David Villa, Andrea Pirlo, Frank Lampard and the rest of the New York City FC stars head west to Hollywood as the Club faces the Los Angeles Galaxy in a nationally televised match on ESPN on Sunday afternoon.
Kickoff is 3 p.m. ET from the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. (ESPN, 970 AM, WQBU).
"We have to keep moving forward and recognizing we’re doing really some nice things, but there are still areas that need improvement," head coach Jason Kreis said. "We know the matches are getting bigger and bigger and the points that are there are more and more valuable. 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."
New York City FC come into the match on the heels of a 2-2 draw at Columbus Crew SC on Wednesday evening. The Club is 7-11-7 with 28 points; sitting in seventh place in the Eastern Conference based on goal differential. Montreal (8-9-4; 28 points) is in the sixth and final playoff spot with four matches in hand.
After an inconsistent start to the season, Los Angeles has hit its stride recently with the Galaxy winning seven of their last nine matches. Los Angeles stands atop the Western Conference at 12-7-7 with 43 points. The Galaxy are also second in the Supporters’ Shield Standings, trailing D.C. United by one point.
"Every game has been pressure on us," midfielder Mix Diskerud said. "It’s nothing different. We’re in a spot right now where we need wins and points. Everything is going to be important. We’re going to work our butts off."
Following two straight defeats, New York City FC has put together a two-match unbeaten streak, highlighted by a 3-1 victory over Eastern Conference-leading D.C. United on August 13 at Yankee Stadium. Midfielder Kwadwo Poku has made his presence known in those matches with three goals and one assist. The Ghanaian is tied for the team lead in assists with Villa (14 goals) with seven apiece.
"I have to keep doing what I’m doing best and try to create chances," Poku said. "It isn’t about me. It’s about the team. Anything I can do to help the team win is why I’m in there. Every player wants to be on the field as much as possible and so do I. I want to be on the field as much as I can."
Sunday’s task won’t be a walk in the park by any means for New York City FC as the Galaxy have turned StubHub Center into one of the toughest venues in the league.
Los Angeles, the most successful franchise in league history with five MLS Cups, is 10-1-2 at home this season and have suffered just one defeat there in the last 29 regular-season MLS matches. The Galaxy average 4.4 goals per match in their last five home matches.
Not surprisingly, Sunday’s match also features some of the biggest names in the league. New York City FC boast their three Designated Players in Villa, Pirlo and Lampard, while Los Angeles counters with a DP trio of its own in Robbie Keane, Steven Gerrard and Giovani Dos Santos.
Villa ranks third in MLS with 14 goals, while Keane is hot on his heels with 13.
Lampard and Gerrard made their respective club debuts following the opening of the summer transfer window. The duo are two of the most successful midfielders in English Premier League history. Lampard scored 177 goals in the EPL and is Chelsea’s all-time leading goal scorer with 211 goals, while Gerrard found the back of the net 120 times in the EPL for Liverpool.
Sunday's match certainly is one you don't want to miss.
"It’s an important game," Kreis said. "It’s going to be well attended; 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."