Last year, New York City FC headed west for what was billed as the “Great MLS showdown between English Premier League legends, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerard”. What ensued was something less inspiring, as the Los Angeles Galaxy handed NYCFC their worst defeat of the season. Now the Galaxy are coming to Yankee Stadium, and with NYCFC firmly in the hunt for a playoff berth, one can legitimately ask, can NYCFC beat the Galaxy?
Can NYCFC beat the Galaxy?
Why didn’t NYCFC beat the Galaxy last August?”
There are lots of reasons. For example, it was only Andrea Pirlo’s sixth match and his first real road trip. And hype to the contrary, Lampard didn’t play, and wasn’t even on the bench. Plus New York’s backline still featured two Manchester City elite players. As for LA, they were in form having come off three wins in a row, were 10-2-1 at home and were knocking at the door of the Supporter’s Shield. Correspondingly, NYCFC had just come off a win against D.C. United and a draw at Columbus (uh-oh) and were sitting on 28 points (10 fewer than they have now).
But that’s ancient history (the team has lost by so much more since then! No, wait, that’s not what I meant…) and this August match up should be, could be, entirely different.
The Galaxy on the Road
On the one hand, LA’s road record is no where near as impressive as their home record – currently they’re undefeated in Carson, but have lost three times on the road. And that’s a good thing, since NYCFC’s home record is no where near as impressive as it’s road record. LA is 3-3-5 on the road, and NYCFC are 4-3-5 at home. (Yes, that’s 10 ties between them; so the question may not be “can NYCFC beat the Galaxy”, but rather “Can these teams do anything but draw?”)
Curiously, the Galaxy’s road record gets a bit more dismal when they’re east of the Mississippi. Sure, they’ve only made that trek three times this season, but they’re winless, taking one measly point in a draw with the Philadelphia Union. Judging from that statistic, one might wonder why wouldn’t NYCFC beat the Galaxy. (conversely, NYCFC have traveled west of the “Big Muddy” four times this season and are 2-1-1. If only they did so well when they just had to cross the Hudson….)
Nevertheless, the Galaxy are very good, and NYCFC are facing them just about the time they always seem to get hot. They’re in third place in the West, have just as many points as NYCFC and have a roster that could easily field two MLS teams (unless one of them was Chivas USA).
But that last observation speaks to the second challenge which will face both teams Saturday – one fans of both sides can relate to.
Look, you’ve got Robbie Keane. Steven Gerrard. Gio Dos Santos. Gyasi Zardes. David Villa. Andrea Pirlo. Frank Lampard. Jack Harrison. Tommy McNamara. That’s a lot of payroll running around on not a lot of pitch Furthermore, that’s a lot of players who really like – who really need – room to move and maneuver, bumping into each other for 90 minutes. Sure, small pitches don’t seem to bother the Galaxy (all but three venues are smaller than The StubHub Center, and the Galaxy are 3-4-2 at them this season). But there’s “smaller than StubHub” and there’s “wait, can you measure that again please?”. Can NYCFC beat the Galaxy? Hell, I don’t even know if they can get out of their way long enough to get a shot off. Call that a vote for a draw.
Oh and One More Thing
The last question about whether NYCFC can beat the Galaxy has to do with health. Now, I know I mentioned this last time in the context of the age of NYCFC’s players, a long season and travel. But this time I’m not thinking about their age. This time I’m thinking about something else.
This time I’m thinking about Nigel De Jong.
Now, I’m not saying that Nigel De Jong is a thug. Nor am I saying that Bruce Arena uses him to intimidate players and exact what might be called “pro-active revenge”. I have the utmost for Mr. De Jong and Mr. Arena (and I hope they remember that if I bump into them in the hallways beneath Yankee Stadium after Saturday’s match).
But one cannot ignore the reputation “the Destroyer” has developed – fairly or unfairly – for sending opposing players off the pitch on a stretcher. Like Darlington Nagbe, for instance. Or Blas Perez. Or Stuart Holden. Or Hatem Ben Arfa. I dunno. Maybe he got that nickname because he really likes George Thorogood.
Can NYCFC beat the Galaxy with Nigel De Jong? I don’t know.
But I do know they can’t beat anyone should David Villa or Frank Lampard or Andrea Pirlo meet with an “unfortunate accident” on the pitch.
And yes, I think that’s a very real possibility.
Should make Saturday a very interesting match.