By Simon Evans
CARSON, California (Reuters) - The MLS Cup final between L.A. Galaxy and Houston Dynamo on Saturday is a repeat of last year's championship game but with one crucial difference - Dynamo will be able to call on their most creative force, midfielder Brad Davis.
Davis, whose left foot has provided countless opportunities for Houston strikers in his seven seasons with the club, was injured for the 1-0 defeat last year and Dominic Kinnear's team sorely missed him.
However, Davis is keen to avoid the cliche of being "more motivated" by his absence last year.
"I don't want to win that much more because I didn't get a chance last year - I want to win this year because the guys put in another great effort, and this is the fun part that you work for all year," he told the team's website.
"I'm just excited to be part of it and be healthy, and I'm looking forward to playing this game strictly for a shot at the Cup."
The slightly-built 31-year-old is the man Dynamo turn to for dead-ball situations close to goal and to unlock opposition defenses with one of his trademark through balls.
Despite only having five appearances for the U.S. national team to his name and never having spent time outside of North American soccer, Davis is hugely respected in MLS and Galaxy coach Bruce Arena knows he is the danger man.
"We know Davis - he hasn't changed much in the last five to eight years - he is a great passer, great from set-pieces," he told reporters after training on Thursday.
It is impossible to avoid the similarity with Galaxy's own set-piece specialist, the departing David Beckham, and the pair are likely to face each other on the same flank on Saturday.
With time having eroded Beckham's pace, he too is now largely reliant on his cross-field passes, free-kicks and corners.
With such a key role to play at free-kicks and corners, it would be a surprise if neither Beckham nor Davis had an assist to their name in the final.
Beckham though is pleased to see Davis, a player he rates highly, get his chance in the final after last year's disappointment.
"I was sad for Brad last year. Missing out on the final, for a player who had an exceptional season, was tough," he said.
"He is a great player and I know he is a great guy too. Its great to see him fully fit and great to see him playing this weekend," he said.
"He has a great left foot and he can deliver balls anywhere he wants to.
"He is a player that you try to do your homework on but sometimes when players are that good its hard to do that - you just have to be on it on the day and on him on the day - it's as simple as that."
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)