Galaxy forward Landon Donovan gestures during the Galaxy's 1-0 playoff… (Mike Stobe / Getty Images )
For Landon Donovan and the Galaxy, there is no lingering bad blood from the ugly conclusion to their playoff win Sunday over the Red Bulls in Harrison, N.J.
"It's over," Donovan said Wednesday after his team's final practice before Thursday's rematch with New York in the second leg of the teams' first-round playoff series.
The Galaxy can afford to move on. By virtue of its 1-0 win in the playoff opener, the Galaxy need do no worse than tie the Red Bulls on Thursday at the Home Depot Center to advance to the conference championship match on aggregate goals.
The challenge for New York is considerably more difficult. The Red Bulls must beat the league's winningest team — on its own field, where the Galaxy hasn't lost all season — by at least two goals to keep their season alive. If New York is ahead by one goal after regulation that would set up a 30-minute sudden-death overtime. And if that ends in a draw, the teams would go to penalty kicks to decide a winner.
But back to the bad blood — or lack thereof. After the Galaxy's hard-fought victory at Red Bull Arena, New York defender Rafael Marquez angrily threw the ball at Donovan's feet. In response, Adam Cristman shoved Marquez, who retaliated by trying to head-butt and punch the Galaxy forward.
By the time the scrum was sorted out, Marquez and Galaxy midfielder Juninho had been given red cards, making them ineligible for Thursday's match. And Donovan was seeing red, calling New York the cheapest team he's played against in his 11-season MLS career.
Donovan and the rest of his team declined to continue the war of words Wednesday.
"It's history now," Coach Bruce Arena said. "We're not going to dwell on it."
Not so on the other side, where at least some members of the Red Bulls camp appeared to be using Donovan's slight for motivation.
"We're not a cheap team," said Red Bulls forward Luke Rodgers. "The will to win and tackling and putting everything into the game, I don't call it a cheap team. I call it a winning team.
"And in my eyes, a lot of their players were doing the same thing. No one's complaining about it on our side. It's football. I just think people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones."
The Red Bulls do have a lot of celebrate, starting with a remarkable two-month drive in which they lost only twice in their final 10 regular-season matches, allowing them to squeeze into the MLS wild-card playoffs by grabbing the final spot in their last match.
Once there, they knocked off favored FC Dallas in an elimination game. They face another must-win situation at the Home Depot Center.
"It's a different game because it's do or die," said Red Bulls forward Thierry Henry. "If you don't make it, you go home.
"It's going to take something quite special to beat this team. They're the best team in the league. So we are, somehow, trying to cause an upset."
Which, in Rodgers' eyes at least, means the Red Bulls have the Galaxy right where they want them.
"If you look at a lot of games this season where it's a must-win game, we've won," he said. "When our backs are up against the wall, we do produce. And in my eyes it will be the same tomorrow."