CARSON, Calif. – The two-time defending MLS Cup champion LA Galaxy will face longtime rival D.C. United on Saturday at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. The game used to be one of the premier matchups in MLS with the two sides combining for eight titles in the first 17 years of the league. But rather than providing a potential MLS Cup preview, this year’s meeting will feature a Galaxy side that are looking to cement a berth in the MLS Cup Playoffs while D.C. United are stuck on the bottom of the Eastern Conference and already eliminated from postseason contention.
It has all the makings of a classic “trap” game, but if Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena has anything to say about it, the Galaxy won’t fall into any so-called trap. In fact, he told his players in a team meeting Tuesday to expect D.C. United’s best game of the season this weekend.
“I think we’re well aware of that fact; we’re not going to overlook them,” Arena told reporters. “We’d be real stupid to feel that way.
“If there’s a lesson to be learned in this league it’s there’s no given.”
The Galaxy (13-10-4, 43 points, third in the Western Conference) will be facing a D.C. United team that has won just three games this season (3-19-5, 14 points, 10th and last in the East) and scored a league-low 16 goals.
Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant said that his side would not be fooled by their Eastern Conference rival’s disappointing results.
“Without a doubt this is a good team,” he said. “The results haven’t shown it. They have good players who will hurt you if you give them a chance. There’s no pressure on them, and they can come out free and easy and play aggressive.
“Anyone who’s been in this league knows how difficult it is to win on any given day, no matter if you’re playing the best team in the league or the team at the bottom of the table. We’re not fooled by D.C.’s record. I think right away we’re setting the tone this week that it’s going to be a tough 90 minutes, and we have to be prepared for that.”
Galaxy midfielder Marcelo Sarvas, who will be making his first-ever appearance at United’s venerable RFK Stadium – Sarvas scored his first-ever goal for the Galaxy in the club’s 3-1 home win over United in March 2012 – expects one of the Galaxy’s more difficult challenges Saturday.
“I think it’s going to be a very hard match,” he said. “In this game they (United) are going to want to show their best. They are playing at home, they have nothing to play for and they’re playing against the MLS champion.
“They know all attention and all eyes are going to be on this game. We have to come out strong knowing how hard it’s going to be and how important these three points are for us.”
Sarvas was asked if games like Saturday’s are the hardest to prepare for.
“Not the hardest ones, but they can be tricky if you don’t put your mind in the right direction,” he said. “If you’re not prepared to play a game like that it can be very difficult.
“It will be a very hard match. We need those three points.”