Kick Off: LA Galaxy not interested in "favorites" label
Everyone wants to know the future. That explains the popularity of weather forecasts. And sports predictions.
When it comes to the MLS Cup final (Sunday, Nov. 20, 9 pm ET, ESPN/Galavision/TSN2), the obsession becomes the “favorite.” Both coaches fielded questions about it, and both brushed the topic aside. “In soccer, there's no such thing [as a favorite],” Bruce Arena said.
Still, most outlets are tabbing the Galaxy to hold aloft the trophy come Sunday. According to ESPN analyst Alexi Lalas, it will be a huge deal if that isn't the case: “If the Galaxy were to somehow lose, it would have to be considered an undeniable disaster and, without mincing words, a failure.”
Even EA Sports suggests the Galaxy should win. A computer-generated version of the match ended 3-1 in favor of LA.
The only one picking the Houston Dynamo is Sporting Kansas City assistant John Pascarella. He's seen first hand what the Dynamo can do, when they knocked his Sporting KC out of the playoffs: “I think it’s a game they can hang in. I think they have enough firepower. I think they have enough courage to stick with their convictions and see them through, to stay with their game plan.”
Houston will rely on gritty physicality and desire. Even the city of Houston is less glitzy than LA. "We are not the Galaxy, we are not so glamorous," Andre Hainault said. (SPANISH)
Brian Ching will also let past failures fuel him. Exclusion from the 2010 World Cup roster still stings. "I don't think I'll ever get over that one," Ching said.
One Galaxy player who feels he will excel in a physical matchup is forward Adam Cristman. “They're a physical team, and that's kind of my style of play.”
Cristman is a possible starter due to the injury to Chad Barrett, who slipped in training and injured his ankle. "I shed a couple of tears in the ambulance,” Barrett said. "One fireman said, 'Oh yeah, that's broken. You're never playing again.' I was like, 'Who brought this guy?'"
But it's further back where the real strengths of the Galaxy lie. The team posted a 0.82 goals-against average, third best in league history. Omar Gonzalez, Rookie of the Year in 2009, All-Star in 2010, and the league's youngest-ever Defender of the Year in 2011, marshals the backline. "I guess next year he's got to be MVP or else it's a letdown," Todd Dunivant joked.
The final is at the Home Depot Center, where the Galaxy haven't lost all season. However, that may not be the best omen. Two other MLS sides have finished the regular season unbeaten at home: last year's Real Salt Lake and the 2005 San Jose Earthquakes. Neither won the cup. Dominic Kinnear coached that Quakes side: “That was a great season, except for how it ended.”
LA won in 2005. And of course last season the Colorado Rapids triumphed against FC Dallas. The African press took time to look back on that match, when Mac Kandji scored the winning goal on a play that tore his ACL. "It's not something that when Mac was running around the backyard as a kid, he was thinking about scoring a goal like that in the final," Jeff Larentowicz said.
Larentowicz is currently training with Bolton in another deal set up by US boss Jurgen Klinsmann. The British press thus far greatly enjoys Larentowicz's nicknames: Big Red and the Ginja Ninja.
Thierry Henry is also training in England, joining Brek Shea at Arsenal. Arsene Wenger explained: "[Henry] just wants to stay fit, enjoy himself and come back to Arsenal Football Club. He is at home here so it's always good to have him back.” (VIDEO)
Shea finished third in the voting for the 2011 Volkswagen MVP. Dwayne De Rosario picked up the award, the first in league history to do so despite his team not making the playoffs. DeRo, who scored 16 goals and notched 12 assists, the only player in MLS to hit double digits in both, is the first player in any North American league to win the MVP award in a season he was traded twice.
Fifth in MVP voting was Seattle Sounders' Mauro Rosales. Check out this interview with him in Spanish. (VIDEO)
Rosales will ring in the offseason with a new Sounders FC contract. Real Salt Lake, however, are still equivocating about picking up Fabián Espíndola's option. “I think that Fabián is tricky, for sure,” general manager Garth Lagerwey said. “It’s expensive. It’s a big option. And basically you’ve got to decide if Fabián’s a Best XI striker or not, and if you think he is, then it’s easy."
Others are just trying to get fit before preseason. D.C. United defender Ethan White and Sporting KC goalkeeper Eric Kronberg will undergo hernia surgeries.
Over in Vancouver, the Whitecaps signed 17-year-old Bryce Alderson as a Home Grown player.
Speaking of 17-year-olds, Beckham thinks Justin Bieber would make a great dad after watching the pop star hold Becks' daughter, Harper: “He's really amazing with the kids.”
Beckham was less enthusiastic about Sepp Blatter's remarks regarding racism. "I think the comments were appalling," Beckham said. "The comments weren't very good for this game."
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