It’s Los Angeles vs. New York.
Real Salt Lake vs. Columbus.
Nope, not that either.
The MLS Champion will be coronated Sunday and the two teams vying for the right to wear crisp straight-brim hats in front of the camera and t-shirts that are way too bit will be the Colorado Rapids and the FC Dallas Hoops.
Perhaps unexpected, but the match-up? Infinitely thrilling, with tactical battles circled all over the pitch like a block of honeycomb.
In fact, in Colorado and Dallas you have two teams on-form that played to two draws during the season. The game shouldn’t be a blowout; unless one of the coaches refuses to make adjustments like Bruce Arena failed to last week.
The clash will, again for Dallas, be a battle of high pressure and midfield supremacy, while Colorado will look to dictate the tempo and wriggle free the best MLS strike tandem of Conor Casey and Omar Cummings.
Here’s what we’re looking at….
Mr. Cummings. Oh Mr. Cummings. This…this match…this is your game to win.
FC Dallas has not faced a full-game speed threat like Cummings who’s got the moxie to finish in these playoffs and their 4-1-4-1 and high line of pressure is not really suited for it.
The closest the Hoops have come to a Cummings-type is the not-exactly-proficient Robbie Findley, who nevertheless created some opportunities in Dallas on the front end of the Real Salt Lake series and then scored the lone goal for the ‘Lakers when Dallas played a mile high.
Unlike Findley, Cummings will make you pay if you make a mistake and with Conor Casey behind him he has an efficient target guy to work off, around, over and through.
Look for Cummings to attack centrally and then diagonally to the corner behind Jair Benitez.
Benitez will need to come to play on Sunday night because if Dallas is forced to draw out to the flank to give him help, it will take the shape out of the Colorado midfield and play into Dallas’ relentless upfield pressure.
(However, it should be noted that Colorado outshot Dallas to the tune of 29 shots (17 for Dallas) with 11 on goal (7 for Dallas) across their two draws this season)
• It’s Not Always the Coaches Fault, But…
Oddly, not a peep about Bruce Arena’s or Jason Kreis tactics in the wake of FC Dallas dismantling the two in the playoffs.
Both–Arena more so–were outcoached by Schellas Hyndman.
A simple question, you and I are about to rumble in a death match. Assuming you’re not bringing any Pachiaos and I’m not bringing any Roy Jones Jr.s (in his prime)….I bring five guys, you bring four guys.
With Atiba Harris up top against L.A. and Jeff Cunningham up top against RSL, Dallas outletted to their chosen striker when the play dictated it, but otherwise punished the other teams in the middle–either maintaining possession on offense or shutting down linkage on defense.
That Javier Morales was missing for RSL in the bumper match was a much bigger issue than first thought in retrospect.
However, Dallas simply had more men in the middle, and then had the dangerous David Ferreira above them. On defense, you had two four-men midfields having to account for Dallas’ speed on the wings and then David Ferreira at all times in the middle, cue plenty of linking space for the likes of Daniel Hernandez and Dax McCarty.
What will Colorado do here? Now, cue key player number two: Pablo Mastroeni.
Who didn’t love the ‘Maestro’s USMNT tenure?
That said, Colorado picked up Jeff Larentowicz this year to help out the aging Mastroeni. As good as Mastroeni is, he can’t possibly run with Ferreira and the Dallas pace the entire day…nearly the entire day he can, but not the entire day.
Your move Gary Smith.
Do you drop Conor Casey deep to help out and for outlet purposes and allow Dallas to push up the park?
Or do you go it 4-on-5, a tactic that put your predecessors to the sword?
I’ll be burning my eyes watching how the Rapids manages the midfield on both offense and defense against the Hoops. If Dax McCarty specifically, is getting free and creating chances in the 2nd 15 minutes or so….well you know Gary Smith should rethink his strategy at halftime.
• So we arrive at wing play
Perhaps….perhaps this game will turn on the flanks then.
And continually, perhaps the wingers will be a slave to the tempo that has been dictated.
On the Colorado side of the ball you have steely veteran Brian Mullan and the versatile Wells Thompson. A patient game favors the mountain boys.
In the mirror, you have Chavez and Brek Shea and if all hell is breaking loose up and down the pitch, both are likely part of it and causing an offensive ruckus.
• The “Y” Factor
Sir Andrew Wallace–Colorad’s outside backer–play with confidence. If you have a howler?
You can’t have a howler.
Consider TSG sufficiently scared of the damage that Omar Cummings can inflict in this one.
Should Dallas contain Cummings, I see an FC Dallas win by the slimmest of margins, 2-1 perhaps. If the game goes late in the evening, I stick with Dallas as well as my confidence with Kevin Hartman is much higher than Matt Pickens who tends to not deal with balls more than five yards off his line all that well.
It’s Dallas…unless Omar Cummings dazzles.