I get the MLS's obsession with this match, I mean they have been so focused on the LA Galaxy since the started the whole DP thing with Beckham, that it took him being gone almost all of last year for anyone else to get a headline. This year MLS again had to deal with Beckham being gone most of the season, but he is back in action (well limited actions so far) and they again are so focused on him that they are missing so many other worthy stories. The only thing that has been able to catch their eye is the ultra deep pockets of the New York Red Bulls, who was the first team to jump at spending money for the right to sign 3 DP's, and the league for so long has wanted a winner in New York that their salivation at getting both of these things together is simply too much for them to not show their true colors on.
Of course the fact that these two teams minus Beckham matched up just a month ago and it was a absolute snoozer of a match that ended 1-0 for LA on a 10th minute goal by Edson Buddle, and just 4 other shots on goal for the rest of the match. This match will have Beckham, but much to the regret of MLS it will not have Thierry Henry, who should be suspended but will instead miss the match with an injury. So let's take a look at this "Match of the Year" and let me give it my preview treatment.
Take the Jump for my match preview:
The LA Galaxy are simply the best team in MLS this year, or they are according to the points but they have had some recent struggles in fact even their recent two wins may not pass close examination. After their July 4th 3-1 win over Seattle the Galaxy have gone 4-4-2, with two of those wins coming over DC United (currently the worst team in MLS) and neither of those wins were overwhelming. Their other two wins came in big matches over New York and Columbus, and you can't deny those wins but after the Crew's 0-4 loss to Seattle last weekend you have to wonder what issues may be going on in Buckeye central? During that run, they lost in Chicago and only got a draw with the Fire at the HDC, they lost to Kansas City at the HDC, they lost at New England, all teams on the outside of the playoffs right now. Their once unbeatable defense, which allowed just 3 goals in their first 12 matches, has now allowed 16 goals in their last 13 matches. Their offense is simply Edson Buddle (14 goals, 2 assists), and Landon Donovan (7 goals, 14 assists), beyond that they simply don't have anyone impressive enough to mention.
The New York Red Bulls have completed one of the best turn arounds I have seen in recent history, from last years whipping boy to Eastern Conference contender (just 3 points behind the Crew). Now you might believe that all this is because of Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez joining the team but the reality is that the Red Bulls have spent all season in the top 2 teams in the East. They have been lead by who I consider the best DP in the history of MLS, Juan Pablo Angel, who has 12 goals and 3 assists (46% of NY's goals), 3 game winning goals, 2 game winning assists, those numbers and success of the Red Bulls this year have to make him a MVP candidate this year. The Red Bulls have a number of quality players but none has stepped up to provide a quality offensive partner for JPA, but you have to be impressed with the play of Joel Lindpere who has 2 goals and 6 assists. On defense the Red Bulls have made huge improvements, they gave up 47 goals last year, and now with 5 matches left they have given up just 27 goals. A huge part of that has been the work in goal of Bouna Coundoul, who has a 1.13 GAA and 8 clean sheets, of course he doesn't do that by himself. Newcomers Roy Miller and Tim Ream both have been huge additions and proved quality support in front of goal, they have gotten help from a number of rotating players who overall have lead to a much sounder Red Bull team in 2010
This match may well come down to the players who won't be there, for the Red Bulls the energy and vision of Thierry Henry won't be available, the Galaxy will be without their best defender Omar Gonzalez is out on suspension. This will open the door for a couple players on each side to step up and show what they can do.
On the Red Bull side, I think the play of Dane Richards will probably be the most important player outside of Angel for New York, but don't be surprised if their recent pick up from Colorado, Medhi Ballouchy, plays a role as well. I am not a huge fan of Medhi but as he proved in his first match with the team, when you surround him with a higher quality player he can play the game and be dangerous. Remember that the Red Bulls have multiple goals in 4 of their last 5 matches.
On the Galaxy side, I think the move to bring Dema Kovalenko back into the defensive midfield role is a risk, as Chris Birchall had been performing well, but you can never question the heart, passion, or toughness of Dema, he is a true warrior on the pitch. Sean Franklin is a star in the making but by moving him back to the backline will mean that he will be playing behind Landon, and the opportunities for quality offensive runs should be there for most of the match and the Galaxy love their counter attacks.
The key in almost every MLS match is who scores first, and LA has scored 15 goals in the first 30 minutes of matches, that is more than double the 7 by the Red Bulls. If the Galaxy score early, before the 20th minute then this could end up like the 3-0 beatdown they put on the Crew. If the match is still 0-0 after 20 minutes, then I think the Red Bulls might just pull out the win in this one.
This one ends up 2-1 with the New York Red Bulls surviving the last minute onslaught of the LA Galaxy.
OFF MY SOAPBOX