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.

Nothing to separate Portland and 10-man LAFC

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There was entertainment value in Los Angeles FC’s potential playoff preview with the Portland Timbers on Sunday in the City of Angels, but all that arrived was a scoreless draw.

[ MORE: Atlanta 1-1 Seattle ]

Both Giovani Savarese’s Timbers and Bob Bradley‘s nickname-free expansion club remain in the West’s Top Four. PLAFC remains unbeaten at home during their maiden voyage through Major League Soccer.

Adama Diomande came close for the hosts, who finished with 10-men when Lee Nguyen went studs-up on Sebastian Blanco‘s thigh for a pretty easy red card (though it took some time for Silviu Petrescu to produce the red).

VIDEO: France stars projected onto Arc de Triomphe

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If France’s players had any doubt about the level of import their World Cup title had back home, it was erased when their photos were projected onto one of the most celebrated monuments in the world.

The photos of Hugo Lloris, Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann, and company made their way onto the Arc de Triomphe on Sunday, hours after France defeated Croatia 4-2 in the World Cup Final.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

The Arc de Triomphe honors those who died in the French Revolution and early 19th century wars, and sits above France’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.

How humbling must it be for those players to grace such a heavy monument (both in weight and substance).

Dalic: In one day, Croatia went from lucky to unlucky

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Ante Cacic’s Croatia was on pace to miss out on the World Cup.

Zlatko Dalic’s Croatia rallied the troops to second place in their qualifying group, a playoff defeat of Greece, and a run to the World Cup Final.

Pretty decent stuff.

[ MORE: FIFA awards Golden Ball, Golden Glove ]

And surely the 51-year-old will reflect on that, probably even this evening, but he’s more focused on a letdown after Sunday’s 4-2 loss to highly-favored France.

Key to the match was a penalty awarded to France when a partially-obscured Mario Mandzukic handled a ball inside the 18, leading to Antoine Griezmann’s pivotal goal.

The PK was awarded via VAR, and France went up 2-1 en route to a three-goal lead. From the AFP:

“I never comment on referees but in a World Cup final you do not give such a penalty,” said Dalic.

“It in no way diminishes France’s win. We were a bit unlucky. Maybe in the first six games we were favored by luck and today we weren’t.

“I have to congratulate my players. Maybe today we played our best game at these championships. Against such a strong side as France you must not make mistakes. We are a bit sad but we must also be proud of what we’ve done.”

Croatia had two-thirds of the ball and doubled France’s shot attempts, and Dalic isn’t the least bit controversial in wondering whether the match is much different if that penalty goes unawarded by referee Nestor Pitana.

Atlanta comes back to draw 10-man Seattle (video)

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A scrappy if not downright venomous affair between the lowly Seattle Sounders and high-flying Atlanta United ended in a 1-1 draw in Georgia on Sunday.

The Sounders went ahead through a Nicolas Lodeiro penalty kick, awarded via VAR a la this morning’s World Cup Final, but Atlanta leveled the score with a highlight which show every bit of the game story.

[ MORE: FIFA awards Golden Ball, Golden Glove ]

Just check Josef Martinez’s barking at Stefan Frei, who made an uncharacteristic error on the play, after his 19th goal of the season (Nice cross, Julian Gressel).

Martinez needs nine more goals to break the MLS single season record, and he has 13 games to score them.

Jordan McCrary was sent off for Seattle in the 63rd minute for a second yellow, but Seattle navigated the final half hour or so to scoop up an unlikely point.

Atlanta still sits first with its earned point but opens the door for New York City FC to reach the top of the table when it plays its match-in-hand, while Seattle is now 11 points back of the West’s final playoff spot.