The Galaxy faces FC Dallas for the first time since their MLS Cup dream was demolished last November, and they're not talking revenge.
Last year has nothing to do with this year, Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena will testify, and the 3-0 defeat in the Western Conference title game will play no part in what occurs Sunday in Frisco, Texas.
Of greater import is who's missing from this rematch and the impact that will have on the game and, more so, on the path FC Dallas takes the next few months. Reigning Major League Soccer MVP David Ferreira, through whom the Hoops' attack flows, suffered a fractured ankle in a victory last weekend at Vancouver and could miss as much as three months.
Ferreira, a playmaker from Colombia, is architect of nearly everything Dallas does going forward -- he has three goals and an assist in five games this year, 21 and 24 in two seasons-plus -- and his absence will require the club to change things substantially.
It's doubtful they'll be better -- teams don't improve by losing their best players -- but there's mystery about how they'll approach the match that could cause the Galaxy some trouble.
“We'll see. It's hard to know” how Dallas will play without Ferreira, L.A. captain Landon Donovan said. “Obviously, formation-wise, we don't know what they'll do. Stylistically, who knows how they play? When you have a player that's that dynamic, that can pull off special plays, it influences the way you play, and now without him, we'll be curious to see how they'll play.”
So will the Hoops. Head coach Schellas Hyndman said all the right things, about how this is an opportunity for players to step forward and make a real mark, about how this doesn't change the aim, which is to win soccer games.
“Athletics is always involved with some good moments and some bad moments,” he told told media last week. “All players will get injured at some point in time. They can’t choose the time and they can’t choose the injury. For [Ferreira], it was very disappointing, but at the same time, we know he will be back.”
Where FC Dallas (2-3-1, 7 points) will be in the fiercely competitive Western Conference once Ferreira does return is anyone's guess. The Hoops missed the playoffs in 2009 because they'd fallen too far behind early in the season. There are four very fine clubs in the West, Dallas aside, and only four guaranteed postseason berths.
FIRST PLACE: The Galaxy (4-1-3, 15 points) is atop the Western Conference and can extend its lead over Real Salt Lake (4-1-0, 12 points), which lost Saturday night at Portland, to six points. But it won't mean anything. The math is simple: L.A., after Sunday's game, will have played nine games. RSL has played five. That's 12 free points.
WORTH NOTING: David Beckham got a bit of screentime during broadcast's of Friday's royal wedding from Westminster Abbey -- he displayed the Order of the British Empire medal he received in 2003 for services to football. He flew to Dallas on Saturday and is expected to be available, possibly to start, for the Galaxy.
INJURY LIST: According to the Galaxy, the most secretive team in the league when it comes to injury matters, defenders Leonardo (torn ACL/LCL) and Gregg Berhalter (sprained knee) and forward Adam Cristman (knee surgery) are out, and forward Miguel Lopez (bruised knee) is questionable.
The Macau-born Hyndman was MLS's Coach of the Year last season after guiding FC Dallas to the MLS Cup final. He took charge in June 2008 and slowly remade the roster and altered the club's culture, bringing in discipline and accountability. He was among college soccer's winningest coaches, with 466 career wins in 31 seasons, 368 in 24 years at SMU.
Three key players
Goalkeeper Kevin Hartman is a game-changer in the nets -- his performance last year, no matter how the postseason awards played out, was MLS's best, and the Galaxy won't forget his four huge stops in the Western Conference final.
Midfielder Daniel Hernandez is the Hoops' captain, and he figures to take on more responsibility -- and possibly an altered role -- with Ferreira gone; how he handles it could determine which way FC Dallas goes.
Honduran winger Marvin Chavez has the speed, skill and savvy to break down defenses; he leads FCD with two assists.
Some questionable offseason moves -- letting several key contributors, including Chivas USA defender Heath Pearce, go for nothing -- left FC Dallas with a lot of questions heading into the season, and going winless in the first four games failed to answer them positively. The Hoops looked great in beating Colorado in an MLS Cup rematch, but not so great in Portland, and last weekend's win at Vancouver came, obviously, with a heavy price. Where they go from here depends on how they deal with Ferreira's absence.
Hartman moved with his family to Palos Verdes Estates as a teen, played at Palos Verdes and, after the merger, Peninsula high schools, started at Cal State Dominguez Hills and went on to star at UCLA, and was a fan favorite during 10 seasons with the Galaxy. … Cuban forward Maykel Galindo spent four seasons with Chivas USA, scoring 19 goals, a dozen of them in 2007. … Defender Ugo Ihemelu started his pro career, in 2005-06, with the Galaxy. … Backup goalkeeper Chris Seitz, from San Luis Obispo, moved to Thousand Oaks to play for Real So Cal and attended (but was ineligible to play for) Thousand Oaks High School. … Midfielder Eric Avila played at UC Santa Barbara.
In addition to Ferreira, FC Dallas is without reserve defenders Kyle Davies (ankle surgery) and Edson Edward (torn ACL).
At Pizza Hut Park (Frisco, Texas), 4 p.m. PT
TV: Fox Sports West and Galavision
Radio: K-Talk (KTLK/1150) and ESPN Deportes (KWKW/1330, Spanish)
Referee: Alex Prus