So tonight brings us the MLS Cup final, featuring Real Salt Lake and the Los Angeles Galaxy. I have to think everyone in the league office is gaga over the Galaxy making it, since they possess as close to legitimate star power as Major League Soccer can offer with Landon Donovan and David Beckham (assuming he’s healthy enough to actually play – and even if he isn’t, the tickets have already been sold).
The match has a good venue, names on the field that even the not-true-soccer-followers have probably heard of, and it even has its own Cinderella story in Real Salt Lake, who for the second straight season, give MLS a Cup final featuring two teams from the same conference.
On the surface, it’d be really easy to go with the side featuring Donovan and Beckham and assume they are going to win. Perhaps because I don’t like the Galaxy, or perhaps because I just want to see a really good match tonight, I’ve been trying to wrap my head around ways that RSL can win the title tonight.
And then, of course, there’s got to be the willingness to accept a sentence which contains the phrase, “RSL can win the title tonight.”
Think about that! Real Salt Lake might win an MLS Cup before Colorado, FC Dallas, New England, or New York. When RSL entered the league and struggled several years ago, no one would have seen that coming. I had thought at the beginning of the year that RSL was the dangerous team in the West, and that LA was going to be the laughingstock.
And yet, here they both are on Cup Final Sunday – RSL having gone through the East to knock off Columbus and Chicago, while LA got its much-maligned defense turned around and completed a rise from the West that few saw coming. Early in the year, we were discussing here and on the podcast not whether the Galaxy would make the playoffs, but by just how many points they would miss out. We were somewhat laughing at coach Bruce Arena and the roster he’d put together, especially at the back, and wondered how the goalkeeping situation would work out.
Once again, Arena appears to know more about soccer than we do. Funny how that works out.
So perhaps making a prediction on tonight’s final is folly. I certainly think it’s possible for RSL to win. They’ve got some quality talent, even if it isn’t the glitzy, name-brand kind that the Galaxy have. RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando has done this rodeo before, and while he did allow two goals in DC United’s 2004 Cup win over Kansas City, the point was his team scored three, so he got the job done.
Both teams can create danger off restarts, and both clubs have players all over the field who, if the opposition isn’t careful, can rise up and do damage in the attack.
But several weeks ago, I wondered here if the Galaxy weren’t in fact the most dangerous team in the league. Fans of Columbus and other teams disagreed. Now, they are on the rail watching with the rest of us whose teams got early tee times this fall.
I really want to believe RSL will win tonight – and I will be hoping for them to do so because I think that’s the better potential story.
But deep down, I can’t help but wonder if Arena hasn’t fooled us all again. If we’ve learned anything this season, it’s that it would be unwise to doubt him and his club at this point.
The pick? Galaxy 2-1.