Photo by ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
CARSON, Calif. — From David Beckham’s MLS exit to the potential retirement from Landon Donovan, there are plenty of subplots heading into this year’s MLS Cup final.
The one that is seemingly being overshadowed, however, is that this year’s game is a rematch of the 2011 MLS Cup final that came down to the wire.
The Los Angeles Galaxy and Houston Dynamo are set to face off for the league championship for the second straight year on Saturday afternoon. Once again, the two will square off at the Home Depot Center and once again, the Galaxy enter the match as heavy favorites.
Still, the Dynamo are heading into the game liking their odds.
“We’re really happy with where we are,” said Dynamo midfielder Brad Davis. “We’ve been playing confidently. We’re very excited about having this opportunity sitting in front of us and we’ve kind of stepped up to every challenge that has hit us in the face, especially this postseason.”
Davis missed last year’s match because of injury and his combination of experience and deadly set-piece service improve the Dynamo’s chances of winning. But he is hardly the only midfielder that can make an impact for Houston.
Oscar Boniek Garcia will be a player the Galaxy will need to keep tabs on. The technical Honduran international has proven a real threat since joining the Dynamo in July, and his ability to score goals or create chances might make him a key to this game.
“He doesn’t speak any English, so there’s a huge gap in communication but you wouldn’t know it by the way he plays out there,” said Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear. “The guys like his attitude. He works hard, always has a smile on face, he’s a productive player for us.”
For the Galaxy, they will have an opportunity to become one of few teams in MLS’s short history to win consecutive league titles. Saturday’s hosts know the chance to accomplish that is rare, and they are fully embracing the challenge to repeat despite the bevy of emotions that come with being in a final.
“Not many players like the guys in our locker room, not many coaches, not many teams have a chance to do what we have a chance to do,” said Donovan. “We want to make the most out of that opportunity.”
Donovan may be contemplating his playing future, but he, David Beckham and Robbie Keane will need to be at their bests to oust a Dynamo team that has proven a tough test throughout the playoffs.
Houston’s midfield has dominated long stretches of games throughout this postseason, and the Galaxy know winning that part of the field will go a long way in determining if they can win yet another MLS Cup title.
“These are certainly two very good midfields going against each other,” said Donovan. “They’ve got four, five very good players with a lot of experience. Certainly adding Ricardo (Clark) and Boniek Garcia gives them a different element.
“On our side, we think we’re very good through the middle of the middle of the field. David’s contributions are obvious, Juninho has now earned the respect of people around the league. … Our wide guys are great too. We’ve got a number of guys that can do a very good job and we’re confident in our midfield.”
Yes, this is Beckham’s last game in MLS. Yes, this could be the last time Donovan plays a professional match. But the game is more than just that and it should be a treat for American soccer fans everywhere.
“This is match-up of two teams in pretty good form,” said Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena. “It should make for a great game.”