Preview: LA vs FCD

Galaxy get last chance to clinch Shield

Juninho vs FCD

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The Basics

LA Galaxy (17-5-7, 56 points, 1st place Western Conference) vs. FC Dallas (12-3-14, 50 points, 3rd place Western Conference) at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.

LA Galaxy lead the all-time series 24-18-9

TV Info

5 p.m. PT; FS West, MLS Direct Kick, MatchDay Live

Game Intro

This game could be the decisive one that completes the Western Conference playoff picture … or everything could be decided by the time this match kicks off. Entering the weekend, the only things that are certain are this: The Galaxy will finish either first or second while FC Dallas will place either third or fourth. These two teams could very well meet up in the first round of the playoffs, in which case they would play each other three consecutive weekends.

LA Galaxy

The Galaxy had been far ahead of the entire league from the start of the season, but recently, Real Salt Lake caught and surpassed them. However, that was just temporary as LA enter the last weekend one point up on their conference rivals. RSL will play Colorado on Saturday and thus the Galaxy’s Supporters’ Shield fate will be known. If the Galaxy simply match RSL’s result, they will win the Shield.

The match will also mark the illustrious careers of two Galaxy stars. Eddie Lewis and Chris Klein will each end their respective careers after the completion of the 2010 season, and this will be their last regular season home game. Each player has been used sparingly as Lewis has played 12 games while Klein has seen action in 10 games.

FC Dallas

FCD saw their club-record 19-match unbeaten streak end at Rio Tinto Stadium in a 2-0 loss to Real Salt Lake last weekend. Still, they will finish either in third or fourth place and will play either RSL or the Galaxy in the first round. The Hoops could enter this match with some confidence – after all, the last time the Hoops visited The Home Depot Center to take on the Galaxy they ran out 6-3 winners.

Manager Schellas Hyndman may try to replicate that success by using one of the master tacticians from that evening. Jeff Cunningham, who had two goals in the match, may get the start. Despite scoring 11 goals, Cunningham has started just 12 of his 26 games this season.

“Against a team like LA, we might turn towards him because of his pure speed and athleticism,” Hyndman said. “We think one of the issues LA has to deal with is the speed.”

Heroes and villains

David Ferreira vs. Landon Donovan: It’s a battle of the Most Valuable Player contenders. Ferreira, for whom Donovan said he would cast his MVP vote, has been one of the key players behind FC Dallas’ surprise rise to prominence while Donovan has been his usual self this season.

Donovan leads the league in assists with 15 while Ferreira is second with 13. The two attack-minded players might not seem destined to mark one another much but the Galaxy captain tends to drift all over the field, including back on defense. Which of these players does the best job of pulling strings Sunday could determine the outcome of the match.

Stat that makes you go “Hmmm…”

If Edson Buddle and Chris Wondolowski fail to score, Buddle would claim the Golden Boot trophy on tiebreaker; his 17 goals would equal last year’s Golden Boot winner: FC Dallas’ Jeff Cunningham.

Keys to the Game

Los Angeles

    - Defender Gregg Berhalter must position himself well in order to slow down Jeff Cunningham.
    - Show more mental toughness than last week; after yielding own goal, players were rattled and never recovered.

FC Dallas

    - Attack down the middle of Galaxy defense; Berhalter still not 100 percent, central midfield could be unsettled as well.
    - Strike quickly; FC Dallas could land a mortal blow with an early goal.

Injuries

Los Angeles

QUESTIONABLE: DF Gregg Berhalter (neck strain); DF Todd Dunivant (R adductor strain); MF Dema Kovalenko (R adductor strain); DF Leonardo (L quad strain)

FC Dallas

OUT: DF Kyle Davies (ankle sprain); DF Edson Edward (osteitis pubis); QUESTIONABLE: GK Kevin Hartman (R knee MCL sprain); DF Ugo Ihemelu (concussion); PROBABLE: MF Daniel Hernandez (L hamstring strain)

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