Tuesday, November 13, 2007

MLS Cup Key Matchup #1

Alright, I'll start with the one that keeps me awake at night. The one that gives me a rotten feeling in my stomach every time I think about it. The one that penetrates my very soul... Am I getting too melodramatic? Sorry. For the record, I've dreamed about MLS Cup the last two nights, both teams winning once. Anyhow, the key matchup I'm talking about is New England's left flank versus Houston's right side.

Players Involved:

New England: Khano Smith(LM), Avery John(LD)

Houston: Brian Mullen (RM), Craig Waibel (RD)

There are two potentially scary elements in this matchup: 1.) Khano Smith has been known to be the Bermuda Triangle for offensive-minded passes and 2.) Avery John could commit some early fouls, be warned either verbally or with a yellow card, and then give Houston's right flank way too much space to operate.

The first part, if it holds true, could be the difference as to which team has the run of possession throughout the entire game. If Khano is able to make deep, dangerous runs down the left side, Houston has to compensate. That will open up the middle a lot more for the Revs attack. If Waibel stuffs him on every attempt, the Houston defense can really put the clamps on Twellman, Noonan, and Ralston making scoring opportunities sparse.

Khano looked awful in the first leg at New York. Dane Richards used his speed to run rings around Smith, who looked like he was going through the motions. Hopefully, that won't be the case on Sunday. Khano has scored some of the most brilliant goals in team history. He needs to be a factor in this game. In that game in New York, the Red Bulls completely underplayed him which had a severe impact on New England's offense. Houston will try and stop him with Craig Waibel, who is a competent defender. If Ryan Cochrane and Richard Mulrooney need to help contain Smith, holes will open up for Ralston and company to create serious scoring opportunities as opposed to dumping in crosses to Twellman and hoping for the best.

The second part of the matchup depends greatly on how well Brian Mullen can generate space away from Avery John when he makes deep runs. John has been a lock down defender when he has bodied up to his mark. When he has to play an attacking player running at him, he has been known to slide tackle way too aggressively (see 2006 World Cup). As long as Khano holds his own ahead of him, Joseph and Larentowicz will be able to neutralize the Houston attack up the that wing. John will be needed elsewhere in the box before the game is over, so he'll need to prevent himself from being carded early on to shut down the Houston right flank.

We'll see how this plays out. If Houston dominates this side of the field, it'll be a long, nervous lunchtime for Revs fans.

1 Comment:

Lewis P said...

Khano Needs to show up at this game more than any this year. I'm not worried about John, he is a beast who I feel could save the game.....