"For me to see those guys [partying] in there, I'm happy for them, they never stopped believing," said San Jose Coach Frank Yallop, who became the first coach after former D.C. United coach Bruce Arena to lead a club to two championships.

Arena went on to become U.S. national team coach, and Yallop might follow that course too, by becoming Canada's coach. On Sunday, however, he didn't want to talk about the future.

"We'll see," he said. "Can I enjoy this, please?"

Yallop said it was the 5-2 overtime victory over the Galaxy in the first round of the playoffs that made the Earthquakes believers.

"I think the L.A. game was the one that set us on our way, obviously," he said. "It was just an incredible game. It only happens once in a thousand times, but it did and it was our year."

Donovan put the Earthquakes ahead, 2-0, with a clinical finish off a fine pass from Walker 38 minutes into the game.

DaMarcus Beasley cut the deficit to 2-1 four minutes into the second half, but San Jose struck right back with a goal by Richard Mulrooney. Four minutes later, Roner accidentally deflected the ball into his own net under aerial pressure from Ralph and it was suddenly 3-2.

Then came Razov's missed penalty kick that spelled the end for the Fire. Donovan stuck the final dagger in Chicago's side with his second goal, which capped a dribbling run by Brian Mullan and a pinpoint pass from Dwayne DeRosario.

"After the last two weeks I have no emotion left," Donovan said. "I'm drained. It's hard to even celebrate right now."

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