- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 28, 2008

With so much hype surrounding David Beckham, it’s easy to forget that the Los Angeles Galaxy are not a one-man team. Far from it, as Los Angeles boasts a number of leading stars in MLS.

Landon Donovan, arguably America’s greatest player ever, leads the league with 11 goals- one shy of his career single-season high - to go along with six assists. And Donovan earned his third player of the week award this week.

“Obviously they have exciting players and it’s our job to nullify them,” said D.C. United coach Tom Soehn, whose team plays host to the Galaxy at RFK Stadium on Sunday.

While the Beckham-Donovan duo has torn up defenses, the Galaxy also have seen the revival of striker Edson Buddle, who has nine goals. Even striker Alan Gordon, who has just six starts, has recorded three goals and four assists. Then there’s 2002 MVP Carlos Ruiz, who has hardly gotten started this year because of injuries and national team duty for Guatemala.

“Not only Beckham but the whole team is playing well, and they have been winning a lot of games,” United defender Bryan Namoff said. “They will come here with confidence. I feel it will be similar to last year with the crowd. It’s going to be a great game with two good teams going at each other at full capacity.”

United downed the Galaxy 1-0 Aug. 9 before a sellout crowd of 46,686 as Beckham made his MLS debut. Struggling with an ankle injury, Beckham only played 18 minutes in the game, which United won on Luciano Emilio’s goal. Team officials expect a crowd of more than 40,000 for Sunday’s game.

United’s defense is sure to be tested. The Galaxy have scored 31 goals in 13 games. That’s just seven fewer than the team notched in all of last season, when Los Angeles failed to make the playoffs. With a fit Beckham, the team is now atop the Western Conference.

“[Beckham] is the one that orchestrates everything … it’s as good as it gets,” United striker Santino Quaranta said. “We were watching film today, and I haven’t seen anything like it.”

United and the Galaxy, the league’s two most successful clubs, have plenty in common this year. The teams rank first and second in goals scored - Los Angeles has 31 goals to United’s 24. But the teams also have the worst defenses as United has allowed 25 goals, one more than Los Angeles.

Good attacks and leaky defenses are usually the recipe for plenty of goals, and with Galaxy games averaging a stunning 4.2 goals a game, the goalies are sure to be busy.

“It will be a cat and mouse game to see who can score more goals,” Quaranta said.

Seeking a shutout: D.C. United is still looking for its first shutout of the year with half the season almost over. United is the only team without a shutout.

“We need to get that shutout and keep balls out of the net because when it comes to crunch time we are not going to be able to win 3-2,” defender Devon McTavish said. “We are going to have to win 1-0 or 2-0.”

Earning a shutout against the Galaxy will be a challenge as they have scored three or more goals in a game six times this season.

Noon kickoff:Soehn is not happy about Sunday’s noon kickoff to accommodate ABC’s television schedule.

“I don’t think any team in the world would prefer to play at noon, with 90 percent humidity and 90 degrees heat,” Soehn said. “I think sometimes our scheduling needs to be consistent so our performance can produce attractive soccer.”

Midfielder Marcelo Gallardo said the timing was a “contradiction” as the game is expected to draw a big crowd.

“It is not going to be the best show when the sun is at its highest,” he said.

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