Los Angeles (8-0-2, 1st in Western Conference) at Columbus Crew (6-0-2, 1st in Eastern Conference), 7:30 p.m. ET, Crew Stadium.
All-time record: Columbus lead the series 15-9-8 (8-2-4 in Columbus)
What's at stake?
Everything – a possible MLS Cup preview, Supporters’ Shield clash, best of the best and bragging rights from coast to coast. OK, the hype is a little overboard, but this is the latest in the season that two unbeaten teams have ever met. The Crew won the 2008 MLS Cup and the past two Shields; LA were the MLS Cup runner-up last year. Their streaks are no flukes.
A sellout crowd of 20,966 in Crew Stadium last September saw Columbus triumph 2-0 on goals by Eddie Gaven in the 33rd minute and Steven Lenhart in the 59th. LA lacked the injured David Beckham, but the Crew were minus five regulars, including Guillermo Barros Schelotto.
Saturday’s forecast is for the mid-80s. When the teams met in April of 2003, in a rematch of the 2002 US Open Cup final won by Columbus, the temperature was less than half that. It was 41 degrees with wind chill in the low 20s at kickoff for the night game. The match ended 1-1 as Edson Buddle scored for the Crew and Carlos Ruiz countered. Former LA keeper Hartman’s assessment? “When the flurries came at the start of overtime, we’re like, ‘What are we doing out here?’”
Heroes & villains
LA defense vs. Crew set pieces: In the past two games, the Crew have scored twice off corner kicks and got another after a throw-in. The Galaxy have been extremely stingy but can’t relax at any time.
Guillermo Barros Schelotto vs. Gregg Berhalter: A pair of wily veterans could make the difference as two teams who don’t allow many goals look for any advantage.
Bench vs. Bench: LA’s Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle are headed to the World Cup, but the Crew could have a few starters missing as well. Defenders Danny O’Rourke, Chad Marshall and Frankie Hejduk are nursing injuries, as is defensive midfielder Brian Carroll.
Stats that make you go “Hmm”
The Galaxy are on a 10-0-3 run in the regular season since losing to the Crew last September. LA have 11 shutouts during the stretch and have not trailed. Columbus own the one-season unbeaten mark of 18 (8-0-10) in 2004 and overall at 9-0-10 after opening the 2005 season with a win over the Galaxy before losing at New England.
He said it
“To have only two goals against 10 games into the season is incredible. That’s a testament to their team defense. Hopefully, the flood gates open a bit.” – Crew defender Frankie Hejduk on the Galaxy.