After a nine-day layoff that most clubs use to get healthy, New York (2-1-2) will travel to Carson late Saturday night without two key midfielders (10:30p, HDNet) to take on a resurgent LA Galaxy squad (2-2-2) that leads MLS in scoring.
Captain Claudio Reyna (left calf sprain) and midfield Seth Stammler (lower back) won't make the cross-country trip, and the injuries couldn't come at a worse time. LA, in year two of the Beckham era, is clicking on all cylinders up front, and Reyna and Stammler would have been vital in attempting to shut down LA's Landon Donovan, who's on a mission this young season (eight goals in six games). Throw in a possible scratch of NY forward Jozy Alitdore (exhaustion) and one wonders if the Red Bulls will be able to keep up.
Position and Recent Form:
Los Angeles, 8 pts, 2nd West, WLTWT
New York, 8 pts, 6th East, WLTWT
Here's a line-by-line look at Saturday's match:
The Los Angeles forwards vs. the Red Bulls' defense:
Landon Donovan and Alan Gordon vs. Kevin Goldthwaite, Jeff Parke, and Hunter Freeman (and Jon Conway). When Landycakes decides he wants to play (which sadly isn't always), the all-time USMNT scoring leader is just about unstoppable. So for in 2008, Donovan has wanted to come to the park, as evidenced by his torrid scoring pace that would smash the all-time MLS single-season scoring record of Rocket Roy Lassiter's 27 tallies in 1996. Becks' play has energized Donovan, and lifted the club to a .500 record. Gordon has two scores and three assists on the year. The Red Bulls defense has been its strongest line to date this season, as coach Juan Carlos Osorio had hoped. New York has given up only 0.8 goals/match, good enough for second in the league. Freeman's return at right back is a huge plus. Still, if LD & Becks are connecting... Advantage: Los Angeles
New York's attackers vs. the Galaxy defense:
Oscar Echeverry and Juan Pablo Angel vs. Chris Klein, Troy Roberts, Sean Franklin, and Greg Vanney (and Steve Cronin). To say that LA's defense stinks is a massive understatement. The Galaxy's porous back line gives up 2.17 goals/match and should allow enough of an oppportunity for Juan Pablo Angel to finally get on the scoring sheet this season. After tearing up MLS in 2007 (19g in 24 games), JPA hasn't been able to get on target to date. Without Altidore, New York turns to Angel's countrymate Echeverry, who will also look for his first goal of the season. Advantage: New York
Dane Richards, Luke Sassano, Mike Magee, Sinisa Ubiparipovic and Dave van den Bergh, vs. David Bechkam, Brandon McDonald, Troll Franchino, and Mike Randolph. Without d-mid stalwart Stammler and field general Reyna, JCO may turn to Mike Magee to quarterback New York's attack. The return of Dane Richards will help but pressure on the flanks, and Ubiparipovic will get the assignment of slowing down Beckham. McDonald and Randolph have a total of 30 MLS starts between them, but as long as "wicked pissah" Franchino can disrupt the NY attack, Beckham will be all that matters. Slight Advantage: Los Angeles
"Sexy Football" or not, Ruud Gullit has figured out that his two gifted superstars are all that LA needs to shine. Gullit called out MLS as "amateurish" to the foriegn press last week after the Gals had to call in some friends to play in a reserve match. Do we really need Eurosnobs coaching in the league? JCO is doing the best he can with his M*A*S*H unit of a roster. Is Andrew Boyens the best he can do on the acquisition front? Advantage: Push
LA will be playing at home, where they've scored 11 of their 13 goals. Posh will be there. Real TV star Mrs. Donovan will be there. Maybe Katie Holmes & Suri will be there. Drew Carey may be there. No one will be rooting for the visitors. New York has a single goal in their two road tests to date. Weather will be clear, low of 56. Advantage: Los Angeles
Prediction: Becks and Donovan hit the net once each, but New York gets goals from Angel, Magee, and van den Burgh a wildly entertaining 3-2 victory.