Today's Major League Soccer finale is an interesting case of déj vu. Twelve months, 323 regular season games and 14 playoff contests since last year's championship and we're right back to where we were when Los Angeles Galaxy and Houston Dynamo took to the field to dispute the 2011 MLS Cup.
The same two sides will play for all the marbles this afternoon in Carson, Calif., where soccer's Super Bowl might be more accurately described as the Here-We-Go-Again Bowl.
But because we've come full circle there's revenge to talk about, at least on the part of last year's runners-up Houston, and there are several other talking points to discuss as well. Following are five of them to consider ahead of the biggest North American soccer match of the year (3:30 p.m. TSN).
5. Brad Davis: The 31-year-old playmaker missed last year's MLS Cup with a torn quadriceps, and in his absence Houston lacked even the hint of a creative spark. They'll have that this time around as Davis, fresh off a season in which his 12 assists put him near the top of the ledger, will work the channels with energy and insight as he attempts to make chances for forwards Will Bruin, Macoumba Kandji and Oscar Boniek Garcia.
4. Home-field advantage: Will it mean anything? This will be only the third MLS Cup where one of the contestants will be playing on its own ground. DC United beat Colorado Rapids at RFK Stadium in 1997; New England Revolution lost to Los Angeles in 2002; Los Angeles beat Houston a year ago at the Home Depot Centre, which will also host this year's match. For what it's worth L.A. had only a middling home record of 10 wins, 1 draw and six losses during the regular season while Houston won just three matches away from home.
3. Revenge: L.A. and Houston met just once during the regular season (a 2-1 win for Houston in Texas) and there really isn't a natural rivalry between the two teams for Houston to channel as it looks to avenge last year's loss. What they do have going for them, however, is a group of players that have stepped up their game significantly during the playoffs. Striker Bruin has scored four goals in the post-season while Davis, Ricardo Clark and Adam Moffat have combined to form an effective midfield trio in each third of the park.
2. Landon Donovan: He scored from the spot against Vancouver in the knockout round but hasn't found the back of the net since and has often looked slow and disinterested during matches. He's been dropping all sorts of hints that he may leave Galaxy after today's MLS Cup, and several people in his circle think he'll hang up his boots altogether, win or lose. All the 30-year-old has said is he'll take "as much time as I need" to decide if and when he'll return to competitive soccer. In other words, he's taking the Brett Favre approach.
1. David Beckham: We already know this is Beckham's final match for Galaxy, and probably his final club match for a North American side. Offers and rumours of offers have been pouring in from clubs as disparate as Queens Park Rangers and Monaco, and it's almost guaranteed the 37-year-old will head back across the pond in January. So was it worth it? Was the hundreds of millions of dollars and all the hype and exposure worth it? And is soccer any better in this continent for his being here six years? While you think it over, consider that you're reading a preview of a Major League Soccer match in a Winnipeg daily.
Prediction: Los Angeles Galaxy 3-1 Houston Dynamo
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