MLS Talking Points: Revamped LA Galaxy visit NYCFC in Week 2's marquee matchup

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Gary A. Vasquez
Title contender New York City FC plays host to an improved LA Galaxy squad that has title aspirations of its own

It isn't a stretch at all to see the LA Galaxy's visit to Yankee Stadium to face New York City FC on Sunday as a potential MLS Cup final preview, but chances are that isn't a label you will hear placed on it.

That's how awful a 2017 season the Galaxy had — a campaign so terrible that they are still washing off the stink, even though the Galaxy spent the winter revamping their roster as impressively as any team in the league. Last week's season-opening win against the Portland Timbers showed us a much-improved Galaxy squad, but the victory wasn't enough to earn them a title contender label.

A win Sunday, however, could do just that. NYCFC is a bona fide title threat, and last week's 2-0 win at Sporting Kansas City only served to emphasize that reality. Patrick Vieira's side is even tougher at home, where the small confines work in their favor, and offer up a much different challenge than the supersized playing surface the Galaxy call home at StubHub Center.

NYCFC-Galaxy headlines Week 2 of MLS action, and isn't the only enticing clash. Atlanta United returns home after last week's 4-0 drubbing in Houston and meets the same D.C. United side that posted a 3-0 record against Atlanta last season. Yamil Asad returns to Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the first time since being traded to D.C. United and former Club Tijuana teammates Greg Garza and Paul Arriola prepare to do battle.

In Houston, meanwhile, the Dynamo look to build on last week's thrashing of Atlanta by stopping a Vancouver Whitecaps side that looked very good in a home win against Montreal last week.

Here is a closer look at the key talking points for MLS Week 2:


MATCH OF THE WEEK: NYCFC vs. LA Galaxy


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New York City FC makes its home debut Sunday against an improved LA Galaxy side.

Sigi Schmid's side will be without injured star Romain Alessandrini, whose absence could open the door for Sebastian Lletget to make his first start in almost a year. Sidelined by a foot injury suffered on international duty that required multiple surgeries, Lletget played 18 minutes in the season-opening win against Portland, and could slot into Alessandrini's right wing role, or centrally, with Giovani dos Santos shifting to the flank.

Ola Kamara will look to have his way with NYCFC once again, having scored in four of his past five matches against the club, including a goal and assist in the first leg of the Columbus Crew's playoff series win last season. Acquired by the Galaxy this winter in a deal that sent Gyasi Zardes and allocation money to Columbus, Kamara opened his goal-scoring account in his Galaxy debut last week.

Paraguayan midfielder Jesus Medina will make his home debut for NYCFC while looking to run past veteran Galaxy fullback Ashley Cole. The young designated player enjoyed a stellar MLS debut, scoring a goal in last week's win against Sporting Kansas City.


MATCHUPS TO WATCH


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Ike Opara vs. Nemanja Nikolic. The reigning MLS Golden Boot winner faces the reigning Defender of the Year.

Diego Valeri vs. Tyler Adams. If Jesse Marsch doesn't choose to rest Adams for CONCACAF Champions League play Tuesday, then the young midfielder will face a stiff challenge from MLS MVP Valeri.

Paul Arriola vs. Greg Garza. The former Club Tijuana teammates square off in what should be a fun back-and-forth affair.

Giovani dos Santos vs. Alexander Ring. Whether it's Ring or Yangel Herrera, NYCFC will be wise to keep close tabs on the ever-dangerous Dos Santos.

Ignacio Piatti vs. Harrison Afful. Piatti is the most dangerous left winger in MLS, but Afful is one of the best right backs.

Albert Rusnak vs. Benny Feilhaber. Los Angeles FC doesn't have a pure defensive midfielder yet, with Eduard Atuesta on the way, so Feilhaber will have the task of trying to contain Rusnak's playmaking.

Maximiliano Moralez vs. Perry Kitchen. The diminutive Argentine playmaker isn't easy to keep track of, but Kitchen has the experience and bite to make things tough.

Christian Ramirez vs. Jonathan Spector. Though he didn't start in Minnesota United's season opener, Ramirez should be in the lineup this weekend, and Spector will have the task of containing him.

Jefferson Savarino vs. Joao Moutinho. A week after holding his own against Nicolas Lodeiro, Moutinho faces another daunting challenge in trying to stay with Savarino.

Mauro Manotas vs. Kendall Waston. After facing a Montreal side with mediocre forwards, Waston now must contain a dangerous finisher in Manotas, whose mobility could cause the big Costa Rican problems.


WEEK 2 PREDICTIONS


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CREW 2, Impact 1. After winning in Toronto, Columbus kicks off its home schedule with a comfortable win, though Ignacio Piatti keeps things interesting.

REVOLUTION 1, Rapids 0. The Revs endured a rough opening loss, but should get a boost from being at home, with Kelyn Rowe making the difference in this one.

REAL SALT LAKE 2, LAFC 1. The RSL attack is tough to stop at home, and LAFC will struggle to keep Mike Petke's team off the scoreboard. Albert Rusnak and Jefferson Savarino leads RSL to a comfortable win.

DYNAMO 3, Whitecaps 1. It's tough to bet against the Dynamo at home considering how strong they looked last week. Alberth Elis should give Marcel De Jong plenty of trouble, and the Dynamo defense will keep Kei Kamara quiet on the way to a win.

Fire 1, Sporting KC 1. Look for a tightly contested clash between two teams that need attacking upgrades to become serious contenders. Don't expect many goals in this one.

Red Bulls 1, TIMBERS 2. The Red Bulls would be the favorites if we knew for sure they were starting a full-strength squad, but if Jesse Marsch rests several key starters ahead of their CONCACAF Champions League decider Tuesday, the Timbers should be able to capitalize.

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ORLANDO CITY 2, Minnesota United 0. The Lions should be able to generate plenty of chances against the Loons defense, while Orlando's defense should limit Minnesota's looks at goal in a comfortable win.

ATLANTA UNITED 2, D.C. United 1. Tata Martino finally figures out Ben Olsen, and he can thank Miguel Almiron, who flashes his MVP-caliber ability.

NYCFC 2, Galaxy 0. As much success as Ola Kamara has had against NYCFC in the past, he will find the going tougher Sunday, with Jesus Medina having another good showing and Sean Johnson stepping up to preserve the shutout.

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