Robert Mora

LA Galaxy turn their attention to Western Conference Championship foe FC Dallas

CARSON, Calif. – It’s not as if the LA Galaxy have to dig deep into their archives to research FC Dallas. Try not even three weeks ago.

It was Oct. 24 at The Home Depot Center, when the teams squared off with the Galaxy’s Supporters’ Shield hopes on the line. The Galaxy, thanks to goals from David Beckham and Juninho, rallied for a 2-1 victory that clinched the best record in MLS and home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

The Galaxy will now get to put that home field advantage to work as they host their longtime rivals in a game with considerably higher stakes, the Western Conference Championship. The last time these two faced off they both knew that they would be playing again the following week in the opening round of the MLS Cup Playoffs. But this time around, they are trying to extend their seasons by one more week and earn the right to play for MLS Cup, which will be played Nov. 21 at Toronto’s BMO Field.

Sunday’s game at The Home Depot Center (6 p.m. on ESPN2/ESPN Deportes/ will mark the third meeting this season between the teams, with the Galaxy winning both times. Head coach Bruce Arena said however that those victories hold no merit as far as he’s concerned.

“They don’t mean a thing,” he said. “We only played them two or three weeks ago, so you’re familiar with them. It’s not like you have to educate your team a whole lot on what they are.”

Added Eddie Lewis, “This is a different scenario. We do take away from our opponents without a doubt, but this is a different game and a different setup, so we won’t be riding on those wins.”

FC Dallas had one of the most impressive runs in MLS history this season. After a 1-0 loss to the Galaxy on May 20, they did not lose again until a 2-0 defeat at Real Salt Lake on Oct. 16.

They went 10-0-9 in that unbeaten run and outscored their opponents 32-16 during that stretch.

“They’re hot right now,” Galaxy forward Mike Magee said, “a really tough opponent for us.”

FC Dallas, who defeated Real Salt Lake in their Western Conference Semifinal Series, are led by David Ferreira, a finalist for the MLS Most Valuable Player award, who had 8 goals and 13 assists.

Dallas’ top goal-scorer in the regular season was Jeff Cunningham, the second leading scorer in MLS history, who finished with 11 goals. He scored in the first leg on Dallas’ series win over Real Salt Lake shortly after replacing another one of FCD’s top attacking options, Milton Rodriguez, who was forced to leave the game with a right groin injury and has not played since. Rodriguez, who signed with Dallas in May and debuted in July, finished the season with five goals in 13 games, good for third on the team along with 20-year-old midfielder Brek Shea, who played a pivotal role in setting up Dax McCarty’s goal at Rio Tinto Stadium last weekend after stepping into the lineup in place of the suspended Atiba Harris.

“They have a lot of guys who are game-changers,” Magee said. “They’re an extremely good attacking team that has a lot of pace, a lot of guys that can do things if you let down for one second.”

The Dallas defense is anchored by former Galaxy shot stopper Kevin Hartman, who was a finalist for the league’s Goalkeeper of the Year Award which eventually went to the Galaxy’s Donovan Ricketts. Hartman went 10-1-8 with a 0.62 goals-against average and nine shutouts in his first season for Dallas after being acquired from Kansas City in March. His backline figures to be boosted by the return of George John, who has had a sore hamstring but did play the full 90 minutes in the second leg of the Real Salt Lake series. But the status of defender Heath Pearce, who also has a hamstring injury, is unclear.

If the Galaxy thought Seattle were dangerous in the opening round of the playoffs, FC Dallas have even more of their attention.

Todd Dunivant said he has been impressed with FC Dallas’ size, particularly Shea, who made his U.S. National Team debut last month against Colombia, their speed and Ferreira’s ability to keep the ball and the difficulty that opposing players have in knocking him off the ball. He expects Dallas will stay true to form on Sunday.

So will the Galaxy, he pointed out.

“I don’t expect a different (Dallas) team,” he said, “and we’re certainly not going to be any different.”

The Galaxy face FC Dallas in the Western Conference Championship on Sunday, November 14 at 6 p.m. at The Home Depot Center. Tickets are available as low as $20! BUY TICKETS

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