MLS Cup Final Preview: Can Houston Dynamo Spring a Shock by Beating La Galaxy?
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Californian side Galaxy have home advantage as this highly-anticipated clash takes place in their fortress—the Home Depot Centre in downtown Los Angeles.
The bookies have Houston as underdogs, and there is some substance behind their expectations. Galaxy have already won the prestigious MLS Supporters’ Shield, which is the league's award to the team who have earned the most points over the season before the playoffs.
Galaxy's accumulation of 67 points this season is the second-highest points total in MLS history, and the team is tipped to deliver Beckham MLS gold for the first time. They have also seen off two of the league's most dangerous teams in the playoffs, New York Red Bulls and Real Salt Lake.
It is widely expected that the former England captain will secure a move back to Europe in the coming weeks, most likely to French giants Paris St Germain. And having made his final season his best in terms of assists and appearances, Beckham will want to leave on a high note should he wish to leave the glitz and glamour of Hollywood.
Despite the bookmakers’ predictions, Houston Dynamo pose a real threat to the third MLS Cup Galaxy fans have long yearned for.
Houston Dynamo have won this title twice themselves and Dominic Kinnear's Texan team are a well-drilled unit who are notoriously tough to infiltrate. They also have the useful habit of scoring from carefully-crafted set-pieces.
However Dynamo, who are owned by California resident and legendary boxer Oscar De La Hoya, were dealt an almost knockout blow in their efforts to win their third MLS Cup title when MVP candidate Brad Davis suffered a torn quad muscle in his leg during Houston’s Eastern Conference Finals victory over Sporting Kansas City.
Other than Davis, Dynamo have no real injury concerns. They will be relying on their striker and captain Brian Ching to help guide La Naranja to glory, while American and Canadian internationals Bobby Boswell and Andre Hainault will be the imposing forces in their defence.
Like Kinnear, LA Galaxy’s MLS Manager of the Year winner and ex-USA boss Bruce Arena (below) is also missing a key player. Robbie Keane’s strike partner, Chad Barrett, this week suffered an ankle injury in training and will miss Sunday’s final.
There have also been rumblings that Beckham is a doubt for the game with a back injury, though it is expected that he will start for the Californians. Otherwise, Galaxy enjoy a clean bill of health.
Though LA Galaxy boast one of the best teams ever to have graced Major League Soccer, with players such as Beckham, Keane, Landon Donovan and Brazilian midfielder Juninho, Galaxy will be looking to playoff hero Mike Magee to help their side do the double this season.
The veteran American striker has scored in every LA Galaxy playoff match so far, and if he scores on Sunday, will become the first player in MLS history to score in every round.
Though LA Galaxy are understandably the favourites in this tie, buoyed by their league form and home advantage, Houston Dynamo have the potential to cause an upset. This hard-working Texan team have a great work ethic supported by talented players.
This should make for a fascinating final.
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