The LA Galaxy continue their title defense this Sunday against a blistering hot Red Bulls team. For the defending champions, the road to Red Bull Arena hasn't been easy. Their current record stands at 3-2-2, but that doesn't show the full picture. With away games at D.C., Vancouver, and Portland, Bruce Arena's men had arguably one of the toughest starting schedules of any team in the league.
After a roller coaster start to the season, the champs have finally managed to steer the ship straight. The Galaxy earned two of their three wins in the last two weeks, with victories against Seattle and Sporting Kansas City. With both victories coming at home, StubHub Center has turned into a veritable fortress for LA. So far, they are undefeated at home this season.
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Although earning three points against good opposition is always impressive, perhaps what was most impressive was that both wins were earned without reigning MVP, Robbie Keane. The talismanic Irishman has been struggling with a groin strain and is likely to miss out on Sunday's game. The return of Gyasi Zardes to the starting lineup, as well as the emergence of Bradford Jamieson IV, should provide the visitors with some much needed creativity.
While the Galaxy have found their footing, the Red Bulls have hit the ground running. Currently the only undefeated team in the league, New York are coming off of an emphatic 2-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes last week. Although the scoreline isn't as flattering as it should be, Jesse Marsch has been able to seamlessly implement his vision at the club. He currently has the second-best record (3-0-2) for a coach in team history after their first five games, only behind Hans Backe.
The defense was a major concern for the Red Bulls going into the season and injuries to starters Roy Miller and Ronald Zubar in Week 2 did little to comfort fans. The Red Bulls, however, have found a solid backbone in Matt Miazga and Damien Perrinelle. Miazga has become the fourth player since 2010 to record at least eight aerials won, eight clearances, seven interceptions, and four tackles in one game. Kemar Lawrence has also looked solid while filling in for Miller. "There's clarity as to the roles in the back line," said Jesse Marsch about the defense's good play. "They understand how to move together and how to play together."
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One thing that could factor in heavily for the Red Bulls is their home field advantage. The Red Bulls have the best home record of any MLS team since 2012, with a record of 34-7-12. The fact that the Red Bulls have won 11 out of their last 13 home matches is a better testament to their home dominance. The Galaxy, on the other hand, have failed to win in their last nine away matches.
Who To Watch
RBNY: Lloyd Sam. Until he stops creating and producing goals, he'll almost certainly be the player to watch week in and week out. Sam is one of the premier wingers in MLS and he's elevated his game to another level this season.
LA: Gyasi Zardes. Zardes is set to play a full 90 minutes for the first time since returning from international duty. The academy product will be responsible for a lot of the creativity especially with Robbie Keane likely to miss the match.
Last Time They Met
September 28, 2014. Los Angeles 4 - 0 Red Bulls. The Galaxy put on a clinic at StubHub Center, with Landon Donovan tying the all-time assists record.
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RBNY (4-2-3-1): Luis Robles; Chris Duvall, Damien Perrinelle, Matt Miazga, Kemar Lawrence; Felipe Martins, Dax McCarty; Lloyd Sam, Sacha Kljestan, Mike Grella; Bradley Wright-Phillips.
LA (4-4-2): Jaime Penedo; Dan Gargan, Omar Gonzalez, A.J. DeLagarza, Robbie Rogers; Stefan Ishizaki, Rafael Garcia, Juninho, Baggio Husidic; Alan Gordon, Gyasi Zardes.
The match takes place Sunday, April 26th, 5:00 PM (Eastern) at Red Bull Arena and will be shown on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes.