MLS Cup Breakdown: Defenders
Much has been written over the past few days about the playmakers in Saturday's MLS Cup Final. The Galaxy are led by the DP trio of Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan and David Beckham. The Dynamo are led by four-time team MVP Brad Davis, DP Boniek Garcia and Will Bruin, who leads Houston with 16 goals in all competitions. But while the offense steals the headlines, the defense more often than not steals the show.
In the previous seven MLS Cups, the losing team has been held to one goal or less. So who has the defensive edge heading into Saturday's showdown? Here is a breakdown of both teams' backlines:
The Dynamo defense is led by 2012 Dynamo Defender of the Year Bobby Boswell. The veteran center back has played in 225 regular season games and 19 playoff games. He started last year's MLS Cup against LA, and although he has played with five different center backs in 2012 (including current Stoke City defender Geoff Cameron), Boswell has been the foundation of a Dynamo defense that has allowed only four goals in five playoff games.
He is joined in the middle by Jamaican national team defender Jermaine Taylor. Although Taylor has only 40 regular season games and five playoff games under his belt, the 27-year-old defender has more than 50 caps for his national team and is no stranger to the big stage.
Joining Boswell and Taylor on the wings are Kofi Sarkodie and Corey Ashe. While Ashe has been a steady contributor for the Dynamo since his being drafted in 2007, Sarkodie is the newest member of the back line. The second year defender out of Akron was inserted into the starting lineup in early September and never looked back, having started 13 of the Dynamo's previous 14 games in all competitions.
If for any reason one of the Dynamo's four regulars cannot go, Andre Hainault and Warren Creavalle are waiting in the wings. Hainault has started more than 100 regular season games for the Dynamo, including 25 in 2012. He also has a knack for being in the right place at the right time and scoring the big goal when the team needs in the most.
There are many similarities between Houston's and LA's back lines. While the Dynamo are led by the veteran leadership of Bobby Boswell, the Galaxy are led by Todd Dunivant, who has played in 247 regular season games and 22 playoff games. The 31-year-old defender is also no stranger to the big game, having won two MLS Cups (2005 and 2011) and having been to a third.
Joining Dunivant on the backline is center back Omar Gonzalez, who many project to be a future U.S. men's national team defender. The Texas native was the 2009 MLS Rookie of the Year, the 2011 MLS Defender of the Year and is a two-time MLS Best XI selection. Although Gonzalez was injured for the majority of 2012, his return from injury has helped propel the Galaxy back to the league's championship match.
Similar to Ashe and Sarkodie, the Galaxy's pair of Sean Franklin and Tommy Meyer provide a mix of youth and experience for the home side. Franklin, the clubs first round draft pick in 2008, has been a fixture in the team's starting lineup since his rookie season. Meyer is in only his first year as a professional, but was thrust into the starting lineup in October after A.J. DeLaGarza suffered a knee injury.
DeLaGarza, the club's second round pick in the 2009 SuperDraft, is reportedly healthy and available, which gives Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena multiple options ahead of Saturday's match.