View from the Cheap Seats: K.C. Masterpiece
The oldest cliché -- I think it goes back to 480 B.C. when Leonidas and his 300 Spartan warriors defended Thermopylae thereby saving Athens -- is cliché for a reason. In championship games everyone's nerves are coiled tight as trigger springs, and the release usually comes from a defensive mistake. Cautiousness tends to reduce mistakes. K.C. will especially look for Jimmy Conrad and Kerry Zavagnin to keep the backline organized and composed in the face of United's Jaime Moreno-led onslaught.
2. "At my signal, unleash hell" -- In soccer, is there anything as breathtaking as a well-executed counterattack? It can be mesmerizingly beautiful, like a thoroughbred making his move at the mile mark and overtaking the entire field down the stretch. The Wiz boast the league's best counterattack, often led by (current) captain Diego Gutierrez and hell-raising Jack Jewsbury, who both relish those furious full-field gallops.
3. Bo knows something -- Many people wrote K.C. off when Preki went down. More jumped ship when Klein went down. When Meola went down, even the mascot, Dynamo the Dragon, had abandoned all hope. But Bo Oshoniyi has Dynamo all fired up again. (Get it -- Dragon? Fire? Wait a minute -- Why is the Wiz's mascot a dragon?) He holds an impressive 0.75 GAA including the playoffs, and more importantly his team believes in him. Also, Oshoniyi has enough journeyman disappointment to fully grasp the magnitude of the moment. As Woofa Goofa says, "Love comes once and when it comes you got to grab it fast cuz sometimes the love you grab ain't gonna last."
4. The Hardy Boys and the Case of the Slow Fullbacks -- Play tight defense. Fine. Good. But you've still got to score or else you end up with a bunch of 0-0 ties and a negative attendance when even the concession staffers get bored and go home early. Enter Josh Wolff and Davy Arnaud. K.C.'s two speedy strikers, who accounted for 48 percent of K.C.'s offense this season, play as if Dionne Warwick psychically connecting their psyches. One zigs, the other zags, and the opposing team is left to wonder how the ball ended up in the back of the net. Against D.C.'s slow back three, their speed might cause United coach Peter Nowak to start shooting vodka on the sidelines.
5. What intangibles? -- People love to talk about "the intangibles" in championship games. Whatever. "Intangibles" are just a priori caveats that journalists, fortune-tellers, and CIA directors use to cover their backsides in case they're wrong. But sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, even when it's a tasty Cuban smuggled in from Greece. So call it a cigar, already! The intangibles in this game -- the weather, the crowd, statistica such as who has a better all-time record in games played on Sundays (D.C.: 29-17-2 vs. K.C.: 12-20-2), the Freddy Factor -- all mean absolutely nothing, that is, until they mean something. Which is another way of saying that if both teams go out and play their games, then this year's MLS Cup is, like everything else, predictably unpredictable.
So here's my prediction. I refer again to Gansler's mission statement: If we don't let them score any goals, we don't need as many to win. That sounds about right. My prediction: Kansas City Wizards 2, D.C. United 0.
P.S. -- Last week I mentioned that someone needs to make "KC/DC" T-shirts in the style of AC/DC's logo. If some entrepreneurial punk were to print some up, I can name at least one MLSnet.com columnist who shall remain nameless who would buy one. Not that I think anyone should infringe on AC/DC's copyright, because Angus Young knows it's a long way to the top if you wanna rock and roll and I wouldn't want to dishonor all that hard work and all those school-boy outfits. But ...
Greg Lalas played for the Tampa Bay Mutiny and the New England Revolution in 1996 and 1997. Send e-mail to Greg at firstname.lastname@example.org. Views and opinions expressed in this column views and opinions are the author's, and not necessarily those of Major League Soccer or its clubs.