CARSON, Calif. — MLS championships are won around the time the holidays approach, when turkeys quickly become an endangered species.
Two days before Memorial Day of this year, though, an MLS Cup-worthy match is captivating attention.
Dubbed by some as the “Battle of the Best,” the Los Angeles Galaxy face the Columbus Crew on Saturday in a matchup of the only two teams yet to suffer a loss in the 2010 MLS campaign. Through the first third of the MLS campaign, LA and Columbus are easily the two best teams in the league.
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“You can’t rest everything on [the game] but it does have a little extra meaning,” Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant said.
Pitting two undefeated sides against each other is something extraordinary, Dunivant said.
“It’s good for the league," he said. "I don’t think you can point to too many times when teams are undefeated at this point of the season. It’s pretty rare and special.”
The Galaxy have a three-game edge on Columbus and may have an advantage entering the game, even if the match will be played at Columbus Crew Stadium. LA have yet to allow a goal on the road this season and are 4-0-1 overall away from Home Depot Center.
However, the last regular-season goal the Galaxy allowed was late in the 2009 regular season, in a 2-0 loss at Columbus.
Still, don’t expect LA to enter with anything less than a load of confidence.
“We’re going in there a confident group,” Dunivant said. “We know they’re confident but we have nothing to fear going in there. We’re going to approach it just like we have all the other games and going there trying to get a good result and if we do that I think we’ll be alright.”
Columbus pose several problems. Guillermo Barros Schelotto is perhaps the league’s most exciting player, and is an ever-present danger. Additionally, Robbie Rogers and Chad Marshall, each of whom missed the cut for the US World Cup squad, both returned to training on Thursday and will be available for the match.
The Crew pulled out consecutive road wins within days of each other recently, as Columbus beat New York 3-1 on May 20 and followed it up with a 1-0 win at Kansas City on May 23.
“They’re a balanced group and have a good offensive group with Schelotto running the show, pulling the strings and defensively they’re a strong team,” Dunivant continued. “They’ve been winning ugly as of late but they can win pretty too. We see a lot of ourselves in them.”
However, Columbus will try and do something that’s not often been done this season. The Galaxy have allowed only two goals this year and have a whopping plus-14 goal differential. Columbus—the only Eastern Conference team with a positive goal differential—has a plus-eight, second-best in the league.
The defense has been impenetrable as the Galaxy carry a 366-minute shutout streak into Crew Stadium, made even more remarkable by the fluidity of the lineup.
“Our depth has been tested all year,” Dunivant admitted. “When you lose Landon [Donovan] and Edson [Buddle] for an extended period of time it will test you but we’ve had guys out all year. Our whole roster has had to start games all year and we’re still getting results. You look at midfielders, forwards, everyone is contributing, everyone is doing a job out there and when we get up in games, that’s a testament to our whole team, our team mentality.”