Footy is fun to watch, but I find it infinitely more enjoyable when there's something specific that I'm looking for. If you know what you're looking for, predicting when and if something is going to happen can get pretty easy and you can impress your friends with your Miss Cleo-like abilities. Of course, someone could always fall on their face or score a wonder goal, completely nullifying any reasonable predictions, but nine times out of 10, you can predict what's going to happen in a match if you're watching for the right things. Here are some of the important aspects of Sunday's MLS Cup final that you should keep an eye out for.
5. Which Marvell Wynne comes to play?
Colorado's Marvell Wynne is an exceptionally talented player whose career has been very inconsistent. He started as a fullback because of his pace, but his defending instincts seemed poor for most of his time at Toronto FC. Most people thought that Wynne's future could be brighter as a right midfielder, but Colorado Rapids have moved him to central defense. What seemed like a very unorthodox move at the time has actually panned out pretty well.
Still, despite his vast improvement as a defender, Marvell Wynne is a bit inconsistent. For a player learning a new position that was known more for his speed than his defending instincts in the first place, this is understandable. Wynne has had some absolutely spectacular and some not so good performances at center back for Colorado this season. His speed makes him hard to get by and the intelligence of his partner, Drew Moor, usually makes up for his occasional lapses in judgment. Still, one lapse in judgment might be one too many with the attacking prowess that Dallas has. Whether Marvell Wynne has a consistent game or makes mental errors could be a key factor in deciding the outcome of the match.
4. The pace of the game
Despite the speed of Omar Cummings, Colorado is a team that benefits from a game played at a slower pace. Jeff Larentowicz and Pablo Mastroeni are quality holding midfielders, and they prefer to hold rather than destroy. Whenever one of the two wins the ball, they generally try to slow down the pace of play unless Cummings is breaking down the pitch all alone. Dallas, on the other hand, is a team that benefits from a faster speed of play.
The relative pace of the game is going to be a very good indicator of who is in control if it isn't completely obvious otherwise. If it's a crazy, back and forth, quick game, Dallas is going to be the more likely team to score a goal. If Larentowicz and Mastroeni are having their way, keeping the ball and slowing down play, Colorado are playing the game that they want to play.
3. Colorado's shape
MLS isn't exactly the Mexican Primera or Brazilian Serie A when it comes to fluidity in attack, but you'll be hard pressed to find a team that plays a more rigid style than Colorado. Sure, you'll occasionally see Omar Cummings drift wide and Conor Casey drop into midfield, but those are the strikers. When's the last time you saw Jeff Larentowicz put in a cross from wide? When's the last time you saw Wells Thompson drift around? Never.
Colorado was able to beat San Jose by keeping their shape for most of the match. That was probably the biggest factor in their home win over Columbus as well. In the beginning of the second half against San Jose, they got a little bit undisciplined and as a result, the Quakes had some chances. They lost their discipline on the road at times against Columbus as well, which is why they had to go to penalty kicks. If Colorado stays disciplined, Dallas will struggle to break them down. If Colorado loses their discipline, they're in trouble.
2. Are the FC Dallas fullbacks closing down?
The Colorado Rapids are not Real Salt Lake or the Los Angeles Galaxy. They do not have a wide variety of attacking weapons and they do not score goals in a wide variety of ways. They score all of their goals in almost the exact same manner. A fullback doesn't close down a player in a wide area, that player uses their space to get a cross in, and someone finishes.
The FC Dallas fullbacks have to close down players on the ball in wide areas. Every single time. The only player that Dallas should be concerned about beating them with a dribbling move as a result of an aggressive closing down strategy is Omar Cummings. Brian Mullan, Wells Thompson, Kosuke Kimura, etc. are not going to burn anyone for being too aggressive with their closing down. What are Colorado's opponents afraid of? FC Dallas needs to make sure that whoever gets into wide areas doesn't have any room to put crosses in. Someone will get on the end of a good one.
1. David Ferreria's touches
David Ferreria is arguably the best player in MLS. It was announced on Friday (and accidentally leaked by Commissioner Don Garber earlier in the week) that Ferreira was named the league MVP, and for good reason. No one player is more vital to their team's attack than Ferreria. FC Dallas need to get him the ball in dangerous places early and often.
When watching the MLS Cup final, watch Ferreria's off the ball movement and count how many positive touches he gets. If he's getting involved quite a bit in the early going, it's good news for FC Dallas. If Larentowicz and Mastroeni are doing a good job of denying him the ball, but two or three of the above things are not going in Colorado's favor, we could be in for a 0-0 draw.
Match Card, project lineup and statistics: mls cup final lineup