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2015 MLS Cup

ASN Roundtable: Who Will Prevail in 2015 MLS Cup?

We could have asked one writer to preview Sunday's showdown between the Los Angeles Galaxy and the New England Revolution, but where's the fun in that? Here is ASN's six-for-one special.
BY John Godfrey and Friends Posted
December 04, 2014
10:42 AM
MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER is enjoying one of its best-ever postseasons, and everything seems to be falling into place for an epic finale on Sunday (3pm ET; ESPN, UniMas).

The league's marquee franchise, the L.A. Galaxy, somehow managed not to win the Supporters' Shield but have otherwise been the dominant team in MLS in 2014. Robbie Keane ran away with the league's MVP award; Omar Gonzalez followed up a strong showing at the World Cup with another MLS Best XI credit; and Landon Donovan, undoubtedly the best American player ever, will ride off into the sunset when the final whistle blows at the StubHub Center.

The Galaxy will be the favorite to win its fifth MLS Cup, but the New England Revolution won't go down without a fight. The franchise was a laughingstock just a few short years ago, but Jermaine Jones' arrival in New England this summer has transformed this collection of youngsters and retreads into a formidable attacking force.

I can't wait for the game, and I'm guessing ASN Deputy Editor feels the same way. Noah—what is the key matchup that will decide this contest?

NOAH DAVIS: It’s pretty simple: which of the two potent offenses will find a way through? The Galaxy led the league in scoring while the Jones-led Revolution have scored at least twice in eight of its last nine games. Two goals wins MLS Cup. The first team to that mark wins.

JOHN GODFREY: Never mind the immovable object. It's irresistible force meets irresistible force. Your take, Blake?

BLAKE THOMSEN: The key matchup for me is Lee Nguyen vs. L.A.'s Brazilian central midfield duo of Marcelo Sarvas and Juninho. Nguyen can be devastating when given time and space in front of the back four, and it will be essential that Sarvas and Juninho restrict his time on the ball in that area. Nguyen makes the Revolution go, so if L.A. can shut him down, it can probably shut down New England as a unit.

TRAVIS CLARK: For me, it's the battle in central midfield between Juninho-Sarvas and Scott Caldwell and Jones (you can add Nguyen in there too, but he is in more of a free role). It's a classic 2-v-3 matchup that favors the Revolution because of their numerical advantage, and if they can make it count, goes a long way in winning MLS Cup for the Revs. On the flip side, Bruce Arena could end up adjusting his team's approach and drift away from the classic 4-4-2, but if either Juninho or Sarvas has a big day, that opens it up for Donovan or Keane to win the day.

BRIAN SCIARETTA: I'll be looking to see how New England's central defense pairing of A.J. Soares and José Gonçalves can handle the attacking trio of Keane, Gyasi Zardes, and of course Donovan—who will be the sentimental favorite in his final professional game.

While the Galaxy only scored two goals against Seattle over 180 minutes, you have to favor its offense at the moment. Keane is on another level in MLS and Donovan is playing well. If New York, playing without the league’s leading scorer, could put two past New England at Gillette Stadium, the Galaxy have a clear edge while playing at home.

BROOKE TUNSTALL: New England defensively will have to track the runs of Landon Donovan, who will likely be listed as a left-mid but play there only nominally. The way he and Keane interchange and switch spots on the field makes them much harder to track and it will require great communication between the fullbacks and central defenders on the Revolution backline.

GODFREY: Nobody seems overly worried about L.A.'s backline holding off Charlie Davies or Teal Bunbury. Interesting. There are plenty of big-name players in this match: Donovan, Keane, Jones, Nguyen. Putting them aside for a minute, who might emerge as an unlikely hero in the final?

TUNSTALL: I think this is Robbie Rogers’ moment. He’s been solid this year since he switched to left back and, call it a hunch, but I see him coming up big. Rogers, lest we forget, is a former U.S. international and MLS Best XI player who won this game in 2008. If he can add to the attack while still playing strong defense, he could be a difference-maker for the Galaxy.

CLARK: I think Kelyn Rowe could be the pick here. While L.A. isn't going to just hand him space, should a healthy Rowe start on the left flank against Dan Gargan—presuming A.J. DeLaGarza isn't fit in time—that's the stuff nightmares are made of for Galaxy fans. Even if Rowe is on the bench, he has the ability to come in and open things up with the Revolution is chasing the game.

GODFREY: I could see that happening. Blake?

THOMSEN: I think L.A. right midfielder Stefan Ishizaki could play a big part in determining the outcome of this game. The former Swedish international is a clever player who has scored some brilliant goals this season, and I think he has one more up his sleeve on Sunday, as New England directs its defensive attention to Keane, Donovan, and Zardes.

SCIARETTA: Zardes. The SoCal native has not been scoring lately so if he emerges in the final, it would be somewhat of a surprise. I think he will be comfortable playing at home and play a meaningful role.

DAVIS: Davies. He’s been more or less unstoppable recently, making smart diagonal runs and finding space for Jones and Nguyen to find him. If you don’t like his return to form, you have no heart.

GODFREY: Davies' dance moves give me palpitations. But I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Gonzalez will be man of the match. I'm not convinced he deserved to make MLS' Best XI, but I can see him shutting down Davies and Bunbury, and I can also see him heading in a late Donovan corner to give L.A. a 2-1 victory.

I guess that was my prediction. Now give me yours.

CLARK: Los Angeles 2, New England 1. Donovan the hero.

DAVIS: New England 2, Los Angeles 1. Sorry Landon.

THOMSEN: The Revs have had a great run, but I can't see them stopping the Galaxy at home. Los Angeles 2, New England 0.

SCIARETTA: New England has been a revelation since signing Jermaine Jones but I think too much is going in the Galaxy's favor right now. Los Angeles 3, New England 1. Donovan has a big game and rides out on top.

TUNSTALL: Man, this is a tough call. The Revolution have been so good since Jones came aboard and been so dynamic in the playoffs (11 goals in four games) that it makes it tough to pick against them now. But it’s hard to imagine Donovan not seizing the day, especially because he has such a veteran and talented cast around him from Bruce Arena to Keane to Gonzalez. And he's playing at home. It’s gonna be a fun one: Los Angeles 3, New England 2.

OK, ASN readers—now it's your turn. Share your predictions, and rationales, in the comments section below.

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