I'm a few minutes away from hitting the road for DC and MLS Cup weekend and wanted to get this in before I leave. I'll try to post a bit about the goings on in DC this weekend, but I make no guarantees.
I think Houston is the better team here. However, the loss (or at least a diminished) of Brian Ching makes me wonder about that slightly. DDR v. Shalrie Joseph should be a fun battle to watch in the middle of the park. I think Houston's wingers hold an edge over New England, and that should be their most likely point of attack. Nate Jaqua needs a big game here. I think he's capable, even if he shouldn't be here after his nasty forearm smash (almost a Polish Hammer, huh?) in the Western Conference final. Joseph Ngwenya is the X-Factor, his speed could cause the Revs' defense major problems.
New England doesn't do a lot of different things, but they do what they do very well. You know what's coming, but it still works most of the time. They're going to find Taylor Twellman in the box, and he's going to be dangerous. Moving Steve Ralston into the middle has diversified the attack a little bit, you see more through balls coming from the middle than you used to, but that's the only real change in New England in the last few years. Khano Smith and Wells Thompson are going to run all day, but they'll have their hands full with Houston's wide midfielders, which should neutralize their effectiveness. It will be up to Ralston to create chances for the most part. Shalrie Joseph also needs to find a way to get forward more to help Ralston, which again won't be easy because of the presence of De Rosario.
Based on quality, I think Houston should win this game. However, I have this nagging feeling that it's New England's year. You have Twellman's ridiculous goal in the Eastern Conference final. You have the years of coming up just short. You could almost invoke Bill Simmons' Ewing Theory here for Clint Dempsey. Everyone thought that New England had to go out to replace him in order to stay competitive. They didn't make any big splashes in the transfer market, but they're still here. The Revs finally broke the trophy curse this season with the US Open Cup. I have a feeling that they're going to add a second to the trophy case.
New England 1 (Twellman 44'), Houston 0