After a second half of the season that was a tad weird to say the least, Dynamo get a chance to put on their Tri-umph faces and Lay It on the Line for that third title.
I think this video above truly expresses my feeling about Seattle tonight. And while the truth is I have never once flipped the toggle on an XBox, or done a 360 on top of one, I know for a fact that an Orange Ring of Death exists on those consoles, and that's what I am expecting to see over these two legs, starting tonight.
For a Dynamo team that rarely received red cards, it seems more than passing strange to notice that two games in a row without one is atypical. Hopefully, what this actually means is that the bleeding has been stanched. But we'll see. A stern, disciplined approach is what's called for in these 180-minute ties, especially when you get the second leg at your own playpen.
But I worry about the guys keeping their cool. In the three games watching the Seattles this season, I have noticed a certain behavior among the Greenclads that could be called, er, what is the word? Chippy? No. Dirty? Not yet. Thuggishness? Hmmm. Ah heck, let's just go for D: All of the Above. For a squad that has such a solid attack with pace and creativity and physical presence from Frjeddji Ljungbjerg (Or howjever that's spjelled), Jaqua, Montero and Zakuani, to see players like Hurtado and Brad Evans and the like dishing out the cheap fouls is incongruous to say the least. Hopefully the refs will call the game tight, which can only help. (And this doesn't even include mention of Montero's incessant diving. If Ricardo Salazar falls for that garbage tonight, teh frustration will mount.)
And right here I'd to insert my oft-stated objection to playing this or any game on the fake grass. Both Mullan and Mulrooney suffered injuries playing on State of Washington-approved artificial surfaces, the latter injury a season-ending and potential career-threatening one. All I have to say is that if Major League Baseball can completely eliminate artificial surfaces (with the exception of the Rogers Centre in Toronto. What is it with Toronto anyway?), then so can MLS. The horror must end!
Back to tonight, clearly, composure will be key. Seattle will come out on fire and probably finish in a flurry as well. As I wrote on Glenn Davis' blog the other day: The problem is that without Richard Mulrooney out there keeping everyone cool (see previous paragraph), Dynamo have had a hard time maintaining composure for a full 90. Also, asking an attacking team like Dynamo to play back and patient and wait for their chances is difficult at best. Perhaps this merits Barrett's inclusion in the starting XI?
However, champions adjust and I was heartened to see Brad Davis talking right away on Sunday or Monday about defense winning championships. I think this is where experience means something. Pretty much the entire Dynamo squad have been in these situations many times before, most in Orange, while there are many players in Seattle who have not. There is no substitute for playoff experience, so if the team opens up loose, calm and confident and STAYS that way throughout the game, they will be able to exert pressure and strike when Seattle makes their mistakes.
A cool, calm, composed game and coming home ahead, drawn or no worse than a one-goal deficit and I will consider tonight a success.
Hey, did anyone else notice that Bernardo Fallas gave the goalkeeping edge to the Sounders? (Ratings here.) Even though Fallas does pick Dynamo to take the tie 3-2 on aggregate, this should at least have been even. Odd, is all I'm saying.
So here are my predictions for this series:
Tonight: 1-1 Draw. My worries center mainly around dealing with Seattle's pace and the turf-related injuries. Knee tendinitis and artificial turf are a witches' brew, which will have me watching Landin closely, not to mention Rico (should he play) and Ching. I would like to see a line-up like this:
Subs: Chabala, Weaver, Oduro, Robinson, Waibel, Thompson, Hall
The reason I'd like to see Barrett get the start is for his experience and calm demeanor out there. As a captain, he is solid, to say the least. That being said, as the game goes down the wire and we are protecting a lead or a draw, or even going for a late goal, I'd pull him for Chabala and his speed or Johnny Rocco Robinson and his toughness. And depending on the situation, I'd also get Weaver and head-bump Waibel in there as well.
Like Fallas, I am also predicting Dynamo to go through to the Cup semifinals (this whole "Conference semi," "Conference final" stuff is confusing terminology and it must end), by a 3-2 agg. Both teams have shown difficulty scoring of late, but getting out of here tonight ahead or drawn will be huge for Dynamo.
Just remember boys, this is it: