Bruce Arena's Los Angeles Galaxy woke out of a nightmarish 80 minutes to rally a goal down to tear the heart away from D.C. United 2-1 last Saturday at the Home Depot Center.
“I thought we played hard tonight and D.C. United played incredibly hard," Arena said after the match. "Getting the first goal didn’t make it easy for us. We had to fight and scrap, and that’s one of the few times this year we’ve been in that kind of position and come out with three points."
This week, the Galaxy will look to tear another into shreds, this time from that of the New York Red Bulls under the Friday night lights of Victoria Street and the Home Depot Center.
The top team in all of Major League Soccer—Los Angeles— is currently 15-5-5 (50 points) this season, but find themselves in a tight race with Real Salt Lake for the Supporters' Shield.
As for the Red Bulls, they are 12-8-5 (41 points), good enough for fifth overall and second in the MLS Eastern Conference behind the Columbus Crew.
And the Red Bulls have Thierry Henry. Oh yes, that Henry that put FC Dallas's Kevin Hartman out of commission for a while last week. That Henry. And of course, there's Rafael Marquez and Juan Pablo Angel to worry about to.
Did you know that Angel currently has 12 goals so far this year? Only two behind 14, scored by the Galaxy's Edson Buddle. Major firepower on both sides indeed.
If Lalas Hill does not get open after the possibility of Henry, Angel, Marquez, Buddle, Landon Donovan and David Beckham on the same pitch, it would be a travesty. The only time the hill has been open to the masses was on Independence Day in a match with the Seattle Sounders FC.
With the possibility looming large, Los Angeles cannot afford to be rusty at all.
“We didn’t play well tonight," Donovan said regarding the victory against D.C. United. "I don’t know what the deal was. I don’t know why. I wish I had an answer for it.
We didn’t compete like we have the last few weeks. We didn’t pass the ball well, our final decision in front of the goal was poor, and we had a bunch of really not good performances. We were fortunate to get something out of the game.”
Speaking of Donovan, the Galaxy's main provider has been getting his scoring touch going again. Donovan currently has 14 assists and seven goals. Two of those seven came in a brace against D.C. United on Saturday.
The goals also place him ahead of Cobi Jones as the Galaxy's all-time leading scorer.
“Cobi’s is the guy I have watched the most throughout my career, not only when I was young, but also since I have been in MLS and especially since I have been with the Galaxy," Donovan said on the record. "I have a lot of respect for what he has done and it is nice to join that company.”
As for Beckham, he was nothing short of impressed when asked about the team's newfound ability to rally from a goal down.
“It felt great to be part of that because I know we haven’t done it this season," Beckham said after the match.
"It is important to do that because we can’t expect to win every game easily...We kept it going. The character came through at the end and we have to prove that we got that character. We know it within the locker room, but we have to prove it to people.”
Aside from Angel's scoring touch, Estonia's Joel Lindpere has left his mark as the Red Bulls' main provider, with six assists this season.
While Marquez's presence will make things difficult for the Galaxy on Friday, the keys to the defense are in the hands of Tim Ream, who leads the club with 2,250 game minutes in 25 appearances.
Bouna Coundoul has a 1.43 goals against average, a 76.6 percent save percentage and 85 saves to his name. A clutch stopper, look for Coundoul to have a field night against LA.
Offensively, Salou Ibrahim (three goals this season) and Dane Richards (two goals and three assists this season) are other players to keep an eye out for.
The absence of Omar Gonzalez due to suspension on Friday will force wholesale changes to the backline.
“We are thin," admitted Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant. "Leonardo is close and A.J. [De La Garza] is close. We are going to need some center backs for next week. Omar is going to be gone, but Sean [Franklin] can play center back. We are going to have to make adjustments. That is what it is all about and we are going to get guys healthy.”
If Franklin is unable to fill it, the hole at the center back position could put some added pressure on Galaxy goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts—the Big Cat from Montego Bay—to come up with big stops against the Red Bulls' attack.
Ricketts currently has a 0.79 GAA, a 77.6 percent save percentage and has 66 saves to his name against a 15-5-4 record between the posts.
Offensively, midfielder Jovan Kirovski has contributed to the cause with four goals and provides a viable third scoring option for the G's on Friday.
This will be a draw. A major draw. With the end result being such. It's a bend-but-don't-break type of deal for the Galaxy, who should be able to stand tall against the vastly improved Red Bulls.
But most importantly:
“It will be a good game," Donovan said on the match-up. "I think when the envisioned this league, they probably wanted to have something like this. Two big cities, getting after each other a little bit. Give New York a lot of credit. That has been a fabulous ownership group to really get that situation right.
They have one of the finest soccer stadiums in the country. They have invested deeply in that team and have done a great job. The acquisitions of Henry and Marquez, along with Angel and others, they have the star power for sure.
"It is a great game for the league. I am happy we are at this point in the season with the league and have this kind of opportunity. This league is moving forward at the right pace and I think next Friday will mean a lot to both teams.
It is going an evening to celebrate where this league has come. I think it will be a fabulous night for MLS. Our team has to play at its very best to win the game.”
Kickoff for this match is scheduled for 8 p.m. PT and will be televised by ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes.
From Austin to LA...Marshall's A-OK!
Defender Yohance Marshall was back in the mix and earned his first-ever start in an MLS match for the Los Angeles Galaxy against D.C. United on Saturday.
“I think he did very well," Arena said on Marshall's performance. "He played with a lot of confidence to start the game which was good to see.
He is obviously confident from getting a number of games under his belt this year at Austin, and he played with us earlier this year against Boca and we could see that he was a player with a lot more confidence. We needed him tonight and he did a really good job.”
Defender Todd Dunivant was impressed by the hard work that came from honing his skills with the Austin Aztex.
“He has been out all year," Dunivant said of Marshall. "He comes in steps in and does a great job. He didn’t miss a beat. He played simple, played smart, played hard and did his job. It was perfect.”
Cooling the pregame jitters was a critical part to the young Soca Warrior's performance.
“I think every player is nervous to play," Marshall said, "so of course I was a little nervous but it is part of the game so you have to go on with it. Fight the nerves and go out and play to the best of your ability. I think [the Galaxy backline] stayed compact and talked to each other and we did pretty well tonight.
“It was a bit sudden, but this is my mother club so I was happy to come back.”
Welcome back, Marshall.