LOS ANGELES GALAXY vs COLORADO RAPIDS
THE HOME DEPOT CENTER
7 pm PT (FSW/E; FSN-RM)
After a pair of disappointing losses to the MetroStars, the Los Angeles Galaxy have rebounded with back-to-back victories for the first time this season and re-established themselves as the cream of the crop atop the Western Conference and the MLS overall table. In the first match of a key home-and-home series for supremacy in the West, they play host to the Colorado Rapids who are the hottest team in MLS, having won three in a row and not lost in a month, covering five matches.
REFEREE: Abbey Okulaja. SAR (bench): Chris Strickland; JAR (opposite): Richard Eddy; 4th: Baldomero Toledo
MLS Career: 16 games; FC/gm: 31.9; Y/gm: 3.8; R: 2; pens: 6
Games involving Galaxy: P4 W1 L2 T1; FC/gm: 30.0; Y/gm: 3.3; R: 0; pens: 0
Games involving Rapids: P3 W1 L1 T1; FC/gm: 29.0; Y/gm: 4.3; R: 0; pens: 1
INJURY REPORT: LOS ANGELES GALAXY - OUT: DF Danny Califf (L torn meniscus); MD Peter Vagenas (groin strain); QUESTIONABLE: MD Sasha Victorine (R knee sprain); MD Marcelo Saragosa (R ankle sprain) ... COLORADO RAPIDS - OUT: FW Rey Angel Martinez (broken toe); DF Jeff Stewart (R knee); FW Zizi Roberts (R knee swelling); QUESTIONABLE: FW Jean-Philippe Peguero (abdominal strain); PROBABLE: MD Mark Chung (L quadriceps strain)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: LA: Chris Albright (USA; July 11 v Poland) ... COL: Pablo Mastroeni (USA; July 11 v Poland)
SUSPENDED: LA: Andreas Herzog (through July 11)
YELLOW PERIL: LA: Paul Broome (20 CP); Peter Vagenas (10 CP in 2 gms) ... COL: Nat Borchers (20 CP); Pablo Mastroeni (17 CP)
This is the third of four meetings between the two clubs this season, but the first match of a home-and-home series over the next four days that will conclude the season series between the Western Conference clubs.
The teams have played to a pair of 1-1 draws this season. In the last meeting on May 15 in Carson, Los Angeles Galaxy striker Carlos Ruiz suffered an ankle injury in the 24th minute that kept him out of six league matches.
Ruiz's replacement, Venezuelan international Alejandro Moreno, gave the Galaxy a 61st-minute lead when he was quickest to the rebound of a saved Cobi Jones shot that finished off a fine flowing movement.
But 10 minutes later, Colorado pulled level when Chris Henderson pulled back a deep cross to find an unmarked Jean-Philippe Peguero at the spot, and the Haiti international made no mistake in turning the ball home, celebrating with a tribute to injured Rapids captain and strike partner John Spencer.
Here's Sigi Schmid's team (4-4-2): Kevin Hartman - Chris Albright, Ryan Suarez, Hong Myung-Bo, Ricky Lewis - Marcelo Saragosa - Cobi Jones (Joseph Ngwenya 70), Andreas Herzog, Sasha Victorine - Jovan Kirovski, Carlos Ruiz (Alejandro Moreno 27).
Here's the team Tim Hankinson ran out (4-4-1-1): Joe Cannon - Matt Crawford, Nat Borchers, Pablo Mastroeni, Ritchie Kotschau - Chris Henderson, Kyle Beckerman, Darryl Powell, Antonio de la Torre (Seth Trembly 70) - Mark Chung - Jean Philippe Peguero
In their first meeting this year, the teams played to a 1-1 draw at Invesco Field on April 17. Jean-Philippe Peguero headed home a corner kick in the ninth minute to give the Rapids the lead, but Carlos Ruiz pounced on a pullback by Jovan Kirovski after a neat bit of skill in the corner to pull the Galaxy even in the 20th minute, as the visitors were then twice aided by the woodwork to preserve the draw.
A year ago, the Rapids won two of the four meetings between the two, the teams also playing to one draw, in a series filled with climactic meetings.
The Rapids won their first game of 2003 in the first meeting, 1-0 on May 31 in Denver (Carrieri 77). Then on June 7, the Galaxy inaugurated their new home with their first victory of 2003, a 2-0 victory to open the HDC (Ruiz 50 pen, 90).
On June 25, the teams played a 2-2 draw in the Mile High City (Chung 12, Spencer 29 - Albright 66, 70), then Colorado won 1-0 on July 9 at the start of their rampaging midseason run of nine wins in 11 games (Spencer 77).
Colorado hadn't won in regulation time in L.A. until the 2002 season - and now they've done it in back-to-back seasons. The Galaxy have won in Denver in six of their eight MLS campaigns, losing both games in Colorado in only 1999 and 2000.
Mark Chung leads all current Rapids with 7 goals, 2 assists v Los Angeles, but only 3 goals, 1 assist have come while in Colorado. Chris Henderson is second on the club's all-time list (behind Paul Bravo) with 4 goals, 3 assists (for his career he has 4 goals, 5 assists). John Spencer also has 4 goals career v Galaxy.
Cobi Jones has 12 goals, 9 assists in his career v Colorado, to lead the Galaxy all-time list. Carlos Ruiz is next among current players with 6 goals. Sasha Victorine, Dan Califf and Chris Albright each have 2 career goals v Rapids.
Coaches record: Sigi Schmid vs. COL: P21 W10 L8 D3 ... Tim Hankinson v LA: P19 W6 L10 T3
ALL-TIME (34 meetings): Galaxy 20 wins (2 shootout), 61 goals ... Rapids 11 wins (1 shootout), 36 goals ... 4 draws
AT LOS ANGELES (17 meetings): Galaxy 13 wins (1 shootout), 34 goals ... Rapids 3 wins (1 shootout), 13 goals ... 1 draw
LOS ANGELES GALAXY
After the Wizards had taken the conference lead the night before, the Galaxy took over top billing in the West in a game that saw Carlos Ruiz return to league play with a double - and referee Kevin Stott hand out nine bookings, including sending off San Jose's Brian Mullan with seven minutes remaining for a second yellow card.
Dwayne DeRosario slotted home in the 41st minute after the Galaxy failed to clear their end on a number of occasions, but Ruiz pulled the home side four minutes later when he bundled over a corner kick from almost on the goal line. Ruiz then finished off a flowing counterattack 10 minutes after the restart, side-footing home from the heart of the area to provide the margin of victory.
After Mullan was sent off the Galaxy desperately held on, Craig Waibel seemingly hitting for the equalizer only for substitute Ricky Lewis to clear off the line.
Galaxy head coach Sigi Schmid made four changes to the team that defeated the Chicago Fire 1-0 on a Jovan Kirovski wonder goal at Soldier Field the previous Sunday. Tyrone Marshall made his first start since May 8, coming into central defense for the injured Danny Califf, while Chris Aloisi made his second start, his first at an unfamiliar left back, coming in for the suspended Paul Broome.
Cobi Jones returned to the lineup, replacing the injured Sasha Victorine, while Carlos Ruiz also returned to the first team after a week's absence, starting in place of Alejandro Moreno.
Here's Schmid's team (4-3-1-2): Kevin Hartman - Chris Albright, Tyrone Marshall, Ryan Suarez, Chris Aloisi - Cobi Jones, Marcelo Saragosa (Ricky Lewis 46), Ned Grabavoy - Andreas Herzog - Carlos Ruiz (Joseph Ngwenya 88), Jovan Kirovski (Alejandro Moreno 84)
Saragosa was then forced off at halftime with a sprained right ankle forcing another reconfiguration, Ricky Lewis coming in at left back and Aloisi moved into the holding midfield role. "He's never really played there before, and I thought overall he did a pretty good job," Schmid said. "I thought he had a very good game at left back [before that]."
Although he had missed six league matches with a sprained ankle of his own, suffered on May 15, Ruiz wasn't overtaken in the league scoring charts until the day before the San Jose match, when Kansas City's Davy Arnaud hit for a hat trick. But that didn't last long, Ruiz's pair putting him back atop the table.
"That's always been a great motivator for Carlos," Schmid said. "He said to me, 'I want to be back on top by the end of the day.' "
For Schmid, the victory secured his first appearance as a coach in the All-Star Game. "I don't know what you do,' Schmid said. "I just hope they have stuff that's big enough to fit me.'
Schmid will have some selection choices this weekend in midfield. Saragosa is suspended, but would have missed the match anyway with the ankle injury. Playmaker Andreas Herzog is also suspended for caution point accumulation.
But midfielder Sasha Victorine have been involved in full training during the week, and could both be available for selection on Saturday.
The Los Angeles Galaxy claimed a second hard-fought victory in as many weekends, coming back to grab a ill-tempered 2-1 victory against the San Jose Earthquakes at The Home Depot Center on Sunday evening. The Galaxy maintained their two-point lead atop the Western Conference and in the MLS overall table, with 27 points from 16 matches, ahead of the Kansas City Wizards.
The Rapids maintained contact with the West leadership and also continued their dominance on the Fourth of July. The Rapids have won eight times in nine matches at home on Independence Day, also marked by huge crowds for the post-match fireworks extravaganza.
The game's lone goal came against the run of play 11 minutes from time, Cuban striker Alberto Delgado claiming his first MLS goal, prodding the ball over the line and the fallen Matt Reis after Chris Henderson's header was pushed off the face of the bar by the Revs 'keeper.
"I thought New England was going to come and sit back a little bit more than they did," Colorado 'keeper Joe Cannon said. "I think they've obviously been watching a little tape and seeing we do throw a lot of numbers forward. Kansas City exploited us a little bit that way."
Rapids coach Tim Hankinson made just one change to the team that came back to claim a 3-2 victory against the MetroStars at Giants Stadium the previous Wednesday. John Spencer returned to the lineup after missing two games to suspension, coming in for Joey DiGiamarino on the left side of midfield as Hankinson went with a very attacking scheme.
Here's Hankinson's team (4-2-2-2): Joe Cannon - Antonio de la Torre, Nat Borchers, Pablo Mastroeni, Ritchie Kotschau - Matt Crawford, Kyle Beckerman (Seth Trembly 74) - Chris Henderson, John Spencer - Alberto Delgado (Gary Sullivan 86), Jordan Cila (Darryl Powell 60)
"(New England) came in with a very clear plan and their system was much different," said Hankinson. "It's always a difficult game when a team is going to sit in and counter against you."
He might have defected from his native Cuba a few years ago, but the spirit behind the Fourth of July wasn't lost on Rapids hero Alberto Delgado. "I'm also celebrating my independence because I don't have anything to do with the Cuban national team," Delgado said. "I'm playing as a professional now."
Not only have the crowds on the annual Fourth of July extravaganzas gone home happy, they've also seen drama. The Rapids have won eight of the nine games on Independence Day in Denver - and six of the game-winning goals have come after the 70th minute.
"It's special this night in particular because of the big crowd," Delgado said. "When there's such a crowd in any of your stadiums, especially at home, you cannot let them down. You've got to play at your best."
The Rapids are looking at the home-and-home series against the Galaxy as a key point in the season. "It reminds me of the Boston Marathon's Heartbreak Hill," Hankinson said. "Tactically, it's an important part of the race. If you can pass your opponent going up the hill, it energizes your position. You know you can come from behind at a hard stretch and at the same time shake the confidence of the people you're passing. It's one of those times you have to look forward to charging up the hill."
Hankinson will be without Pablo Mastroeni, away on national team duty, and striker Jean-Philippe Peguero has been hampered by an abdominal strain. But Mark Chung has returned to training and could be available.
The Colorado Rapids ran their season-long winning streak to three games, moving into third place in the Western Conference with a 1-0 victory against the New England Revolution in the annual Fourth of July special in Denver. The Rapids ended the week ahead of the San Jose Earthquakes and Dallas Burn with 21 points from 14 matches, just six off the pace of the Los Angeles Galaxy.