European superstars David Beckham and Thierry Henry square off in an MLS game for the first time Saturday night, and one of their teams will emerge with at least a share of the league's best record as Los Angeles hosts New York.
"This is one of the marquee matchups," Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant told the team's official website. "It is a big game. It's one of those the league circles, and we kind of have an extra eye on."
Already possibly the two most popular teams in MLS, Los Angeles (4-2-3) and New York (4-1-2) entered this week leading their respective conferences.
"It's a different game, but we will try to keep the mentality going of winning any game, even if it's different from the rest," defender Rafa Marquez told the Red Bulls' official website.
While Henry attempted to downplay facing Beckham, as well as Galaxy star Landon Donovan, Beckham said he was looking forward to playing against his good friend. They haven't faced each other since 2006, when Beckham was with Real Madrid and Henry played for Arsenal.
"It's going to be great," Beckham said. "It will be good for him to be here and for our fans as well to see him play because he's such a great talent and has been for many years.
Henry joined MLS last season but missed the Red Bulls' game in Los Angeles with a knee injury, and Beckham sat out the Galaxy's road game against New York due to an Achilles' problem.
While Los Angeles is coming off Sunday's 2-1 loss to Dallas, the Red Bulls are riding a three-game winning streak during which they've outscored opponents 8-0.
"Right now we kind of have an identity and a way of playing and the way we want to play right from the start," Henry said. "That's important. We're kind of trying to build it right now with this team. We're not there yet."
Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez praised Henry and fellow New York forwards Juan Agudelo and Luke Rodgers, but said his team plans to play aggressively in order to put pressure on the Red Bulls.
"It's going to be a challenge to just play our game," Gonzalez said. "We're at home and we're not going to be sitting back. We're trying to get after them."
Donovan, who like Henry has three goals on the season, will look to push an offensive attack against a stingy Red Bulls defense. New York has allowed two goals, tied for the league's fewest with Philadelphia and Real Salt Lake.
However, the Red Bulls may be down a midfielder with Teemu Tainio fighting a groin injury. Tainio has started each game for New York.
The Red Bulls and Galaxy split two meetings last season, each winning on the other's home field.
"Last year, they came in with a lot of hype and there was a lot of fanfare for that game here at The Home Depot and they beat us," Dunivant said. "So I think there's a little revenge factor there."