It's going to take not only a great effort from the Houston Dynamo tonight to win their third MLS Cup, it's going to take Houston getting some breaks as well. Fortunately, that kind of thing happens all the time in soccer matches so while the Los Angeles Galaxy are massive favorites on paper (and rightfully so), we all know that in a one off playoff game, anything can happen.
So how do the Dynamo win tonight?
First off Houston must at the very least create a "draw" in the midfield and force the Galaxy out of the free flowing passing style they will want to play. The Galaxy play a more fluid brand of soccer than the Dynamo, so allowing them to run through the midfield stringing passes together will lead to a long night that sees LA peppering the defense and Tally Hall.
So to break up that fluidity, the Dynamo will need to play a physical match, which fortunately is something they are quite good at. The more stop and start this match is, the more clunky it looks, the better it is for the Dynamo. Houston is a bigger team than the Galaxy so turning this match in to a physical affair will be key. The likes of David Beckham and Juninho have tempers and enough physical play could force them in to a momentary lapse of reason that might change the game. Adam Moffat will be right in the middle of this and his play could be key in helping to break up the Galaxy's flow and getting them frustrated.
Up front, Brian Ching and Calen Carr must be on their game. Ching will need to take advantage of every touch of the ball, holding things up as much as possible and giving his teammates a chance to work in the offensive third. Meanwhile, Carr will need to run at the Galaxy defense and try to force them to adjust to him, creating openings for Danny Cruz, Luiz Camargo and Corey Ashe to work in.
At the back, it's much simpler. Stay organized, stay focused and absorb the inevitable moments where the Galaxy attackers will challenge them. They are going to be pressured, they are going to tested but this group has been strong down the stretch and is perfect capable of dealing with the Galaxy attack. Jermaine Taylor has shown to be more than capable of handling the left back position that has been vacated by Ashe who must move forward to fill in for the injured Brad Davis.
Even if all that goes perfectly, the Dynamo will still need some luck. How referee Ricardo Salazar will be a big part of how this match plays out. If he lets the game go and limits the set piece opportunities for Houston, it will take away what could be Houston's best scoring chances.
So can the Dynamo win? Absolutely. Is it likely? Well, it depends if you're thinking with your head or your heart. My head tells me the Galaxy will find a way to get their goals and despite a herculean effort from the Dynamo, it simply won't be enough. My heart tells me Dominic Kinnear will have a plan that his team will execute and they'll walk all over AEG's best laid plans to crowd their precious Galaxy on their home field.
We will find out tonight.