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It's Dynamo vs. Galaxy for the MLS Cup again
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Major League Soccer

It's Dynamo vs. Galaxy for the MLS Cup again

Gap between two teams not as much as in last year's contest

  • MLS Cup trophy
    Major League SoccerMLS Cup trophy

As a wise man in another sport used to say, it’s déjà vu all over again.

The Los Angeles Galaxy will face the Houston Dynamo for the MLS Cup on Saturday. It’s the same two teams and even the same venue (The Home Depot Center) as last year.

Last year’s contest ended in with a 1-0 victory for the Galaxy, a surprisingly close margin for a team which led the league for much of the season.

Both teams have made the final and won it before, the Galaxy with three and the Dynamo with two. Interestingly, until last year the two teams' four combined championships came at the expense of one team: the New England Revolution.

Last year, this led soccer commentator Taylor Twellman, who played in all four of those losses for the Revs to snark in a pregame show “I hope they both lose.”

Of course, there are those who are not quite as cynical about the result.

Houston is filled with promise

Zach Woosley is the managing editor of Dynamo Theory, a Houston-oriented soccer blog hosted by SB Nation.

Woosley noted that a big problem for Houston last year was the absence of Brad Davis. Davis was injured in their victory over Sporting Kansas City that brought them to the final.

“Without Davis, they were horrible,” Woosley said. This time, he noted, not only will they have Brad Davis but first year player Boniek García. The Honduran winger has scored five goals and four assists since joining the team in June.

In another bit of déjà vu, the Dynamo defeated Sporting Kansas City in the early round of the playoffs. SKC dominated the Eastern Conference through much of the season, but faltered in the first game of their playoff series against Houston.

It’s the second year in a row that a better touted Kansas City was bounced out by Houston. Woosley attributes victories like that to psychology.

“They stick with their plan,” he said of Houston. “They get results by frustrating teams.”

“Kansas City is an emotional team and it’s easy to knock them off of their game,” Woosley continued.

On the other hand, Woosley admits that defeating the Galaxy psychologically is a taller task than it was with the three teams they beat on their way to the final, even with the pressure of the recent announcement that the final will be star David Beckham’s last game with the club.

“LA is pretty tough,” he acknowledged. “If they haven’t been bothered by the Beckham hullaballoo yet, they aren’t going to be bothered now.”

“You aren’t going to be able to beat them with the little things,” he said.

Still, he thinks that the team has plenty of weapons in its arsenal, including the aforementioned Davis and García as well as a defense led by goalkeeper Tally Hall who racked up an impressive 19 shutouts.

Woosley also thinks people should be on the lookout for Macoumba Kandji and Calen Carr, who will help create space for García.

“Both are very athletic, very quick,” he said. “They’ll keep the Galaxy honest and stretch them out.”

Despite the hype surrounding the Galaxy, Woosley’s faith in the Dynamo isn’t entirely misplaced. The Dynamo has met the Galaxy twice this year: a preseason friendly and a regular season match on May 26.

The results: wins for Houston.

Los Angeles, he's with you

Long time Los Angeles Galaxy fan and blogger Dan Loney doesn’t agree. In the style typical of his writing for Big Soccer, he gives a one word reason for why the Galaxy will win on Saturday.

“Immortality.”

It’s hyperbole from a fan that hasn’t been necessarily been supported by their Yogi Bear better than-the-average-team 16-12-6 record that left them in eighth place at the end of the season. Still, they got to the cup final with impressive performances against higher ranked sides San Jose Earthquakes and Seattle Sounders FC.

“They are deeper, much stronger in the skill positions,” Loney said comparing them to Houston.

“The gap isn’t as much as last year,” he said acknowledging Los Angeles’s drop off from being undisputed league leaders in 2011. “But Houston doesn’t have an answer for Juninho, [Robbie] Keane or [Landon] Donovan.”

Despite his praise for the Galaxy, Loney acknowledged one possible weak spot. Goalkeeper Josh Saunders missed games in April through June because of injury and subsequent referral to the league’s substance abuse program.

“He hasn’t been the same since,” says Loney.

Saunders had a remarkable 2011 season, displacing then-first choice keeper Donovan Ricketts and logging 8 shutouts in 19 matches.

“He’s not as dominant as last year,” Loney said. “It could just be that he had a career year last year.”

With Saunders less a steady presence at the back and ongoing questions about the defense, Loney acknowledges one big difference with last year.

“They can’t rely on getting a shutout.”

As for players to watch, Loney names Vitor Gomes Pereira Junior, the Brazilian player known by the Portuguese diminutive Juninho.

“It’s so obvious what he brings,” he said. “He controls the midfield. He completely dominated against Seattle.”

What ever magic Juninho or his colleagues perform on the field, news surrounding the game has centered on one player: David Beckham. Even as a Galaxy fan, Loney finds the hype about the most recognizable MLS player frustrating.

“It becomes so much about one player,” he said. “He’s never been their most important player. It’s his peers that are going to decide it, and that’s how it should be.”

Of course, they do it in Mexico too...

The match is for the championship, but pits teams with teams that ended the season in eighth and ninth places against each other. Low ranking teams fighting for a championship doesn’t make sense to most sports fans, much less soccer fans who point out that many European leagues don’t have a playoff system at all.

Many MLS fans looked forward to a contest between the San Jose Earthquakes and Sporting Kansas City, the two conference leaders. Both teams fell in the semifinals despite their dominance in the regular season.

Woosley himself, while acknowledging that his favorite team has benefited from playoffs, has been critical of the playoff system. This week he penned a piece called, leaving no equivocation, “I hate the MLS playoffs.”

Loney, on the other hand, thinks that fans of high seeded teams need to look beyond the playoff system when casting blame.

“Who told them to lose?” he said. “First place teams only have themselves to blame.”

Los Angeles Galaxy

  • Previous MLS Cup appearances
  • 1996 Foxboro Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.: Los Angeles Galaxy 2 (Eduardo Hurtado 4', Chris Armas 56') - DC United 3 (Tony Sanneh 72', Shawn Medved 81', Eddie Pope 94')*
  • 1999 Foxboro Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.: Los Angeles Galaxy 0 - DC United 2 (Jaime Moreno 19', Ben Olsen 45'+)
  • 2001 Columbus Crew Stadium, Columbus, Ohio: Los Angeles Galaxy 1 (Luis Hernández 21') - San Jose Earthquakes 2 (Landon Donovan 43', Dwayne DeRosario 96')**
  • 2002 Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.: Los Angeles Galaxy 1 (Carlos Ruiz 113') - New England Revolution 0 **
  • 2005 Pizza Hut Park, Frisco, Texas: Los Angeles Galaxy 1 (Pando Ramírez 107') - New England Revolution 0 *
  • 2009 Qwest Field, Seattle, Wash.: Los Angeles Galaxy 1 (Mike Magee 41') - Real Salt Lake 1 (Robbie Findley 64') ***
  • 2011 Home Depot Center, Carson, Calif.: Los Angeles Galaxy 1 (Landon Donovan 72') - Houston Dynamo 0

Houston Dynamo

  • Previous MLS Cup Apperances
  • 2006 Pizza Hut Park, Frisco, Texas: Houston Dynamo 1 (Brian Ching 114') - New England Revolution (Taylor Twellman 113') ***
  • 2007 RFK Memorial Stadium, Washington, DC: Houston Dynamo 2 (Joseph Ngwenya 61', Dwayne DeRosario 74') - New England Revolution (Taylor Twellman 20')
  • 2011 Home Depot Center, Carson, Calif.: Houston Dynamo 0 - Los Angeles Galaxy 1 (Landon Donovan 72')

* - game went into extra time, ** - winner after golden goal, *** - winner after penalty kicks

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