MLS match preview: LA Galaxy at FC Dallas

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Can FC Dallas count on a Galaxy hangover when the teams meet tonight in North Texas, a little So-Cal sulking from the side that went out with some disappointment in this week’s CONCACAF Champions League?

In four words – don’t bet on it.

Galaxy manager Bruce Arena has been around the MLS block more than a few times and knows how to keep a team balanced through a long season. Besides, the Galaxy went into Monterrey earlier this week understanding the task ahead – so it’s not like the inability to get the job done in Wednesday’s second-leg semifinal was some giant soul crusher.

At best, the champs could be a little tired when they meet FCD in suburban Dallas; Saturday’s kickoff on NBC Sports Network is set for 7:30 p.m. ET.

An interesting contest features one side we all thought would be leading this Western Conference race (the two-time defending MLS Cup champion Galaxy) and the surprise team that actually finds itself lead dog on the conference sled (Schellas Hyndman’s FC Dallas).

Two of the league’s better strikers will lead their teams’ attacks. In LA’s Robbie Keane, we may be speaking of “the best.” Keane has a goal and assist in just two matches this year, but continues to find the  defensive gaps and look dangerous. Propping up the Galaxy scoring, meanwhile, is Mike Magee, the surprising league leader with five goals.

Similar to Keane, FC Dallas’ Blas Perez has been limited this year due to injuries and international call-ups; he has two goals in three matches. They were, however, in Dallas’ last two matches, a pair of important road strikes as Hyndman’s team collected four points away from home over the last two weekends.

Containing Perez will be Job 1 for Omar Gonzalez; the Galaxy’s prized center back is coming off a fantastic night down in Mexico.

With one travel day and just one other full day of rest since Wednesday’s contest, Arena is sure to make lineup changes. Sophomore center back Tommy Meyer could be one, and that would be his 2013 Galaxy debut. Or Colin Clark could get on the field since the midfield vet (who played for Hyndman in college at SMU) is cup-tied and was not eligible to play in the CONCACAF series.

Magee appears ready after missing Wednesday’s match due to injury. As for Landon Donovan, who has appeared in three matches since returning from sabbatical? He went the full 90 on Wednesday, so an appearance off the bench seems most likely.

On Dallas’ side, watch for Jackson on the right and Andrew Jacobson in the holding midfield role; both are having outstanding seasons. A little more on Jackson’s 2013 campaign is here.

LA is undefeated in its last four against FC Dallas, including back-to-back shutout victories in the teams’ last pair of 2012 meetings. FCD last defeated the Galaxy back in May of 2001.

WATCH: Neymar dizzies Valencia, gets Suarez pick to score vs. Man Utd

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All three parts of the MSN trident helped Barcelona produce an International Champions Cup goal against Manchester United on Wednesday, though not in the most traditional of fashions.

Lionel Messi’s through ball was off target, and Neymar rushed onto it before spinning toward goal. Luis Suarez literally shoved Chris Smalling out of contention to stop the Brazilian, and Neymar did the rest with a finish past David De Gea.

[ REPORT: Barca confident of Coutinho deal ]

Say it with me, “It’s preseason for the officials, too, you guys.”

Neymar’s goal has given Barcelona a 1-0 lead over United, and the match is at halftime. Obviously, he hasn’t been sent to Paris Saint-Germain.

Report: Man City in “advanced” Mbappe talks; Real could sell Bale to Man Utd

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Can Manchester United doom Manchester City’s hopes of claiming Kylian Mbappe from AS Monaco?

Goal.com reports that Man City is in advanced talks with Monaco regarding the electric 18-year-old coming off a 26-goal season, but claims Real Madrid remains prepared to buy Mbappe if they can finance the move.

How would they do that? Apparently, by selling Gareth Bale to Manchester United.

[ REPORT: Barca confident of Coutinho deal ]

The Bale to Old Trafford rumors have existed dating back to the Welshman’s days at Tottenham Hotspur, but this puts a concrete plan behind a move. United boss Jose Mourinho has lamented the price of doing business in the market, and maybe the fee would bend a bit to his liking thanks to Real’s alleged need to deal.

This helps explain why it’s Man City who Goal claims sits in the driver’s seat:

Though it is believed Mbappe is also open to moving to the Santiago Bernabeu, Pep Guardiola has spoken personally with the teenager in a bid to convince him to move to Manchester, and the Catalan’s employers are now trying to persuade Monaco to sell.

The same report, seemingly well connected to Man City, claims the Etihad Stadium bunch has been surprised by Arsenal’s unwillingness to sell Alexis Sanchez within the Premier League.

The arrival of Bale and/or Mbappe to the Premier League would further congest the race for the top of the table, and start to build a gulf between a trio of Man City, Man United, and Chelsea, and the rest of the league.

And what about the Reggae Boyz? History awaits

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Being an American site whose readership celebrates USMNT coverage, we’ve dealt with the U.S. side of Wednesday’s Gold Cup Final in Santa Clara.

Yet the opponent is truly staring down history with little to no expectations. Jamaica enters its second-straight Gold Cup Final also hoping to put one leg in the 2021 Confederations Cup in Qatar.

[ MORE: Gold Cup Final preview ]

The Reggae Boyz are 8:1 underdogs against the United States tonight, and that figure would likely be even bolder if the U.S. was performing to its capabilities. Jamaica enters the game with red-hot Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Andre Blake, a half-dozen MLS players, and the rest of its roster comprised of Jamaican-based or lower-tier U.S. club players.

And as for leaving players behind, as the U.S. clearly did for this tournament, this is not a Jamaican team boasting Premier League players Wes Morgan, Adrian Mariappa, and Michael Hector.  Consider that manager Theodore Whitmore has qualified for a final with a far less impressive-looking roster than the one that fell to Mexico in 2015. That tournament roster had only six players from outside the MLS, the Premier League, and the English Football League system.

Jamaica boasted third- and fourth-place finishes in 1993 and 1998, and remains the only team from the Caribbean Football Union to make it to a final. It has a chance to become just the fourth Gold Cup winner in 14 tournaments (Mexico has seven, the USMNT five, and Canada won the 2000 tournament).

Jamaica’s ELO rating is 66th in the world. It’s FIFA ranking is 113, behind Cuba, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Haiti. Behind Antigua and Barbuda.

To win this tournament, whatever you think of the Gold Cup, would be an amazing achievement. But what Whitmore has done in calmly guiding his men to this point is already remarkable. That he’s done it like he’s been there before is even more laudable.

Rapids add longtime Bundesliga winger Aigner from 1860 Munich (highlights)

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The Colorado Rapids are hoping for an injection of offense from veteran Bundesliga right winger Stefan Aigner.

The soon-to-be 30-year-old has played 274 games between the first and second tiers of German soccer, with 25 goals and 25 assists in Bundesliga play and a further 31 and 25 in the second tier.

Most recently with 2.Bundesliga side 1860 Munich for a third time, he’s played most of his career between Munich and Eintracht Frankfurt.

[ MORE: BVB’s Merino to Newcastle ]

Aigner has the resume to succeed and perhaps star in MLS, especially if he wasn’t slowed too much by a knee injury last season (He returned and produced at the 2.Bundesliga level).

Here’s what Rapids interim general manager Padraig Smith said:

“We’re excited to add a player of Stefan’s caliber to our roster for the next three-and-a-half years,” said Smith. “As an organization we are committed to fielding a forward-thinking side and bringing in Stefan – a technical and versatile player who can excel in multiple attacking roles – will help us achieve that vision.”