Preview: New York Red Bulls at Los Angeles Galaxy

IMAGE, NEWYORKREDBULLS.COM

by MARK FISHKIN
Staff Writer

After New York’s ignominious failure in the Concacaf Champions Cup, there’s only one more trophy for the Red Bulls to play for, and that’s the MLS Cup.  This Sunday the road towards that elusive goal directs the team to Carson, California and a matchup with the league’s hottest team in the Los Angeles Galaxy. Ever since Landon Donovan announced his impending retirement, the Galaxy have been on a tear, with a single loss in twelve matches and a current 6-0-2 streak. With wins of over three of the top teams in MLS this month, can the Red Bulls continue the magic on the road, where New York has won twice all season?

Match Information:
Sunday, September 28th at Stubhub Center, 8:30p ET kickoff, TV/Streaming: ESPN2/WatchESPN

Referee: Armando Villareal

Record, GF/GA, Division and League Position, Recent Form:
Los Angeles, 54 points from 29 matches, 59GF/31GA, 2nd in the West, 2nd in MLS, WWDDW
New York, 41 points from 29 matches, 48GF/42GA, 4th in the East, 8th in MLS, LWWDW


 

Los Angeles’ front line vs. the Red Bulls defense:
Robbie Keane & Gyasi Zardes vs. Roy Miller, Jamison Olave, Armando, and Chris Duvall (and Luis Robles).
No team in MLS has scored more goals than the Galaxy, and LA’s front line of Keane (15G/14A) and Zardes (15G/2A) are a big reason why.  Keane’s proficiency is no surprise, as the Irishman has hit for 16 goals in each of his last two MLS seasons.  The maturation of homegrown forward Zardes, however, is a major surprise.  The 23 year-old has made a massive improvement his rookie season in LA, when he was able to manage four goals and four assists.  Of course, the youngster has his linemate and Landon Donovan serving him chances, but Zardes is one to watch for the USMNT in 2018. The New York backline was able to handle Seattle’s second-string starters for sixty minutes last week at Red Bull Arena, but Clint Dempsey scored easily and could have had another if it wasn’t for Luis Robles’ superb double-save. Duvall went ninety minutes at FAS during the midweek, but all the other defense starters will be rested.  That may not be enough against the imposing Los Angeles attack.
Advantage: Los Angeles

 


 

New York’s attackers vs. the Galaxy defense:
Bradley Wright-Phillips vs. Robbie Rogers, AJ DeLaGarza, Omar Gonzalez, and Dan Gargan (and Jaime Penedo).

Bradley Wright-Phillips has five matches to score four goals and break the all-time single-season MLS scoring record. Given his return from a hamstring tweak last week, no one expected a hat trick from BWP against a strong side like the Sounders.  However, the Galaxy has conceded the fewest goals in the league (only 31 in 29 matches) and with DeLaGarza and Omar Gonzalez back together in center of the LA defense, New York will have its work cut out for them. Since the former Maryland Terrapins joined the Galaxy in 2009, LA has lost fewer than eight matches per season and have conceded fewer than 34 goals per year. Robbie Rogers has had a renaissance in the South Bay in a new position at left back.  The former national-teamer (18 caps) and converted winger’s play has ignited talks of returning to the national team.  Panamanian national keeper Penedo has six shutouts on the season.
Advantage: Los Angeles

 


 

The Midfields:
Thierry Henry, Eric Alexander, Peguy Luyindula, Dax McCarty, and Lloyd Sam v Landon Donovan, Juninho, Marcelo Sarvas, and Baggio Husidic.

Luyindula (90 minutes) and McCarty (61 minutes) contributed the most in New York’s futile effort in El Salvador. Lloyd Sam could have played that long, and surely could have made an impact, but the Englishman came off at FAS after 17 minutes with hamstring tightness. If Sam in unable to go on Sunday, Landon Donovan (9G/15A) will have even more room to roam and penetrate. While Donovan has scored more goals during a typical MLS campaign, the all-time league scoring leader is one assist away from matching his all-time high for a season, set in 2010. Brazilian Sarvas’ assist totals have gone from two to six to nine over his three seasons in the league. It’s hard to believe that Juninho (4A)  is only 25 years old, but LA’s other Brazilian midfielder continues to churn along and provide important linkages and create scoring opportunities. Husidic has got to be a happy man after landing in LA after three seasons in Chicago.  The Bosnian’s 29 starts are a career high.
Advantage: Los Angeles

 


 

 

The Coaches:
Bruce Arena continues to smirk at his competition, and at the league office, on a regular basis.  Arena continues to get the most out of AEG’s fat pockets and build winning teams.  After an uninspiring season and a half in New York, Arena headed out to LA and hasn’t looked back.  While he tends to rely on “his guys” a little too much, four MLS Cup titles are nothing to sneeze at.  Thankfully for Mike Petke, his club only has a single competition to focus on.  His forays into the US Open Cup and Concacaf Champions League were nothing short of disastrous.  Still, September is New York’s best league month of the season (3-0-1) with a match remaining.  Petke left his best four players out of the CCL to rest them for Sunday. Perhaps his decision will provide to be a good one.

Advantage: Los Angeles

 


Intangibles:

There are few positive markers for New York in this match. Los Angeles is 10-0-3 at home since an opening day loss to RSL on March 8th.  The draws were to Chivas, Portland, and San Jose. The Galaxy have only lost one since August 8th, and have outscored opponents 24-8 on the club’s current eight-match unbeaten run. The Red Bulls have won the last two matchups between the clubs by a 1-0 score. Tim Cahill had the late goal last season at Red Bull Arena in the rain, and Joel Lindpere scored at LA in 2012 for the win. In fact, the Galaxy hasn’t beaten New York in a regular season match in Carson since May 2009 (four matches ago). Thierry Henry (2G) and Tim Cahill (1G) are the only current Red Bulls to have scored against Los Angeles. To the surprise of no one, Sunday’s weather will be perfect, with a high of 74 degrees and zero chance of rain. Galaxy attendance is down eight percent this season, to 20,356.

Advantage: Los Angeles


Prediction:
Ignoring the midweek disaster, these two teams are both red-hot in the league. Los Angeles has its sights set on its unprecedented fifth Supporters Shield, and third in five seasons, while  New York is still hanging on for the playoffs.  While a win in LA would do wonders for the Red Bulls’ playoff chances, it’s unlikely that New York can succeed in a place where so many others have failed.  I’d like to call Sunday’s result a 2-2 draw, but a 2-1 or 3-1 loss is more likely. Regardless of Sunday’s result, though, the September death march will come to end this weekend, and New York will return home for nearly a month of home cooking. And that’s something to look forward to.