For the second time in ten days, New York City finds itself slated against a team ranked first in its conference.
But nobody would confuse this L.A. Galaxy team for D.C. United. Considering all of the star power on hand for Bruce Arena's team, they are fitting doppelgangers for, well, New York City.
They've got a relentless striker (Robbie Keane), a newly-arrived English legend (Steven Gerrard), and a rising star ever-gaining in buzz (Sebastian Lletget).
Who ya got? Those three, or David Villa, Frank Lampard, and Kwadwo Poku?
Today's match features two teams positively shimmering with talent. On form, however, the hosts have a major leg-up. The Galaxy have only lost one solitary game at the StubHub Center, where they've gathered 32 of their West-leading 43 points. They enter today's match having won three straight on the trot, most recently a 2-1 Saturday decision against FC Dallas down in Frisco.
With twelve total wins and a goal difference of +13, this opponent may be the toughest New York City will face all season.
"We know the matches are getting bigger and bigger and the points that are there are more and more valuable," NYC gaffer Jason Kreis said mid-week. "We need every point we can get right now. It’s time for our biggest players to step up and make big plays in these kinds of games."
Even against such long odds, hope shouldn't be abandoned just yet. the explosive playmaking punch of PPV -- Pirlo, Poku the Punisher, and Villa: pay-per view stuff, right there -- is not a thing with which to trifle.
Poku is coming off his first MLS brace, Pirlo is fully switched-on after his summertime move, and Villa presents a more serious individual threat than even the often-fuming Robbie Keane. In front of a back line that gets central defender Shay Facey back from a yellow card suspension, the visitors have the pieces firmly in place.
The question remains open, however, as to whether or not one of those pieces is Frank Lampard.
For the overseas media especially, this match has been peddled as Lamps versus Stevie G, the Chelsea dagger versus the Scouse man-of-the-house. The former England teammates may end up sharing little more than a curtain call: yet again, Lampard is listed questionable on the injury sheet with a tweaked quad.
Gerrard scored a deft goal in his MLS debut. More than a year after being announced as New York City player, Lampard has not made a single significant contribution on the field. Whether or not Number Eight logs significant minutes, both sides are gearing up for a scintillating display, a game that sports a level of talent rarely seen -- or ever -- in Major League Soccer.
Count Jason Kreis among the excited parties.
"It’s an important game. It’s going to be well attended," the manager said. "I’m quite certain it’s a sellout and then some. I’m hopeful that there’s going to be lots of people watching on TV and the idea is to give them a good show. They’re a very good team with a ton of confidence right now that has done well at home, historically. That doesn’t mean to say they’re impossible to beat. They have weaknesses as well and we’ll look to exploit them."
Hollywood versus hipsterhood. Avocado versus foie gras. Freeway bottlenecks versus L train delays. It all goes down this afternoon in Carson.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS
New York City:
OUT: Brian Perk (ankle fracture)
QUESTIONABLE: Todd Dunivant (foot), Baggio Husidic (calf), Jose Villareal (leg)
New York City:
OUT: Mehdi Ballouchy (left adductor), Javier Calle (hamstring)
QUESTIONABLE: Frank Lampard (left quad), Khiry Shelton (left quad)