Monday Hangover: LA, Crew ready to rumble

A season-long duel between MLS' undefeateds is gaining momentum

Phew. They both made it.

I, like many MLS fans, have had the upcoming Columbus Crew - Los Angeles Galaxy match circled on the schedule for at least a month now. They were both undefeated—one loudly so, the other quietly—and on a collision course for a May 29 tilt at Crew Stadium.

Problem was, no one knew if both sides would remain undefeated. They were both set to lose players to the US team, plus there are injuries, suspensions, and the simple inevitability of a team’s falling eventually.

But they pulled it off. And now, in the immortal words of Michael Buffer, “Let’s get ready to rumble.”

Or not. Truth is, the Galaxy and Crew aren’t MLS’ version of the Sharks and Jets. There’s no real animosity between the clubs, no history of hard-bitten losses, mid-game melees, or wars of words. Other than the fact that both are undefeated, this game wouldn’t mean more than any other.

But both are undefeated. And when you consider the amount of firepower both sides were missing this week, for both of them to hold serve—actually, to get three wins on the road among the two of them—is a testament to their strength and only goes to show that this game does mean more than any other, at least so far this season. This is a prelude to what could become one of the great season-long duels of all time.

First, LA. They went into Dallas on Thursday to face a team that seemed finally to have found their rhythm. FCD were unbeaten in four, including two tough 1-0 wins. They had conceded only two goals over that four-game stretch.

Problem is, LA had conceded only two goals over the entire season. Once Mike Magee had the Galaxy a goal to the good in just 17 minutes, their defense took over, and when the final whistle blew, LA had notched their eighth shutout in 10 games this season. (They tacked another one on in Sunday’s friendly against Boca Juniors.)

The Crew, on the other hand, let their attack run riot on Thursday in a 3-1 win over New York. Well, maybe not run riot, but at least rule the day. Even without Guillermo Barros Schelotto, they played one of the more intelligent tactical matches we’ve seen so far—structured at the back, selective in their counterattack moments, ruthless in the finish.

Then, just three days later, they let their defense get the job done, pulling off a second brilliant win on the road, topping the energetic Kansas City Wizards, 1-0. It was KC’s first home league loss this season, and the Crew were polished and professional, getting another fine performance from Eddie Gaven and a refreshing one from new signing Emilio Renteria.

There were debates last week about which side is more awesome, LA or Columbus. Most observers went with LA. Some, including me, went with Columbus. (A few wackos picked Real Salt Lake, which caused the rest of us to throw our hands in the air.) We made our arguments, presented our defenses, and pontificated on this that and the other thing.

Now, as we always knew, they can settle it on the field. I’m just glad they both will enter this match unbeaten. Because that’s how real, juicy rumbles must start—with something at stake.

SIDE NOTE: The rumor is that the US team will announce their 23-man World Cup roster sometime midweek. At that point, a US spokesman told me, any players not on the squad will be released back to their clubs.

That means C-Bus’s Chad Marshall and Robbie Rogers and LA’s Edson Buddle, bubble players all, could be available on Saturday.