HOUSTON — With David Beckham and Brad Davis on the same field, Saturday’s MLS Cup final (4:30 pm ET; ESPN, TeleFutura in the US; TSN and RDS in Canada) is sure to offer some dangerous dead-ball deliveries. And aerial targets on both teams will need to be alert and mobile not only in the attacking penalty area, but in their own as well.
In this postseason, both teams have reached the final with only limited set-piece production, as Will Bruin’s header against the Chicago Fire was the only headed goal from a restart notched by either team. But as Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall can attest, both Beckham and Davis will be major threats on Saturday afternoon.
“I had an opportunity to take shots from both Brad and Beckham, side by side in All-Star Game training, where they were going back and forth,” Hall said, laughing at the memory. “They were just enjoying the fact that they were so good at it, and I was trying to hold on.”
The teams’ lone regular-season meeting was decided by dead-ball delivery, with Andre Hainault heading in a Davis corner kick to give Houston a 2-1 win back on May 26. But the Galaxy’s key man in defending set-piece delivery, 6-foot-5 center back Omar Gonzalez, has returned since then, and the Dynamo know they will have to be aware of him at both ends.
The Scouting Report: MLS Cup
“We may do what we can to maybe drag him out of those spaces or disrupt him in those areas,” midfielder Ricardo Clark said. “Mostly we’ll just try to keep doing what we’ve been doing on set pieces.”
Change in schedule, mentality
While the Dynamo have stayed true to their training routines in the build-up to the MLS Cup, their schedule is noticeably different than last year.
Houston are arriving in Los Angeles one day later this time, allowing time for only one training session in Southern California before the game. Head coach Dominic Kinnear said he consulted with players before making the decision, and defender Bobby Boswell said the decision indicates a changed Houston attitude toward the final.
“I think last year, with the game on Sunday and the build-up to it all, it was kind of cool, going there,” Boswell said. “This year, it’s more of a business mentality. We’re going there to do a job and we’re going to treat this like all the other games this year. Let’s go in the day before, get a training session in, and then play the game, so it’s definitely different than last year.”
Return to health
Two weeks off have done wonders for the Dynamo. Coming out of the Eastern Conference Championships the club was banged up with questions surrounding Clark and forward Calen Carr, who were listed as probable on Tuesday’s injury report. After a week of training the pair is fit both mentally and physically.
“To be here on Sunday and be integrated that early in the week and have a full, normal week of training is going to serve really well,” said Carr, who credited the training staff for working with him through the Thanksgiving holiday. “I should be available no problems for Saturday.”