19 November 2011
On Sunday, the LA Galaxy will take on the Houston Dynamo in the league's showcase event, the MLS Cup. The match will start at 9:00 PM EST with TV coverage on ESPN.
This well be the last MLS Cup played at a location predetermined by the league. Starting next year, the MLS Cup Final will be awarded to the higher seed of the two finalists. Not that it matters this year as the LA Galaxy made it to the final after finishing the regular season with the best record and will now play in front of their home supporters.
The Galaxy enter the match in fine form, but Houston has the experience of playing in multiple MLS Cups over the last few years and always seems to play the role of spoiler.
The home team ran away with the league to win the Supporters Shield and some, such as mlsnet.com are asking if the 2011 Galaxy are one game away from staking their claim as the “greatest MLS team of all time.” The star power of Robbie Keane and David Beckham along with MLS Defender of the Year Omar Gonzalez, and a cast of quality players such as Juninho, Todd Dunivant, Mike Magee, and others who are too big to be considered “bit-part players”, suggests that they have the roster to do so. Still, the aptly named Galaxy will need a performance of total domination if they are to be mentioned in the same breath as the dynasty built by DC United during the league’s infancy.
Massive questions surround the LA Galaxy stars heading into this battle....
Has Beckham fully recovered from his “cold” which forced him to miss yesterday's training session? Speaking of Beckham, will this be his last game in MLS?
What will Keane’s form be like after trips to Estonia and Ireland, two games played, and an emotional qualification for that country’s first major tournament in a decade? Keane stayed with Ireland for the second leg because he wanted to “celebrate” the momentous occasion. How much did he “celebrate” off the field?
Finally, how will the Galaxy fair at the forward position now that Chad Barrett is out after suffering a dislocated ankle during a freak play in practice? Keane and Barrett looked good together and now Adam Cristman will most likely step in. While Cristman works hard and is a constant nuisance for defenses, he has the touch of a 5th grader. In addition, Cristman cannot create the same kind of chances for Keane as Barrett who is a clever runner off the ball.
Houston has problems of their own. Adam Moffat has been charged with the enormous task of stepping in for the injured Brad Davis. His job will be to conjure up the same kind of passing magic that links the midfield to the forward line of Brian Ching and Calen Carr (most likely).
Look for Ching to play more of a target roll, while Carr will run off him into open spaces. This is a combination which can certainly open up some holes in the LA defense.
Another concern for the Galaxy back-line will be Houston’s ability in the air. While the Dynamo will certainly miss Davis serving in quality set pieces, all the Texas club needs is a decent ball played in and players such as Ching, defender Bobby Boswell and Geoff Cameron usually get the better of their man. LA also has looked extremely susceptible on set pieces throughout the playoffs.
The script is written perfectly for LA. A star laden team set to finish off their season of domination in front of their own fans, but as I’ve said many times before, if any team can ruin a made for Hollywood blockbuster, it's the Houston Dynamo.