CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy are enjoying a three-day Thanksgiving break before reuniting Sunday morning to begin preparations in earnest for next Sunday’s MLS Cup title game, but they're already thinking about the Houston Dynamo and what's needed to claim back-to-back league championships.
LA is home for the Dec. 1 final (4:30 pm ET; ESPN, Telefutura, RDS, TSN) a rematch of last year's MLS Cup, which they won, 1-0, on Landon Donovan's second-half goal. The game wasn't as close as the score suggests, but the Galaxy know the Dynamo will present a fiercer challenge this time around.
Brad Davis is healthy, Will Bruin has evolved into a top threat up top, Ricardo Clark's return has solidified the midfield and Houston has absorbed star center back Geoff Cameron's departure for England without a misstep. Then there’s Designated Player Boniek Garcia, who’s added an element of unpredictability to the Dynamo attack.
“They're a better team. They're definitely a better team,” midfielder Mike Magee said. “They've got more speed and, obviously, having Brad Davis back is going to help them. They got Will Bruin scoring a ton of goals. They know what it's like [in a final] and they're similar to us in terms of experience and leadership. Which is something we can't overlook.”
LA and Houston took similar paths to MLS Cup, starting off with victories in play-in games after finishing outside the top three in their respective conferences, and although both lost playoff games – the Dynamo dropping the second leg to Sporting Kansas City and the Galaxy losing legs to San Jose and Seattle – they expertly managed two home-and-home series apiece to set up the Home Depot Center showdown.
As surprising as it might be that the No. 8 and 9 teams have advanced to the final, it’s hardly eye-opening that Bruce Arena and Dominic Kinnear – the coaches who guided the league's only repeat champions (Arena with D.C. United in 1996-97, Kinnear with the Dynamo in 2006-07) – have their sides playing for the trophy.
“Houston's not a team you want to overlook, no matter what seed they were,” Magee said. “I think you always kind of get a feeling like they were going to win [the East's berth], and any time Kinnear puts a team out there, they're going to give it their all. He's one of the best coaches the league's seen. You know what you're going to get. You're going to get a battle, and you've got to prepare for that.”
Those preps begin after everyone's worked off whatever pounds they've put on eating turkey and trimmings.
“Whenever Bruce decides to have our meeting [will start it], probably early in the week,” defender Sean Franklin said. “We'll definitely look over film, maybe their last [Eastern semifinal] game against D.C. United and maybe our previous game against them this year [a 2-1 Dynamo win May 26 in Houston]. We know them pretty well. We know it's going to be a tough game.”