The Red Bulls (9-7-3) have won two of three and three of five, and are still glowing from last week's walkover vs. TFC. The Jozy Altidore hype machine is in full gear, and the 17-year star even posted on Jack Bell's NY Times GOAL blog to feed it. Claudio Reyna may not play tomorrow, but that might not be the worst thing for New York, who seem to be better without Captain America on the field.
The Gals (3-7-5) are surely riding high since their SuperLiga win on Wednesday. With players like Xavier, Pavon, Alan Gordon, and Landon Donovan in addition to Goldenballs, LA looks to be heading in the right direction. If LA wants to make the playoffs, however, the need points in a hurry.
Recent Form/Playoff Position:
New York: WLWLW/3rd in East, would face DC United in 1st round
Los Angeles: WDLLW (all competitions)/5th in West, 10 pts. from playoff position
Here's a line-by-line look at what to expect:
The Los Angeles forwards vs. the Red Bulls' defense:
Alan Gordon and Carlos Pavon vs. Hunter Freeman, Jeff Parke, Seth Stammler, and Chris Leitch (and Ronald Wattereus). Gordon has yet to score in MLS play this season, but the former A-League Golden Boot winner did pump in three goals during the first round of the SuperLiga. Pavon, the dangerous Honduran striker, has yet to score since joining the Galaxy, but with Donovan and Beckham there to pick up the scoring slack, he should relax and let the goals come to him. The NY defense has allowed only three goals in its last five matches, a feat even more impressive since they've done it without centerback stalwart Carlos Mendes, who's still not 100% fit. If Ron Wattereus is back in form in net, another shutout is a possibilty. Advantage: New York
New York's attackers vs. the Galaxy defense:
Dave van den Bergh, Joe Vide, Clint Mathis and Dane Richards vs. David Beckham, Landon Donovan, Kyle Martino, and Kevin Harmse. There's not much more to be said about Becks' blast on Wednesday vs. DC. Even at 3/4 speed, Beckham may be the most skilled player in the league. Throw in Metro-killer Landcakes, and you've got a tough assignment for anyone to handle. Harmse is a bruiser. New York will miss pit-bull Dema Kovalenko for another week, but Joe Vide has done a yeoman's job in his stead. Without Reyna, Mathis will play quarterback. Here's to hoping he's up for the assignment. Advantage: Los Angeles
Bruce Arena is finally getting the club moving in the right direction after a few months of bad form while Frank Yallop, who has also won MLS Cups in his day, is still trying to figure out how to get his talented squad to mesh. Advantage: Push
Without a Barcelona or Manchester United barnstorming the country this year, tomorrow's match is THE night for soccer in New York this summer. Most of the 60,000+ attending will not care one whit whether the Red Bulls will win or not, which sucks, frankly. Hopefully, New York won't underachieve yet again in front of a large crowd, which has been the club's M.O. over the years. Beckham's aversion to the plastic pitch may be the Red Bulls' saving grace. Weather will be ideal. Advantage: Push
Traditionally, New York gacks it up when playing in front of more the 25k at home. My guess is that Arena will hype his boys up by telling them that the vast majority of the crowd will be rooting against them. Maybe it'll work. Goals for Beckham, Donovan, JPA, and Jozy tomorrow in a super entertaining 2-2 draw.