One is the reigning MLS champion and the other is the 2010 NASL champion. Both finished with the best regular season in their respective leagues last season.
This season they have each gotten off to slower than expected starts.
But just like the Galaxy, the Carolina RailHawks, who the Galaxy will face on Tuesday night in the Third Round of the U.S. Open Cup, are expected to turn their season around thanks in large to a veteran coach with MLS and international experience.
WATCH: Galaxy on facing RailHawks
Carolina are led by former Northern Ireland international Colin Clarke, who is in his first season with the club. Formerly a head coach in the region with the Richmond Kickers, Clarke rose to prominence in U.S. coaching circles with a successful run with FC Dallas that saw the team go 41-39-20 in three plus seasons with him, including a pair of postseason appearances in 2005 and 2006. He followed that run with an equally impressive stay with the Puerto Rico Islanders, leading them to at least a semifinal berth in the playoffs every year from 2007-11, including a championship in 2010, a regular season title in 2008 and four consecutive berths into the CONCACAF Champions League.
Clarke had a 5-7-0 record against the Galaxy during his tenure as the head coach in Dallas, but it is a collection of meetings in Cup competitions that his teams are most remembered for by Galaxy fans.
In 2005, Clarke led FC Dallas into The Home Depot Center for the Open Cup Final against LA. Herculez Gomez, who finished as the tournament’s top scorer that year, finished a cross from Chris Albright in the 25th minute to give the Galaxy a 1-0 win and their first of two trophies on the season, winning MLS Cup two months later on FC Dallas’ home ground.
Five years later, Clarke enjoyed a much more successful trip to Carson, pulling off one of the shock results of the year. In the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League Preliminary Round Series, the Puerto Rico Islanders, who Clarke coached from 2007-11, upset the Galaxy 4-1 at The Home Depot Center. LA would win the return leg in San Juan a week later, but they could not overturn their three goal deficit and were eliminated from the competition.
Clarke’s teams in Dallas and Puerto Rico were known for their physical, defense-first style of play and his new group is no different. Despite being winless and sitting in seventh place of the NASL standings with a 0-4-5 record, Carolina have not been an easy team to play against this season.
Ray Burse, who Clarke drafted in Dallas in 2006 and played 25 games for the club between 2007 and 2009, is expected to start in goal. The former Ohio State standout has played every minute for the RailHawks in goal this season, allowing an average of two goals per game. In front of him, former U.S. Soccer Young Athlete of the Year Gale Agbossoumonde will marshal the center of the RailHawk defense after debuting for the club earlier this month. He will be joined by club captain Kupono Low, who has played every minute of his side’s nine league games this year at left back and former Columbus Crew midfielder Cory Elenio, who has see time of late at right back.
In front of the back four, Clarke is expected to use a combination of former Colorado Rapid Amir Lowery, Chris Nurse, who was a member of the Islanders when they beat LA in 2010, and Breiner Ortiz in central midfield. On the wings, Nick Zimmerman and Austin da Luz, who have 40 MLS regular season appearances between them, were impressive against PSA Elite in the Second Round and could each start again on Tuesday. Zimmerman is tied for the team lead with four goals on the season while da Luz has scored once since signing for the club last month.
Up front, Brian Shriver was the star of the Third Round win over PSA, scoring four times. A former star at North Carolina, who was drafted by FC Dallas in 2009, Shriver is tied with Zimmerman for the team lead with four goals on the year. He will be paired alongside either Jason Garey, an MLS Cup winner with Columbus in 2008 and a member of the Houston Dynamo last season, or former New England forward Zack Schilawski, who had a goal and two assists last week.
The RailHawks have not played since that game, giving the team the ability to train for a full week in that time, while the Galaxy have played a pair of league matches.
Tuesday’s game will kick off at 4 p.m. (PT) and Joe Tutino will have the call of the game right here on LAGalaxy.com.