In the lead-up to the MLS Cup final (Sunday, 8 pm CT, ESPN, Galavision, Sports Talk 790) at the Home Depot Center, in Carson, Calif., MLSsoccer.com is breaking down the matchup. We have already looked at the goalkeepers, defenses and the benches. Today, we look at the midfield.
With the midfield stacked with quality attacking threats all over, expect goals from all angles. Add to that the steely determination of Beckham, Moffat and Juninho, and whoever wins the battle in the engine room will go a long way to determining who hoists the 2011 MLS Cup aloft.
LA have all the attributes to completely dominate the midfield in the final; if they slot together the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle accordingly, they will be a force to be reckoned with. With MLS Comeback Player of the Year Beckham racking up assist after assist, 18 in total now for the regular season and playoffs, the English maestro is hitting top form at the business end of the season with a helper in every playoff game so far. Juninho is an able deputy alongside him in the middle of the field, and with Donovan and Magee a huge threat on both wings, Houston will have to mix it up in the middle to try and exert their presence on proceedings.
Magee has been on fire so far for LA in the playoffs, scoring three game-winners in three games. The Chicago native has been instrumental for Arena’s side, drifting off the left flank to pop up at vital times and grab crucial goals. Donovan has scored two penalties in the playoffs, but he has been somewhat subdued since his injury in late September. The Galaxy will certainly need their captain to put in a Man of the Match display to help unlock the sturdy Dynamo defense.
Houston’s midfield will be reeling somewhat from the loss of MVP candidate Brad Davis. The league leader in assists, 16, went down under an innocuous challenge in the Eastern Conference final and told MLSsoccer.com he didn’t think he’d play any part in the final. Dominic Kinnear confirmed that Davis would be unavailable this week, meaning the Dynamo will have to find a way to replace the pinpoint crosses and dangerous set-pieces that have often been the difference for them this year. However, they coped well in the second half against SKC without him and still have enough dangerous weapons to cause LA all kinds of problems.
On the right, Danny Cruz will look to attack Dunivant, while Scotsman Moffat will look to get stuck into Beckham and Juninho in the middle and pull the defense out through the threat of one of his long-range pile drivers. Houston will need Ashe to use his pace down the left, as he did to great effect in the second half against Sporting Kansas City. Still, the Dynamo have struggled for goals from midfield, and the four that finished the game against SKC have just three goals between them. Brazilian Luiz Camargo has made a huge difference since joining in August and should add a little punch going forward. Camargo and Moffat will have to be at their destructive best to own the midfield and help bring Cruz and Ashe into the game for the Dynamo.
For their star power alone, the Galaxy should dominate the midfield. But Houston have some determined characters in the center, and it will not be a walk over. However, you can’t deny the goal-scoring and creative threat LA pose with Beckham, Donovan and Magee, so they get the nod.
Edge: LA Galaxy