The New York Red Bulls' crazy season continues today with the first leg of the MLS Cup quarterfinal against the Los Angeles Galaxy this afternoon at Red Bull Arena. The Galaxy are the top seed in the playoffs after winning the Supporters' Shield, but the Red Bulls' star power and good recent form make them less of an underdog than a typical tenth-place finisher.
New York will also be buoyed by their good recent record against the Galaxy. Under Hans Backe the team is 2-1-1 when facing LA, with a 1-1 draw out West and a 2-0 home win in the two sides' meetings this season. The Red Bulls have the best set of results against the Galaxy of any team in MLS this season and are one of just three sides (along with Toronto and DC) to not lose against LA in 2011.
The first meeting between the two sides this year was a Don Garber dream matchup with Thierry Henry, Landon Donovan, Rafael Márquez, Dwayne De Rosario, David Beckham, and Juan Pablo Ángel all starting in an entertaining match that featured goals from both Henry and Donovan as well as THAT Tim Ream goalline clearance.
Bruce Arena rested several of his starters for the return match at Red Bull Arena a few weeks ago, in which New York broke the Galaxy's seven-match league unbeaten run with goals from Luke Rodgers and Henry. The Galaxy have won two and lost one since, but their two victories have been against Chivas and away to Motagua, who have started the Honduran season very poorly. On the other hand, the Galaxy will also be fresher than the Red Bulls as they've had a week off since falling to Houston in the final game of the regular season.
The usual suspects are still out for New york, but Dax McCarty and Luke Rodgers are both listed as questionable (coach Backe has said that the pair is likely to play). Jan Gunnar Solli will miss this first leg after his stupid red card against Dallas, meaning that Carlos Mendes will start at right back. Importantly for New York, Tim Ream will be suspended for the second leg if he picks up a booking this afternoon. All three of LA's designated players (Donovan, Beckham, and Robbie Keane) are listed as questionable, but Keane is the only real doubt.
Kickoff is at 3 PM and you can watch the game on ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, and WatchESPN.com if you're not heading out to Red Bull Arena. We'll have a match thread going here, so drop in and join the banter. Let's go Red Bulls.