Sept. 18, The Home Depot Center, 7:30 p.m. PT; FSC/FSE
United we stand, Divided we fall. The District of Columbia sure looks more divided than united this season, as the first place Los Angeles Galaxy (14-5-5, 47 pts.) welcome the last place D.C. United (5-16-3, 18 pts.) to the Home Depot Center. The matchup has been one of the most storied rivalries in MLS, the two teams met in the first MLS Cup final and a second time in 1999 and twice in the CONCACAF Champions Cup. The Galaxy lead the all time series 16-13-6.
United Designated Player Branko Boskovic made his debut for D.C. on July 15th, with a career that features stops at Paris Saint-Germain and Serbian SuperClub Red Star Belgrade, but the attacking midfielder has yet to tally a goal or an assist. He came off the bench last game and isn't expect to start tonight.
D.C's troubles, as so often is the case, result from injuries. It can be difficult to overcome two or three injuries in the shallow pool of the MLS, but the D.C.'s case they have eight roster players unavailable for tonight's match. Whereas on average the Galaxy give up a goal every 120 mins, D.C. only manages to push one through every 135.
So one of the big questions will be if the Galaxy can find the motivation for this match, or will it be a trap game coming off last weeks big win over Columbus Crew and next week's nearly sold out match against New York Red Bulls. Working for the Galaxy will be the fact that the United have nothing to lose, and as such are unlikely to play plug up ball in the back.
"It's the nervous time in the league," Arena said. "The games mean a lot more, especially for teams that are scrambling for playoff spots, and they're going to drop numbers back. They're getting [defenders] around him, and that requires that Edson play better. We haven't been good enough in the final third of the field to open up some more [scoring] opportunities for Edson. That has to improve."
Edson Buddle still leads the MLS Budweiser Golden Boot standings with 14 goals, two more than Juan Pablo Angel of New York. When Buddle scores the Galaxy are 9-0-1, when he doesn't they are 2-4-3. While Edson was away at the World Cup, the Galaxy went 3-1-1. Landon Donovan tallied 2 assists last week and leads the league with 15.
David Beckham made his debut last week, playing 20 mins of junk time toward the end of the match. Bruce Arena has said he wants to gradually increase his minutes to get him ready for a full 90 come MLS cup time.
"The way we want to go is to increase his minutes obviously," Arena said. "Before the end of the regular season, we want him playing 90 minutes and we’re going to have to take it day by day, week by week."
One piece of the puzzle to secure the Galaxy's Cup spot has already come to pass as the Chicago Fire lost tonight. With a Galaxy win and a Kansas City loss tomorrow, the Galaxy are guaranteed to reach the post-season for the second straight year under Bruce Arena, now in his third season with the LA Galaxy.
Gregg Berhalter is still listed as questionable with some unspoken illness, and Edson Buddle is questionable after being pulled for the second half last week with hamstring tightness.