New York (9-6-4, 31 points, 2nd place in East) vs. Los Angeles (12-3-4, 40 points, 1st place in West), at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J.
All-time record: The series is tied at 14-14-5
This is a bit of a glamour match featuring two of the most high-profile and high-flying teams in the league and among the stars shining on Saturday evening will be Rafa Marquez, making his home debut for the club.
New York are coming off of a mid-week win over Toronto and will look to continue that trend against Los Angeles. This match will be the third in a six-day span for the Red Bulls and is the toughest in a stretch that will see them face four playoff contenders in less than three weeks.
Los Angeles limp into the match with just two wins in their last seven competitive matches, but they'll be coming in with a bit of confidence after having lost a narrow decision to Spanish giants Real Madrid last Saturday.
New York Red Bulls
The Red Bulls come into the match against the league’s top team with confidence, coming off a gutsy 1-0 win on Wednesday and two road ties in the games before that.
The backline has conceded just two goals in that stretch of three games and is playing very well as a unit.
Now with a strong grip on second place in the conference, the Red Bulls are eyeing the playoffs in what is being built up as a statement game for the team. Head coach Hans Backe is downplaying that angle, saying that a team that finished in last place a season ago isn’t quite there yet.
“It is a little naïve for us to think we’re going to compete for a cup this season,” Backe said.
Los Angeles Galaxy
Over the past month, the Galaxy haven't looked like the club that was running rampant through the MLS season.
The side got bounced from the CONCACAF Champions League and the US Open Cup without merit and they have struggled in league play. Forward Edson Buddle has yet to find the pre-World Cup form that propelled him to top of the league status in the hunt for the Golden Boot.
“Hopefully, the goals will come soon as I spend more time with my team,” Buddle told MLSsoccer.com after playing Tuesday night for the US National Team in a 2-0 loss to Brazil.
Heroes & Villains
Todd Dunivant vs. Mac Kandji -- Red Bulls fans remember Todd Dunivant being unceremoniously dumped by the team early in the 2007 season and, since his departure, the team lacked a true left back until bringing in Roy Miller this year. Dunivant has always been good in the attack but suspect in his man marking. After some strong performances to end the month of July, Mac Kandji has struggled to find his form over the past three games, including missing multiple scoring opportunities against Chicago last Sunday. Kandji is primed for a big game if Dunivant gives the player too much space on the wing.
Stat that makes you go “Hmm..."
After taking 23 points from 10 matches from May through early July, Los Angeles have just four points from their last five league matches.
Keys to the Game
- New York must limit space for Donovan, keep Buddle’s back towards goal.
- Marquez must find players wide with open space to stretch the field.
- Must force the Red Bulls’ attack to the center and not give space on the wings.
- Must put quality balls into the box from the wings and get around a compact backline.
OUT: MF Giorgi Chirgadze (hip surgery); MF Luke Sassano (R ankle surgery); MF Brian Nielsen (R knee strain); MF Irving Garcia (R hip strain); DF Jeremy Hall (R quad strain)
OUT: MF David Beckham (L Achilles tendon surgery)