On Sunday, Charlie Davies will enter his first MLS Cup Final as the hottest player on the pitch. His double-dip in leg two of the Eastern Conference Finals helped the Revs play onward, and his precise finishing led the club to a semi-final rout of Columbus. But as we head into the season's final match, Davies has garnered only a fraction of the attacking attention. Instead, league MVP Robbie Keane, wunderkind Gyasi Zardes and golden boy Landon Donovan have stolen the spotlight, earning recognition as the league's premier attack. Is their reputaiton justified--and does their play offer an edge over Davies and the Revs front line?
Hear our thoughts--and share yours--below.
As a New Hampshire native, I admit that I'm one of the biggest Charlie Davis supporters around. His story ranks among the Revs best this season, and his ability to score in the air--which, if we're being honest, isn't really his game--has revolutionized the Revs attack this postseason. Add Teal Bunbury, who often features as a wide target forward, and you'll uncover a Revs front line that has scored more goals than any club in the playoffs. Jay Heaps loves to push his team forward, and Davies has helped his skipper reap the benefits.
Unfortunately, the Revs attacking foes--Gyasi Zardes and MVP Robbie Keane--contributed 35 regular season goals to the league's premier attack, and, throughout the 2014 postseason, have shown no sign of letting up. Sure, they benefit from an elite midfield that includes assists-machine Landon Donovan, though Keane has a knack for the finding the net at opportune times. The Irishman is quick, even for his age, and possesses incredible skill over the ball. Attacking mate Zardes also benefits from blistering pace and a formidable 6'2" frame, constantly making defenders pay when they give him any semblance of space. Of course, he's also dangerous in the air, pairing with Keane to deliver a frightening MLS Cup duo.
My heart is with Charlie, but my head is with Keane and Zardes. Advantage LA.
I'm a Revolution fan, but this isn't even close. Charlie Davies has been great in the playoffs and very good in the season's stretch run, and I think Patrick Mullins can definitely do a job when asked, but beyond that, the striker position for the Revs is just a gauntlet of inconsistency and unknown quantities. Diego Fagundez plays wide and had really, really rough year, knocking him out of the starting lineup entirely. Guys like Andre Akpan, Tony Taylor, Geoffrey Castillion, and Dimitry Imbongo don't even make the match day eighteen. At the end of the day, the forward position is probably the Revs' weakest, and if not for Davies' good form, it would definitely be the weakest.
Then there's L.A. They start Gyasi Zardes, one of the most dynamic young strikers in the league. Their super-sub is Alan Gordon, who scored five goals in just over 500 minutes this year. And oh, by the way, there's Robbie Keane, the MLS MVP who scored (19) and set up (14) goals with impunity all year. This is one of the best strike forces the league has ever seen, let alone in this contest. The advantage has to go to the Galaxy.
Even if we give the Revs a man advantage and count the wingers with Davies, Bunbury and either Rowe or Tierney on the left from the start, they might equal just Robbie Keane. We haven't even gotten to wunderkind Gyasi Zardes yet or super sub target man Alan Gordon. Combined with service from Landon Donovan and Stefan Ishizaki on the flanks, it's hardly a wonder why LA's attack is so dynamic and efficient, and as talented a group as there is the league. The Revs attack so rarely succeeds starting from out wide and has to rely on Nguyen and Jones to create through the middle to open up space. Now, Tierney's impressive left foot was the difference last week against New York, and it's entirely possible we see him out wide in that spot again to give the Revs an added dimension. But LA's attack need no such help, these guys pretty much can wing it and their attack would still be problematic for defenses. Either from wide service or a direct frontal assault, Robbie Keane was arguably the best striker in the league this year at both scoring and assisting his teammates and it's no comparison, this is a major edge for the Galaxy.
In reality, speculating over who has the "advantage" by positions is nonsensical. In truth, the players who are designated "strikers" aren't the only variable that goes in to calculating the success of the offense, as all players drift, take up other positions and create - from all areas of the pitch. If you stick to what you see on paper, making an argument that Charlie Davies - the lone forward - can rival Donovan, Keane and Zardes would be downright silly. Further, you can't argue the raw stats - LA scored 69 in the regular season and the Revs scored 51, which tells you LA has simply been more productive (and I hate soccer stats, because they often lie).
So, If the question is: who has better forwards, then its LA. If the question is who has the most dangerous attack as a whole, then it's still LA. Even with Nguyen and Jones operating in pockets of space between the midfield and defense, Tierney as a winger, Charlie Davies running in behind, and Bunbury covering crazy amounts of ground, the actual attacking talent still lies in favor of the Galaxy. That said, there is no reason why New England can't outshine LA in attack because the offense is only as successful as the opposing defense allows, an area I feel that the Revs will focus on strengthening.
In summary though, Charlie Davies looks too shy in taking players on 1v1, Nguyen will be covered heavily, and Keane and Donovan are just too good --- I give LA the edge...
Consensus: Galaxy, 4 votes
Despite Charlie Davies' postseason prominence, our staff awards Robbie Keane, Gyasi Zardes and the LA Galaxy a part 4 advantage.
What about you? Which team do you believe wins the forward position battle? Tell us below.