Sunday, November 14, 2004

Previewing MLS Cup

Major League Soccer Cup 2004: DC United v. Kansas City Wizards

When: Sunday, November 14, 3:30 PM EST
Where: Home Depot Center, Carson California

DC United:

DC United makes its fifth MLS Cup appearance, and first since 1999, after beating New England Revolution to win the MLS Eastern Conference. Last Saturday's Eastern final was one of the best matches ever in MLS's 9 year history, a pulsating 3-3 draw that had to be settled by penalty kicks, with United prevailing 4-3. DC finished 2nd in the East, 4th overall, during the regular season, struggling for form most of the year before surging to win 4 of their last 5 matches. United is an entertaining, attacking side led by the brilliance of Bolivian forward Jaime Moreno. Moreno, a finalist for league MVP, can both finish and create, as his 9 goals and 15 assists demonstrate. The Bolivian's strike partner, Alecko Eskandarian, is a solid finisher with 12 goals. Argentinian midfielder Christian Gomez, a late season acquisition, scored 5 times and adds playmaking ability to the midfield. New Zealand international Ryan Nelson anchors a solid but slow defense, while Nick Rimando has been excellent in goal. United's first year coach Peter Nowak, the former 1860 Munich and Chicago Fire midfielder, could become the first man to win MLS Cup as both a player and a coach.

Kansas City Wizards:

Kansas City is in many ways the polar opposite of DC United. The Wizards are a well organized, defensive oriented team that yielded the fewest goals in MLS this year. They finished first in the West, 2nd overall, and have already won this year's US Open Cup competition. Now they will try to make it a "double". Kansas City has been without four of their top players, Preki, Tony Meola, Chris Klein, and Igor Simutenkov, for much of the season, yet coach Bob Gansler has done a terrific job of getting the most out of his team. While the loss of Preki and Klein has hurt the midfield, unheralded rookies Jack Jewsbury and Khari Stephenson have filled in quite well. Jewsbury in particular has shown a knack for pushing forward and scoring big goals. Josh Wolff and Davy Arnaud have formed a quality strike tandem, and fit well into the Wizards' fast counterattacking style. This team's strength, though, is in defense. Jimmy Conrad and Nick Garcia anchor the backline, aided by defensive midfielder Kerry Zavagnin. Journeyman Bo Oshoniyi has been tremendous in goal replacing the veteran Meola. However, Meola is reportedly healthy enough to play, leaving coach Gansler with a dilemma. I was at MLS Cup 2000, when the Wizards won their only previous title. In that game, Tony Meola put on one of the best displays of goalkeeping I have ever seen in a 1-0 victory over Chicago. If he is fit and in form, he is capable of duplicating that performance. In my opinion, Gansler has no choice but to play Meola if healthy.


Cup finals are often dour affairs, but I think this one will be an exception. As a DC fan, I'm admittedly biased, but I think United wins its fourth MLS Cup title, foiling Kansas City's hopes of an MLS Cup/US Open Cup double.

DC United 3, Kansas City 2


Post a Comment

<< Home