Historically, New York has gotten the better of Los Angeles in head-to-head postseason play, though the Galaxy, led by Landon Donovan and David Beckham, will tilt the ledger toward the West Coast on Thursday, when they take out Thierry Henry and the Red Bulls on their way to the 2011 MLS Cup.
Granted, picking the Galaxy, the winningest team in MLS this season, to advance to the conference championship is hardly a stretch. LA owns a 1-0 advantage over New York from the first leg of the semifinals and need only come away with a tie at the Home Depot Center, where the Galaxy haven't lost all year.
What's more, the Galaxy sport the stingiest defense in the league, having allowed just 28 goals in 35 matches, and, on the other end of the field, will enjoy the services of Robbie Keane, who played nearly the entire time during LA's playoff opener after missing nearly a month due to injury.
But there's still plenty of reason for concern among the Galaxy. Most notably, they'll be without the services of Juninho, the star midfielder who logged a red card in the first leg against New York at Red Bull Arena when he ended up in a scuffle with Red Bulls defender Rafa Marquez. Both players will sit out the second leg as a result of their confrontation.
Though the odds are still against the Red Bulls, they have quite a bit of experience dealing with that sort of pressure. New York was lucky to reach the playoffs to begin with, as they barely snuck their way in as a wild card after losing just twice in their final 10 regular-season games. In fact, the Red Bulls found themselves in a must-win situation on the last day of the season and came through with a 1-0 victory over Philadelphia.
Of course, the Galaxy are a much better club than the Union and better still than FC Dallas, whom New York defeated to reach the semifinals.
And LA, between Donovan, Beckham and Keane, possesses the sort of firepower on the attack to exploit Marquez's absence and send the Red Bulls back to New York with clipped wings.
As such, look for the Galaxy to do just enough to fend off the hard-charging Red Bulls to secure a spot in the conference championship.