It’s finally here: it’s the time when MLS is about to hand out that big shiny trophy. Who’s going to take it all – the Los Angeles Galaxy, or the Houston Dynamo? Our writers and contributors – writers Duncan and Keaton along with contributors John and James poke their noses into the debate to weigh in.
In our first installment, we look at both teams' offence and defence corps.
Who: Los Angeles Galaxy vs. Houston Dynamo
What: MLS Cup Final 2011
When: Sunday, November 2011 6pm Local/7pm MST/9pm EST
Where: Home Depot Centre, Carson, California
TV: TSN2 (check local listings for channel number)
Referee: Ricardo Salazar
Forecast: Rain, 16 C/60 F
SEASON SERIES (Houston wins 3-2 on aggregate, matches 1-1)
1. May 25, LA (Donovan 46) 1 – 0 Houston
2. October 23, Houston (Moffat 27, Boswell 48, Costly 74) 3 – 1 LA (McBean 88)
John: When you have the likes of Keane, Donovan and Beckham on your front line with the likes of Juninho playing in the background, it’s not hard to consider the Galaxy as the favourites. But even favourites can flounder sometimes – and my gut keeps on getting this uneasy feeling that through it all, this may be the step where the Galaxy’s galacticos could fail at the worst time.
It’s not like they’ve not been there before – choking in PKs to Real Salt Lake at Qwest Field is one. And even without Brad Davis, Houston did extremely well against Sporting Kansas City. So I’ll go on a limb and place my lot with the likes of Moffat, Brian Ching, and Carlo Costly. Sometimes, it’s all about the MLS vets, and not the big names that get you home.
Duncan: Neither of them are as good as they were a couple of weeks ago. Brad Davis is obviously a massive loss for Houston, so they'll have to rely on Brian Ching to use all his playoff experience to make something happen. Or they can hope for more heroics from Andre Hainault from set pieces.
Chad Barrett will be missed by L.A (stop sniggering at the back) but with Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan presumably approaching full fitness, and Mike Magee in fine goal scoring form, they should still have more than enough to give them the advantage in this one.
James: Despite LA’s big-name star-power, they have been less than impressive offensively in both the regular season and the playoffs. They have depended far too much on the deliveries by Beckham, the goal-scoring prowess of Magee and Keane, and the penalty-taking of Donovan.
Houston has spread their scoring throughout the squad, with several players – Ching, Hainault, Carr, Costly, and co. - stepping up to create the goals when necessary. In a one-off match it’s always better to have multiple potential contributors to a few go-to guys. Set pieces and counterattacks will be huge factors, but the first goal could well be decisive.
Keaton: I personally think Mike Magee and Robbie Keane will be way too much for the Dynamo. Not too mention that the Dynamo’s best player Brad Davis will be out the big match. The Galaxy also have an important injury of their own, as Chad Barrett will miss the MLS Cup because of an ankle injury. Apparently Chad dislocated his ankle, so we will not see our boy Chad playing and scoring in the MLS Cup Final.
I think the Dynamo will struggle without Davis crossing his perfect passes into the box, and setting up the Dynamo offense. Brian Ching and Costly will be shut down by Omar and A.J. De La Garza. LA Galaxy has the edge in offense.
John: When you give up the least amount of goals in a season (28), it usually means you have a pretty good backline. But Houston’s are no slouches either, having given up a grand total of 2 goals (one each match) to the Galaxy, whereas the Galaxy has conceded 3 to the Dynamo, all of which were at the enemy confines of Robertson Stadium.
While LA does have Defender of the Year Omar Gonzalez along with the likes of A.J. DeLaGarza, Gregg Berhalter and Frankie Hedjuk – Houston is more than capable with an answer that consist of Eddie Robinson, Bobby Boswell and Andre Hainault. I’m going go with the Dynamo, again.
Duncan: MLS defender of the year Omar Gonzalez, Todd Dunivant, Gregg Berhalter, there's a lot of quality there. On paper it's a very impressive defence. Houston are also a very good defensive side, and really don't lose out by much in this category, but lose out they do.
James: Both sides have top-tier defensive contingents who are particularly at ease dealing with aerial attacks. Neither is particularly speedy and therefore susceptible to being caught on the break. Houston’s back-line is more defensive by nature, with their wide players – Hainault and either Ashe or Taylor - acting as full-back as opposed to Los Angeles’ wing-backs – Franklin and Dunivant – who play a key role in providing width to the attack.
This match-up will be determined by which defensive midfielder – LA’s Juninho and Houston’s Adam Moffat – can best control the flow of the match. Whoever steps up their game on the night will have the advantage.
Keaton: Both teams have the strongest defensive lines in MLS. The Houston Dynamo have a great back line with Cameron, Hainault and Boswell. And the Galaxy have Dunivant, Franklin, Gonzalez and De La Garza. I don’t think there’s much of an edge to either side. And on paper both team’s defenders cancel each other out. That’s why I believe this will come down to who’s starting up top.
It will be interesting to see how the Dynamo defenders play without having Davis in front of them. Advantage in defense goes to LA, they’re a couple defenders stronger.
We'll have a preview of both teams' GKs, coaching and X Factors later. Stay tuned!