Just when I'd lost hope for the VW product placement series on MLSnet, Ben Freaking Olsen delivers again.
Dammit, I jibber-jabbered too much during the week and didn't make a prediction.
I think Columbus will win. Good night, everyone! Now, what kind of jersey should you wear to the Final? This very important question takes serious consideration. Ideally, you have choices that will fall into the following categories....
No, just kidding.
Presumably to give Matrim a heart attack, the Volkswagen Probable Lineups show the Bullies in his very, very favorite formation, the 4-5-1 with Angel as a lone target. Rojas is shown as the playmaker. Sassano sits for Pietravallo. Gee, no Cichero? I don't think this will be the actual lineup, but if it is, go ahead and pencil in a Crew 4-0 blowout - if only because Seth Stammler's season apparently ended already, and I don't know if a guy on crutches is gonna be all that potent against GBS, Robbie and Eddie.
Then again, who am I to argue with Volkswagen? Talk about a Cinderella story!
Both Frankie Hejduk and Ives Galarcep think we'll see a wide open Final. Yeah, well...maybe. And by maybe, I mean, Frankie and Ives are shrooming. I think the Red Bulls really, really want to keep it close and try to win on late minute magic from Angel and Van den Bergh, though. This really only becomes a track meet if one team or another take a 2-0 lead in the first half. The Crew defense is too good to allow that, and the Red Bulls defense...well, they've been an intimidating mixture of good enough and lucky enough, and Cepero is America's new sweetheart, I don't think New York loses this one early.
Besides, Cup Finals throughout history have been exercises in sickening tension. For whatever reasons, the increased focus and desire will mean you couldn't get a BB between the buttcheeks of any player on either bench. I forget who came up with that metaphor originally - I think it was Schopenhauer.
One way New York might be able to take and expand a lead, I'm sorry to say, is by exploiting the one real mismatch that favors the Red Bulls - Van den Bergh against Hejduk. Frankie was pretty awful against Chicago. But you won't outrun or outhustle Hejduk, not now, not a hundred years from now - you'll have to beat him with skill, make him overcommit, and then exploit the opening, or the free kick.
Red Bull won't do that with speed, necessarily, but with possession - you don't want Van den Bergh out there going "I ams open! Kicks to me the ball! Awwww...."* And in order for that to happen, Luke Sassano will have to come up big.
Say, anyone notice that New York is relying on rookies in pretty key areas? Goalkeeper, of course, but Sassano has stepped up marvellously. A number of Red Bulls have very bright futures, in my opinion - just not necessarily on Sunday. Here's a cheering thought for those of you worried about rookies in MLS Cups - there's a long tradition of rookies not merely performing well in the big game, but winning the whole thing. Stuart Holden had the winning penalty kick in 2006, and of course an entire dynasty was founded by the head of an unknown name Edward Pope - wonder whatever became of him?
Sadly, right now Carroll's a better player than Sassano, and Schelotto is much better. The Red Bulls closed down GBS way back in April, but I put "way back" in there for what I consider to be very solid reasons.
"Why not just simply send Dane Richards down the right with his speed? Worked against Houston. Got him open against Salt Lake." Yeah...and Wade Barrett isn't in the same sentence as Gino Padula anymore, this one excepted. Even if Richards does break through - and I gotta tell you, I'm just not seeing it, although I said that about Wolyniec last week - he can still blow big chances like he did in Utah. Yeah, you can't teach speed, but you can teach soccer...okay, but Richards is a Jamaican international. You'd think someone tried to teach him soccer at some point.
The Red Bulls' bench is acceptable, considering Kandji and Ubiparipovic (assuming Osorio doesn't start him, only to blow him out after 20 minutes again). I'd like to see Mac start, if only to attempt to throw off the Crew gameplan - can you imagine preparing all week for Wolyniec and getting Mac instead? - but I don't think telling Osorio to mess with the lineup is intelligent or productive.
The problem with the bench strength comparison is, well, I thought the Crew would be invincible after they signed Pat Noonan. I was technically right, which is of course the best kind of right.
Coaching will come down to whoever self-destructs. If Sigi, for some wacky reason, pulls out GBS again with a one-goal lead, the Red Bulls WILL equalize, and the momentum should carry them through in overtime. Any other scenario, though...I think we're seeing Crew, 3-1.
*The part of Dave Van den Bergh was played by Toki Wartooth.