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Galaxy and Red Bulls prepare for star-studded battle



Landon Donovan, David Beckham, Rafael Marquez, and Juan Pablo Angel.

Despite the loss of Thierry Henry and Omar Gonzalez, Friday's clash (ESPN2: 8pm, PDT)between the Los Angeles Galaxy and New York Red Bulls is not lacking star power. With the Galaxy leading the league with 50 points and the Red Bulls in second place in the Eastern Conference, the match has major implications for not only MLS Cup, but the Supporters Shield as well. Having played in a number of big games during his tenure with the Galaxy, Donovan is confident about Los Angeles' ability to perform in big games.

"The thing with playing for the Galaxy is every time we play a game it’s the other team’s biggest game of the year, whether we’re at home or whether we’re away," said Donovan. "We get the best of everybody but when there’s a special occasion when there’s something at stake like there is at Friday, not only with the standings and pride and East-West rivalry it makes it a little more special for us and we generally do well in those games."

Many feared that much of the publicity for the match would be lost when Henry was ruled out with a injury that will lower the Designated player total from an astounding five to a more manageable four. For New York, Henry's absence should signal the return of Juan Pablo Angel to the starting line up paired with Ibrahim Salou up top and recent addition Mehdi Ballouchy in the slot behind them. 

Ballouchy's presence will be vital as the playmaker enjoyed a fine debut for New York against FC Dallas, scoring a goal and going 90 in the Red Bulls 2-2 draw. New York has typically found success in controlling possession and catching their opponents on the break and with this plan, the passing ability of Ballouchy is vital. For Red Bulls manager Hans Backe, controlling the midfield battle is integral for success against Los Angeles. 

"I think that we play well when we sit down and go in for breaks and we try to this, but sometimes we can look like a passive team  that doesn't defend well when we drop back, " said Backe in a recent league conference call. "Our possession game is very, very important and the right decision making when to attack and where to attack and take advantage of the breaks when we get them."

While New York will be without their star striker, the Galaxy will be missing their starting back line pairing as Gregg Berhalter remains sidelined with injury and Gonzalez was suspended for yellow card accumulation in last week's match against DC United. With both first choice options unavailable, expect Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena to call upon Leonardo and Yohance Marshall to start at center back. 

One battle that will garner a lot of attention is the Galaxy's attackers against the Red Bulls stiff midfield. In the two clubs last meeting on August 14th, the Red Bulls midfield of Marquez and Tony Tchani struggled to contain the Galaxy's playmakers Donovan and Juninho. After letting the pair run rampant in the first match, Backe refuses to allow that to happen again. 

"They find place for themselves and they’re able to break an organization, we need to try to keep our back four and midfield so tight that it’s possible we can close down the space for players like that," said Backe. "I can only hope that our back four and midfield can be that type that we don’t allow that space for Juninho because he can be a key player for those killer passes."

Much of the focus on Galaxy will still be focused around midfielder David Beckham.The 35-year-old who is steadily returning from injury is expected to go at least the 37 minutes that he was able to go in last week's contest and may be an option to go 45 minutes.

Even most of the big names set to play a part in tonight's match, Arena believes that the buzz generated for the game was never really centered around the players.  

"A lot of the hype in the game is we finally have the two big markets in the league that have had teams that have performed fairly well over the season," said Arena. "It’s a classic matchup of the big cities in the league that means something which we haven’t had before. Red Bulls are still in position to win the regular season in the Eastern Conference and we’re still in position to do that in the west so that’s a big game in itself."

Here are our SBI predictions for the two starting line ups.














Share your thoughts below.


  1. While they got the partial fulfillment of their dream, the other part would be playing the game at a time when fans of both teams and the whole league could watch/enjoy it and increase the ratings. That’s the bottom line for this league.

    As for Josh below and besides what Rob pointed out, a weekend date could have been better. In case some people weren’t aware of weeknights vs. weekends……sheesh.

    Although when the schedule was set I am sure MLS was just happy to get another game on ESPN no matter the day or time. We still have a long way to go.

    And because it’s on, I guess I’ll go watch some EPL now.

  2. my bad its Adam who wrote this, i know Ives wouldn’t write things of that sort. Adam please dont assume when you write , be factual in your writing . its a turn off i got this game DVR and i remember perfectly that LA was defending for 90% of the game .

  3. Ives I’m not sure what game you were watching but Donovan and Juninho did not run rampant in no last match, they capitalized on the one real chance they had. thts it, donovan was quite most of the game and Juninho was not very effective outside of that one pass. Berhalter was the only guy that really troubled redbull in the middle. Redbull dominated that game but failed to score.

  4. If MLS is trying to get this game to as many people as possible then the timing is poor. Going to lose all east coasters except those between 15-30 yrs old, as well as any of those with kids. That’s a huge part of the fanbase to lose. And yes I’m bitter cuz I have to work tomorrow and cant stay up to watch. I’ll trust Ives for the writeup tomorrow. You other lucky bastards enjoy!

  5. Game is set to end at 1am per ESPN 2….. That’s late

    And on a Friday night? That’s the night TV shows move to to die. Not a good move IMO if you want ratings.

  6. There is another coast besides the east? Really

    In all seriousness 5 is easier then 11, however 7pdt and 10 edt would be much better, and I think workable for each coast. Oh well it is up to both LA Galaxy and ESPN either way

  7. I’m going to predict an underwhelming performance by New York in a 3-1 win for LA. It will take a lot to convince me that NY belongs at the same level as LA.

  8. The heck is wrong with people? It is not 11pm where the game is played! We on the West Coast aren’t going to play our games at 5 for you, just as we don’t expect you to play yours at 11 for us. In case some people weren’t aware of what a time zone is… sheesh

  9. yes I will be at this game as well! and wats wrong with having a game start 11pm EDT? wouldn’t that be a a reason for the NYRB fans to hit up bars and drink even more? hell I donno wat y’all r complaining about.. late night games r freakin awesome.

  10. Found it almost funny that Ives called this game the fulfillment of an MLS dream. Having this game on at 11PM EDT is a shame. Two of the best teams in the biggest markets with world known stars. Will be interesting to see the ratings for this one

    (SBI-Why is that a stretch though? MLS has wanted two strong and star-led teams in NY and LA since it was founded, now it has that. Hence the reason I called it that.)

  11. How do the Red Bulls look much better on paper? They beat LA in the central midfield, but otherwise LA has a superior squad for tonight’s match. I expect Donovan to step-up for a marquee match like this.

  12. Angel is our star striker until TH14 proves otherwise. I couldn’t care less what he did before…JPA has proven over time that he came here to play. TH14 has not.

  13. I should say that LA has Donovan and just like he showed last week, he’s the best in the league. With LD playing LA will still be the team to beat.

  14. On paper NYRB looks much better even without Henry. I’m really looking forward to the match. I’m also hoping Becks can come in and play some significant minutes (30+) off the bench. What great way to start a great soccer weekend.

  15. I’m sorry to say this, but there is absolutely nothing exciting about having to witness Salou up-top for the NY Red Bulls. The guy is extremely slow, afraid to attack defenders (And he is a striker?) and let’s face it…. As long the ball isn’t 5 feet from the net, are you expecting him to score?

    But there isn’t really anything else to do since the departure of Kandji (Not that it wasn’t a good trade). And Angel as a lone striker, I’ll rather watch D.C. play.


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