Let the games begin: L.A. v. Colorado

and that could be revisited against the Galaxy. "I think that the effort was there," defender Matt Crawford said. "We had a few players out, but I think everyone left it all out on the field. We were disappointed to go down 1-0 at halftime, but we came out strong, created our chances and got the goal back." ... Antonio de la Torre, who had started the first 28 games -- nearly all at right back -- was dropped for the season finale after a one-match ban for caution point accumulation. "Every player goes through peaks and valleys during the season," Hankinson said. "I felt that Antonio's game had come down a notch." After the Crew match, there was some discussion that de la Torre's absence led to a lack of danger to the Columbus defense on set pieces. "There's no question that Antonio hits one of the best serves in our team, and the consistency of that serve is very important," Hankinson said. "But I'm not going to let a corner kick be our deciding factor as to who plays." ... Goalkeeper Joe Cannon was named MLS MVP in fan balloting on MLSnet.com. Often outspoken, he has backed up his words this season. "He's gotten us in the playoffs," midfielder Kyle Beckerman said. "On the field, he's been unbelievable." Said Cannon: "All year long, for whatever reason, this team has lacked that cockiness that championship teams have. I hope by the time I leave this franchise that the team I leave will have something like that."

LOS ANGELES GALAXY

After not starting striker Carlos Ruiz in the season finale in Kansas City, he is listed as probable for the first leg of the Western Conference Semifinal. Ruiz entered in the 68th minute, but was held out after missing the match the weekend before -- then playing 80 minutes at midweek for Guatemala in World Cup qualifying. "(Carlos) told me he wasn't 100% but said that if we needed him he would play," said Steve Sampson. "I didn't want to take a risk. We need him to be 100% by (this) weekend." ... Rookie Alan Gordon was selected ahead of players such as Joseph Ngwenya and Alejandro Moreno to start against the Wizards. "What we needed in Alan was someone who could win balls in the air," Sampson said. ... Cobi Jones asked to come off early in the second half of the K.C. match with a heel injury, but he is also listed as probable for Friday's game in Denver. ... Sampson's other decision will be in central defense, where both Tyrone Marshall and Ryan Suarez are again available. The Galaxy boss indicated Marshall will be handed one of the center back roles, meaning Suarez and Danny Califf are the contenders for the other. ... Since Sampson took over the Galaxy for the final eight games, the club has scored seven goals, winning two games and drawing three. Although general manager Doug Hamilton said the change was made because it gave the club "the best chance at a championship this year," Sampson said it could be until next season before his team truly comprehends what he looking for from them. "I've imposed a different style on these guys,' Sampson said. "I've made some demands and changes and they're grasping it. But sometimes they fall in and out of that. I like the way the team has responded to date. But you can't make that many changes and have the expectations raising significantly in a short period of time."

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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