Looking to build on tough wins over the Seattle Sounders and Sporting Kansas City, the LA Galaxy fly to the Big Apple to take on the red-hot New York Red Bulls Sunday afternoon at 2 pm, live on ESPN2.
For the Galaxy, it still appears one of the biggest challenges of the season is getting everyone healthy. Robbie Keane ruled himself out of the game during yesterday's training, and Jose Villarreal is unlikely to go after the midfielder was pulled from the U.S. Mexico U-23 friendly on Wednesday with tightness in his hamstring, though Villarreal insists the sub was just a precautionary measure.
It wasn't supposed to be like this for the New York Red Bulls. With Thierry Henry leaving and newly embedded sporting director Ali Curtis facing an open fan revolt for firing popular manager Mike Petke and replacing him with Jesse Marsch, things were looking grim, especially with NYCFC opening for business across the street.
As it turns out, Marsch is one heck of a manager. Since taking over the helm, New York have made a number of successful decisions, including the ingenious trade that sent Eric Alexander and Ambrose Oyongo to Montreal for Felipe and the No. 1 slot in the allocation order, which they used to acquire Sacha Kljestan. (The guy LA traded Kofi Opare and Marcelo Sarvas for in hopes of landing)
So far this season, the Red Bulls have come out the gates with a high-tempo, high-pressing game, forcing their opponents into more turnovers than any other team in the league. Their three-man central midfield has been a pleasure to watch -- Felipe adding playmaking ability and set-piece service, Dax McCarthy providing his usual industry, and Sacha Kljestan influencing the game all over the pitch. This is without mentioning Lloyd Sam terrorizing the right wing and the surprise revelation that is Bradley-Wright Philips the complete striker. New York might not have the most lethal offense, but they are plenty dangerous and tough to break down.
As Matt Doyle suggests, without Robbie Keane and the Red Bulls enjoying so much success overloading the midfield, we might see the Galaxy deploy the 4-2-3-1 once again. (I also wouldn't be surprised if local product Nacho Maganto were to make his MLS debut if LA are chasing the game and need a goal)
It's also important not to underestimate how much this game means to the Red Bulls. Beating LA would send a real message to the rest of the league that New York isn't just beating up weaker teams. Don't forget that Jesse Marsch and Sacha Kljestan used to be teammates for Chivas USA when they were playing second-fiddle to the bright lights of the David Beckham era, so there'll be that extra bit of motivation as well.
As always when these two teams match-up, there should be plenty of action, and some craziness to boot. Tune in and be on the lookout for more content from us in the next few days.