CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy have no illusions about what they'll face in Sunday afternoon's Western Conference showdown against FC Dallas(7 pm ET, NBCSN, live chat on MLSsoccer.com): a lot of flank speed and a maestro at the controls.
How well they deal with Dallas' strengths, especially if Landon Donovan is missing, could have a say in a playoff race that seems to grow tighter every week. LA (11-11-4) are fourth in the West, ahead of Vancouver on goals scored and six points behind Seattle and Real Salt Lake.
Dallas sit (8-11-8) in sixth, just outside the playoff zone, but have won three in a row, are coming off road wins at Vancouver and Real Salt Lake, and have dropped just two games – to Supporters' Shield leaders San Jose and to the Galaxy, a month ago in Frisco, Texas – in their last 11, a span that more or less coincides with playmaker David Ferreira's return to the lineup.
“They're playing very well, and they're playing well on the road,” said Donovan, who missed Thursday's CONCACAF Champions League victory over Isidro Metapan and appears doubtful for Sunday with a hamstring strain. “I think they're a team that's built to play on the road better than they are at home because they like to counterattack. They're defending very well – they got two very good defensive results against two very good teams in Vancouver and Salt Lake – and they're going to come here and try to do the same.”
Ferreira, the 2010 MLS MVP who missed more than a year after suffering a broken ankle 16 months ago, makes things tick for Dallas, who were in the Western Conference cellar as recently as mid-July. LA are wary of the weapons surrounding him, too, especially Brek Shea and Jair Benitez on the left flank, Fabian Castillo on the right, and Jackson Goncalves, just coming back from concussion symptoms.
“Brek Shea is still a guy you know you can't sleep on,” Galaxy associate head coach Dave Sarachan said. “He's a handful. Physically, he can be a dominating guy. ... The element of speed is critical, and they do have the ability to get out quick on the break, and I think they've built their team that way. You've got Castillo, Benitez, Ferreira, Jackson – these guys, they can run.”
Eliminating space for them to run into is critical for the Galaxy, and so is using their speed, which they believe is just as deadly, perhaps more so.
“It depends how you define speed,” Sarachan said. “In pure running speed, they have an advantage over a lot of teams. They have speed and quickness, but we have speed of thought and speed of play. Sometimes you can use that to your advantage more than just running speed.”