SEATTLE - NOVEMBER 22: David Beckham #23 of Los Angeles Galaxy directs his teammates before taking a free kick during the MLS Cup final against Real Salt Lake at Qwest Field on November 22, 2009 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
For the second consecutive season the Houston Dynamo have won the Eastern Conference and will travel to Home Depot Center to take on the LA Galaxy in MLS Cup. Dynamo fans hope the script has a different ending in this sequel. Much of the news leading up to this match has centered around David Beckham and his announcement that this will be his final MLS match.
The former Manchester United and Real Madrid midfielder came to America with a media circus surrounding him so it seems appropriate that he leaves the league in the same way. Whether or not Beckham will continue playing in another country (Australia, England) remains to be seen. Countless articles have been written this past week about Beckham and his impact on MLS so I won’t get into that. What I do want to touch on is the timing of Beckham’s announcement to leave. He couldn’t have waited till after the game to tell everyone he was done in Major League Soccer? The decision he made to announce it during the buildup to his club’s biggest match of the season is a head scratcher. All of the attention is and will be on Beckham. No one is talking about the Galaxy attempting to win a second consecutive cup or anything else surrounding LA. With all the talk around Beckham it’s as if there isn’t even another team taking the pitch at Home Depot Center. I can assure you, Dynamo coach Dominic Kinnear is just fine with that.
The Dynamo have flown under the radar much of this season. Coming into the playoffs, Houston was the 5th and final seed in the Eastern Conference but proceeded to knock out the 4 seed Chicago Fire, the 1 seed Sporting Kansas City, and the 2 seed DC United in the East final. Both Houston and LA have won 3 games in the playoffs and both come in to this final in great form. The Dynamo back four will have to be sharp dealing with the firepower of the Galaxy. Stars Landon Donovan, David Beckham, and Robbie Keane all combined for the winning goal in last year’s MLS Cup and they are still dangerous. Keane has been on fire since returning from the Euros this summer. Bobby Boswell and Jermaine Taylor have to keep Keane at bay and not let him get behind them. Tally Hall will be called on to make some saves as he has done all season and outside backs Corey Ashe and Kofi Sarkodie will have to lock down the Galaxy’s flanks. Look for Ashe and Sarkodie to stay back a little more than usual, picking the right times to try and join the attack.
The big difference between last year’s final and this edition is the additions of Brad Davis and Oscar Boniek Garcia to the Dynamo lineup. Davis missed last year’s final with an injury and the midseason addition of Boniek has sparked the Dynamo on a great run of form in the second half of the season. With Ricardo Clark, another midseason addition, and Adam Moffat in the center of midifield, the Dynamo have four solid midfield players who can control possession and drive the offense forward.
The key to this game for me will be Will Bruin. If the second year forward can convert chances the Dynamo can and will be champions. Bruin will likely be matched up with Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez. Gonzalez has size and strength but Bruin has been on a tear lately and will look to continue finding the back of the net. Whether Mac Kandji or Calen Carr starts alongside Bruin remains to be seen but both players bring pace and the ability to get in behind defenses and cause problems.
Kinnear’s men will be ready. They wouldn’t say this to the media but they want this one real bad. They want revenge for last year. They want to spoil the “Beckham party” that the league has been hyping this game as. (They are even seeling Goodbye Beckham shirts.) If the Dynamo defense can remain strong and Bruin can convert chances I can see the Dynamo winning. The midfield battle is the one to watch. Davis wants this, having missed last season’s final and being team captain, and he will drive the Dynamo attack. I look for Davis to lift the cup this evening after a 2-1 Dynamo win.
(image courtesy of Anthony Vasser/Houston Dynamo)