Beckham, Rosales key midfields in conference finals

Posted by Jason York, ESPN Stats & Information

The Los Angeles Galaxy and Houston Dynamo look to book a rematch of last season’s MLS Cup on Sunday, as both clubs hold significant aggregate leads entering Sunday’s second-leg conference finals. The Galaxy lead Seattle 3-0, and the Dynamo hold a 3-1 advantage over D.C. United.

Here are five statistical areas to watch in Sunday’s games:

Galaxy forward Robbie Keane has been in white-hot goal-scoring form in the playoffs. Keane is tied for the MLS lead with four goals, including a brace in each of his past two games, and he has 17 goals in his past 22 regular-season and playoff games combined. Keane’s partnership with forward Landon Donovan has been integral to the Irishman's scoring success. Donovan has assisted on nine of Keane’s 20 goals this season, including eight of his 17 goals in that 22-game span.

The other member of the Galaxy’s star designated-player trio, midfielder David Beckham, has seen his completion percentage on open-play crosses dip considerably since he injured his left ankle Sept. 1 against the Vancouver Whitecaps. Beckham is just 3-for -4 on open-play crosses since the injury, including 1-for-28 in the playoffs.

Los Angeles has pushed forward relentlessly in the playoffs, and the result has been an ability to hold more possession in the attacking third. The Galaxy’s percentage of touches in the attacking third is nearly 5 percent higher in the playoffs versus the regular season (28.0 to 23.1). While the Galaxy have been pushing forward, the Sounders have largely been stuck in the middle third of the field. More than half of the Sounders’ touches in the playoffs (52.1 percent) have been in the midfield.

Seattle midfielder Mauro Rosales is questionable with a hamstring injury, and he has been one of the league’s most creative players in both the regular season and playoffs. Rosales is tied for second in MLS in chances created, or passes that lead directly to shots, with 3.1 per 90 minutes (minimum 1,000 minutes). Rosales has a profound influence on the Sounders, more than doubling their shots on goal per 90 minutes (from 1.3 to 3.4) and chances created (3.4 to 7.3) when he is on the field. Rosales has assisted on five of Eddie Johnson’s league-best nine headed goals this season, three from open-play crosses and two from corner kicks.

Dynamo forward Will Bruin is tied for the MLS scoring lead in the playoffs with four goals, all of which have been scored in the penalty area. When Bruin has touched the ball in the penalty area this postseason, he has had a one-track mind. Bruin has scored once every 3.8 touches in the box in the playoffs (four goals, 15 touches) compared to a goal every 9.3 touches in the regular season (12 goals, 111 touches).

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