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Preview: United Vs. L.A. Galaxy

Update: 8:37 p.m. We are at halftime here at RFK Stadium and Mike Magee's headed goal in the 12th minute is the only score of the game so far as the Los Angeles Galaxy lead D.C. United 1-0. The goal was a simple matter, as David Beckham swung a corner kick to the edge of the six-yard area and Magee outjumped Chris Korb to head the ball past Bill Hamid, who is making his first league start of the season for United.

The goal marred an encouraging first half for United as the home team enjoyed much of the possession, but couldn't create many clear-cut opportunities against Donovan Ricketts and the Galaxy defense. The best opportunity came in the 30th minute when a free kick fell at the feet of the returning Dejan Jakovic, who was making his return to the side after serving a red card suspension last week. But Jakovic never properly controlled the ball and could only skew a shot high and wide of the goal.

The half ended with fireworks. First Todd Dunivant was cautioned in the 29th minute by referee Abbey Okulaja for a lunging tackle on Korb that saw both players go down injured (though both did eventually return to the game). After Santino Quaranta was booked in the 40th minute for a zesty aerial challenge on Juninho, the Baltimore native was lucky not to be sent off after he tangled with Beckham when the former England captain was booked for a tackle from behind on Josh Wolff.

Update: 6:45 p.m. Per Steven Goff, Landon Donovan is being held out of tonight's match.  According to D.C. United's official Twitter feed, Perry Kitchen is a scratch from this game with the flu.

United's lineup is as follows (4-4-2): Hamid, Korb, Jakovic, White, Burch, Quaranta, Simms, McCarty (captain), Pontius, Wolff, Brettschneider. Subs: Davies, Ngwenya, Boskovic, Najar, Fred, Woolard, Onstad

The Galaxy lineup looks like this (4-4-2): Ricketts, Dunivant, Leonardo, Gonzalez, DeLaGarza, Magee, Beckham (captain), Juninho, Franklin, Lopez, Angel. Subs: Saunders, Hejduk, Kirovski, Stephens, Jordan, Cardozo, Barrett

After a thrilling win over the Philadelphia Union in the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday, United return to league play this evening against David Beckham, Landon Donovan and the Los Angeles Galaxy. Games like these always mean a big crowd and a lot of electricity at RFK, so it should be a great event. On a personal note, it'll also be my first game as a contributor for this very fine website, so I can't wait for 7:30 tonight, when I'll be in the press box alongside Martin Shatzer.

All right, enough of the sappy personal stuff. Let's get down to business.

Los Angeles Galaxy (2-1-1) at D.C. United (1-2-0)

Time: 7:30 p.m., Saturday, April 9

Place: Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, Washington D.C.

TV: None, unless you have the MLS Direct Kick package. Both the Wizards and Capitals are playing tonight, which removes both CSN and CSN+ as options. This is rather unfortunate, but what can you do?

Team News and Tactics

Los Angeles: The Galaxy will have to make one enforced change tonight as midfielder Chris Birchall serves a mandatory one-game suspension after picking up a straight red card in L.A.'s 1-0 home win over Philadelphia April 2. Look for either Michael Stephens or Chad Barrett to take his place in Bruce Arena's 4-4-2 formation. I'll be curious to see if Arena repeats his experiment from last week and drops Beckham deep as essentially a holding midfielder, which served Los Angeles well against the offensively stunted Union

D.C. United: Ben Olsen has no fewer than four key players available again tonight. After missing last week's 4-1 loss at Colorado with a groin strain, Charlie Davies is back in the side and likely to start tonight, as is Perry Kitchen, who makes his return from duty with the U.S. U-20 National Team. Dejan Jankovic served his one-game suspension for a red card last week against the Rapids and is back in the team, and Clyde Simms should be back in the team after dealing with a calf strain. Defenseman Jed Zayner is listed as questionable with a hamstring injury, while Rodrigo Brasesco appears to be a doubt for tonight.

Look for Ben Olsen to stick with a 4-3-3 formation that would feature Chris Pontius, Blake Brettschneider, and Santino Quaranta, with Davies and Josh Wolff getting run-outs early in the second half, especially if United is behind.

Key to the Game

The Midfield Battle: Kitchen, Jakovic and Dax McCarty will have their hands full against a Los Angeles team that hasn't put up gaudy goal-scoring numbers (just four goals in four games), but are more than capable of breaking out. However diminished David Beckham's other capabilities may be, he's still one of the best dead-ball strikers in the world. His Brazilian cohort Juninho has scored two of L.A.'s four goals this season, both on beautiful long-range screamers. He must be closed down by United's defense.

Keep an eye on Donovan, who went the full distance against Philadelphia last week in his first game back from national team duty and was held out of most of this week's practices. He's still very likely to start, but it will be worth seeing if Donovan tries to conserve his energy to start the evening and goes on fewer of those legendary gut-busting runs.

Final Stat

Los Angeles is unbeaten in five games against United. The Black-and-Red's last win over the Galaxy was June 29, 2008.