The 2012 MLS Cup is 24 hours away. By now you have immersed yourself in previews, predictions and opinions from all angles.
But not like this.
Bold predictions are tricky (especially after the fact when you are embarrassingly wrong). But they are not solely based on a gut feeling. There is factual evidence that supports each claim.
Accentuating these bold predictions is the false impression many have of this year's final: The Houston Dynamo stand no chance against the defending champion LA Galaxy.
The Las Vegas Hotel SuperBook has installed the Galaxy as a minus-240 favorite. For those who have never dabbled in gambling before, that paints the Dynamo as a significant underdog.
How does the general public feel?
It is not the most scientific method, but a Twitter poll from Fox Soccer shows a resounding support for LA (92-8 percent in favor of the Galaxy).
It is undeniable they side with the media and Vegas’ assessment.
With the coronation of the Galaxy underway, here are a few bold predictions for the 2012 MLS Cup.
The LA Galaxy Will Come Out Flat
Remember the last time the Galaxy were heavily favored to win a match?
The Vancouver Whitecaps were in a position to pull off a monumental upset in the Western Conference knockout round this season. Vancouver would eventually squander a 1-0 lead, but it took a full 69 minutes to do so.
Even in victory, the Galaxy played one of its worst matches this postseason against the Whitecaps.
Vancouver left LA’s offensive attack frustrated from the start—allowing one shot on frame in the first 25 minutes.
The 2012 MLS Cup final will be no different.
With prognosticators, Vegas and the general public expecting a convincing result from the Galaxy, LA will disappoint.
By now, Landon Donovan’s wavering desire to play the beautiful game is well known. His public comments to the media last week did not help suppress the rumors of a possible semi-retirement (via the Los Angeles Times).
The nagging hamstring injury that kept him out of the second leg of the Western Conference Finals, coupled with the unabated retirement talk, makes Donovan a huge question mark for the Galaxy.
Without its captain fully invested on the pitch, LA will look sluggish and disinterested for the first 25 minutes of the match.
Like it has twice on the road this postseason, the Dynamo will have the opportunity to set the tempo.
It will be physical, possession-based and "ugly"—the trademark of a Dominic Kinnear victory.
David Beckham Will Bend It Once More
No one bends a free kick better than David Beckham.
(Hollywood has yet to produce a film called Bend it Like Pelé.)
It is his signature trademark. With all eyes on the iconic superstar for his final MLS match, he will not disappoint.
Beckham will bend it once more, and his last goal with the Galaxy will be the same as his first. For a brief moment, Beckham will elevate his legend to mythic proportions.
As impressive as the Dynamo have been in defending set pieces this year, Beckham has been just as impressive in taking them.
Statistically, 2012 was Beckham’s best season with the Galaxy. The seven goals he recorded was more than the previous three seasons combined (six).
Of those seven, four came in free-kick situations. 2012 was vintage Beckham.
Beckham’s free kick in the MLS Cup will be the signature moment of his six-year tenure in MLS—a sure-fire nominee for the SportsCenter Top 10 on Saturday night.
Unfortunately for Beckham, it will be to no avail.
The Houston Dynamo Will Score First and Win the MLS Cup
The Houston Dynamo will win the 2012 MLS Cup.
Even bolder, Will Bruin’s goal in the first half will set that victory in motion.
The Dynamo were undefeated in the 2012 MLS playoffs when striking the first blow (2-0-1). In contrast, the Galaxy lost two of three matches when conceding the first goal this postseason (1-2-0).
True, the MLS Cup will be played at the Home Depot Center. But that does not mean the Galaxy will come out firing on all cylinders.
In three home playoff matches this year, LA conceded the first goal twice.
That gives Houston a 66 percent chance of scoring first and walking out of the Home Depot Center as champions.
In Vegas, that percentage is as good as gold.
Anything can happen in a winner-take-all match—especially when you are as vulnerable in the back four as the Galaxy have been this postseason.
This goal was wrongfully disallowed due to an alleged offsides in the second leg of the Western Conference final against the Seattle Sounders.
Notice the four Galaxy defenders caught ball-watching and the inviting space Eddie Johnson has in front of him.
Vancouver midfielder Matt Watson was unable to bury this chance against the Galaxy in the Western Conference knockout round. But again, look at the inviting space the ball-watching defenders for LA have left Watson with.
Look for Will Bruin to take advantage of a similar opportunity in the MLS Cup, just as he did in the Eastern Conference knockout round against the Chicago Fire.
With Brad Davis and Bruin on the pitch this year, the Dynamo will be able to create the chances it failed to last year.
Houston will capitalize and defeat the Galaxy 2-1 in the 2012 MLS Cup.
The Dynamo will win its third title in seven years, creating a new debate: Who is the best team in the modern era of MLS?
With six playoff appearances, four MLS Cup appearances and three MLS Cup titles in the last seven years, there is no denying the Houston Dynamo belong in that conversation.
Be sure to follow Eduardo on Twitter for insight and interaction on a variety of topics. Follow @Mendez_FC