Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Dallas Soccer [Print without images]

Saturday, November 13, 2010
2010 MLS playoff preview: FC Dallas vs. Los Angeles Galaxy

By John Carlton

Matchup:

FC Dallas (12-4-14) vs. LA Galaxy (18-7-5)

Gametime – Sun. November 14, 2010, Home Depot Center Carson, California 6pm ET (ESPN 2)

All-time Series: LA Galaxy lead 25-18-9

2010 MLS Regular Season Meetings:

5/20 FCD 0, LA 1 (Magee 17)
10/24 LA 2, FCD 1 (Beckham 33, Juninho 46), (Harris 24)

Team Leaders:

LA Galaxy – G: 17 Buddle   A: 16 Donovan
FC Dallas – G: 11 Cunningham   A: 13 Ferreira

Match Outlook:

This Sunday’s MLS Western Conference final resembles NFL Western conference finals from the early 1990’s:  the league’s two best teams – one from Texas, one from California – meeting to determine who will advance to the league championship. And if the Galaxy are the 49ers, then Landon Donovan is Jerry Rice, David Beckham is Steve Young and Omar Gonzales is Ken Norton, Jr.  For FC Dallas, as the Cowboys, attacking midfielder and MVP candidate is none other than Emmit Smith.  Whatever the outcome of this clash, most observers and fans would agree that the winner will deserve the title of league’s best team.

Injuries:

The latest Dallas injury report lists stalwart fullback Heath Pearce and target forward Milton Rodriguez as “OUT”, two key pieces the Hoops will surely miss.

The Galaxy look far better on the injury front.  Brazilian defender Leonardo is listed as questionable with knee pain.  Otherwise, Bruce Arena’s squad is completely healthy.

Tactical Outlook:

FC Dallas will line up in their familiar 4-1-4-1 formation with midfielder David Ferreira orchestrating the attack.  Head coach Schellas Hyndman will have to start Jeff Cunningham up top and hope for a good late shift from rookie Ruben Luna.

Bruce Arena should employ his familiar 4-4-2, with Beckham and Donovan patrolling the sidelines even as they seek to cut inside and pinch the Dallas midfield.  Defensive midfielder Dema Kovalenko will be charged with stopping David Ferreira.

Positional Breakdown:

Goalkeepers

FC Dallas – Kevin Hartman

His opposite number won Goalkeeper of the Year, but Hartman was equally deserving of the award.  Hartman was sensational in the second leg of the Salt Lake series, making several big saves to get FCD safely to the next round.

LA Galaxy – Donovan Ricketts

Ricketts has been a big part of the Galaxy’s success over the past two seasons.  Like Hartman, he makes spectacular saves and has excellent athleticism.  More importantly, Ricketts has struck a rich vein of form lately.

Advantage:  FC Dallas

Defenders

FC Dallas – Ugo Ihemelu, George John, Jackson Goncalves, Jair Benitez, Heath Pearce (Injured), Zach Loyd

With Heath Pearce out, Hyndman will have to decide on a right back replacement, with Jackson and rookie Zach Loyd the obvious candidates.  Jackson did well against Real Salt Lake and might be a better choice to try to contain Donovan on the wing.  George John and Ugo Ihemelu are very solid in central defense.  Ihemelu has come back from a bad concussion injury, leaping bravely in traffic to win headers.  Left back Jair Benitez will look to continue a good run of form and keep Beckham honest defensively as he gets up and down the wing.

LA Galaxy – Omar Gonzales, A.J. DeLaGarza, Sean Franklin, Todd Dunivant, Greg Berhalter

Omar Gonzales is one of the league’s best central defender, if not the best.  His partnership with DeLaGarza has really blossomed this year.  Eddie Lewis played well at left back against the Sounders last week in place of an injured Todd Dunivant.  At right fullback the Galaxy rely on the services of 2008 Rookie of the Year Sean Franklin, who is enjoying another fine campaign.

Advantage:  LA Galaxy

Midfielders

FC Dallas – David Ferreira, Daniel Hernandez, Dax McCarty, Atiba Harris, Brek Shea, Eric Avila, Marvin Chavez, Eric Alexander

Obviously, David Ferreira is the main man for FC Dallas.  Real Salt Lake simply weren’t able to shut him down over 180 minutes and he made them pay by being involved in all three of the Hoops’ goals.  Dax McCarty is starting to peak at the right time, having been sidelined with injury for much of the middle part of the year.  His goal last week was the perfect display of tenacity and focus.  Brek Shea and Atiba Harris will patrol the sidelines and look to get forward to receive Ferreira’s through balls.  Daniel Hernandez will be tasked with disrupting the play of the Galaxy attack.  Eric Avila, Eric Alexander and Marvin Chavez are all capable substitutes who can make an impact, as Avila showed in the first leg of the RSL series.

LA Galaxy – Landon Donovan, David Beckham, Juninho, Dema Kovalenko, Chris Birchall

Donovan and Beckham essentially have free roles in midfield.  Donovan in particular can drift inside or make darting runs on the counter-attack.  Beckham will also look to pinch inside on occasion, allowing Sean Franklin to attack down the right sideline.  Beckham frequently hits diagonal balls over the defense, something the Dallas defense will have to cleanly deal with.  LA will also look to draw fouls around the penalty box and give their free-kick specialist the chance to score.  Dema Kovalenko has the hardest job, trying to disrupt and slow down David Ferreira, a matchup that may well determine the winner.

Advantage:  LA Galaxy

Forwards

FC Dallas – Jeff Cunningham, Milton Rodriguez (Injured), Peri Marosevic, Ruben Luna

With Milton Rodriguez out for this match, the burden to score will fall on Jeff Cunningham.  The league’s second all-time leading scorer is in good form at the moment and seemingly very focused.  He has not spoken to the media since early in the season.  Behind Cunningham, there are questions.  Ruben Luna is likely to replace Cunningham sometime in the second half and Hyndman will be hoping the youngster can turn in a productive shift.

LA Galaxy – Edson Buddle, Mike Magee

Edson Buddle used a great run of form at the beginning of the 2010 season as a springboard to earn a spot of the U.S. World Cup team.  Buddle finished the year with 17 goals and already has 2 post-season goals.  Mike Magee is the other forward, a workman-like MLS player who can be relied on to give consistent effort

Advantage: LA Galaxy

Match Prediction:

LA Galaxy 2 – FC Dallas 1

The Galaxy are heavily favored in this match and with good reason.  LA has a fully healthy squad, players who are in good form and a head coach with bags of experience.  On the other side, Dallas is in unchartered waters.  They have never advanced to a league championship final, and haven't reached a conference final since 1999, when they lost to the Galaxy.  Schellas Hyndman, MLS Coach of the Year, has built a good team and his players appear to buy into his coaching philosophy.  He has the league’s best playmaker at his disposal, and a prolific goal-scorer stalking the net.

This game should come down to answering a simple question – can the Galaxy disrupt Ferreira, thereby squelching the Dallas attack?  LA might discover that it will take a team effort to do so, as Ferreira loves to move around the field and look for the ball.  Ultimately, even if Ferreira finds the time and space to create attacking opportunities, the Galaxy will have enough discipline on defense, and enough firepower on offense to beat Dallas by a goal.