Preview: Red Bulls vs. Galaxy (10-30-11)

See how the Red Bulls and Galaxy match up heading into Sunday's 3pm ET match on ESPN2

NEW YORK RED BULLS v LA GALAXY
Sun., Oct. 30, Red Bull Arena (3 pm ET; ESPN2; ESPN Deportes)

REFEREE: Alex Prus, SAR (bench): George Gansner; JAR (opposite): Eric Boria; 4th: Mark Kadlecik

INJURY REPORT: NEW YORK RED BULLS -- OUT: DF Chris Albright (R calf strain); MF Sacir Hot (R knee surgery); MF Carl Robinson (R knee contusion); QUESTIONABLE: MF Dax McCarty (R ankle sprain); FW Luke Rodgers (L knee inflammation) ... LA GALAXY -- OUT: DF Sean Alvarado (R knee surgery); DF Bryan Jordan (L middle finger tendon rupture); DF Leonardo (R knee surgery); QUESTIONABLE: MF David Beckham (back spasms); DF Gregg Berhalter (R foot sprain); FW Landon Donovan (R quadriceps strain); DF Sean Franklin (R knee inflammation); FW Robbie Keane (L adductor strain); MF Dustin McCarty (concussion)

DOWNLOAD FULL GAME GUIDE (PDF)

SUSPENDED: NY: Jan Gunnar Solli (through Oct. 30)

WARNINGS: NY: Tim Ream (suspended next yellow)

LEAGUE HEAD-TO-HEAD: NY 16 wins (1 SO), 54 GF … LA 15 wins (1 SO), 53 GF … Ties 6

2011 HEAD-TO-HEAD: NY 1 win, 3 GF; LA 0 wins, 1 GF; 1 tie

AT RED BULL ARENA

  • 10/4: NY 2, LA 0 (Rodgers 31; Henry 60)

MLS CUP PLAYOFFS: NY 1 win, 7 GF … LA 1 win, 6 GF … 1 tie

NEW YORK RED BULLS

  • The Red Bulls came into the MLS Cup Playoffs with four shutouts in their last seven league games, a trend they continued in the wild card victory. “I thought (FC Dallas would) be all over us in the first 15, 20 minutes with the pace they have,” Red Bulls coach Hans Backe said. “I think the key has to be to close down Hernandez’s distribution, so we put Thierry [Henry] on him and then we sat with four in the midfield just to cover the space for the pacey guys in Dallas, the front three guys.”
  • There will be a big change in the back four for the first leg of the conference semifinals, with right back Jan Gunnar Solli suspended. "It’s never a good situation when you get sent off,” Solli said. "You feel like you’re letting down your team. Everybody was like, 'We are going to fight for you,’ and it helps the whole thing."
  • Mehdi Ballouchy had played just nine minutes total over the final six games of the season. But he came on in the 59th minute in Dallas and set up the opening goal just two minutes later. “I think it’s just the opportunity I got. We took the ball up on the right and I decided instead of crossing, I should bring it back and play it in with my left," Ballouchy said. "[Dallas’] back four stepped up, which opened up Joel [Lindpere] to finish it. We were fortunate to get the first goal.”
  • The Red Bulls have won just three games on the road over the entirety of 2011. Two of those wins have come at Dallas. "We went down to the wire to make the playoffs. After beating Philadelphia, I felt our last two sessions that this was a relaxed team, a calm team, with two very, very sharp sessions. Probably the two best sessions we have had all season," Backe said. "We are close to our peak at the right time.”
  • The teams are meeting for the second time in less than a month, after New York won 2-0 on Oct. 4 in a game rescheduled because of Hurricane Irene. “I think we tied them away and won against them at home so it’s going to be an interesting game. A lot of chances will make it a wide open game," said Lindpere. "We know we have two games so we don’t need to worry. We just need to keep working like we have done lately – as a team.”

LA GALAXY

  • The Galaxy attack could get a big boost for the first leg, as both Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane have returned to full training. Donovan missed the final three league games with a strained quadriceps. “I feel great, actually,” Donovan said. “My body feels as good as it has since probably the first day of preseason. Sometimes these things are a blessing in disguise. As painful as it is to have to watch, I’m eager to play, my fitness is good and hopefully I’ll be able to play a part on Sunday.”
  • Keane has not played for the Galaxy since suffering an adductor injury Oct. 2 while on Ireland national team duty. “He came in the first 20 minutes he was here and he scored a great goal,” striker Chad Barrett said. “I fully expect him to be able to do the same thing, coming in and the first 20 minutes he’s back, score a goal. He’s that kind of player.”
  • There will be a decision in goal. Donovan Ricketts and Josh Saunders alternated the last three league games, and both are in full fitness. “They’re both great goalkeepers,” Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez said. “It shouldn’t matter who is in goal. The backline has faith and trust in both of those ‘keepers. They’ve both done well these past three years and we’ve just got to worry about protecting them. We’ve been doing that the whole year by not allowing that many shots and when [teams] do get chances on them, they come up big.”
  • Sean Franklin also returned to action in the season finale, playing 45 minutes. His last appearance was Sept. 9 before suffering a knee injury. “He’s pretty much on target since his surgery as far as coming back. We’re hopeful that he’ll have a good week of training and will be an option for us,” assistant coach Dave Sarachan said.
  • The Galaxy are aiming to become just the second Supporters' Shield winner in the last decade to double as MLS Cup champion (joining Columbus in 2008). "Bruce [Arena] has done a good job of building a team that’s really competitive from [players] one to 30, but also we have enough quality where in a one-game do-or-die loser-goes-home game, we’re good enough and talented enough,” Donovan said. “It’s a tricky balance in our league, it always has been that way. I’ve been on both sides of the coin ... we think we’re good enough to win.”