It's finally here, and it's the final everyone was hoping for. This Sunday at 3 p.m. the upstart New England Revolution will take on Landon Donovan's LA Galaxy to decide the MLS Cup Final.
There may not have been a hotter team in Major League Soccer down the stretch than the Revolution. Since the addition of U.S. International Jermaine Jones in August, the Revs are a cool 11-1-2. We've watched the careers of Charlie Davies and Lee Nguyen seemingly rise from the depths of soccer purgatory. This is a fun squad to watch.
Then there's the favorite. The big, bad Galaxy. By my math, the Galaxy's total player salaries are nearly three times those of New England. Yet perhaps the biggest story line of the weekend is Donovan, who will be playing his last professional soccer match, regardless of the outcome. It's like David vs. Goliath, except Goliath is a super likable giant who's been doing really great
soccer giant stuff for the last decade or so.
Also, remember when we were trying to elect our president based on "Who would you rather have a beer with?" First of all, that was stupid. Second, I would really like to have a beer (or three) with Robbie Keane. Just seems like it would be awesome.
But back to soccer. We know the narrative is a bit cluttered here. While it will be hard to root against the exciting, underdog Revolution, it will be damn near impossible to root against the retiring Donovan's Galaxy. So what are we looking at on the pitch?
Both teams are front-loaded so to speak, and want the ball at the feet of their attackers as much as possible. How it gets there is where the teams differ a bit. For New England, almost everything runs through the middle with Jones and Nguyen. They're likely to run with the same 4-2-3-1 they utilized against New York, with Teal Bunbury in the unusual 'target winger' role.
For the Galaxy, the real fun starts when the midfield is able to maintain possession and then feed Donovan and Keane up top. Their interplay is truly world class and always fun to watch. That said, don't underestimate Donovan's ability on the counter. New England will want to slow this game down and play smart soccer early.
For me, a key thing to watch for is how well Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez deals with any Chris Tierney crosses that may come his direction. Gonzalez has been shaky for both club and country over the last year, and the hard, low crosses Tierney is famous for are his kryptonite. We saw that last weekend in Seattle, as his poor clearance on a low cross led to a Seattle goal.
I believe Donovan will prove to be the difference in the final, though. One only needs to look at how his performance changed after the World Cup snub to know that LD still has something to prove this weekend. It doesn't hurt that LA will be at home for this one either, and I think they'll pull ahead after a cautious start to win this one in commanding fashion.
Prediction: 2-0 LA Galaxy
So what are your thoughts? Who takes home the trophy?