Work in Sports
Day at a Glance
Practice makes perfect for MLS Cup final
Posted: Saturday November 20, 1999 06:39 PM
By Jeff Green, CNN/SI
FOXBORO, Massachusetts -- D.C. United and the Los Angeles Galaxy took the field at Foxboro Stadium on a rainy Saturday afternoon for their final practices, with one last chance to prepare for Sunday's championship showdown between Major League Soccer's best offense and its best defense.
Under coach Sigi Schmid, who took over a 3-3 team six games into the 1999 season, Los Angeles became the first team in MLS history to allow less than one goal per game on average, giving up just 29 goals in 32 games. D.C. United, on the other hand, led the league in goals scored with 65.
Both coaches say their strategy is to go on the attack and put the other team on its heels, a responsibility that often lies with the home team. Sunday, however, there is no home team, though D.C. has taken on the role of the favorite.
"Our key is to make them defend us as much as possible, and I think they want to do the same thing," said United head coach Thomas Rongen. "So it's a very interesting chess matchup right now. It will be interesting to see who makes the first move."
D.C. had the league's sixth-best defense this year, giving up 1.34 goals per game, while L.A. had the league's fifth-best offense, scoring 49 goals. Of course, it's only been one year since L.A. shattered the league's record for goals in a season, netting 85 in 1998.
United leads the all-time series between the teams 8-4, including a 1-0 playoff record -- the one playoff game being MLS Cup '96.
Rongen said L.A. could draw some motivation from its loss in MLS Cup '96 to D.C. at Foxboro.
"L.A.'s got a little redemption, I think," Rongen said. "They've got something they can really take and focus on."
Schmid outlined what he thinks is most important for L.A. on Sunday.
"The keys to the game are trying to contain [Marco] Etcheverry, and also being able to keep a handle on Jaime Moreno and Lassiter's speed. And trying to get opportunies where D.C. United's back four has to deal with our attack on a consistent basis," he said. "It's a matter of us maintaining possession, and it's a matter of us sometimes looking to attack quickly when that opportunity presents itself and creating matchups that are to our benefit."
Rongen said his club must be concerned with L.A.'s multiple attacking options.
"We analyzed L.A. and looked at some of their strengths and weaknesses," said Rongen. "Cobi [Jones] is explosive up front with pure speed, [Carlos] Hermosillo is a good finisher. The dribble penetration of Clint Mathis and Roy Myers obviously is a concern. Cien [Mauricio Cienfuegos] is playing well right now."
On Saturday night, MLS will host its annual gala awards dinner in Boston to honor the league's Best 11, or all-league team, and D.C. and L.A. are both almost sure to be represented. L.A. already boasts the league's goalkeeper of the year in Kevin Hartman and its defender of the year, Robin Fraser. D.C.'s Marco Etcheverry is looking for his fourth-straight appearance on the Best 11.