LA Galaxy (15-4-5, 50 points, 1st place Western Conference) vs. New York Red Bulls (12-8-5, 41 points, 2nd place Eastern Conference) at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
Galaxy lead all-time series 15-14-5
TV Info - National Broadcast
8 p.m. PT; ESPN2, ESPNDeportes
In what is perhaps the biggest regular-season game in years, this one has both luminous starpower and serious implications on the postseason picture. Two of the team's flagship franchises go at it again, this time complete with multiple Designated Players on both sides, lofty MLS Cup aspirations and a national television audience ready for the show.
Unfortunately, these teams simply cannot coordinate their injuries. In what was billed as a five-DP meeting, the match lost some of its star power earlier this week when New York’s Thierry Henry was ruled out with a knee injury. Still, New York will bring Mexican star Rafa Márquez and Juan Pablo Angel to face the the Galaxy's Landon Donovan and David Beckham.
While Henry sits out, however, Beckham seems to be recovering rapidly from his Achilles tendon injury. He’s appeared in two straight games for LA, but neither in a starting role. He could see that opportunity against New York.
But aside from the starpower, this match is one that could play out one more time before it’s all said and done. If things go the way each team hopes, there's a very real chance that Galaxy-Red Bulls III would fill BMO Field in Toronto at the MLS Cup final in late November.
Los Angeles Galaxy
After their sluggish 2-1 win over D.C. United last Saturday, Galaxy coach Bruce Arena rattled off their list of accomplishments – first to 10 points, first to 20, 30, 40 and 50. The Galaxy also became the first team secure a spot in the playoffs. But their season hit a rough patch over the summer, and the question remains if their play will get back to their early-season level. The Galaxy’s win over DC extended their unbeaten streak to three games, the first time since June 5 the club can boast such a run in league play.
New York Red Bulls
RBNY’s last outing created some controversy when Henry knocked FC Dallas’ Kevin Hartman out of the match with a freak after-goal celebratory kick. Henry was subsequently fined but not suspended, but his nagging knee issue kept him out of this match anyway. Still, New York have plenty of firepower at hand; the Red Bulls have scored 11 goals in their last five games, and newcomer Mehdi Ballouchy adds to a potent midfield and debuted with a goal in a 2-2 draw at Dallas.
Heroes & Villains
David Beckham vs. Rafa Márquez: Sure, the onetime Spanish La Liga rivals likely may not spend much time on the field against one another. Beckham is slowly recovering from his Achilles tendon and has seen his playing time increase from 20 minutes to 37 in two games. Márquez has played six games with the Red Bulls, but has just two 90-minute efforts.
But their respective managers expressed optimism over the players’ increasing levels of fitness, and each player can also change the pace of the game in the middle of the field. If and when Beckham steps onto the field, it could become a contest of who can one-up the other.
Stat that makes you go “Hmm…”
Over their last 10 games, the two teams have nearly identical records: New York are 4-3-3 with 14 goals scored, 10 goals allowed, while the Galaxy are 4-4-2 with 13 goals scored and 14 goals allowed.
Keys to the Game
- Find Edson Buddle in dangerous positions; when he scores the Galaxy are a different team.
- Disrupt New York’s midfield; a likely pairing of Dema Kovalenko and Chris Birchall could make things tough on the Red Bulls.
- Attack down the heart of LA’s defense – Leonardo and Yohance Marshall are vulnerable in central defense.
- Match or exceed the Galaxy’s energy at the start of the match.
QUESTIONABLE: MF David Beckham (L Achilles tendon); DF Gregg Berhalter (neck); DF Leonardo (L quad fatigue); DF A.J. DeLaGarza (L knee)
OUT: MF Luke Sassano (R ankle surgery); MF Brian Nielsen (R knee strain); DF Jeremy Hall (R quad strain); FW Thierry Henry (R knee MCL sprain); QUESTIONABLE: DF Chris Albright (groin strain)