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Recap
Leg 1
11/23 FINAL
1LA
0SEA
RECAP
Recap
Leg 2
11/30 9:00pm
SEA
LA
ESPN
Western Conference Championship
Recap
Leg 1
11/23 FINAL
1NY
2NE
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Leg 2
11/29 3:00pm
NE
NY
NBCSN
Eastern Conference Championship

Preview: Rapids, Goats clash with playoff hopes paramount

The Colorado Rapids and Chivas USA meet Saturday night at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in a crucial contest for both clubs’ playoff aspirations. The Rapids have won three games on the trot, last a 2-1 win at San Jose, and are just outside the top three automatic qualifiers in the West. Chivas USA are on the fourth game of a five-game road swing, coming off a scoreless draw in Seattle that has them just outside the four wild-card positions.

DOWNLOAD: FULL GAME GUIDE

REFEREE: Elias Bazakos. SAR (bench): Eric Boria; JAR (opposite): Corey Parker; 4th: Terry Vaughn
MLS Career: 17 games; FC/gm: 26.4; Y/gm: 2.8; R: 4; pens: 2

INJURY REPORT: COLORADO RAPIDS – OUT: FW Conor Casey (L achilles tear); DF Anthony Wallace (L knee sprain); QUESTIONABLE: MF Jamie Smith (R hamstring strain / R calf strain); PROBABLE: GK Matt Pickens (R groin strain) …

CHIVAS USA – NONE REPORTED

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
SUSPENDED: none
WARNINGS:
SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: COL:Conor Casey, Caleb Folan, Jeff Larentowicz, Drew Moor, Wells Thompson … CHV: Nick LaBrocca, Zarek Valentin
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: COL: Ross LaBauex, Pablo Mastroeni, Tyrone Marshall, Sanna Nyassi, Anthony Wallace … CHV: Justin Braun, Simon Elliott, Michael Lahoud, Ben Zemanski

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (18 meetings): Rapids 9 wins, 30 goals … Chivas USA 5 wins, 22 goals … Ties 4
AT COLORADO (8 meetings): Rapids 3 wins, 16 goals … Chivas USA 1 win, 9 goals … Ties 4
•    Quincy Amarikwa’s goal in the 31st minute was the only of the game in Colorado’s win March 26 at The Home Depot Center, the first meeting this season between the teams.
•    The Rapids have won the last four meetings between the teams, all by shutout, outscoring Chivas 9-0. Chivas USA has not scored vs. Colorado in 391 minutes, since winning the 2009 season opener 2-1 at The Home Depot Center.
•    The Rapids have won in four of their last five games in Carson against Chivas USA, dating back to the second meeting there in 2007.
•    The teams split their season series in 2008, though, each winning 2-1 on the other’s home ground.
•    Coaches record: Gary Smith vs. CHV: P6 W5 L1 D0 … Robin Fraser v COL: P1 W0 L1 D0

LAST MEETING (MLS)
3/26: CHV 0, COL 1 (Amarikwa 32)
•    The lone goal of the game came in the 32nd minute. Colorado's Jamie Smith played a ball to the streaking Amarikwa behind the Chivas USA defense. The young forward beat the offside trap and danced around Chivas USA goalkeeper Zach Thornton for the finish.
•    COLORADO RAPIDS (4-4-2): Matt Pickens - Kosuke Kimura, Marvell Wynne, Drew Moor, Anthony Wallace - Brian Mullan (Ross LaBauex 89), Pablo Mastroeni, Jeff Larentowicz, Jamie Smith - Quincy Amarikwa (Wells Thompson 68), Caleb Folan (Conor Casey 79).
•    CHIVAS USA (4-1-2-3): Zach Thornton - Heath Pearce, Ben Zemanski, Jimmy Conrad, Ante Jazic (Tristan Bowen 76) - Michael Lahoud - Nick LaBrocca, Blair Gavin (Mariano Trujillo 32) - Marcos Mondaini (Francisco Mendoza 64), Victor Estupinan, Justin Braun

COLORADO RAPIDS
The Colorado Rapids won for a third consecutive match, coming back for a 2-1 victory against the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday evening at Buck Shaw Stadium. The Rapids have 40 points from 26 games, sitting in fourth place in the Western Conference.

LAST MATCH
•    The Earthquakes went ahead with the match a quarter gone. Chris Wondolowski deflected a cross from Bobby Convey on goal, but Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens was able to parry the attempt. The ball bounced into the air, but Joey Gjertsen was on hand to nod it home from close range.
•    But the visitors evened the score in the 39th minute. Pablo Mastroeni cut back a cross from the end line, hitting the left arm of a trailing Sam Cronin. Caleb Folan stepped up and drove the ball to his right while goalkeeper Jon Busch went the other way.
•    Cronin was later sent off in the 50th minute with a straight red card from referee Paul Ward, and the Rapids finally took advantage 18 minutes from the end. Jeff Larentowicz powered a low free kick through the wall and off Busch's hands for the eventual winner.
•    Rapids head coach Gary Smith made two changes to the team that knocked off the Columbus Crew 2-0 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. Ross LaBauex and Caleb Folan came into the team for Sanna Nyassi and Omar Cummings.
•    COLORADO RAPIDS (4-2-3-1): Matt Pickens - Kosuke Kimura, Marvell Wynne, Tyrone Marshall, Drew Moor - Pablo Mastroeni (Joseph Nane 92+), Jeff Larentowicz - Brian Mullan, Ross LaBauex (Omar Cummings 60), Wells Thompson - Caleb Folan (Macoumba Kandji 83).

TEAM NEWS
•    The Rapids extended their league unbeaten streak to five games with the victory in San Jose.
•    “It’s five wins out of seven now. We are still without Conor Casey, who will miss the rest of the season. We were without Anthony Wallace, who was a big part of the championship team. And then Omar (Cummings) has been away on international journeys,” said Rapids head coach Gary Smith. “Even though we are not at full strength, we are still getting results and coming together as a team. We have battled and our club has put themselves in a great position to confirm one of those postseason berths.”
•    The three-game winning streak matches Colorado’s longest of the season. They began defense of their MLS Cup 2010 title with three wins in their first three league games this season.
•    With a season like the MLS, there are tons of bounces and calls that don’t go your way and we went through a spell like that where we tied so many games and weren’t winning,” said Jeff Larentowicz. … “It’s a little too early to say we’ve hit our stride for the playoffs, but if we continue to play well you’ll start to see a lot more confidence from this group on the field.”
•    With both Sanna Nyassi and Omar Cummings returning from long distances following the midweek international fixtures (in The Gambia and China, respectively), Caleb Folan was given the start up top and scored his fifth goal – his third in his last five appearances.
•    “I thought Caleb’s first 45 minutes were as effective as I have seen him – he was very bright,” Smith said. “He was a bloody handful. His link-up play was very good and his passing was crisp. All in all, it was a very good 45 from him.”
•    The game also marked the first MLS appearance by Macoumba Kandji since MLS Cup back in November 2010, when he tore a ligament on the game winning play. Kandji came on in the 83rd minute in place of Folan.
•    “I’ve got to know him very well and I was very proud to see him back – I gave him a big hug,” Folan said of Kandji. “It’s great he is back in the mix.”
•    Smith said he is looking to firm up the left back spot, especially with Anthony Wallace now out with a knee injury.
•    “We’ve had some issues in that left back spot through injuries for a good period of time, and losing Anthony is another bit of a body blow because what I would like to do is release Drew into the middle again, to offer some time out and rest to the guys that are playing in there,” Smith said.
•    On Wednesday, the Rapids got their CONCACAF Champions League campaign off to a quality start, defeating AD Isidro Metapan of El Salvador 3-2 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. Macoumba Kandji twice answered Metapan goals to leave the teams level at halftime, then Andre Akpan scored the game-winner in the 50th minute.
•    Here’s the Rapids team: Matt Pickens, Drew Moor, Marvell Wynne (Michael Holody 78), Kosuke Kimura, Scott Palguta, Joseph Nane, Jeff Larentowicz, Wells Thompson, Sanna Nyassi (Quincy Amarikwa 46), Macoumba Kandji (Brian Mullan 72), Andre Akpan

CHIVAS USA
Chivas USA gained a result for the second time on their road swing, playing to a scoreless draw with Seattle Sounders FC on Saturday afternoon at CenturyLink Field. Chivas USA have 30 points from 24 games on the season, in sixth place in the Western Conference.

LAST MATCH
•    Sounders FC had a glorious opportunity to open the scoring in the 19th minute when Fernandez earned a penalty after knocking the ball off Chivas defender Michael Umaña's arm. But his effort from his own spot kick came back off the left post.
•    Chivas USA goalkeeper Dan Kennedy was called upon to make just two saves from 10 total Seattle attempts at goal, including another on Fernandez from point-blank range in the 77th minute. Sounders FC goalkeeper Kasey Keller made three saves.
•    Chivas USA head coach Robin Fraser made one change to the team that defeated the New England Revolution 3-2 on Saturday evening at Gillette Stadium. Marcos Mondaini started up top in place of Justin Braun.
•    CHIVAS USA (4-3-1-2): Dan Kennedy - Zarek Valentin (David Junior Lopes 73), Michael Umana, Heath Pearce, Ante Jazic - Blair Gavin, Simon Elliott, Jorge Flores (Laurent Courtois 46) - Nick LaBrocca - Marcos Mondaini (Justin Braun 23), Alejandro Moreno.

TEAM NEWS
•    Chivas USA still have two games to go on their five-game road swing, with a visit to Portland following the trip to Colorado. Six of the club’s final eight games are at The Home Depot Center.
•    “We were re-energized after the penalty,” Chivas head coach Robin Fraser said. “It was huge. In this arena, if you go down a goal with the crowd, it’s extremely difficult to feel like you’re going to get back into the game. To get out of that without giving up a goal was fantastic; it gave the team new energy throughout the half.”
•    For Dan Kennedy, it was his eighth shutout of the season, ranking him third in MLS behind Kevin Hartman of FC Dallas (12) and Real Salt Lake’s Nick Rimando (10).
•    “I can’t wait till we’re not talking about Dan, but he was fantastic,” said Fraser. “He’s had way too much to do at points throughout the year, but he’s done his job superbly and his confidence just grows and within in our team that breathes confidence, but we need to get to a point where Dan is the last person we talk about.”
•    Cleared to play just hours before kickoff, David Júnior Lopes came on in the 73rd minute for Zarek Valentin. The 6-foot-3 defender was officially signed from Romanian club Universitatea Craiova on Aug. 12 after a week-long trial.
•    “Difficult situation to put him into and in retrospect, not so fair to him,” said Fraser. “It's very difficult as a defender to come in during the second half and deal with the speed of the game. So I think, for sure, it's one of those things where he played in the reserve game, but he hasn't been able to get a number of minutes so he just needs to get up to game speed.”
•    Marcos Mondaini made his first appearance since July 9, starting up top in place of Justin Braun. But his return lasted just 23 minutes after suffering blurriness in his right eye following being hit by a ball.
•    "Tonight we didn't play our best,” Braun said. “We were definitely sloppy in the final third and that's something that we've been trying to work on. It was just one of those nights where things weren't clicking. The final touch or the final pass to set up an opportunity wasn't there, but we believe in this group because we've shown we can score goals."
•    On Wednesday, Chivas USA made a pair of stunning personnel moves. They first picked up Colombian striker Juan Pablo Ángel from the LA Galaxy, then veteran defender Jimmy Conrad announced his retirement as an active player.