Preview: LA can close in on playoffs vs. road-weary Rapids

LA GALAXY vs COLORADO RAPIDS
THE HOME DEPOT CENTER, Carson, Calif.
September 14, 2012 (WEEK 28, MLS Game #270)
8 p.m. PT (UD; KDOC; Altitude)

The LA Galaxy and Colorado Rapids meet for the second game this season when the clubs face off Friday evening at The Home Depot Center. The Galaxy come into the match off back-to-back wins and a four-game undefeated run after their 2-0 win vs. Vancouver last time out, leaving them in fourth place in the Western Conference. The Rapids are fighting for their playoff survival after snapping a four-game winless run in their last match, a 3-0 home win vs. Portland that left them eight points out of the final postseason spot.

REFEREE: Ismail Elfath. AR1 (bench): Frank Anderson; AR2 (opposite): Baboucarr Jallow; 4th: Ramon Hernandez
MLS Career: 6 games; FC/gm: 23.0; Y/gm: 2.3; R: 4; pens: 5

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INJURY REPORT:

  • LA GALAXY – OUT: DF Leonardo (R knee inflammation); MF Kyle Nakazawa (back spasms); QUESTIONABLE: MF David Beckham (L ankle sprain); FW Landon Donovan (L hamstring strain); DF David Junior Lopes (L ankle sprain)
  • COLORADO RAPIDS – OUT: DF Anthony Wallace (L Achilles tear); MF Pablo Mastroeni (headaches); FW Edu (R foot contusion); PROBABLE: FW Omar Cummings (R ankle soreness); FW Conor Casey (R knee soreness)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none

SUSPENDED: none

WARNINGS:

  • SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: LA: Marcelo Sarvas … COL: Tyson Wahl
  • SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: LA: David Beckham, A.J. DeLaGarza, David Junior Lopes … COL: Jaime Castrillon, Jeff Larentowicz, Tyrone Marshall, Drew Moor, Martin Rivero

HEAD-TO-HEAD

ALL-TIME (57 meetings): Galaxy 30 wins (2 shootout), 90 goals … Rapids 21 wins (1 shootout), 67 goals … Ties 6

AT LA (28 meetings): Galaxy 20 wins (1 shootout), 57 goals … Rapids 6 wins (1 shootout), 29 goals … Ties 2

FUTURE MATCH: 9/30: Colorado Rapids vs. LA Galaxy, 5 p.m. MT (Galavision)

  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season. The Galaxy took a 2-1 win on April 21 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
  • The Galaxy have won each of their last three visits to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, including a 3-1 win last June 18. The Galaxy won both meetings a year ago.
  • Before the Galaxy’s 1-0 win at The Home Depot Center last year, the Rapids had won on each of their last two visits to Carson to play LA.
  • Coaches record: Bruce Arena vs. COL: P19 W12 L5 D2 … Oscar Pareja vs. LA: P1 W0 L1 D0

LAST MEETING (MLS)

4/21: COL 1, LA 2 (Cummings 63 – own goal 21; Donovan 39)

  • The Galaxy took the lead in the 21st minute. David Beckham’s pinpoint free kick found an unmarked Mike Magee to the left of goal, and he headed the ball back toward the center. Rapids defender Marvell Wynne nodded the ball inside the far post of his own goal.
  • In the 39th minute, the Galaxy doubled their lead. Robbie Keane’s through ball found Landon Donovan steaming into the left side of the area, and the U.S. international made no mistake on a classy angled finish inside the far post.
  • But in the 63rd minute, Omar Cummings fended off David Junior Lopes for 15 yards to run onto a loose ball before hammering a rising blast past goalkeeper Josh Saunders.
  • Then in stoppage time, Rapids substitute Andre Akpan went down under a challenge by Lopes, and referee Ramon Hernandez pointed to the spot. But on the ensuing penalty, Saunders guessed correctly by diving left and parrying away Cummings’ attempt.
  • COLORADO RAPIDS (4-2-3-1): Matt Pickens - Kosuke Kimura, Marvell Wynne, Drew Moor, Luis Zapata - Jeff Larentowicz, Kamani Hill (Wells Thompson 78) - Brian Mullan (Andre Akpan 88), Jaime Castrillon, Tony Cascio - Omar Cummings.
  • LA GALAXY (4-4-2): Josh Saunders - Sean Franklin, David Junior Lopes, A.J. DeLaGarza, Todd Dunivant - Landon Donovan, Juninho (Michael Stephens 89), David Beckham, Mike Magee (Pat Noonan 81) - Edson Buddle (Chad Barrett 72), Robbie Keane.

LA GALAXY

The LA Galaxy extended their unbeaten run to four games last time out, in a 2-0 win against Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Sept. 1 at The Home Depot Center. The Galaxy are in fourth place in the Western Conference with 43 points from 27 games.

HIGHLIGHTS: LA 2, VAN 0

LAST MATCH

  • The Galaxy took the lead just before halftime. After Robbie Keane slightly redirected a low cross from Hector Jimenez on the right flank, Juninho had time to settle the ball and look up before delivering a signature dipping strike that sailed into the top right corner.
  • Not to be outdone, David Beckham made it 2-0 in the 79th minute on a signature strike of his own, hitting the upper left corner directly from a free kick from 25 yards out, bending it past Whitecaps FC goalkeeper Brad Knighton.
  • Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena made no changes to the team that defeated FC Dallas 2-0 at The Home Depot Center.
  • LA GALAXY (4-4-2): Josh Saunders - Sean Franklin, Omar Gonzalez, A.J. DeLaGarza, Todd Dunivant - Hector Jimenez (Jose Villarreal 71), Juninho, David Beckham (Edson Buddle 85), Marcelo Sarvas - Robbie Keane, Mike Magee (Michael Stephens 79).

TEAM NEWS

WATCH: Wilhelmsson joins Galaxy

  • Since dropping back-to-back games June 30-July 4, the Galaxy have gone 7-1-2. In sixth place in the Western Conference following the back-to-back losses, LA could be in third place by the end of the weekend.
  • David Beckham scored his seventh goal of the season, and his sixth in the last eight games. Beckham scored 11 goals total in league play in his first five MLS seasons. Four of his goals this season have come directly from free kicks.
  • “I knew if I put it in the corner, the 'keeper wasn't getting there, simple as that,” Beckham said. “And I hit it well. I knew once I hit it and I caught it well, it was going in. … I'm not usually scoring that many, but I'll take it,”
  • Juninho has netted goals in back-to-back games for the Galaxy and now has four goals in the last four matches, once again scoring from long range. Of the 11 goals Juninho has scored in MLS play, seven have been from outside the penalty area.
  • “Juni's was incredible,” Beckham said. “Juni's been doing that a lot recently in training and in games. When he's got his shooting boots on, there's not many goalkeepers that can stop him. We needed that because we had a lot of the possession and we were creating chances but not putting them in. Juni steps up and puts one in.”
  • Said Arena: “I think [Juninho] had five goals now in about a three-week stretch? And Beckham’s getting us goals this year in the midfield. You know, [Mike] Magee in the midfield has gotten goals, so we have some pretty good balance. Hopefully we’ll get Landon back in the mix, good to see Edson [Buddle] back on the field. Jose [Villarreal] is moving along as a young player so hopefully we can improve our team in the attacking part of the field as we move into this stretch at the end of the season.”
  • Together for a fourth consecutive match, the Galaxy first-choice back four of Sean Franklin, Omar Gonzalez, A.J. DeLaGarza and Dunivant recorded a third shutout in that time.
  • “Omar [Gonzalez] and A.J. [DeLaGarza] continue to play well in their partnership in central defense. I think [Sean] Franklin has played very well the last couple months. Todd [Dunivant] is moving along, and Josh [Saunders] looks very comfortable in the goal right now. That group is good,” said Arena. Said Gonzalez: “We've given up one goal [in league play] since the back four from last year has been together. So I'd say we've been doing pretty well.”
  • The Galaxy have kept a clean sheet in three consecutive matches in all competitions, and in seven of their last 15 league matches after not keeping one in the first 13 MLS games.
  • “We defended well tonight, especially in the first half. I think our defense was very strong,” said Beckham. “Omar is definitely looking a lot fitter and a lot more agile. After coming off an injury like that I think sometimes it takes a while but he’s straight back into it and over the last few weeks he’s definitely been looking a lot fitter and performing the way he’s been playing has been great for us.”
  • Robbie Keane maintained his recent good form, credited with an assist on the first Galaxy goal, his second in as many matches. He has a goal or an assist in six of his last seven games; since returning from the European Championships, he has a goal or an assist in 11 of the 13 games that he has played, tallying eight goals and six assists in that time.
  • “The concerns you have with these strikers is if he’s not getting chances and Robbie got a good number tonight and you know he’s going to finish his share but, Robbie’s a handful. I think, you know, when we get Landon [Donovan] back with him it’s going to be even better,” said Arena. “I think Robbie, probably a little frustrated he didn’t get a goal, but I thought he played well and was pretty dangerous.”
  • Landon Donovan missed a third consecutive league match and also was not able to play for the U.S. national team in their two World Cup qualifiers vs. Jamaica.
  • “It's getting better, it just takes more time as you get older, unfortunately,” Donovan said. “If you're 18 and you have a similar injury, you're probably going to be back a lot sooner than if you're 37. I mean, you just take it day-by-day and see how it goes."
  • During their break, the Galaxy announced the signing of Swedish international winger Christian Wilhelmsson. Capped 78 times by his country and a campaigner in the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Wilhelmsson has spent the last four years at Al-Hilal in Saudi Arabia.
  • “I think he's a player with a lot more experience playing in wide positions, understands that, is comfortable playing there,” Arena said. “That's something I think our team can use.” Said Wilhelmsson:  “I hope I can make something. I hope I can make a difference in games and will try to do my best to help the team, and I'm very excited to get on the field and to help them.”

COLORADO RAPIDS

The Colorado Rapids put an end to their winless streak at four games, defeating the Portland Timbers 3-0 last Wednesday evening at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. The Rapids moved into eighth place in the Western Conference with 29 points from 28 games.

HIGHLIGHTS: COL 3, POR 0

LAST GAME

  • The Rapids nosed in front six minutes into the match. Drew Moor’s cross into the box was met by Tony Cascio, who deflected it right into the path of Andre Akpan, and he easily fired home from the center of the penalty area.
  • The Rapids doubled their advantage in the 27th minute. While breaking on a counterattack, Jaime Castrillon crossed for Cascio, whose sliding shot was initially saved by Timbers 'keeper Donovan Ricketts. But after Cascio regained his footing, the rookie was able to turn home the rebound.
  • Colorado sealed the game in the 86th minute. A corner kick to the far post was headed back across goal by Moor, where Castrillon powered a close-range header between goalkeeper Ricketts’ legs and into the back of the net.
  • Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja made three changes to the side that suffered a 1-0 loss at Portland five days earlier. Luis Zapata came in at left back for Tyson Wahl, Jaime Castrillon came into the midfield for Brian Mullan, and Andre Akpan started up top in place of Conor Casey.
  • COLORADO RAPIDS (4-2-3-1): Matt Pickens - Drew Moor, Marvell Wynne, Tyrone Marshall, Luis Zapata - Jeff Larentowicz (Shane O'Neill 86), Hendry Thomas - Jaime Castrillon, Martin Rivero (Kamani Hill 73), Tony Cascio (Brian Mullan 81) - Andre Akpan.

TEAM NEWS

WATCH: Olympian Missy Franklin takes in Rapids game

  • The Rapids snapped their four-game winless slide, winning for the first time since a 1-0 win vs. Real Salt Lake on Aug. 4.
  • “[The opportunity to make the playoffs] is there for the people that want to push. One of the things that I have seen from this group is that I haven't seen this group quit for one minute,” said Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja.
  • Andre Akpan made just his second start of the season, his first since May 26, and scored his first goal of the league season.
  • “Andre has been growing in the process,” Pareja said. “I thought the last month, Andre has been showing his best, getting minutes in the games, and today he started and scored. I think he’s a very legitimate option right now for us.”
  • Making his second consecutive start, Tony Cascio scored the third goal of his rookie season, his first since April 28.
  • “Tony had a very good game in Portland as well. He brings that energy. He gets himself in positions to score very easily. Finally he put the ball back in the net, and early in the game he hit the post. Those are highlights for him,” said Pareja. Said Cascio: “It’s just opportunities, finishing opportunities. I had a few chances, and luckily I got one, and it was good.”
  • The Rapids scored three goals in a game for the first time since a 3-0 win against Portland on June 30.
  • “The boys have been creating options for many games, and we couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net,” Pareja said. “In the end, the goals give you the points and the results. Today, we finally found the net. It was something very positive. We’re very proud of the young guys because they came in and helped us.”
  • Right back Drew Moor had his first career two-assist game in MLS. In his 220 league appearances prior to the match, he had recorded three assists total.
  • “It's always nice to get on the score sheet whether it's a goal or an assist. Playing outside back, I like to play forward as much as I can to support the attack,” said Moor. “It's not my specialty. I'm more naturally comfortable playing in the middle, but anytime you can get balls into the box and go forward, it's a big help for the attack.”
  • 18-year-old Shane O'Neill made his full professional debut, coming on the 86th minute, the first Homegrown Player in Rapids history to play in a league match.
  • “[I’m] very proud and happy for Shane,” Pareja said. “I thought he was waiting for this opportunity. I know this has been a special day for the club. It’s been a special day for Shane, his family, his coaches, the people who have been around him.”
  • Said O’Neill: “I’ve been [champing] at the bit to come out and get out on the field. (The friendly vs.) Swansea was fun, but I really wanted to get into MLS because obviously that’s the serious stuff where the points matter. Tonight I was a bit nervous, but once I got a few touches on the ball, the game opened up for me a little bit and I relaxed a little bit.”
  • The Rapids now face two difficult road tests, with back-to-back trips to LA and Vancouver. The Rapids are 2-12-0 away from Commerce City, with the most road losses of any team in MLS this season.
  • “If you win LA and in Vancouver, those are two very tough tasks,” said Moor. “We haven't been to LA yet this year. We feel like we gave a game away at Vancouver earlier in the summer. If you get something out of those two games, you never know. We're not out of it till we're out of it. We still believe we can continue to win games like we did tonight. Our belief right now is still the playoffs.”