Preview: Top-of-the-table clash sees Crew host Galaxy

Columbus Crew vs. LA Galaxy

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COLUMBUS CREW STADIUM, Columbus, Ohio
7:30 p.m. ET (ONN; FS-W; watch LIVE online)
September 24, 2011 (WEEK 28; MLS Game 270)

The Columbus Crew and LA Galaxy meet in a top-of-the-table clash of conference leaders Saturday night at Crew Stadium. The Galaxy headed into the week as the only team to have secured a place in the MLS Cup Playoffs, coming off a 3-0 home win against Vancouver last weekend in league play. The Crew dropped a 1-0 decision to Philadelphia on the road last weekend, but still the Eastern Conference by a point heading into the weekend.

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REFEREE: Silviu Petrescu. SAR (bench): Daniel Belleau; JAR (opposite): Eric Proctor; 4th: Sorin Stoica
MLS Career: 34 games; FC/gm: 28.3; Y/gm: 3.9; R: 6; pens: 5

INJURY REPORT: COLUMBUS CREW — OUT: MF Tony Tchani (R knee surgery); DOUBTFUL: DF Rich Balchan (L oblique strain); MF Corey Veeder (L adductor strain); QUESTIONABLE: MF Eddie Gaven (R lower leg contusion); MF Bernardo Anor (L ankle sprain); DF Chad Marshall (L hip flexor strain); PROBABLE: FW Emilio Renteria (concussion); GK Andy Gruenebaum (R thumb fracture) ... LA GALAXY — OUT: DF Sean Alvarado (R knee surgery); DF Gregg Berhalter (R foot sprain); DF Sean Franklin (R knee inflammation); DF Leonardo (R knee surgery); QUESTIONABLE: MF David Beckham (back spasms); MF Juninho (L hamstring strain); GK Donovan Ricketts (R quad tightness)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
SUSPENDED: none
WARNINGS:
SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: CLB: Kevin Burns, Sebastian Miranda, Dejan Rusmir ... LA: David Beckham, Landon Donovan
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: CLB: Tommy Heinemann, William Hesmer, Tony Tchani ... LA: Chris Birchall, Omar Gonzalez, Frankie Hejduk, Juninho, Michael Stephens

HEAD-TO-HEAD

  • ALL-TIME (35 meetings): Crew 15 wins (3 shootout), 48 goals ... Galaxy 12 wins (0 shootout), 44 goals ... Ties 8
  • AT LA (15 meetings): Crew 8 wins (1 shootout), 25 goals ... Galaxy 3 wins (0 shootout), 17 goals ... Ties 4
  • In the first meeting this season, Sean Franklin scored the game's lone only goal to lead the Galaxy to victory, July 20 at The Home Depot Center.
  • When the Galaxy won 2-0 in Columbus last May 29, it was just the Galaxy's second win all-time at Crew Stadium. The first was a 2-1 win against Columbus on Sept. 30, 2007; that also includes a loss to the Crew in the 2002 U.S. Open Cup final, and loss in MLS Cup 2001 to San Jose.
  • Coaches record: Bruce Arena v CLB: P23 W13 L8 D2 ... Robert Warzycha vs. LA: P5 W1 L3 D1

LAST MEETING (MLS)

  • 7/20: LA 1, CLB 0 (Franklin 70)
  • The game's lone goal came in the 70th minute. David Beckham swung a free kick toward goal, and the shot hit the wall and bounced out to Sean Franklin. Some 30 yards from goal, Franklin ripped a low shot that deflected off Eric Gehrig and escaped Crew 'keeper William Hesmer to the back of the net.
  • LA GALAXY (4-4-2): Josh Saunders - Sean Franklin, A.J. DeLaGarza, Gregg Berhalter, Todd Dunivant - Jovan Kirovski (Michael Stephens 83), Juninho, David Beckham, Landon Donovan - Miguel Lopez (Mike Magee 69), Juan Pablo Angel (Bryan Jordan 85).
  • COLUMBUS CREW (4-1-4-1): William Hesmer - Sebastian Miranda, Chad Marshall, Julius James, Josh Gardner (Jeff Cunningham 88) - Eric Gehrig - Eddie Gaven, Bernardo Anor (Justin Meram 75), Emmanuel Ekpo, Robbie Rogers - Andres Mendoza (Tommy Heinemann 4).

COLUMBUS CREW

The Columbus Crew saw their winless streak reach four games, falling 1-0 to Philadelphia Union on Saturday evening at PPL Park. The Crew have 41 points from 29 games on the season, still leading the Eastern Conference by one point.

LAST MATCH

  • The game's only goal came in the 32th minute. Sebastien Le Toux broke free to run onto a brilliant long ball from Roger Torres and beat Crew goalkeeper William Hesmer with a clinical finish from inside the area.
  • Crew head coach Robert Warzycha made two changes to the team that played to a 2-2 draw with the Houston Dynamo at Crew Stadium. Eric Gehrig came into central defense in place of Chad Marshall, and Dejan Rusmir replaced the suspended Emmanuel Ekpo in midfield.
  • COLUMBUS CREW (4-1-3-2): William Hesmer - Sebastian Miranda, Julius James, Eric Gehrig, Shaun Francis - Danny O'Rourke - Dilly Duka, Dejan Rusmir (Josh Gardner 82), Robbie Rogers - Andres Mendoza (Jeff Cunningham 74), Tommy Heinemann (Justin Meram 63).

TEAM NEWS

  • The Crew have suffered three losses in their current four-game winless run, but still are atop the Eastern Conference by one point ahead of Sporting KC with five games remaining.
  • "The season is long and everyone is going to go through a time where things don't work. Obviously they had trouble for a few games. It's close to playoffs and obviously they got three points today. We were unable to create many chances, we wanted to create more but our preparation wasn't any different than any other away game," said Crew head coach Robert Warzycha.
  • It was a third consecutive road defeat for Columbus. The Crew have scored just 10 goals on their travels — tied for the second-lowest total in the league, with Houston and Real Salt Lake, ahead of only Portland (7 goals). Columbus will have three of their final four games on the road.
  • After the visit by the Galaxy, the Crew play their final four games against Eastern Conference opposition — including a meeting next weekend with Sporting Kansas City, who begin the week a point behind Columbus and with a match against third-place Philadelphia.
  • "We've won the East in the past I believe in '08 and '09. It is great to have home field advantage for that second leg but as we've seen the past few years it just matters getting in," said goalkeeper William Hesmer. "Ideally we want to be hitting a peak when we're hitting the playoffs so we have a few games to right the ship and start moving in a positive direction."
  • Chad Marshall missed a game for the first time this season, after he was forced off at halftime of the Houston game with a hip flexor injury, his first minutes missed in league play this season. In his stead, Eric Gehrig made his first start of the season in central defense.
  • "You can't really replace a Chad Marshall," Gehrig said. "You try to go out there and do your best. Overall I thought I did a pretty good job. We kept things tight. Too bad the game was decided on that one play."
  • It was a second consecutive start in midfield for Danny O'Rourke, his first two league starts of the season after playing just 21 minutes over the first 27 games of the campaign.
  • "It was hard kind of being that veteran from the locker room, so I was trying to get back out there because there's only a limited amount of things you can say without showing it," said O'Rourke. "The guys were going out there and showing it every week. ... I'm happy to be back out there and kind of be a leader.
  • With Emilio Renteria out with a concussion over the last two games, Warzycha has dropped Andres Mendoza into an underneath role behind Tommy Heinemann.
  • "We played a 4-5-1 so there's more guys in the midfield with AndrÈs withdrawn," midfielder Robbie Rogers said. "It's a little easier for us to keep the ball but in the end he's a goal scorer. He's a guy who likes to be in front of the goal. It was hard for him to get in positions where he was really dangerous. The same with me, Dilly [Duka], Tommy — we really couldn't find spots to get dangerous."

LA GALAXY

The LA Galaxy extended their unbeaten streak to five games, easing to a 3-0 victory against Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Saturday evening at The Home Depot Center. The Galaxy have 58 points from 29 games on the season, leading the Western Conference and the MLS overall table.

LAST MATCH

  • The Galaxy broke through in the 40th minute. Robbie Keane took control of the ball on the left side of the penalty area, scampered inside the box and hit a cross to the top of the six-yard box where Mike Magee came onto it and tucked the ball into the back of the net.
  • The lead was doubled in the 64th minute. Bryan Jordan raced unmolested down the right flank unmarked and whipped a ball to the middle of the box towards Keane, who easily headed the ball past Vancouver 'keeper Joe Cannon.
  • LA put the game on ice in the 75th minute when Jordan again created a goal, picking out Magee out inside the box from the right flank and he hit a glancing header that settled just inside the left post.
  • Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena made four changes to the team that defeated the Colorado Rapids 1-0 on Friday night at The Home Depot Center. Josh Saunders came back into goal in place of Donovan Ricketts, Mike Magee and Chris Birchall started in the midfield in place of Sean Franklin and Juninho,and Robbie Keane returned to the attack in place of Chad Barrett.
  • LA GALAXY (4-4-2): Josh Saunders - Bryan Jordan, Omar Gonzalez, A.J. DeLaGarza, Todd Dunivant - Mike Magee, Chris Birchall, David Beckham (Dan Keat 78), Landon Donovan (Michael Stephens 78) - Robbie Keane (Miguel Lopez 84), Paolo Cardozo.

TEAM NEWS

  • The victory kept the Galaxy on track for the Supporters' Shield, given to the club with the best overall record in the regular season. They opened the week seven points clear at the top of the table with five games still to be played by second-place Seattle.
  • "We will be experiencing full weeks for a little bit now. I like the attitude of our players and hopefully we can try to keep a couple of them fresh as we move forward."
  • It was a club-record 15th shutout of the season for the Galaxy, leading MLS ahead of Real Salt Lake.
  • Josh Saunders returned to goal for the Galaxy in the Vancouver game, and recorded his sixth shutout in league play. Donovan Ricketts has seven in MLS this season. Brian Perk added one in his lone MLS start, and Ricketts, Saunders and Mike Magee shared one in a scoreless draw with San Jose.
  • "We had two All-Star defenders this year and how can you argue about the way that A.J. [DeLaGarza] has played," said Arena. "The whole group has been outstanding. Omar [Gonzalez] has really gotten better this season, A.J. continues to grow, Todd [Dunivant] is solid, we're getting a number of people to contribute at the right back position and hopefully we'll have Franklin back in the mix as well."
  • Mike Magee scored two goals vs. Vancouver, his first two-goal game since scoring twice for the MetroStars —on Sept. 17, 2005 in a wild 5-4 win against New England.
  • Bryan Jordan made his second consecutive start at right back. "This is still a relatively new position for him and I think that the last couple of games that we have given him an opportunity in that position he has done well, which is good to see," Arena said. "He is a player with some good physical tools for that position in terms of his speed and quickness and it's nice to see that he can get forward once in a while."
  • Robbie Keane scored his second goal in as many league starts for the Galaxy, and also added his first MLS assist. "We are starting to figure him out more. The reality is becoming very clear that if you get the ball to him in good spots in front of the goal he is going to make plays. Not only scoring goals, but his cross to Mike was great," said Landon Donovan.
  • On Wednesday, the Galaxy suffered a second consecutive road loss on the CONCACAF Champions League, falling to a 1-0 defeat by LD Alajuelense in Costa Rica. The game's lone goal came from a free kick by Pablo Gabas in the 27th minute.
  • Here's the Galaxy team: Josh Saunders; Bryan Jordan, Omar Gonzalez, A.J. DeLaGarza, Todd Dunivant; Landon Donovan, David Beckham, Juninho (Paolo Cardozo 68), Mike Magee; Chad Barrett (Adam Cristman 62), Robbie Keane.