November 18, 2011
Galaxy, Dynamo seeking MLS Cup glory
By Sports Network
CARSON, CA - The stage is set for the 2011 Major League Soccer finale, as the Los Angeles Galaxy will face the Houston Dynamo at The Home Depot Center in MLS Cup on Sunday.
The Final promises to be one of the more interesting MLS Cup matches in recent years. Los Angeles finished the regular season head and shoulders above all other teams, while Houston is the more in-form team of the two.
The Galaxy were the top overall seed in the playoffs thanks to their Supporters' Shield coup. Los Angeles finished the regular season with an MLS- best record of 19-5-10 (67 points) including an unblemished home record of 12-0-5.
If that regular season dominance was not enough, Los Angeles will feel confident given the fact that Sunday's MLS Cup will be played in its home stadium, The Home Depot Center.
"We're just excited about it more than anything," Landon Donovan said. "We love playing here.
"Even on nights when it's not full, there's a great energy around the stadium. So you picture what Sunday is probably going to look like, how can you not get excited about that as a player?"
The Dynamo also have a license to feel confident ahead of the most important game of the season, as Houston has not lost a match since Sept. 10.
Regular season and postseason included, Houston brings a a nine-game unbeaten run into MLS Cup, posting a 7-0-2 record over that stretch.
Houston won its three playoff matches en route to the final, including the Eastern Conference Final against Sporting Kansas City at Livestrong Sporting Park, a venue where Sporting only lost twice during the regular season.
In their impressive playoff run, the Dynamo have not conceded a goal since the seventh minute of its first-leg win over the Philadelphia Union, a stretch of 264 minutes.
But Houston's playoff glory to this point has come at a price, as talisman and set-piece specialist Brad Davis hobbled off the Livestrong Sporting Park pitch in the first half with a quadricep injury. According to the Dynamo's midweek injury report, he is out for the final.
"I think a lot of people might have sort of written us off at halftime during the Kansas City game, when Brad got taken off, and I think we did OK," said Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear. "So you have to kind of play in the moment.
"We're a good team with or without Brad. Obviously, we'd love to have him out there; it's probably not going to happen, but the game is played in 90 minutes and lots of things can happen."
Houston will miss Davis's delivery on set pieces. The Dynamo officially scored 14 goals from dead-ball situations over the course of the 2011 season. But striker Brian Ching believes they can still be effective despite their captain's absence.
"We have five or six guys that feel they can score every single time on set pieces," said Brian Ching. "Not too many teams have five or six markers. I think that's why we have so much success on our set pieces."
Los Angeles defender Todd Dunivant echoes Ching's analysis, stating that Houston is dangerous no matter who provides the set-piece delivery.
"They're dangerous from crosses, they're dangerous on set pieces," said Dunivant. "Losing Brad Davis hurts a little bit, but they've got a lot of guys that can put the ball on the box.
"They have big bodies. They have [Brian] Ching, [Geoff] Cameron, [Bobby] Boswell coming on set pieces and [Andre] Hainault. They've got a lot of guys who are dangerous."
Los Angeles will welcome back Robbie Keane to the squad, who should be rested and ready to face Houston on Sunday despite helping Ireland qualify for Euro 2012 with a comfortable first-leg win over Estonia last Friday.
"He'll get the rest he needs, and he'll be ready Sunday," said Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena. "Robbie's the kind of guy that can step off the plane and play. That's the way he is. We'll give him a couple of easy days and have him ready for Sunday."
Perhaps the most interesting story heading into MLS Cup the future of David Beckham.
The English midfielder has not come clean about where he will play next season after his contract expires. With a comfortable life in Los Angeles, he has stated that he could remain with the Galaxy, but he also has a fair share of offers from European teams.
Beckham left Manchester United in 2003 after securing his sixth English Premier League title, and he departed from Real Madrid in 2007 after winning his only La Liga title. The pattern could pave the way for a Beckham exit should the Galaxy win on Sunday.