Saturday’s match against the New York Red Bulls is the marquee match of the week in MLS. It will be a chance to write another chapter in the “East vs. West” debate, and the fact that both teams enter the game as the top team in their respective conference makes it even more enticing. Oh and by the way, New York came to The Home Depot Center and dominated LA in the corresponding match a year ago.
The Red Bulls are the more in form team right now. They have suffered just one defeat all season, and have not conceded a goal in their last three games, taking maximum points in each of them. Tim Ream continues to grow into a composed center back, playing along side Rafa Marquez.
In the midfield, New York has become even stronger with the addition of Dwayne De Rosario, picked up in a trade from Toronto last month.
Then of course there are the forwards running up front. Thierry Henry might be playing his best soccer since he came to MLS, scoring three goals in his last three games. Expect Henry to partner with Luke Rodgers, a 29-year-old Englishman, whose pace and physicality is a great fit for New York.
Head Coach Hans Backe needs to look no further than teenager Juan Agudelo if reinforcements are needed from the Red Bull’s bench. There are not a lot of weaknesses in this year’s New York team, and the Galaxy will have their work cut out for it.
Speaking of the Galaxy, they come home after suffering their second defeat of the year. It seems the weather was one of the biggest factors, not the FC Dallas players, in handing LA their recent loss. I for one thought there was no way the teams were coming back out onto the Pizza Hut Park pitch following a lightning delay of more than an hour.
The sell-out crowd was on the same page too. There were about 300 people that came back into the stadium to see Brek Shea deliver the game-winning goal in the final eight-plus minutes. As I said in the broadcast, you have to give Dallas credit… they wanted it more, and found a way to grind out the result.
There is no question that the Galaxy did not have the tempo and flow they displayed the week before in the 3-0 win over Portland. Yes, the conditions in Texas made it difficult to replicate what was seen the week prior, but going deeper, the energy and confidence were not the same. That is what LA needs to get back to this week. I would like to see the Galaxy display that sense of pride and the confidence that comes along with playing at home. Make it tough for teams to come to Southern California and earn even a single point.
Defensively there are some lapses from time to time during the match, and opponents have found ways to exploit those. There is no question that LA has the pieces in the back, but keeping the shape, communicating in the final third of the field and not making mistakes are a must for the entire 90 minutes.
This is especially true this week of LA’s outside backs. The Red Bulls have good speed on the flanks and will try to run at and get around Todd Dunivant and Sean Franklin. If those two can win their battles and get forward, forcing players like Dane Richards and Joel Lindpere to drop back and defend, the Galaxy could be in good shape. However, if they struggle, it could be a long day for Bruce Arena’s side.