Preview: LA host Colorado with chance to clinch postseason

LA - COL

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THE HOME DEPOT CENTER, Carson, Calif.
11 p.m. ET (FOX Soccer/Deportes; TSN2)
September 9, 2011 (WEEK 26; MLS Game 244)

The LA Galaxy return to The Home Depot Center with a chance to ensure their spot in the MLS Cup Playoffs when they play host to the Colorado Rapids on FOX Soccer Night in America. The Galaxy can clinch a place in the top 10 overall with a victory; they are coming off a 2-2 draw at Sporting Kansas City on Monday afternoon. The Rapids return to league play off back-to-back 2-0 losses, last time out falling at the Chicago Fire.

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REFEREE: Kevin Stott. SAR (bench): Mike Rottersman; JAR (opposite): Anthony Vasoli; 4th: Alejandro Mariscal
MLS Career: 207 games; FC/gm: 25.8; Y/gm: 3.4; R: 57; pens: 43

INJURY REPORT: LA GALAXY — OUT: DF Sean Alvarado (R knee surgery); DF Gregg Berhalter (R foot sprain); DF Leonardo (R knee surgery); QUESTIONABLE: MF David Beckham (back spasms); GK Donovan Ricketts (L ulna fracture) ... 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)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
SUSPENDED: COL: Drew Moor (caution accumulation; through Sept. 10)
WARNINGS:
SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: LA: David Beckham, Landon Donovan ... COL: Conor Casey, Caleb Folan, Jeff Larentowicz, Wells Thompson
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: LA: Chris Birchall, Omar Gonzalez, Frankie Hejduk, Juninho, Michael Stephens ... COL: Ross LaBauex, Pablo Mastroeni, Tyrone Marshall, Brian Mullan, Sanna Nyassi, Anthony Wallace

HEAD-TO-HEAD

  • ALL-TIME (55 meetings): Galaxy 28 wins (2 shootout), 87 goals ... Rapids 21 wins (1 shootout), 66 goals ... Ties 6
  • AT LA (27 meetings): Galaxy 19 wins (1 shootout), 56 goals ... Rapids 6 wins (1 shootout), 29 goals ... Ties 2
  • In the first meeting this season on June 18, an own goal and a Juninho strike sent the Galaxy on their way to a 3-1 against Colorado at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. Chad Barrett also scored for LA; Conor Casey answered for the Rapids.
  • The road team has now won each of the last three meetings in the series. The Rapids have defeated the Galaxy on each of their last two trips to The Home Depot Center.
  • LA's win in Denver last year was the Galaxy's first in a league match there since 2002. They have now won on their last two league trips to Colorado. But the Galaxy did win the 2005 Western Conference Championship at Mile High Stadium.
  • Coaches record: Bruce Arena vs. COL: P17 W10 L5 D2 ... Gary Smith vs. LA: P6 W2 L3 D1

LAST MEETING (MLS)

  • 6/18: COL 1, LA 3 (Casey 64 — own goal 25; Juninho 42; Barrett 80)
  • The Galaxy took the lead in the 25th minute. Miguel López placed a deft ball behind the Rapids defense for Chris Birchall, who was able to cross into Drew Moorís path and he turned it into his own net from close range.
  • In the 42nd minute, it was 2-0. Galaxy midfielder Juninho picked the ball up and placed a right-footed cracker from 25 yards out into the corner of Matt Pickensí net.
  • The old combination of Omar Cummings and Conor Casey proved fruitful in the 64th minute as the Jamaican dribbled into the penalty area and hit a low, right-footed shot against the post. The ball rebounded into Casey's path and he tapped into the empty net.
  • The Rapids, however, were reduced to 10 men in the 74th minute when Caleb Folan was sent off for a harsh challenge on Juninho. The Galaxy capitalized in the 81st minute as second-half substitute Chad Barrett latched onto a cross from Todd Dunivant, who was set free on the left by Juninho, and Barrett finished inside the penalty area to seal the game.
  • COLORADO RAPIDS (4-4-2): Matt Pickens - Kosuke Kimura, Tyrone Marshall, Drew Moor, Danny Earls - Sanna Nyassi (Omar Cummings 46), Pablo Mastroeni, Jeff Larentowicz, Wells Thompson (Quincy Amarikwa 85) - Conor Casey, Caleb Folan (sent off 74).
  • LA GALAXY (4-4-2): Josh Saunders - Sean Franklin, Omar Gonzalez, A.J. DeLaGarza (Gregg Berhalter 83), Todd Dunivant - Chris Birchall, Juninho (Jovan Kirovski 81), Michael Stephens, Mike Magee - Juan Pablo Angel, Miguel Lopez (Chad Barrett 61).

LA GALAXY

The LA Galaxy saw their two-game winning streak stopped in dramatic fashion, a stoppage-time penalty kick giving Sporting Kansas City a 2-2 draw Monday at Livestrong Sporting Park. The Galaxy have 52 points from 27 games on the season, leading the Western Conference and the MLS overall table.

LAST MATCH

  • The Galaxy took the lead in the 25th minute. A cleared cross went only as far as Omar Gonzalez, and he nodded the ball back over the advancing KC back line to a completely alone Sean Franklin, who guided the ball first-time past goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen from the heart of the penalty area.
  • Sporting pulled even in the 72nd minute. A corner kick sailed over the mixer where C.J. Sapong knocked it back. The ball deflected off the back of Davy Arnaud, but Julio Cesar swung his leg through a side volley and beat LA goalkeeper Josh Saunders at his near post.
  • The Galaxy were back in front two minutes later, and again it was Franklin. A failed clearance this time fell to David Beckham just outside the area, and he slid a pass to his right to put Franklin in alone on goal, who rolled the ball under an onrushing Nielsen.
  • Yet as the game passed the 90-minute mark, there was more late drama in KC. Frankie Hejduk was adjudged to have handled a cross from the right, and referee Ricardo Salazar pointed to the spot. Omar Bravo calmly sent Saunders the wrong way for yet another late Sporting leveler.
  • Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena made three changes to the team that defeated the San Jose Earthquakes 2-0 at The Home Depot Center. A.J. DeLaGarza came in for Gregg Berhalter, and with Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane affected by international duty, Mike Magee and Adam Cristman started in their places.
  • LA GALAXY (4-4-2): Josh Saunders - Frankie Hejduk, Omar Gonzalez, A.J. DeLaGarza, Todd Dunivant - Sean Franklin, David Beckham, Juninho, Mike Magee (Michael Stephens 78) - Chad Barrett (Landon Donovan 59), Adam Cristman (Jovan Kirovski 88).

TEAM NEWS

  • While the draw ended a two-game winning run, the Galaxy have still lost just once in league play since May 7 — the 3-0 defeat at Portland a month ago.
  • "We got a good second goal and you think at that point we're just going to say, 'Listen, we're on the road, it's one of those nights, don't give up another goal and get out of here.' We didn't get it done," Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. "We made too many individual mistakes, too many mental mistakes over the last 10 minutes or so."
  • After playing 90 minutes for the USA in their 1-0 loss to Costa Rica in a friendly the Friday before, Landon Donovan joined the Galaxy for the trip to Kansas City, and came on as a second-half substitute.
  • "It always happens this time of the year - teams are fighting for playoff spots," Donovan said. "We certainly know that every time we come into an environment like this where a team is fighting for their playoff lives, that's what it's going to look like and we did a good job matching that tonight."
  • David Beckham was credited with his 12th assist, setting up the second goal. He continues to add to his personal MLS single-season best (he had 10 in 2008); he is now one assist behind Houston's Brad Davis for the league lead.
  • "We struggled possessing and gave the ball away too much. We should be more mature and play the ball around," Beckham said. "The pitch is partly to blame because it was hard to play soccer today, but we should still finish the game off. Iím just not complaining for our team, it was the same for them as well."
  • Sean Franklin scored two goals in a game for the first time in his MLS career. He started a third consecutive game on the right side of midfield.
  • "I enjoyed playing in the midfield today. Omar (Gonzalez) played me in with a nice header and David (Beckham) in the second half, obviously played in a good ball," Franklin said. "I'm happy that I got two goals, but I wish the team would have gotten three points although it's nice to still get a point on the road."
  • With Donovan held out, Chad Barrett was able to make his first league start since July 4. He paired with Adam Cristman for the first time — Cristman was making his third league start of the campaign, in his fifth consecutive appearance.
  • "Over the last month or so," Arena said of Cristman, "it's been pretty good to see how far he's come physically. And now he's gotten a bit of confidence and he's starting to play well. He's certainly a good addition."
  • Robbie Keane started and played 90 minutes in both of Ireland's 2012 UEFA European Championship Qualifiers, a 0-0 home draw against Slovakia on Friday and a 0-0 draw against Russia in Moscow on Tuesday.
  • Chris Birchall,making his first international appearance in more than two years, started both of Trinidad and Tobago's 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, playing the full 90 minutes in a 1-0 home win over Bermuda and then playing 60 minutes in midfield in the 2-0 win on the road against Barbados.

COLORADO RAPIDS

The Colorado Rapids lost for a second game on the trot, again by a 2-0 scoreline, in a loss to the Chicago Fire on Aug. 27 at Toyota Park. The Rapids have 41 points from 28 games, sitting in fifth place in the Western Conference.

LAST MATCH

  • The Fire took the lead on 17 minutes. Midfielder Pavel Pardo played a long ball over the top on the right wing and Dominic Oduro raced past the Rapids defense to collect it, slotting a low shot inside the far post from the right side of the area.
  • The home side then doubled their lead in the 36th minute. Pardo played a great ball to Sebastian Grazzini on the left side, and the Argentinean playmaker lofted a cross that Cory Gibbs powerfully headed home from six yards out at the back post.
  • Rapids head coach Gary Smith made no changes to the team that was pegged back by a late equalizer for a 2-2 draw with Chivas USA at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
  • COLORADO RAPIDS (4-4-1-1): Matt Pickens - Kosuke Kimura (Danny Earls 69), Marvell Wynne, Tyrone Marshall, Drew Moor - Wells Thompson (Omar Cummings 62), Pablo Mastroeni, Jeff Larentowicz, Brian Mullan - Sanna Nyassi - Caleb Folan (Macoumba Kandji 74).

TEAM NEWS

  • The loss in Chicago ended the Rapids' six-game unbeaten streak (4-0-2) and was just the second loss in MLS since the start of July. It also came at the end of a week that saw a home game vs. Chivas USA then a trip to Honduras for a CONCACAF Champions League match.
  • "The best part is getting 12 days or two weeks off after a huge amount of travel, but there's no excuse for getting beat," said Rapids head coach Gary Smith. "Of course, guys travel halfway around the world and then they have to play again and our travel schedule this past week was two 14-hour journeys in the space of three days. And of course we jump on a plane a day after a day of rest, so it's not easy, no doubt about it."
  • The Rapids were shut out in a game for the first time since the July 3 scoreless draw vs. Houston. They lost while being shut out for the first time since suffering three consecutive defeats April 8-22 — they had taken a point from each of their previous three attacking shutouts.
  • "Before the game, I wouldn't have said we were too tired, but we weren't mentally sharp," midfielder Jeff Larentowicz said. "Conor (Casey's) the type of guy that is going to pull out a goal against the run of play. A lot of guys have stepped up since he got injured, but I don't know that we have that goalscorer [without him] that is going to get the breakthrough."
  • Colorado defender Drew Moor streak of 69 consecutive league games of playing every minute will come to an end, as he will miss the Galaxy match to yellow card accumulation. Moor has played every minute of every game since Aug. 6, 2009, an MLS record among field players of 6,210 consecutive minutes.
  • "He's such a versatile individual, and it means I have to change some of my thoughts, and it means that another body has to come in and get the job done," Smith said. "It will be very strange and we will miss him because he's been such a big part of the successes we have had."
  • The trip to the Galaxy will be the second of three consecutive road games for Colorado; three successive matches at Dick's Sporting Goods Park follow, Sept. 24-Oct. 14, against three Western Conference foes in San Jose, FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake.
  • "I would think we would need four or five points to clinch one of the wild-card spots. On top of that, if we're able to go on a very good run like we did last year then we may put the top three teams [in the conference] under pressure," Smith said. "Our other aim is to progress out of the group stages of the Champions League. We have two very difficult fronts to work on but we have a group that can achieve that. I have all the confidence in the world we will achieve both."
  • Goalkeeper Steward Ceus made his full international debut, playing the full match in Haiti's 6-0 victory against the U.S. Virgin Islands in a 2014 World Cup Qualifying match played at Stade Sylvio Cator in Port-au-Prince on Friday.
  • Omar Cummings scored for Jamaica in their 5-2 loss to Ecuador in a friendly played in Quito on Friday. On Tuesday, Cummings played the full 90 minutes in Jamaica's 2-0 loss to Colombia.
  • Sanna Nyassi started for The Gambia in a 1-0 loss to Namibia on Friday in a World Cup qualifier.
  • Jeff Larentowicz played 15 minutes as a substitute for the USA in the 1-0 loss to Belgium on Tuesday.