Saturday, December 1, 2012

MLS Cup Final Preview - David Beckham's Farewell Match

Later this afternoon, the Los Angeles Galaxy and Houston Dynamo battle for the MLS Cup (ESPN at 4:30 pm ET). This is a rematch of last year's final, which the Galaxy won to earn their third title in the 16-year history of the league.

David Beckham hoisting the MLS Championship Trophy after leading the Galaxy to the 2011 title
 Here is my preview of the 2012 MLS Cup Final:

Houston Dynamo
The Dynamo are undoubtedly the underdogs in this match, but don't underestimate their talent on the field or in the coaches box. Brad Davis has been one of the best players in the league in recent seasons, and he racked up eight goals and a dozen assists in 2012. Davis had to sit out last year's final due to a quad injury, so you know he will be motivated to put in a great performance today. Along with David Beckham, Davis is one of the finest set piece threats in the MLS, so today's match could be dictated by which team earns the most set pieces in threatening areas on the pitch. Dominic Kinnear is in his ninth season as head coach of the Dynamo and led them to the MLS title in 2006 and 2007, so he knows what it takes to win a big match.

Los Angeles Galaxy
The Galaxy have been the drama darlings of the MLS in recent months. David Beckham announced he would be leaving the league after this season, so you know the Galaxy will want to send him out on top. Landon Donovan, the most decorated player not only in the history of US National Team Soccer but also the MLS with four championship rings, has openly discussed uncertainty about his future and hinted about retirement so he, too, may be playing his last match in the MLS. While Beckham and Donovan obviously bring a great deal of talent to the Galaxy, you cannot overstate how important Robbie Keane and his 16 goals and nine assists were to their campaign while the two more well-documented stars battled injuries. Like Houston, L.A. is led by an experienced and successful manager in Bruce Arena, who has won three MLS titles as head man.

Look for a fired up crowd to help the Galaxy dictate play early. It would not surprise me if that energy cost the home team, however, and led to a mistake that gives the Dynamo an early lead. Even if that happens, I don't see the Galaxy letting this farewell story for Beckham - and possibly Donovan - end on a losing note. Again, set pieces will be a big factor, and it would be all too storybook to see Beckham score the winner off a free kick.
Los Angeles Galaxy 2, Houston Dynamo 1

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