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Galaxy knows where the pressure lies in MLS Cup

Los Angeles had the league's best record and is unbeaten in 23 games at the Home Depot Center, site of final against a Houston team not expected to get this far. Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena says it's 'good pressure.'

November 16, 2011|By Kevin Baxter
  • Galaxy forward Landon Donovan, center, is congratulated by teammates Mike Magee, left, and Chris Birchall after scoring on a penalty kick during a playoff match against the New York Red Bulls on Nov. 3. The Galaxy are the favorites heading into Sunday's MLS Cup showdown against Houston.
Galaxy forward Landon Donovan, center, is congratulated by teammates… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )

The MLS Cup at the Home Depot Center on Sunday could be something of a comparison in contrasts.

On one hand you have the star-studded Galaxy, which boasts three of the league's top players in David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane, and the league's best record for the second year in a row, and is unbeaten in 23 matches at home this season.

It was expected to be here.

Then there's the Houston Dynamo, which had a losing record two-thirds of the way into the season, then lost play-making most-valuable-player candidate Brad Davis to a torn quadriceps in the first half of its last playoff game.

Houston is just happy to be here.

So guess who's feeling the most pressure?

"It's good pressure," Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena said. "It's the kind of pressure you're accustomed to as an athlete, a coach.

"We're here, which is nice. This is where we wanted to be. However, we realize how difficult an opponent Houston's going to be."

The Galaxy may also be battling the weather Sunday as well. Forecasts call for a 20% chance of rain and a temperature of about 50 degrees. The last MLS Cup to be played in the rain took place two years ago in Seattle, where a heavily favored Galaxy lost to Real Salt Lake on penalty kicks.

"The experience of 2009 is good, [but] these circumstances are different," said Arena who, along with Houston Coach Dominic Kinnear, is bidding to become the first MLS coach to win three league titles. "This time around we have a little bit more of a comfort level playing at the Home Depot Center."

But although Kinnear concedes his team is the underdog, he's taking neither pleasure nor pain from that tag.

"If you were to look at it from afar, and if the game were to be played on paper, things do fall in their favor," he said of the Galaxy. "But I always say the pressure's on the team that doesn't have the ball.

"I try not to get caught up in story lines. I do understand it's going to be a difficult game. L.A. hasn't lost all year at home, so it just shows you how good they are at home. Us missing Brad Davis doesn't help, but that's the way it goes."

Besides, Kinnear added, this wouldn't the first time the Dynamo has been given up for dead this postseason. Yet Houston finds itself a win away from a third MLS title in six seasons.

"A lot of people might have written us off at halftime during the Kansas City game when Brad got taken off," Kinnear said. "We did OK. For us it's a matter of getting the balance right and keeping the same attitude."

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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