MLS Cup 2003
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MLS Cup 2003
MLS Cup 2003
MLS Cup 2003 logo.gif
DateNovember 23, 2003
VenueHome Depot Center, Carson, California, US
Man of the MatchLandon Donovan
(San Jose Earthquakes)
RefereeBrian Hall
WeatherSunny, 71 °F (22 °C)

MLS Cup 2003 was the eighth edition of the MLS Cup, the championship match of Major League Soccer (MLS), which took place on November 23, 2003. It was hosted at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California, and was contested by the Chicago Fire and the San Jose Earthquakes to decide the champion of the 2003 season. Both teams had previously won the MLS Cup and were looking for their second championship.

San Jose defeated Chicago 4-2, clinching their second championship in three years; Landon Donovan scored two goals and was named the match's most valuable player. The match included a sequence of three goals scored within a five-minute period early in the second half and had the earliest goal scored in MLS Cup history, the competition's first own goal, and the first penalty kick awarded in a final. It was also the highest-scoring final, with six goals in total.


The Home Depot Center, host of MLS Cup 2003 and home of the Los Angeles Galaxy

The then-unfinished Home Depot Center was announced as the venue of MLS Cup 2003 on February 27, 2002, a week after CMGI Field in Foxborough, Massachusetts, was awarded the 2002 final.[1] The 27,000-seat stadium opened on June 7, 2003, as the centerpiece of a $140 million multi-sport complex in the Los Angeles suburb of Carson.[2] The Home Depot Center is a soccer-specific stadium that was built to primarily serve as the home of the Los Angeles Galaxy.[3] It also hosted several matches during the 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup in September and October, including the final match.[4] The 2003 edition was the second MLS Cup to be hosted in the Los Angeles area, following the 1998 cup at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.[1]

Road to the final

The MLS Cup is the post-season championship of Major League Soccer (MLS), a professional club soccer league based in the United States. The 2003 season was the eighth in the league's history and was contested by ten teams in two conferences. Each team played a total of 30 match in the regular season from April to October, facing teams within their conference four times, outside of their conference two times, and playing an additional set of games against a non-conference team.[5] The playoffs ran from mid-October to November and was contested by the top four teams in each conference, a change from the 2002 playoffs. It was organized into three rounds: a home-and-away series in the Conference Semifinals with a winner determined by aggregate score, followed by an overtime period and a penalty shootout if necessary; a single-match Conference Final; and the MLS Cup final.[6][7]

MLS Cup 2002 was contested by the Chicago Fire, who also won the regular season's Supporters' Shield and the U.S. Open Cup, and the San Jose Earthquakes. Both teams had previously won the MLS Cup and finished at the top of their respective conferences in regular season play, separated by a single point.[8] The two teams had not previously met in the playoffs.[9] Chicago and San Jose played three matches in the regular season, which ended in two scoreless draws and a 4-1 victory in May for the Fire at San Jose's Spartan Stadium.[9][10]

Chicago Fire

The Chicago Fire entered as the league's first expansion team in 1998, winning the MLS Cup and U.S. Open Cup in their first season. The team returned to the MLS Cup in 2000, losing to the Kansas City Wizards, and won the 2000 U.S. Open Cup. The team finished the 2002 season as the third-placed seed in the Eastern Conference and were eliminated by the New England Revolution in the Conference Semifinals. Dave Sarachan was hired to replace Bob Bradley as head coach and used several rookie players to lead the team to a Supporters' Shield title and the 2003 U.S. Open Cup. Sarachan was named MLS Coach of the Year prior to the MLS Cup final, where a win would clinch a treble for the first time in American soccer history.[11]

Chicago were the first team to reach an MLS Cup final without conceding a goal in the playoffs.[12]

San Jose Earthquakes

The San Jose Earthquakes (originally the San Jose Clash) participated in the inaugural edition of the playoffs in 1996, but failed to qualify for four subsequent seasons. Frank Yallop was hired as the club's head coach in 2001 and acquired defender Jeff Agoos to lead them to their first MLS Cup victory over in-state rivals Los Angeles.[13] The Earthquakes finished the 2002 season in second place, behind the Los Angeles Galaxy, but were eliminated by the Columbus Crew in the Conference Semifinals.

Summary of results

Note: In all results below, the score of the finalist is given first (H: home; A: away).

Chicago Fire Round San Jose Earthquakes
1st place in Eastern Conference
Regular season 1st place in Western Conference
Opponent Agg. 1st leg 2nd leg MLS Cup Playoffs Opponent Agg. 1st leg 2nd leg
D.C. United 4-0 2-0 (A) 2-0 (H) Conference Semifinals Los Angeles Galaxy 5-4 0-2 (A) 5-2 (a.e.t.) (H)
New England Revolution 1-0 Conference Final Kansas City Wizards 3-2

Broadcasting and entertainment

The MLS Cup final was televised in the United States on ABC in English and Spanish using secondary audio programming. English play-by-play commentary was provided by JP Dellacamera with color analysis by Ty Keough, reprising their roles at MLS Cup 2002. Play-by-play commentator Ernesto Motta returned from the previous cup's Spanish-language broadcast, working alongside color analyst Robert Sierra. ABC/ESPN provided 20 total cameras, including aerial coverage from a Goodyear Blimp. The match was also broadcast live within the U.S. on Sports Byline USA in English and Radio Unica in Spanish, and on the American Forces Radio Network internationally.[14] The ABC broadcast earned a Nielsen rating of 0.6, the lowest figure recorded for an MLS Cup.[15]

The match's halftime show featured singer Michelle Branch, who performed her hit single "Breathe".[16]



San Jose forward Landon Donovan scored two goals and was named match MVP at MLS Cup 2003

Referee of the Year Brian Hall was chosen to officiate the match and was previously the head referee at MLS Cup 1997.[12] At kickoff, set for 12:30 p.m. Pacific Time, the weather in Carson was sunny with a temperature of 71 °F (22 °C).[17] Both teams fielded their regular lineups arranged in a 4-4-2 formation[18] and wore their primary uniforms, an MLS Cup first.[]

The Earthquakes kicked off the match and made a series of attacks that won them a free kick outside of the penalty box. After a faked shot by Jeff Agoos, Danish midfielder Ronnie Ekelund drove the ball past the defensive wall and scored the first goal of the final, tying the record for fastest MLS Cup goal.[19] Chicago had the majority of possession and chances in the first half, including two shots that were missed by striker Ante Razov and a poor touch by Damani Ralph, but eventually conceded a second goal to San Jose.[20][21] An Earthquakes counter-attack in the 38th minute sprung Jamil Walker, who sent a through-pass to Landon Donovan, who sprinted pass several defenders and shot the ball past Zach Thornton.[22]

The second half opened with a sequence of three goals by both teams within five minutes, beginning with a short pass by Andy Williams to DaMarcus Beasley that was shot into the near side of the goal, cutting San Jose's lead to 2-1.[21][23] Shortly after kickoff, a long overhead pass by Brian Mullan found Earthquakes midfielder Richard Mulrooney, who scored and restored the Earthquakes' two-goal lead.[24] The Fire continued to press for a second goal and earned a throw-in near San Jose's goal that led to a cross into the box by Evan Whitfield. The cross was deflected into the goal by Earthquakes defender Chris Roner, who had been substituted three minutes earlier, narrowing the team's lead to 3-2 in the 54th minute.[21] Roner then conceded a penalty kick to the Earthquakes two minutes later after a tackle from behind on Damani Ralph in the penalty area.[20] Ante Razov took the penalty kick, the first in MLS Cup history,[21] but it was saved by goalkeeper Pat Onstad with a dive to his right side to catch the ball.[24]

Razov attempted to score an equalizing goal in the 58th minute, taking a shot in front of Onstad that grazed the corner of the net. San Jose forward Jamil Walker suffered an injury and was replaced in the 60th minute by Dwayne DeRosario, who sized on a mis-cleared ball from Chicago ten minutes later and sent a cross into the box that was finished by Landon Donovan, giving the Earthquakes a 4-2 lead in the 71st minute.[21] With the goal, Donovan became the first player to score two goals in an MLS Cup.[24] A chance for Chicago to reduce San Jose's lead came from a cross by Ralph in the 82nd minute that rolled across the six-yard box, but the tap-in for Razov was missed and the ball continued out of bounds.[21] Ralph also had a chance to score a consolation goal in the third minute of stoppage time, a cross by Nate Jaqua that he headed wide in front of the goal.[20] Despite having fewer shots and corner kicks, the San Jose Earthquakes won the match 4-2 and earned their second championship in three years.[20]


GK 18 United States Zach Thornton
DF 3 United States Evan Whitfield
DF 5 United States Jim Curtin Substituted off 81'
DF 4 United States Carlos Bocanegra
DF 20 United States Orlando Perez Substituted off 45'
MF 16 Jamaica Andy Williams Substituted off 70'
MF 15 United States Jesse Marsch
MF 14 United States Chris Armas (c)
MF 7 United States DaMarcus Beasley
FW 8 Jamaica Damani Ralph
FW 9 United States Ante Razov
GK 1 United States Curtis Spiteri
DF 2 United States C. J. Brown
DF 6 United States Kelly Gray Substituted in 45'
DF 12 United States Logan Pause
MF 21 United States Justin Mapp Substituted in 70'
MF 22 Costa Rica Jonathan Bolaños
MF 24 United States Ryan Futagaki
FW 11 United States Nate Jaqua Substituted in 81'
FW 17 Botswana Dipsy Selolwane
United States Dave Sarachan
GK 18 Canada Pat Onstad
DF 16 United States Craig Waibel Yellow card 15' Substituted off 51'
DF 19 United States Troy Dayak
DF 2 United States Eddie Robinson Yellow card 54'
DF 12 United States Jeff Agoos (c)
MF 9 United States Brian Mullan
MF 8 United States Richard Mulrooney
MF 6 Denmark Ronnie Ekelund
MF 11 United States Manny Lagos Substituted off 70'
FW 10 United States Landon Donovan
FW 13 United States Jamil Walker Substituted off 60'
GK 1 United States Jon Conway
GK 30 United States Josh Saunders
DF 5 United States Ramiro Corrales
DF 17 United States Todd Dunivant
MF 7 United States Ian Russell Substituted in 70'
MF 4 United States Chris Roner Substituted in 51'
FW 14 Canada Dwayne De Rosario Substituted in 60'
FW 15 United States Roger Levesque
FW 22 Brazil Rodrigo Faria
Canada Frank Yallop

MLS Cup Most Valuable Player:
United States Landon Donovan (San Jose Earthquakes)

Assistant referees:
United States Craig Lowry
United States Darren Engers
Fourth official:
United States Noel Kenny

Match rules


Goals scored 2 4
Total shots 22 11
Shots on target 10 7
Saves 4 8
Corner kicks 13 3
Fouls committed 17 14
Offsides 4 3
Yellow cards 0 2
Red cards 0 0


The San Jose Earthquakes became the second team in league history to win multiple MLS Cups, following D.C. United's three titles in the 1990s.[25] The six-goal 2003 final was the highest-scoring in MLS Cup history, beating the five-goal inaugural edition, and featured its earliest goal, its first own goal, and its first awarded penalty kick.[23]Landon Donovan became the first player to score multiple goals in an MLS Cup final and was named the match's most valuable player.[26] San Jose captain Jeff Agoos won his fifth MLS Cup, having played in six previous finals for the Earthquakes and D.C. United.[23]


  1. ^ a b "Galaxy Awarded MLS Cup 2003" (Press release). Major League Soccer. February 27, 2002. Archived from the original on August 12, 2002. Retrieved 2018.
  2. ^ Ortega, John (June 1, 2003). "Carson Hopes to Start on Right Track". Los Angeles Times. p. B1. Retrieved 2018.
  3. ^ Gutierrez, Paul (June 7, 2003). "Absolutely No Place Like Home for Galaxy". Los Angeles Times. p. D1. Retrieved 2018.
  4. ^ Jones, Grahame L. (October 13, 2003). "Germany Hoists Cup With Last Call". Los Angeles Times. p. D1. Retrieved 2018.
  5. ^ "About Major League Soccer: General Overview". Major League Soccer. Archived from the original on December 2, 2003. Retrieved 2018.
  6. ^ Rodriguez, Alicia (October 21, 2015). "Audi MLS Cup Playoffs: Tracing the evolution of the postseason format since 1996". Retrieved 2018.
  7. ^ "MLS Cup 2009 Playoffs Guide" (PDF). Major League Soccer. October 2009. p. 3. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 19, 2010. Retrieved 2018.
  8. ^ Knapp, Kathryn L. (November 21, 2003). "Best championship yet?". The Times. Munster, Indiana. p. C8. Retrieved 2018 – via to read
  9. ^ a b "MLS Cup 2003 Preview: San Jose v. Chicago". Major League Soccer. Archived from the original on December 22, 2003. Retrieved 2018.
  10. ^ Armour, Nancy (November 21, 2003). "Despite big changes, Fire keeps winning". The Daily Chronicle. DeKalb, Illinois. Associated Press. p. B5. Retrieved 2018 – via to read
  11. ^
  12. ^ a b "MLS CUP: San Jose and Chicago meet Sunday in final". Soccer America. November 21, 2003. Retrieved 2018. (Subscription required (help)).
  13. ^
  14. ^ "MLS Cup 2003 Broadcast Set" (Press release). Major League Soccer. November 19, 2003. Archived from the original on November 22, 2003. Retrieved 2018.
  15. ^ Kennedy, Paul (December 4, 2012). "MLS Cup television ratings dip". Soccer America. Retrieved 2018. (Subscription required (help)).
  16. ^ "Michelle Branch to Perform at 2003 MLS Cup Halftime Show" (Press release). Major League Soccer. November 12, 2003. Archived from the original on November 19, 2003. Retrieved 2018.
  17. ^ Stejskal, Sam (December 10, 2016). "Will Toronto FC vs. Seattle Sounders be the coldest MLS Cup on record?". Retrieved 2018.
  18. ^ Hernandez, Dylan (November 23, 2003). "After a baffling journey, Quakes at the doorstep". The Mercury News. p. C1.
  19. ^ McCarthy, Jack (November 24, 2003). "Quakes steal Fire's thunder". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2018.
  20. ^ a b c d Goff, Steven (November 24, 2003). "Donovan Fills Up San Jose's Cup". The Washington Post. p. D4. Retrieved 2018.
  21. ^ a b c d e f g "San Jose Earns MLS Cup 2003 Title". Major League Soccer. November 23, 2003. Archived from the original on December 8, 2003. Retrieved 2018.
  22. ^ Padilla, Doug (November 24, 2003). "Leaky Fire falls in MLS Cup". Chicago Sun-Times.
  23. ^ a b c Jones, Grahame L. (November 24, 2003). "Earthquakes Win MLS Cup". Los Angeles Times. p. D1. Retrieved 2018.
  24. ^ a b c Chapin, Dwight (November 24, 2003). "MLS Cup: Earthquakes rumble; Donovan, Onstad secure S.J.'s 2nd title". San Francisco Chronicle. p. C1. Retrieved 2018.
  25. ^ "Donovan's Goals Lead San Jose to Second M.L.S. Title". The New York Times. Bloomberg News. November 24, 2003. p. D7. Retrieved 2018.
  26. ^ Peters, Ken (November 24, 2003). "Earthquakes win MLS Cup". Deseret News. Associated Press. p. D6. Retrieved 2018.

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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