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.

Rashford’s childhood hero played for USMNT (Take one guess)

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But can he grow a beard?

Manchester United attacker Marcus Rashford is known for his darting runs and clever finishes, but he grew up begging to get between the sticks with a lot of love for an American.

“Howard was my idol. I used to have a little Tim Howard shirt.”

[ MORE: Dempsey still wants USMNT role ]

Rashford said he’d ask his youth coach to allow him to play goal so he could mimic his hero, who at the time was the Manchester United backstop and now USMNT legend.

The 20-year-old was nine when Howard left Old Trafford, but it hasn’t changed his enjoyment for tending goal. Rashford joked that he’s got to be the choice to replace David De Gea in case of a post-sub emergency.

Watch Live: Watford vs. West Ham United

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David Moyes‘ first match in charge of West Ham United sees a striker change at Vicarage Road against testy Watford (Watch live at 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Andy Carroll will be up top, and Andre Ayew is hurt to boot.

Marco Silva leads Watford’s hosts with Adrian Mariappa, Christian Kabasele, and Miguel Britos at the back of a 3-5-2.

LINEUPS

Watford: Gomes; Mariappa, Kabasele, Britos; Femenía, Cleverley, Doucouré, Zeegelaar; Hughes, Richarlison; Gray. Subs: Karnezis, Prödl, Holebas, Capoue, Pereyra, Carrillo, Okaka.

West Ham United: Hart, Zabaleta, Reid, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Noble, Kouyate, Obiang, Arnautovic, Lanzini, Carroll. Subs: Adrian, Masuaku, Rice, Fernandes, Quina, Sakho, Martinez.

Dempsey still happy to accept USMNT role (which is good)

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Clint Dempsey is tied with Landon Donovan for the most goals in USMNT history, and seems set to continue with the side in some capacity as he threatens to stand alone in American history.

[ MLS: Steve Bruce to Miami? ]

The 34-year-old striker spoke with Steve Zakuani on the Sounders’ web site (video below) and said he’s happy to accept continued call-ups should they arrive from USSF headquarters.

From SoundersFC.com:

“We’ll see what happens,” Dempsey said.” I mean, in terms of what I’ve been able to accomplish with the national team, I’m at peace with it. It’s not really about me. It’s about a group of guys that want to be moving forward.

“If there’s an opportunity that comes where you get to play a role and try to help and I’m feeling good and I’m playing well, then yeah, you’ll never say no. But you know, if the call never comes I’m still happy, still at peace, and focused on being here and trying to make the most of the time I have left.”

There are a number of players whose national team futures should be in question, but Dempsey is in a different class. No one has debated his motor or fuel, and his engine is still there (to complete the Springsteen-esque car comparisons, he remains one of the only things that qualifiers as chrome-wheeled, fuel-injected, and steppin’ out over the line).

If anything, he plays too close to the edge. That’s not something I see as one of the Yanks’ problems right now, so perhaps Dempsey needs to be viewed like Cuauhtemoc Blanco or Carlos Ruiz as a CONCACAF guy who’s around as long as he wants to be a part of it.

I mean, shoot, if Dempsey wants to keep passing the fire to Christian Pulisic and now Weston McKennie, there are far worse ambassadors for the program. He’s the most accomplished field player in recent history, and will be able to share so much when it comes to balancing club and country.

Heck, maybe he needs to be the late era Ryan Giggs of the 2018-2022 USMNT.

Beckham reportedly wants Steve Bruce in Miami

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He’s got the same initials as South Beach, you know?

Steve Bruce is being tipped to be the first manager of David Beckham’s Miami MLS outfit, according to The Sun.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup ]

It’s going to be some time before Bruce would have the opportunity. The 56-year-old former Manchester United star has Aston Villa in a Football League Championship promotion push, and Miami does not even have a start date for life on an MLS pitch.

Of course, managerial life tends to be short, so there’s no guarantee Bruce will have a job at any point during the build-up to Miami in MLS. And several expansion clubs have named their coach very early in the team building process (Jason Kreis and Bob Bradley amongst others).

Bruce on MLS’ parity-driven playing field, if not as one of the big spenders, would be intriguing to watch. He’s a terrific man motivator and has the connections to combine with Beckham to make something special happen in terms of personnel.