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Sunday, November 20, 2011
MLS CUP: Expectations? Say what?

By Scott French

CARSON -- There are a lot of assumptions heading into Sunday's MLS Cup final at Home Depot Center, many revolving around the Galaxy: their dominance of the league this year, their unbeaten home record and the fact their opponent is missing its best player.

L.A. the past two weeks has repeatedly tried to throw off the favorite's yoke, but it's not going away. Former L.A. GM Alexi Lalas, in his weekly column in Britain's Daily Mirror, asserted that “if the Galaxy were to somehow lose, it would have to be considered an undeniable disaster and, without mincing words, a failure.”

A little over the top, but absolutely true. If the Houston Dynamo lose this one, it will have been a great finish that ended in defeat to perhaps the finest side MLS has seen. If the Galaxy loses, it's a massive disappointment.

So if we have to make a prediction -- and we think this game can go either way -- we'll go with the Galaxy, 2-1. Maybe in overtime.

Bruce Arena warns against expectations.

“No idea,” he said on the eve of the Cup when asked what kind of game he expects. “I don't know how anyone ever figures that out. I know you guys [in the media] will write a story about that somehow. I have no idea what kind of game it will be.”

He said the game is about making adjustments.

“I've had games this year where I said it's important we get out to a good start and get on top of these guys, and we're down a goal in the first five minutes of the game," he said. "It's always like that. We can never choreograph what's going to happen in a game. You need players who can just think on their feet.”

THE BEST: Count Dominic Kinnear among Robbie Keane's biggest fans. The Dynamo coach, a creative midfielder (in Mexico, MLS and for the U.S. national team) during his playing days, loves to watch the Galaxy's Irishman move.

“When you look at his movement when the ball's wide, it's a young forward's dream to sit back and watch him play,” Kinnear said. “I mean, the guy's scored a lot of goals wherever he's played for that reason alone. He's a good finisher, but his movement is excellent."

WHAT DAVIS MEANS: MLS MVP finalist Brad Davis' absence is the biggest on-field story heading into the MLS Cup final. The veteran winger, who led the league in assists and was the provider for Houston's effective aerial game, suffered a torn quadriceps muscle in the Dynamo's Eastern Conference title-game victory two weeks ago at Sporting Kansas City.

We asked him what his team loses without him.

“I don't know how much we're going to skip a beat,” he said. “I think I can help the team, obviously in service and set pieces and a little bit of leadership, and maybe I calm the game down. I think being able to have a guy out there who has been there is important, and I think we might miss a little bit of that. I feel like I can do a good job of slowing the game down when things start to get a little bit frantic. So maybe a little bit of that.

“But I think our team's ready. I really do.”

WORTH NOTING: Dynamo captain Brian Ching, 33, says he'll likely play one more season. “I want to play in the new stadium” that opens next year, he said. “I want to play in Houston for another year, and that's as far as I'm looking right now. ... At this point, probably one more year.” ... Ching, who missed Houston's 2007 MLS Cup victory over New England through injury, on what winning Sunday would mean to him: “Probably my greatest achievement. I've been through a lot with injuries and [being the final player cut from the 2010 World Cup team], and to kind of come through that, and if we win this MLS Cup, I don't know if I have the words to describe it.” ... Mike Magee has scored in all three Galaxy playoff victories, all from David Beckham passes, and he also scored the last time L.A. was in an MLS Cup final, the penalty-kicks defeat two years ago to Real Salt Lake in Seattle. Asked if he ever thinks about that goal, Magee said: “No, only when guys bring it up. That's a game I forgot -- tried to forget as fast as I could.”