With Saturday's MLS Cup final looming, we ask fan reps, beat writers, podcasters and bloggers for LA Galaxy and Houston Dynamo to predict the outcome
Not long now till MLS Cup final then. Houston fans just got to town and are spending Friday night partying in Redondo Beach; LA fans I've spoken to are planning on staking out their territory for Saturday's tailgating and partying at 7am that morning; the players and coaches are patiently answering the same question, framed 50 different ways, about the shape of the ball; and the media are exploring the catering and wifi provisions...
And somewhere at their computers, our usual cast of experts for each of the competing teams are missing all of this, as they bring you the final fan preview of the season.
You'll be hearing from some of them again in next week's end of season reviews, but for now, see what they have to say, have your own say in our comments section, and continue to check back for more Cup coverage - and of course join Steve for the live MBM on Saturday night.
I'll be at the game. If you're going, say hello. I'll be the furtive looking guy with his pocket stuffed with cookies.
Josie Becker, Editor, LAG Confidential, Los Angeles:
Things should go well for the Galaxy on Saturday considering how well things have been going lately. They were the best MLS club through the second half of the 2012 season, and that hot streak has continued through the playoffs. The offense with David Beckham sitting back and Robbie Keane running around up top with Landon Donovan is producing a bevy of goals, and having options makes the Galaxy one of the tougher teams to defend.
Omar Gonzalez on the other end of things has shored things up for the Galaxy, so long as they aren't playing on that carpet Seattle calls a pitch. A.J. DeLaGarza has been moved up from out to questionable, and it looks like he's gonna give it a go. If he can run he deserves the start, and the Galaxy need a player who can keep up with speedsters in the back. It hurt them in the back leg against Seattle, when LA didn't have someone who could keep up with Eddie Johnson.
2-1 is the universal pundit cop out score when one wants to pick a winner but doesn't want to actually imagine how the match might go. I've seen a lot of 2-1 LA Galaxy scorelines in the predictions out there, but I'm gonna go with 2-0 Galaxy. Houston has performed much better offensively at home than on the road through the playoffs. LA has too much riding on this one emotionally for Houston to make a meal of this Cup.
Robbie Keane will be the key for the Galaxy. His runs up top get defenders out of position and result in goals at a fairly high clip. For Houston, Brad Davis has a chance to make a great impact, with the Galaxy either going with a rookie defender, or someone who hasn't played in months.
For the Galaxy to complete their resurrection from last place in the Western Conference to hoisting the cup, they will need to play much like they did in their dominating playoff performances against San Jose and Seattle. And while the Galaxy must rely on the defense of Omar Gonzalez and the offensive finesse of Robbie Keane, they also know that limiting Houston's chances provides them with the best option for success.
In order to attack these areas the Galaxy will look to create wing play from Mike Magee and Christian Wilhelmsson. Their attacking prowess and their ability to find Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan for quick link ups on the ground will hopefully be enough to find one or two gaps in the very good Houston defense. And while Wilhelmsson may on occasion make vertical runs to try and breach the left side, also look for him to turn inside and allow Sean Franklin to make his way forward. But ultimately the finishing of the Irish Captain will be what separates these teams from each other.
On the other side of the ball stands Houston's Ricardo Clark. While it won't be argued that Boniek Garcia is extremely dangerous, Clark is the "quarterback" of this team. His link up play with Brad Davis can quickly lead to goals by Will Bruin that punishes unsuspecting defenses.
In the end, the Galaxy end up winning this game by a goal. Whether the score is 1-0 or 6-5 is anyone's guess, but a fourth star will be placed upon this LA club when the final whistle blows.
Brian Lynch, Angel City Brigade, Los Angeles:
The Galaxy come into the final at almost 100%, FINALLY! It should go extremely well for us considering when we do play all our starters they usually come away with a win. Hopefully they can pull away and give some younger guys some playing time in a big game. My prediction is 3-1 Galaxy and absolute pandemonium. Apparently this is the last game for a Galaxy player.
The key player for the Galaxy will most likely be Omar Gonzalez. If he can disrupt the Dynamo's crosses and set pieces effectively it will make life a lot easier for Josh Saunders. For Houston the key will be Brad Dav...I mean Tally Hall. He made some huge saves against DC United and will have to again in order for the Dynamo to win. If he has a great night Houston steals the Cup from LA.
Zach Woosley, Dynamo Theory, Houston:
I really feel the Final will go well for the Dynamo. This is a better team that the one that nearly upset the Galaxy last season and there's no question that the Galaxy have more weaknesses this year. Having both a healthy Brad Davis and the addition of Boniek Garcia are a big deal. The return of Rico Clark patrolling the midfield is a big deal too. There's experience, there's confidence and there's zero fear of the Galaxy. It's still going to be a tough game, but it's one the Dynamo can win. I'm thinking 2-1 Dynamo.
Key player? Mac Kandji or Calen Carr, basically whichever forward starts along side Will Bruin. Odd pick? Maybe, but we all know how important guys likes Davis, Boniek, Clark, Boswell and Hall are and we know they'll do their jobs. A huge difference maker will be the guy who is up front with Bruin, attacking the Galaxy defense. The better our second forward plays, the better the Dynamo's chances of winning will be. As for the Galaxy, from a Dynamo perspective, it's all about Robbie Keane. There's still plenty of threats beyond Keane, but he's been ridiculously good in the playoffs. Shutting him down will be important.
Mike Porter, Texian Army, Houston:
This year should be different as there is a better Dynamo team on the field. A healthy Brad Davis, a dynamic Boniek Garcia, and solid defense will make the difference this year for Houston. A prediction....2-1 Houston for their 3rd MLS cup, with Garcia, scoring 1st, followed by Will Bruin punching in another as LA pushes numbers forward, a late goal by Donovan but Tally Hall will shut down those last chances for an equalizer and dominate the box. Could Keane light us up? Yes, but I feel that Houston is better at reacting to turnovers and haven't given up any counterattack goals in quite some time. Vamos Dynamo! We want the cup!