On Saturday afternoon, the Houston Dynamo will attempt to join an elite group of MLS clubs - as they try to become just the third team to win three MLS Cups. One of the teams in that group is the Dynamo's adversary this weekend - the LA Galaxy.
How did the Galaxy find themselves on this list? They beat the Dynamo 1-0 in last year's MLS Cup. Winning the Cup at the Home Depot Center against the team that dropped them in last year's finale would be an added bonus for the Dynamo.
Being the generous blog that we are, Hair Balls put together five keys for head coach Dominic Kinnear and his men to bring back the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy to the Bayou City.
5. Leave the injury bug in Houston The Dynamo suffered through a rash of injuries during the Eastern Conference Finals against DC United. Center back Jermaine Taylor missed the home leg because of an injury. Midfielders Ricardo Clark and Calen Carr also were absent for the road leg in DC.
This year, MLS scheduled the MLS Cup two weeks after the conference finals. While some players are complaining about the layoff, the time off should be enough to nurse Taylor and Clark back to match fitness.
The odd man out could be Carr. He and forward Will Bruin were working well together up top before his hamstring injury forced him to miss both legs of the Eastern Conference Finals. His availability could change the way the Galaxy defend the Dynamo.
4. Tally f*cking Hall You want to talk about a honey badger, Hall has been in pure beast-mode throughout the MLS Cup Playoffs. When the Dynamo net has been under siege this post season, Hall's been there to thwart the opponent's attack.
Going up against the Galaxy will be a tough task for Hall. They're a team that loves to counter-attack quickly with excellent service from their wing players. In this match, Hall will be called upon more than once to bail his defense out.
3. Defense will have to perform one more professional outing The Dynamo's defense has been superb in their two homes wins this postseason. Away from BBVA Compass Stadium, they've done enough to push the Dynamo through to the next round.
This time they face a different animal; this time they face a Galaxy side that's firing on all cylinders. Forward Robbie Keane has four goals this postseason. Landon Donovan is always a threat with his deep runs up the middle and counter-attacking ability. Then there's David Beckham, who supplies these guys with his pin-point accuracy.
Bobby Boswell has been disrupting offenses so far this post-season. He was instrumental in shutting down CJ Sapong in their series with Sporting Kansas City, and also in slowing DC's pairing of Lionard Pajoy and Maicon Santos. He'll need to step up once more in the final.
2. Service from the wings The Dynamo have always depended on the play of their wingers. Once of the reasons they fell short in last year's MLS Cup Final was that the wingers couldn't generate much.
In this year's finale, the Dynamo midfield looks almost completely different. Brad Davis's return to the starting 11 lets Corey Ashe and Adam Moffat return to their defense duties. Davis's presence on that left side of the field, along with Ashe coming from the backfield provide excellent service from the left.
On the right, you have Boniek Garcia; who's first touch and creativity forces defenders to be honest and not push forward.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
1. Forwards will have to best their counterparts Keane's four goals this postseason for the Galaxy are tied for first with the Dynamo's Will Bruin.
What's amazing is Bruin's goals haven't come from set-pieces - the Dynamo's bread-and-butter. They've all come from his ability to find the open spaces to receive the pass and have the right angle to shoot.
The question is: who will join him up top? If Carr is healthy, he'd be the obvious first choice. If not, the Dynamo still have Mac Kandji available. Cam Weaver and Brian Ching are locks to come off the bench should Kinnear need it
This Dynamo team is different than the one the Galaxy saw a year ago at the 2011 MLS Cup Final. The additions of Davis, Garcia, and Clark should take away their ability to counterattack. When they push forward to try and score, the Dynamo will be their opportunity to counter LA. It should be another nail biter, but the Dynamo should return home with a new piece of hardware for their trophy case.