Los Angeles Soccer: Dax McCarty
CARSON -- The fracas that erupted at the end of the Galaxy's victory Sunday afternoon over New York will surely have an impact on Thursday's rematch at Home Depot Center. Landon Donovan's criticism of the “cheap-shot” Red Bulls that followed, not so much.
Both sides are missing influential midfielders for the second leg of the first-round playoff series after Red Bulls star Rafa Marquez was red-carded for hurling the ball at Donovan at the final whistle and Galaxy catalyst Juninho was sent off for leaping into the fray that resulted.
Their absences will alter how their teams approach the match, but the situation -- and each team's aim -- remains the same.
The Galaxy carries a 1-0 advantage into the decisive match in the home-and-home, total-goals series, so a draw or better sends them to Sunday's Western Conference title game against Real Salt Lake, also at HDC; a one-goal loss forces overtime and perhaps penalty kicks; and a two-goal defeat sends New York to Utah to play for a berth in the Nov. 20 MLS Cup final.
“We have good experience in this situation,” Donovan said following L.A.'s training session Wednesday. “We were in the exact same position last year, where we beat Seattle away, and then we came home. I think a lot of teams in that situation might have a tendency to sit back and guard the goal, but we wanted to come out and be aggressive, and we got at them early and ended the game quickly.
“In an ideal world, we could do that [Thursday], but, certainly, it's a different year and a different opponent, and it's going to be tough.”
Marquez, who has melted down in Donovan's presence before, usually in U.S.-Mexico battles, is among MLS's most talented players and probably the Red Bulls' most incisive passer. Red Bulls coach Hans Backe said either offense-minded Dax McCarty or holding midfielder Stephane Auvray will team in central midfield with Teemu Tainio -- the decision has been made, no word on what it is, but McCarty appears likely.
Juninho has been a perfect foil for David Beckham, whose service is critical to the Galaxy's attack. Galaxy coach Bruce Arena says he has “three or four guys we're considering” to step in for the Brazilian youngster, and speculation is that Chris Birchall or Michael Stephens will get the call.
The incident at the end of Thursday's game prompted Donovan's postgame backlash. He deplored the Red Bulls for “disgraceful” behavior and “cheap shots,” claimed that “in all my years in this league, I've not played against a cheaper team” and said the Bills had “been doing it all year. ... I think it's part of their makeup.”
Red Bulls forward Luke Rodgers responded during a media conference call this week.
The Galaxy is New York-bound.
Well, New Jersey.
The New York Red Bulls' 2-0 triumph in a wild-card clash Wednesday night at FC Dallas sets up a major-market showdown, one Major League Soccer and television rights-holder ESPN will relish, for the first round of the league's playoffs.
The Galaxy (19-5-10), winner of the Supporters' Shield as Western Conference champion, will open its postseason campaign against New York on Sunday afternoon at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J. Kickoff will be noon PT, and the game will be televised by ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes.
The second leg will be next Thursday at Home Depot Center, with an 8 p.m. start. The team that scores the most goals over two games advances to the Nov. 6 Western Conference final.
Columbus plays Thursday night at Colorado in the second wild-card game, and the winner meets Eastern Conference winner Sporting Kansas City in a first-round opener Saturday.
The Red Bulls went 1-0-1 against the Galaxy this season, drawing in a sizzling encounter at Home Depot Center in May, then winning earlier this month in Harrison when the Galaxy, weary from a difficult month of MLS and CONCACAF Champions League action, used a reserve lineup filled with heavy legs.
Thierry Henry and Landon Donovan traded goals in the first meeting, a 1-1 draw; Henry and Luke Rodgers scored in the second, a 2-0 Red Bulls win.
“New York -- you can kind of put an asterisk next to those games,” left back Todd Dunivant said earlier Wednesday. “The first was a good game, probably one of the best games of the year in MLS, to be honest. And on the road we were exhausted.
“I don't think anyone fears New York, and we would love that [matchup], and I think the league would love that.”
D.C. takes on the Fusion on Saturday afternoon (3:30) at Oxnard College, meets UC Santa Barbara in the Gauchos' Harder Stadium on Thursday night (7), and scrimmages Chivas USA at an undetermined Home Depot Center field on Feb. 25.
Here's a quick look at D.C. United:
WHO ARE THEY?
MLS's most decorated club, with four MLS Cup titles (1996, 1997, 1999, 2004) and one of the league's two CONCACAF Champions' Cup titles (1998; the Galaxy captured the other, in 2000), provided the league its first dynasty, reaching the first four title games (the first three under Bruce Arena) with three championships in that span. The club's heroes: Bolivians Jaime Moreno and Marco Etcheverry, Eddie Pope and, of course, Ben Olsen, who followed a revered career in D.C. by taking charge of the club late in last year's horrendous campaign. United went 6-20-4, the league's worst mark, after winning only three of its first 20 games. Injuries were an issue, but so was a roster light on talent and depth, and Olsen stepped in after Curt Onalfo's ouster in August. (Onalfo has since joined Arena's Galaxy staff.)
THE MAN IN CHARGE
Olsen is one of the most respected and beloved figures in American soccer, bright and funny, a real leader, with World Cup (in 2006) ability. The midfielder, who spent nearly his entire post-collegiate career with D.C. (there was a brief loan to England's Nottingham Forest) won MLS's Rookie of the Year in 1998 as a speedy winger with a sure attacking sense, but ankle injuries slowed his pace, and he transitioned into a tough, savvy central midfielder and was an MLS Best XI selection in 2007. His ankle problems forced his retirement after the 2009 season.
The former University of Virginia star -- Arena recruited him to Charlottesville -- made a positive impact for D.C. after taking charge as interim coach on Aug. 4, and the club played its best soccer down the stretch. After club president/CEO Kevin Payne (brother of Galaxy president of business operations Tom Payne) declared late in the season that Olsen would not be considered for the full-time post, he accepted the job in late November.
“Benny’s installed this no-nonsense mentality. Things are going to get done his way, and if anyone has a problem with that, they’re not going to be around,” forward Chris Pontius told MLS's website. “Everyone’s bought into it.”
THE STAR PLAYER
Charlie Davies changes things, but we still like Andy Najar, the reigning MLS Rookie of the Year and one of the most electric players in the league. The Honduran-born winger, who moved to Virginia and joined D.C. United's academy when he was 13, is still a teen -- he's 17 for another month -- and he's got two nation's soccer fans on edge as he mulls his international future.
UC Santa Barbara defender Michael Boxall -- initially considered a potential first-rounder in last week's SuperDraft, but his stock dropped after a poor combine (and because, as a New Zealander, he counts as a foreign player -- was the top pick in Tuesday's proceedings, going to Vancouver.
Stanford's Ryan Thomas (Claremont/Claremont HS) was selected with the second of the Galaxy's two first-round picks.
“I was watching the draft online and it was a shock to me to be picked by the Galaxy,” Thomas told Stanford's website. “I grew up in L.A. and would go to watch the Galaxy games at the Rose Bowl, and now I am going to get to play on that field.”
The Galaxy, of course, moved from the Rose Bowl to the Home Depot Center in 2003, but it still plays the occasional friendly in Pasadena.
Loyola Marymount midfielder Rafael Baca (Lawndale/Animo Leadership HS) wasn't selected and is available to attend any MLS camp as a free agent.
The supplemental's three rounds effectively were rounds 4, 5 and 6 from Tuesday's draft, and most teams used their selections for prospects who will be needed with restoration of the reserve league.
DANIEL KEAT: New Zealand national-teamer, a four-time All-Ivy League pick and an All-American as a junior, was a savvy, aggressive central midfielder at Dartmouth who might be better suited to wing play in MLS.
A.J. DeLaGarza, so impressive during Major League Soccer's stretch run, gets his first call-up to the national team; he'll be joined by Galaxy backline mates Sean Franklin (Palmdale/Highland HS and Cal State Northridge) and Omar Gonzalez in the Jan. 4-22 camp at Home Depot Center.
Chivas USA forward Justin Braun and three players with local ties -- Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando (Montclair/Montclair HS and UCLA) and Colorado Rapids defender Marvell Wynne (UCLA) and midfielder Jeff Larentowicz (born in Pasadena) -- also are on the 24-man roster, from which Bradley will draw his lineup for the Jan. 24 friendly against Chile at HDC.
The annual January camp, always at HDC, usually is used to scout younger players -- including those who emerged during the previous MLS campaign -- and give U.S.- and Scandinavia-based veterans a foundation to build fitness before their seasons begin in the late winter or spring.
This time Bradley called in very few veterans. Sweden-based midfielder Alejandro Bedoya is the only player from the U.S. pre-World Cup training camp on the roster, and none who went to South Africa is involved. A dozen players are uncapped, five more have just one cap, nobody has made more than six international appearances -- across the roster, there are only 28 caps.
A rundown on the two dozen players coming to HDC:
He's signed, sealed and all but delivered to Mexico's UANL Tigres, but that didn't dissuade the Portland Timbers from taking a chance on Chivas USA captain Jonathan Bornstein.
The Timbers, one of two clubs joining Major League Soccer next season, selected Bornstein (Los Alamitos/Los Alamitos HS and UCLA) with the 15th selection in Wednesday's 20-player expansion draft, no matter that the left back/midfielder is beginning a four-year contract in January with Monterrey-based Tigres.
"Contract's are only worth the paper they're printed on. It doesn't mean he's going to complete the contract," said Portland head coach John Spencer, a Scotsman who finished his playing career with the Colorado Rapids in 2004 and served as an assistant coach with the Houston Dynamo for four seasons. "And possibly after the course of the contract, he might end up back in Major League Soccer."
The Timbers made two risky picks, also taking Real Salt Lake's Robbie Findley, a teammate of Bornstein's on the U.S. World Cup team in South Africa. Findley, a former Galaxy forward who played college soccer at Oregon State, has said his intention is to look for a club in Europe.
"There were reasons behind those decisions," said Spencer, who noted they could have value in a trade. "We'd love to bring [Findley and Bornstein] to Portland. We understand that might not be in the immediate future. If we were able to bring Bornstein back, that would be tremendous. ... I think anything’s possible in the game."
Bornstein, 26, has expressed interest in returning to MLS at some point in his career, and he hoped to return to Chivas USA. The Goats, a team source acknowledged, would consider trading for his rights should he come back into the league.
The Timbers traded the top selection in the draft, FC Dallas midfielder Dax McCarty, to D.C. United for defender Rodney Wallace in a deal that had been agreed to before the draft.
"His multiyear contract with Tigres factored in our decision to unprotect him in the draft, especially as we focus on building for next season," Chivas VP of soccer operations Stephen Hamilton said in a statement. "I’m sure we’ll revisit this issue if and when he chooses to rejoin MLS."
Chivas USA captain Jonathan Bornstein, who is headed in January to his mother's native Mexico to join UANL Tigres, can no longer call himself a Goat.
The U.S. national team defender was a surprise selection by the Portland Timbers in Wednesday's Major League Soccer expansion draft, although he has no plans to head north.
Bornstein (Los Alamitos/Los Alamitos HS and UCLA) was the 15th selection in the draft, through which the Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps, making the leap from the second-tier USSF D2 Pro League to MLS, are building their rosters for next season. Each took 10 players from the existing 16 clubs' unprotected lists.
Chivas USA forward Alan Gordon, who played all or part of seven seasons for the Galaxy before an Aug. 5 trade, was taken by Vancouver with the 10th pick. Chivas USA, allowed to add a 12th player to its protected list following Gordon's selection, took defender Mariano Trujillo off the table.
No Galaxy player was taken in the draft.
Chicago Fire midfielder John Thorrington (Palos Verdes Estates/Chadwick School) was the final selection, taken by Vancouver.
Defender Patrick Ianni (UCLA) was added to Seattle's protected list when Vancouver made Sanna Nyassi its first pick. Goalkeeper Chris Seitz (San Luis Obispo/Thousand Oaks HS) was added to Philadelphia's protected list when Vancouver selected Shea Salinas with the eighth pick.
Bornstein, who played for the U.S. at the World Cup in South Africa, has a four-year contract with Tigres, but Portland would hold his MLS rights indefinitely. If the veteran left back/midfielder were to return to MLS, he would return as a Timber.
Bornstein was a Chivas regular from the moment he arrived in the 2006 draft. Then-Goats coach Bob Bradley converted him from a forward/midfielder to left back, and he rewarded the club with an MLS Rookie of the Year performance. He played a club-record 131 MLS games for Chivas, scoring nine goals with 10 assists.
Gordon, 29, scored once with three assists in nine appearances from the Goats after arriving from the Galaxy. He scored 16 goals with 12 assists in 106 MLS games for L.A.
1. Dax McCarty (FC Dallas), midfielder
2. Eric Brunner (Columbus), defender
3. Adam Moffat (Columbus), midfielder
4. Anthony Wallace (Colorado), defender
5. David Horst (Real Salt Lake), defender
6. Robbie Findley (Real Salt Lake), forward
7. Peter Lowry (Chicago), midfielder
8. Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), defender/midfielder
9. Jordan Graye (D.C. United), defender
10. Arturo Alvarez (San Jose), forward
Findley, a former Galaxy forward who played for the U.S. in South Africa, has said his intention is to play in Europe. McCarty, taken with the No. 1 overall selection, was a key figure in FC Dallas' run to the MLS Cup final.
1. Sanna Nyassi (Seattle), midfielder
2. Atiba Harris (FC Dallas), midfielder/forward
3. Nathan Sturgis (Real Salt Lake), midfielder
4. Shea Salinas (Philadelphia), midfielder
5. Alan Gordon (Chivas USA), forward
6. O'Brian White (Toronto FC), forward
7. Alejandro Moreno (Philadelphia), forward
8. Joe Cannon (San Jose), goalkeeper
9. Jonathan Leathers (Kansas City), defender
10. John Thorrington (Chicago), midfielder
Harris is a former Chivas USA player. Sturgis, Moreno and Cannon previously played for the Galaxy.
Sunday's 15th MLS Cup, which kicks off at BMO Field a little after 5:30 p.m. (ESPN and Galavision), could be a classic. Dallas and Colorado are fast, athletic, attacking sides capable of producing scintillating stuff.
There will be abundant goal opportunities, but with Palos Verdes' Kevin Hartman (Peninsula HS/UCLA) in the FC Dallas nets, there's no certainty of scoring. At least at one end.
Both teams attack so well, especially off the counter, that defensive approaches ought to be decisive. The team that does the best job closing space and preventing its opponent's attacking speed from making a difference is likely going to prevail.
Three keys to victory:
On the field, the most important players are 5-foot-5 playmaker David Ferreira, a 31-year-old Colombian who is expected to pick up Major League Soccer's MVP award this week, and central midfielder Daniel Hernandez, a 34-year-old Texan who started his pro career with the Galaxy (back in 1998) and played in Mexico for Necaxa, Puebla and Jaguares before joining FC Dallas last season.
Here's the best of what was said about Ferreira and Hernandez heading into Sunday's Western Conference final between the Galaxy at FC Dallas (Home Depot Center, 6 p.m., ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes):
On David Ferreira“Good quickness, good endurance. He's tough. I think he's the heart of the team. I think he inspires them. I think his performance [in the second leg of the first-round series at Real] Salt Lake was outstanding, his performance when they beat [RSL] in the first leg was impressive, and he's the player who set up the winning goal.
Galaxy coach Bruce Arena:
“He's really an impressive player and a player that you can't lose your concentration against, because if you do, he'll take advantage of that.”
The Galaxy is seeking their record seventh MLS Cup title-game appearance, and FC Dallas is aiming to reach the final for the first time. Who has the advantage in Sunday night's Western Conference final at Home Depot Center (ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes, 6 p.m.)?
Let's take it piece by piece.
GALAXY: Donovan Ricketts
FC DALLAS: Kevin Hartman
Ricketts was MLS's Goalkeeper of the Year. Hartman probably deserved the honor, and had he not missed the final six weeks of the regular season with a sprained right medial collateral ligament -- product of that dumb Thierry Henry celebration -- he surely would have won. Ricketts is the more athletic, and he was sensational against Seattle, the most important figure in the victory up north.
Hartman (Palos Verdes/Peninsula HS and UCLA), still revered in L.A. for his decade of service to the Galaxy, has had a career resurrection in North Texas, and he bears most of the credit for the Hoops' magical campaign. There are few better shot-stoppers in American soccer, and nobody commands his box better than Hartman.
Both prefer to parry than catch in tight situations, and both make the mind-boggling saves that make a difference. Hartman might be a better decision-maker, but there's no denying Ricketts' form.
GALAXY: Sean Franklin, Omar Gonzalez, A.J. DeLaGarza/Gregg Berhalter and Eddie Lewis/Todd Dunivant
FC DALLAS: Jackson Goncalves/Zach Loyd, Ugo Ihemelu, George John and Jair Benitez
A look at Saturday's postseason action:IN BRIEF: The reigning champs are dead, and it's an all-Western final four. … FC Dallas scored an early goal and held off 2009 MLS Cup champ Real Salt Lake's late onslaught for a 1-1 draw, enough to send the Hoops into the Western Conference final -- against the Galaxy or Seattle -- with a 3-2 aggegate triumph. … Colorado knocked off the East's No. 2 side, rallying to force overtime, then winning on penalty kicks in Columbus, and will be home against Western rival San Jose in the, yes, Eastern Conference final.
BEST PLAYER: Before his bizarre knee injury, Kevin Hartman (Palos Verdes/Peninsula HS and UCLA) was getting his share of MLS MVP talk. He reminded us why with a masterful performance in the nets for FC Dallas, making two game-saving stops and parrying balls from danger throughout the second half to make Dax McCarty's 17th-minute goal (from a great Brek Shea chest pass) stand up for the Hoops.
BEST GOAL: Robbie Rogers (Palos Verdes and Huntington Beach/Mater Dei HS) finished beautifully in the 70th minute to give Columbus a 2-0 lead (and 2-1 edge on aggregate), running onto Emmanuel Ekpo's ball into space, positioning himself between the ball and Rapids defender Anthony Wallace, taking it into the box and left-footing past Matt Pickens. Bigger, and just as good, was Conor Casey's emblematic one-touch finish in the box from Omar Cummings' cross in the 84th to even aggregate at 2-2.
BIGGEST STOP: Take your pick from Hartman's collection. We'll go with two, both on Fabian Espindola, both foot saves as he dove one way and Espindola shot the other way. The second, a stoppage-time stop after Espindola redirected Andy Williams' blast from outside the box, ended RSL's comeback hopes.
FROM THE SPOT: It was going to take a miss rather than a save to decide the Columbus-Colorado shootout. All five Rapids shooters were on target, four of them with hard-hit, well-placed shots -- Macoumba Kandji's poor attempt should have been stopped by Andy Gruenebaum, who fumbled the ball off the post and in -- and Columbus made its first four just as impressively while Pickens looked well out of sorts. Brian Carroll, shooting fifth for the Crew, skied his well over the crossbar, igniting Colorado's celebration.
WORTH NOTING: Hartman, not fully fit following six weeks' absence after Thierry Henry's ill-advised goal celebration left the former Galaxy keeper with a sprained right medial collaterial ligament, did not take his own goal kicks. … Previous MLS Cup appearances for the five remaining clubs: Galaxy 6 (1996, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2005 and 2009, with triumphs in 2002 and 2005), San Jose 2 (2001 and 2003, both triumphs, both with the team that moved to Houston after the 2005 season), Colorado 1 (1997, lost to D.C. United), FC Dallas and Seattle 0. ... Real Salt Lake's home MLS unbeaten streak, dating to May 2009, remains intact.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “We said before the game we are not so sure that many people care about us, but we care about each other. We definitely fight for each other. At this point, we have come together and there is real cohesion.” -- Colorado Rapids midfielder Jeff Larentowicz.
at Columbus, Ohio
Columbus 2 (Gaven 22, Rogers 70), Colorado 1 (Casey 84)
(aggregate 2-2; Colorado wins on penalties, 5-4)
Penalties: Colo -- Casey G, Kandji G, Larentowicz G, Lopez G, Smith G; Clb -- Schelotto G, Garey G, Gaven G, Brunner G, Carroll H
at Sandy Utah
Real Salt Lake 1 (Findley 80), FC Dallas 1 (McCarty 17)
(FC Dallas wins on aggregate, 3-2)
SUNDAY'S SECOND LEG
L.A. Galaxy vs. Seattle at Home Depot Center, 6 p.m., ESPN and ESPN Deportes. First leg: Galaxy, 1-0
West: Galaxy/Seattle vs. FC Dallas, date, time and site TBA, ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes
East: San Jose at Colorado, Nov. 13, 6:30 p.m., Fox Soccer Channel and Fox Deportes
A look at Saturday's MLS postseason action:IN BRIEF: Two harsh red cards -- one to Real Salt Lake playmaker extraordinaire Javier Morales -- mar FC Dallas' 2-1 comeback triumph captured on former UC Santa Barbara standout Eric Avila's late strike. … New York heads home with a 1-0 advantage after Joel Lindpere lifts the Red Bulls at San Jose.
BEST PLAYER: Lindpere might not get the press that DPs Thierry Henry, Rafa Marquez and Juan Pablo Angel attract, but the Estonian midfielder clearly is the Red Bulls' MVP this year -- and he tormented the Earthquakes in New York's win. He had the lone goal, a superbly placed shot from a tight angle past a diving Jon Busch and inside the right post from a poorly headed clearance, and would've had another had Jason Hernandez not been stationed on the goal line.
BEST GOAL: Two candidates from FC Dallas' victory. Hard to beat Fabian Espindola's blast, from Andy Williams' ball from the midfield stripe, into the upper-left corner to give RSL a fifth-minute lead. But beat it Avila's bender into the left-side netting did. The 88th-minute winner, less than a minute after he came on for Jair Benitez, was a splendid finish to an invigorating clash.