Los Angeles Galaxy (14-5-5, 47 points, 1st place Western Conference) vs. D.C. United (5-16-3, 18 points, 8th place Eastern Conference) at The Home Depot Center, Carson, Calif.
LA lead the all-time series, 16-13-6
7:30 p.m. PT, Fox Soccer Channel, Fox Sports en Español
Not too long ago, this was an illustrious matchup. And while this game will pit the team with the most MLS Cup titles (D.C. with four) against the team with the most MLS Cup appearances (LA with six), half of this rivalry has taken a severe nose dive. D.C. United last were contenders in 2007, when they won the Supporters' Shield. Since then, they've have missed out on the playoffs two seasons running, and have stuggled to stay out of the Eastern Conference cellar. The Galaxy, meanwhile, are no mystery. They've been either first or tied for first in the race for the Supporters' Shield since the get-go this season.
The Galaxy faced a formidable test a week ago when Eastern Conference leaders Columbus visited The Home Depot Center. The Galaxy were at risk of losing their grip on the league table, but responded with a convincing 3-1 rout of the Crew. Now the Galaxy’s task is to avoid a letdown against their once-formidable foes. The Galaxy are hoping to run their unbeaten streak to three games, which would be the first time they’ve had such a streak in league play since early June.
United’s hopes of a lasting positive from an otherwise difficult 2010 vanished when they lost a U.S. Open Cup semifinal match to Columbus, and the Crew beat D.C. in league play a few days later. But interim coach Ben Olsen's crew showed some fight and spirit with a 1-0 win in Toronto a week ago, and gave the Galaxy something to think about. The win was D.C.'s first on the road in more than three months, and just their second league win overall since Olsen took over.
Heroes & Villains
Todd Dunivant vs. Andy Najar: Najar has been one of D.C.’s few bright spots in 2010, and the Galaxy will be wise to mark the teenager tightly. Shutting Najar down will minimize D.C.’s scoring opportunities. The Galaxy have been caught out of position and given up goals with long balls and quick passing from the opponents’ back, including Columbus’ lone goal a week ago. Najar has the pace to get past the Galaxy’s defense and cause such problems. Dunivant must compensate for that and must choose his runs wisely as central defender Leonardo has struggled at times to cover on the left flank.
Stat that makes you go “Hmmm…”
D.C. United have scored a league-worst 16 goals this season, while LA striker Edson Buddle has 14 goals this season alone.
QUESTIONABLE: MF David Beckham (L Achilles tendon); DF Gregg Berhalter (neck); FW Edson Buddle (hamstring tightness); DF A.J. DeLaGarza (L knee)
OUT: FW Adam Cristman (L meniscus tear); MF Brandon Barklage (L ACL tear); DF Marc Burch (R foot fracture); GK Bill Hamid (R labrum tear); DF Juan Manuel Peña (R quadriceps strain); FW Chris Pontius (R hamstring tear); DF Barry Rice (head laceration); DF Rodney Wallace (L fibula fracture);
QUESTIONABLE: MF Clyde Simms (sports hernia symptoms)
Keys to the Game
Play with energy early on; an early goal helped settle the Galaxy and led to a rout over Columbus Crew.
Let Juninho create; the Brazilian’s playmaking ability makes the Galaxy a more dangerous team.
Knock Buddle around; the Galaxy are a different team when Buddle does not find the back of the net.
Be wary of set pieces; with Landon Donovan and now David Beckham in the mix, United could easily be victimized by corner kicks and free kicks.