Houston sports fans could be forgiven for feeling a little bruised these days, given how we weren’t consulted, or apparently even considered, when the Astros were strong-armed into the American League. But Sunday night’s MLS Cup between the L.A. Galaxy and the Dynamo takes our status as afterthoughts to a whole new level.
It’s a cinch that MLS and the national media would love to see L.A. finally win a title before David Beckham takes his reality show to Paris. But we (and most other cities) are used to playing second fiddle to New York, Boston, Chicago and L.A. (Am I leaving anybody out?)
What’s unique about this game is that even the Dynamo’s owners will be pulling against them. That is, AEG, who owns a 50 percent stake in the team, is surely hoping they will lose. That’s because AEG also owns 100 percent of the Galaxy, and they’ve clearly chosen a favorite child. The Galaxy payroll is $14 million, while the Dynamo’s is below the league’s $2.67 million salary cap.
I don’t think that the Dynamo are quaking in their soccer boots. They’re way too tough minded for that.
How can the Galaxy be $11 million-plus over the so-called salary cap? Simple.
They have three “designated players,” whom the team can pay as much as they like. Beckham is one, of course, as is U.S. national team star Landon Donovan. During the season the Galaxy added Irish national team captain Robbie Keane.
In short, the Galaxy has three players who each earn more than the entire Dynamo roster. (To be fair, AEG is largely paying for the construction of the new Dynamo stadium.)
And the Dynamo’s best player, Brad Davis, isn’t even going to play because of a quad tear he suffered in the Eastern Conference finals against Sporting Kansas City. So, yikes. The Dynamo don’t have a chance, etc. Even the EA Sports FIFA 12 computer game has predicted a 3-1 L.A. victory.
But I don’t think that the Dynamo are quaking in their soccer boots. They’re way too tough minded for that. They played poorly through most of the season, but Coach Dominic Kinnear—the team’s most powerful weapon—reinvented the team on the fly, without spending much money, and now they haven’t lost in nine games.
The defense has become particularly resolute since Kinnear moved Geoff Cameron into the back line. On offense, the team is deadly on set pieces. Most encouragingly, they scored a free kick goal in the finals against KC even after set piece maestro Brad Davis left the game.
Inspired and molded by Kinnear, the Dynamo are a very competitive team. If L.A. feels the weight of expectations and doesn’t play quite at their best, the Orange can certainly rise up and bite them. If the Dynamo can somehow score early and really grind away at defense, they can pull off what would be a massive, and delicious, upset.
Footnote: I just finished watching an ESPN preview of the match in which five or so Galaxy players were interviewed —but not one Dynamo. The commentators wished out loud for a "Hollywood ending." That is, for Beckham to finally "lift the MLS trophy."
They didn't seem to realize that a real Hollywood ending calls for the scrappy underdog to knock off the preening All-Stars.