We’ve come a long way since March huh? I really felt like I blinked and the season was over. Not that I am complaining or anything, I am actually ready for a little break from the season to get into the offseason fun. But it is hard to believe we have just one more game in this MLS season – the big one too – the 2012 MLS Cup.
Tomorrow’s game between the LA Galaxy and the Houston Dynamo will be a repeat of last year’s MLS Cup. Same teams, same venue but with a newer twist given that the Dynamo have a healthy Brad Davis and a newcomer in Oscar Bonick Garcia on board.
Back when the season began, I picked the Galaxy to repeat as champions. After the first couple of months that predictions looked like a wash until these last few weeks. Houston on the other hand I thought would be good but not nearly as good as they turned out to be. Landing Garcia was the biggest win of it all but seeing someone like Will Bruin progress as much as he did was also equally as important.
So let’s get down to some key points for each side.
How the Dynamo can win the 2012 MLS Cup: It is simple, they play their game in the midfield with Garcia and Davis. Those two hold the keys to the offense that the Dynamo didn’t have in this game last season. LA was able to control the ball and the clock in last year’s MLS Cup but with these two that won’t be the case. Houston will also want to find ways to counter with speed on the outside and up front. LA has struggled against speed.
Unsung hero for Houston: Adam Moffat. Yeah, I’m not joking. As much as I wanted to put Bobby Boswell, Tally Hall, Bruin, Davis, Garcia, Ricardo Clark here it kept coming down to Moffat. He is the glue between the midfield and the defense. He’ll have the lovely task of dealing with guys like David Beckham, eliminating the space that Robbie Keane gets to work with and battling with Juninho and Marcelo Savares.
Biggest keys to the game: For the Dynamo to win they must get plenty of set piece chances in their offensive third. They got great news that Calen Carr and Clark would be healthy to go in this game so having both will go a long way. Last and probably the most important piece is stopping Robbie Keane. If the Dynamo stops Keane from scoring in this, they stand a great chance at winning this game.
How the Galaxy can win the 2012 MLS Cup: It will be all about good possession, creating quality chances on goal and finding ways to open up the Dynamo defense. Keane will be key but so will David Beckham and Landon Donovan. If it truly is the last game with Donovan, LA has to ride the wave of emotions correctly between him and Beckham. Those two will want to go out on top and will likely do anything they can to make sure it happens.
Unsung hero for LA: Mike Magee. I nearly went defensive here with Tommy Meyer or AJ DeLaGarza (who is not fully healthy by the way), but Magee stood out once more. He has been a killer player in the playoffs these last couple of season and will be a guy that the Dynamo cannot afford to lose in the open field. He always seems to find a way to score a sneaky goal.
Biggest keys to the game: Staying true defensively will be vital in this one and not allowing silly fouls in their defensive end. Houston is a set piece machine with Davis and Garcia and you have to believe that an early card (yellow or red) would do some serious damage to the Galaxy’s title hopes.
- Will home field advantage mean anything in this game? LA lost one of their last playoff game at the HDC in a stoppage time goal to the San Jose Earthquakes before opening a can of whoop-ass on Seattle in the conference finals. My gut tells me there will be some advantage but not nearly the same as in 2011.
- Don’t sleep on Christian Wilhelmsson for LA either. The Swede has been dangerously good since joining the Galaxy earlier this fall.
- Swan songs typically go pretty well in sports for big names like Beckham. Just look what Michael Jordan and John Elway did in their final games with their teams. Yeah, maybe a bad example with Jordon considering he came back a couple of times for a few different swan songs but his first two with the Chicago Bulls were pretty special.
- Possibility of rain in the forecast for tomorrow. That has to give LA a bit of an edge in my mind given their last game was in Seattle in the pouring rain. Not saying it won’t help Houston either but yeah.
- Tommy Meyer vs Will Bruin. Battle of the St. Louis kids that both went to Indiana. Edge has to go to Bruin in that battle though Meyer has been so much better in these playoffs than he was earlier this season.
- Battle of Bruce Arena and Dominic Kinnear is pretty legendary in it’s own. I saw someone mention yesterday that it is like Walsh vs Shula, or Coach K vs Dean Smith. It is the iconic MLS matchup of coaches.
WVH 2012 MLS Cup Prediction
I’ve thought long and hard about this match. Hell it’s been on my brain for two weeks now like it has for some of you out there. It won’t be the same kind of match that we saw last year in the MLS Cup. LA is improved as a team but so has Houston. Both have strong defenses when it matters and both know what it takes to win it all here. At the end of the day though I am sticking with my gut and taking LA. I could be extremely wrong with this pick as I see the Dynamo as a strong team that can win it al here – heck I thought they could back in July. Having the home field advantage means something still in my book and being that it could be the swan song for Donovan along with Beckham means even more. I think Donovan scores the game winner in this one to cap a magical run.
LA 2, Houston 1