The MLS Cup is now set. For the second straight seasons we will get the unlikely final pairing of the LA Galaxy and the Houston Dynamo, at the Home Depot Center. Crazy how this all shook out in the end but honestly this will be a fantastic final in two weeks.
Yesterday saw the end of the year for D.C. United and the Seattle Sounders. Both had strong seasons but each fell short in the end.
I think there were plenty of talking points from last night’s two games. And there will be plenty of other talking point over the next two weeks as well.
1. The handball of doom for Seattle.
I know Seattle fans won’t want to hear this but the call was right by Mark Gieger. Speaking as a former defender, that is never a situation you want yourself to be in if you are Adam Johansson. But hey, it happens. It was the right call that changed the momentum for good in the series.
Before that penalty kick goal by Robbie Keane, the series looked to be going Seattle’s way. The Sounders had everything going after the Zach Scott goal and were just down one in the series.
But as we all know, the Galaxy love to disappoint other fans throughout the league. We knew that game and series was far from over.
2. United run out of steam as Houston dominated the series
Dominic Kinnear is a master in the playoffs. Once again with a nice 3-1 lead on the road, Kinnear made sure his defense buckled down and pushed forward with the strength of the club in the midfield. The longer the game went on the less D.C. United was in it. And by the time Oscar Bonick Garcia hammered home the game’s first goal the series was over. Signed, sealed and delivered.
United just ran out of healthy players and momentum. Unlike the Sounders who got their crowd involved with an early goal, United struggled in the final third of the field and really didn’t have a chance in this series until their late goal.
3. Depth, experience wins out
Say what you will about the structure of the playoffs or the teams involved. This whole playoff thing really comes down to experience and quality depth. Seattle has some, United had little but LA and Houston had a lot. And it showed in a big way.
Maybe it is the little extra allocation that the league is giving Houston and LA (though Seattle got some too) for being in the Champions League. Or maybe it is just the fact that both teams have a core group of veteran players that just now what it takes to win in the playoffs. I lean towards the latter of the two but both are equally important going forward.
LA was able to go without Landon Donovan last night and still come away with a series win. Houston on the other hand has a healthy Brad Davis, which has made all the difference in the playoffs this year.
4. The what if’s…
Man, I look at Houston and their last game of the season. They rested some starters because they knew they couldn’t get anything higher than a four seed. Kinnear rested key guys and lost in Colorado on the finale. Had they won that game in the Mile High City, we’d be talking about this rematch in a whole new light as the Dynamo would be the hosts.
Oh well. Some point out to me that had they not rested starters in that game the Dynamo probably wouldn’t have won in Chicago or let alone in the SKC series. To those points I get it but I don’t buy it. Houston is a good enough team when it matters, they would have found a way.
5. Was last night the finale for Fredy Montero in a Sounders kit?
Taylor Twellman mentioned this several times on the broadcast but I think it is worth brining up yet again. Will Seattle continue to stick with this streaky forward for another season? Looking at the facts, he has always been cold in the playoffs going ten games without a single goal. When you pay the kind of money that Seattle does for a guy like that you want goals but you also want goals when it matters the most like in the playoffs.
So does Seattle keep him? I certainly think they explore some options this winter. This team is still loaded with talent and had this series been just a one-off I would have taken my chances with the Sounders and not the Galaxy.