Jason Kreis and Bruce Arena, considered two of the top coaches in Major League Soccer, square off once again in what has become a soccer chess match between two of the league's best minds since 2008.
While Kreis and RSL topped Arena and the Galaxy in the 2009 MLS Cup final in a penalty shootout, Arena and L.A. have had the better of the rivalry the last few years, ousting RSL 3-1 in the 2011 Western Conference finals on their way to back-to-back championships.
"Bruce is, no doubt in my mind, the best coach in the history of soccer in this country," Kreis said in a conference call with the media Thursday afternoon. "I've certainly tried to pick his brain and ask for nuggets of knowledge."
Their coaching styles differ, as do their teams' styles of play, but Kreis knows that Arena, former head coach of the United States men's national team, is more than well-suited to maneuver a talented team through a postseason.
"There's no question [Arena] gets it right and gets it right at the right time," Kreis said.
The Galaxy have beaten RSL two out of three times this season, but the two sides haven't seen each other since Aug. 17 a match in which L.A. won 4-2 at home.
"As usual, they have a very good team and they're solid at every position on the field," Arena said of RSL in the same media call.
Arena singled out the likes of Nick Rimando, Alvaro Saborio, Chris Schuler, Nat Borchers and the entire RSL midfield.
"They've got a nice team," Arena said, "an experienced team that's very talented."
When asked if he thought if RSL has gotten better over the last few months, the L.A. coach took a long pause and responded, "I think they've been a good team all year."
This will be the first postseason meeting between RSL and L.A. in which the two team square off in a two-leg series; the previous two were one-game elimination scenarios.
"I don't think we know the exact formula for success," Arena said. "One would think it's a good start to start this competition with a win [Sunday] … but it's a 180-minute competition."
RSL at L.A. Galaxy
O MLS playoffs
Sunday, 7 p.m.
TV • ESPN
RSL against L.A. this season
April 27, 2013 • Galaxy 2, RSL 0 at Rio Tinto Stadium
June 8, 2013 • RSL 3, Galaxy 1 at Rio Tinto Stadium
Aug. 17, 2013 • Galaxy 4, RSL 2 at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.
Kreis vs. Arena
RSL wins • 6
Galaxy wins • 6
Draws • 4