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THE HOME DEPOT CENTER
7 pm PT (HDNet)
Coming off back-to-back losses for the first time ever at their Home Depot Center home - albeit over a six-week span - the Los Angeles Galaxy now entertain the Colorado Rapids in a real six-pointer in the Western Conference. The teams are separated by just four points in the West table - and the Rapids, unbeaten in their last five games, hold two matches in hand. Home form has ruled the season series this year; the Rapids won both games in Denver, while the Galaxy won the first meeting in Carson as three penalties were called in the game's final five minutes.
REFEREE: Brian Hall. SAR (bench): Craig Lowry; JAR (opposite): Fabio Tovar; 4th: Kari Seitz
MLS Career: 98 games; FC/gm: 29.5; Y/gm: 3.3; R: 26; pens: 30
Games involving Galaxy: P13 W10 L2 T1; FC/gm: 28.7; Y/gm: 3.5; R: 3; pens: 2
Games involving Rapids: P13 W2 L8 T3; FC/gm: 29.7; Y/gm: 2.1; R: 2; pens: 6
INJURY REPORT: LOS ANGELES GALAXY - QUESTIONBALE: MF Paulo Nagamura (R knee sprain); DF Ben Benditson (sports hernia) ... COLORADO RAPIDS - OUT: MF Matt Crawford (R hip strain); PROBABLE: DF Nat Borchers (R knee contusion); GK Joe Cannon (L abdominal strain); DF Dan Gargan (R neck sprain)
SUSPENDED: COL: Jean-Philippe Peguero (21 CP; through Sept. 10)
WARNINGS: LA: Naldo da Conceicao (18 CP); Tyrone Marshall (9 add'l CP) ... COL: Nat Borchers (20 CP); Alain Nkong (8 add'l CP), Hunter Freeman (19 CP)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
This is the fourth and final meeting between the clubs this season, and the second of two on Victoria Street.
ALL-TIME (39 meetings): Galaxy 22 wins (2 shootout), 66 goals ... Rapids 13 wins (1 shootout), 41 goals ... 4 draws
AT LOS ANGELES: (19 meetings): Galaxy 15 wins (1 shootout), 40 goals ... Rapids 3 wins (1 shootout), 16 goals ... 1 draw
Home form has ruled in the series this season, with the Rapids winning their two games in Denver, and the Galaxy claiming victory in the one meeting at The Home Depot Center this year.
In the first meeting, the Galaxy claimed a 3-2 victory at The Home Depot Center on May 8 under bizarre circumstances, with three late penalties called (two for Los Angeles, one for Colorado).
The teams traded goals six minutes apart in the first half: Tyrone Marshall just reached in ahead of Chris Albright to poke home a corner kick (21), but Jean-Philippe Peguero powered home a header from the heart of the penalty area from a pinpoint Chris Henderson cross to pull the Rapids level.
Just as the match seems destined to wind down to a draw, the Galaxy won a penalty when Nat Borchers tripped up Guillermo Ramirez as he burst into the area, and Landon Donovan converted (86). Yet just two minutes later the Rapids received a penalty of their own, L.A. goalkeeper Kevin Hartman sending Luchi Gonzalez head over heels with his challenge as he slashed through the box, Jeff Cunningham neatly converting from the spot.
But just as the clock ticked over for the full 90 minutes, substitute Guy Melamed was adjudged by referee Jair Marrufo to have hauled back Marshall as they challenged for a free kick swung into the box, and despite the bitter recriminations from the Colorado players, Donovan sent Rapids 'keeper Joe Cannon the wrong way for the game winner.
The Rapids claimed a remarkable 1-0 victory on June 15 in Denver, surviving playing two men down for the final half-hour and riding an early penalty for their first victory in just more than a month (since May 14).
The Rapids took the lead after nine minutes when Cobi Jones clipped Jeff Cunningham in the area, and the veteran striker took his own penalty, putting it high past Kevin Hartman. It was his fifth goal on the campaign, but his first while in the starting lineup, and the first for the Rapids in 320 minutes.
But the Rapids went a man down just nine minutes later after Pablo Mastroeni was sent off for a flying tackle on opposite number Paulo Nagamura, then on the hour, Guy Melamed was also sent off for a two-footed tackle on Nagamura close to the top of the Galaxy box.
The Rapids survived an incredible sequence late in the match, a couple of balls hooked away from the goalmouth and Joe Cannon sticking out a toe to somehow deny Landon Donovan from close range. Cannon was credited with seven saves in making his fifth shutout of the season.
The Rapids continued the Galaxy's rocky patch away from home in the first league match after the All-Star break for both teams, a 2-0 victory at Invesco Field at Mile High on Aug. 6.
Jeff Cunningham got the Rapids off to a dream start, finding a seam in the Galaxy back four and turning to flick home a shot inside the far post after just seven minutes. Jean-Philippe Peguero then doubled the Colorado lead on the half hour as he juked his way through the Galaxy defense to race in alone on goal before beating Kevin Hartman with a perfectly placed angled shot.
Here's Fernando Clavijo's team (4-3-1-2): Joe Cannon - Hunter Freeman, Nat Borchers, Mike Petke (Dan Gargan 80), Ritchie Kotschau - Terry Cooke, Kyle Beckerman, Eric Denton - Alain Nkong - Jeff Cunningham (Luchi Gonzalez 73), Jean Philippe Peguero (Guy Melamed 89).
Here's Steve Sampson's team (4-4-2): Kevin Hartman - Chris Albright, Troy Roberts (Michael Umana 46), Ugo Ihemelu, Todd Dunivant - Cobi Jones, Peter Vagenas, Paulo Nagamura (Guillermo Ramirez 46), Jovan Kirovski - Landon Donovan, Herculez Gomez (Joseph Ngwenya 65)
A year ago, the Galaxy won one of the four league meetings between the two teams - with the other three ending in draws. The teams played to a 1-1 draw at Invesco Field at Mile High on April 17 (Peguero 9 - Ruiz 20), then almost exactly a month later (May 15) they played to a 1-1 draw in Carson (Moreno 61 - Peguero 71).
The Galaxy won 2-0 at home on July 10 in the first game of a home-and-home series (Grabavoy 39, Ruiz 80), the clubs playing to a scoreless draw four days later in Denver.
The teams then met in the Western Conference semifinals. Behind the stellar goalkeeping of Joe Cannon, the Rapids won the first game 1-0 in Denver, but the Galaxy came back to win the series with a 2-0 victory in the second leg at the HDC.
Last year was the first time since 2001 the Galaxy had won the season series - a four-game sweep that year. The teams had split the series in 2002, then the Rapids won two games in four meetings between the clubs in 2003 (with one draw).
Coaches record: Steve Sampson vs. COL: P3 W1 L2 D0 ... Fernando Clavijo v LA: P7 W4 L2 D1
LOS ANGELES GALAXY
Justin Mapp took out his disappointment on being released from the U.S. national team in advance of the weekend victory against Mexico, leading the Fire to victory against the Galaxy in Carson, their second home loss in a row.
Mapp set up the game's opening goal when he danced into the Galaxy half and played forward to Chad Barrett, who slipped a nifty pass to Chris Rolfe. The rookie calmly curled his shot inside Kevin Hartman's right-hand post for his sixth goal on the campaign (11).
But Herculez Gomez pulled the Galaxy level just 13 minutes later as Ned Grabavoy intercepted a pass and knocked it forward, and Gomez drilled a low shot home from just outside the Chicago penalty area.
Yet two minutes deep into second-half stoppage time, Mapp skipped through nearly the entirety of the Galaxy defense before slotting home inside the far post from the left side of the area to give the Galaxy back-to-back home losses for the first time ever since the opening of the Home Depot Center.
Galaxy coach Steve Sampson made three changes to the team that lost 2-1 away to the San Jose Earthquakes the previous weekend - all due to international duty. Landon Donovan and Chris Albright (USA) and Guillermo Ramirez (Guatemala) were involved in World Cup qualifying, as Troy Roberts, Joseph Ngwenya and Herculez Gomez all came back into the team.
Here's Sampson's team (4-4-2): Kevin Hartman - Troy Roberts (Ugo Ihemelu 86), Pablo Chinchilla, Tyrone Marshall, Todd Dunivant - Cobi Jones, Peter Vagenas, Ned Grabavoy (Mubarike Chisoni 71), Jovan Kirovski - Joseph Ngwenya (Michael Enfield 83), Herculez Gomez
"What a disappointing way to finish the match, especially after creating so many opportunities that we should have put away," said Sampson. "It should have easily been 2-1 at halftime. We played to win, we created enough opportunities to win, and we didn't handle the last few minutes of the game very well at all."
The Los Angeles Galaxy lost for the second consecutive home match - over a span of six weeks - and for the ninth time in the last 15 matches, a heartbreaking 2-1 loss to the Chicago Fire on Sunday evening at The Home Depot Center. The Galaxy are still in third place in the Western Conference with 35 points from 26 matches, still a point behind FC Dallas but now just four points ahead of fourth-place Colorado Rapids.
Three times in the last four home games the Galaxy have allowed a goal in stoppage time to snatch away points seemingly already won. On July 4, New England Revolution striker Taylor Twellman scored a goal in second-half stoppage time to earn a draw, then a few weeks later Freddy Adu scored in second-half stoppage time to steal a win for D.C. United.
"I think they have to respect the game, and they have to respect the opponent a bit more in these types of situations. Obviously we're going for the win, but you have to keep your shape and your balance in behind the ball, even when you attack," said Sampson. "Foul a player at a key time. That would have been a moment to foul someone, even at the expense of taking a yellow card. Even at the expense of taking a red card at that moment."
Said Pete Vagenas: "I think in those late-game situations it's frustrating because we aren't ahead. We've dominated the game, so we throw caution to the wind. It has to be dealt with. One individual effort, by one individual player cost us the game tonight. (Mapp) created the first goal if I remember with a similar run from the outside coming in uncontested, and he did the same thing on the second one."
"I mostly wonder if we're a smart team," Hartman said to the Daily Breeze. "I don't know if we're tactically disciplined or that we bring the effort when we need it. For me, that hurts. Games like that make you hate it. I want to be a part of a winning franchise and one that wants to win championships and wants it so bad they'll die for it. They'll come off the field with blood on their knees. I don't think that's us and it sucks."
While the late goal hurt, the Galaxy felt they could have put the game away long before by converting their chances. The Galaxy have scored more than one goal in just two of their last 15 league games - a 2-0 win v Chivas USA on July 16 and a 3-2 win against D.C. United on Aug. 20.
"We've got to develop that killer instinct and be a little sharper in the final third. If you look at our goals against, it's pretty good to be honest," said left back Todd Dunivant. "We haven't been giving up a lot of goals. When we lose that 1-0 game or 2-1 it puts a lot of pressure on us. Hopefully that turns around. There's no excuses tonight."
The Galaxy have now allowed more goals than they've scored and also fell below the .500 mark with the loss to the Fire.
"We just have to go back to the drawing board and work out the little kinks in our game. They got two goals today from the run of play," Tyrone Marshall said. "In the last few games, we've been very good in the run of play. We've been worrying about our set plays. I thought we did well on the set plays tonight. Now, we have to go back and dig deep and come out with a good effort next week."
The Rapids extended their unbeaten streak to five matches and won for the fourth consecutive match at home, holding off a 10-man D.C. United coming off their heavy midweek victory.
Terry Cooke gave the home side the lead on 22 minutes. Jean-Philippe Peguero ran onto a long ball played over the United defense in the area and pulled D.C. 'keeper Nick Rimando off his line before slotting a square pass to Cooke, who curled the ball home into the nearly unguarded goal.
United were left with 10 men for the final 26 minutes when Jaime Moreno was sent off with a straight red card after clipping the heels of Rapids fullback Hunter Freeman after the two were involved in a midfield tussle for the ball.
Rapids coach Fernando Clavijo made one change to the team that defeated the New England Revolution 2-0 on Aug. 17 in Denver in their previous match. Alain Nkong was attending to personal business in his native Cameroon, and his place was taken by Dan Gargan, making his first career MLS start.
Here's Clavijo's team (4-3-1-2): Joe Cannon - Hunter Freeman, Nat Borchers, Mike Petke, Ritchie Kotschau - Terry Cooke, Kyle Beckerman, Eric Denton - Luchi Gonzalez (David Ben Dayan 61) - Dan Gargan (Fabrice Noel 75), Jean-Philippe Peguero
"We really needed the three points. It was a hard game to prepare after 17 days without a competitive match, but everyone that was called upon responded very well," Clavijo said. "It was a strange night, everything was not flowing the way we wanted, we forced the game too much but we never stopped fighting and it paid off at the end. Very good result for us."
The Colorado Rapids extended their unbeaten streak to five matches, winning for the second consecutive game and posting a shutout for the third time in four games with a 1-0 victory against D.C. United on Saturday night. The Rapids remain in fourth place in the Western Conference with 31 points from 24 matches, now just four points behind fourth-place Los Angeles Galaxy while 12 points ahead of Real Salt Lake as their grip tightened on the final playoff spot.
The Rapids have won five of their last six games at Invesco Field since the seemingly annual victory on the Fourth of July, a 2-1 victory against Kansas City.
"We have to just keep winning," said Freeman. "We're on a roll, and we have our home-field advantage back. In the beginning of the year, people were coming in here when we had lost a few games and they were thinking that they could win here. But now we've had several wins against some quality competition."
Said Clavijo: "We tried to go at them and make them run, but the problem in this game was that we also had been off for 17 days, so it was a bit hard on us too. Nothing that you do during the week can equal a game situation."
Still, the Rapids got the upper hand in the opening 45 minutes, and it helped with the game's only goal coming halfway through the first half.
"In the first half they gave us more license to go forward and that obviously made our game much easier. I was able to get more touches on the ball," Cooke said. "When you are on the wing sometimes you watch the game for longer periods than when you are on the middle of the pitch."
Clavijo was thrilled with Gargan's performance in his first MLS league start.
"I'm extremely happy with the young guys. I said all along that we need a roster full of players that can step in at any time and under any circumstances and tonight we proved that we have such a roster. Danny Gargan was called upon today and he rose to the occasion doing a heck of a job. The only reason why we took him out was because he was cramping. Fabrice Noel came in and also did very well. Even a guy like Terry Cooke who was playing outside of this position did an unbelievable job. The whole team in general did great."
There are still long memories in Colorado about the first meeting between the teams this season at The Home Depot Center, when referee Jair Marrufo blew for three penalties - two for the Galaxy, including one in stoppage time - in the final five minutes of the match.
"I expect it to be more physical, I expect it to be more emotional," Clavijo said to The Denver Post. "They're going through some tough times, and we need to take advantage of that."