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E. RUTHERFORD, N.J.
7:30 pm ET (FSC; Altitude)
While the MetroStars have lost just once in their last eight games, the topsy-turvy Eastern Conference sees the club in fourth place and clinging to the final playoff spot. But they come off a solid victory against the Los Angeles Galaxy at home last weekend; a win against the Colorado Rapids would give them back-to-back victories for just the second time this year. The visitors haven't played in nearly two weeks, a victory in their annual Fourth of July Extravaganza last time out putting an end to a two-match losing run after winning back-to-back games for the first time this season.
REFEREE: Alex Prus. SAR (bench): George Gansner; JAR (opposite): Bill Dittmar; 4th: Jorge Gonzalez
MLS Career: 89 games; FC/gm: 30.9; Y/gm: 3.5; R: 19; pens: 31
Games involving MetroStars: P10 W4 L5 T1; FC/gm: 28.9; Y/gm: 3.6; R: 2; pens: 5
Games involving Rapids: P12 W5 L4 T3; FC/gm: 31.0; Y/gm: 3.2; R: 4; pens: 3
INJURY REPORT: METROSTARS - OUT: DF Tim Ward (L hamstring strain); GK Mike Ueltschey (R finger fracture); QUESTIONABLE: MF Amado Guevara (lower back strain); MF Mike Magee (groin strain) ... COLORADO RAPIDS - OUT: MF Matt Crawford (R quadriceps strain); FW Josh Elbaum (hernia)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: COL: MF Pablo Mastroeni (USA; CONCACAF Gold Cup)
SUSPENDED: COL: Jean-Philippe Peguero (through July 16)
WARNINGS: MET: MF Michael Bradley (18 CP) ... COL: MF Guy Melamed (18 CP); FW Alain Nkong (16 CP); DF Mike Petke (19 CP)
This is the second of two meetings this season between the teams, the only meeting at Giants Stadium.
ALL-TIME (22 meetings): MetroStars 11 wins (0 shootout), 36 goals ... Rapids 10 wins (0 shootout), 27 goals ... 1 draw
IN THE MEADOWLANDS: (10 meetings): MetroStars 6 wins (0 shootout), 22 goals ... Rapids 4 wins (0 shootout), 14 goals ... 0 draws
Amado Guevara hit for his first multi-goal game in MLS on a snowy night, scoring all three goals in a 3-1 MetroStars victory on April 30 in Denver.
He opened his and the MetroStars account in the 23rd minute when he converted from the penalty spot, after Rapids 'keeper Joe Cannon tripped up Mike Magee as he burst through the Colorado defense into the area. Cannon nearly kept out the spot kick, but it just slipped through his hands after he guessed correctly.
Guevara then doubled the Metro lead just three minutes later. Eddie Gaven sent in a bounding cross from the right corner that somehow skipped through the packed penalty area and found Guevara on the backside, and he left Cannon no chance with a powerful blast back inside the far post.
The Honduras international then completed his hat trick 16 minutes from the end with a remarkable goal. A half-cleared corner was knocked back out to the corner of the area by Abbe Ibrahim to Guevara, who blazed a blistering shot inside the upper left corner of Cannon's goal as the 'keeper couldn't get to his near post.
The Rapids pulled a goal back in stoppage time, an Alain Nkong shot blocked by a defender but falling right to Jeff Cunningham, whose quick shot on the rebound found the back of the net for his second goal in Colorado.
Here's Fernando Clavijo's team (4-4-1-1): Joe Cannon - Hunter Freeman, Nat Borchers, Ritchie Kotschau, Eric Denton (Leo Cullen 73) - Terry Cooke, Pablo Mastroeni, Mark Chung (Jean Philippe Peguero 46), Chris Henderson (Jeff Cunningham 60) - Alain Nkong - Luchi Gonzalez
Here's Bob Bradley's team (4-4-2): Zach Wells - Chris Leitch, Carlos Mendes, Tim Regan, Tim Ward - Eddie Gaven (Abbe Ibrahim 73), Michael Bradley, Mark Lisi, Amado Guevara - Sergio Galvan Rey, Mike Magee
A year ago, the Rapids won both meetings between the clubs. Colorado came from behind to grab a dramatic 3-2 victory in their only visit to Giants Stadium on June 30 (Gaven 23, Galvan Rey 53 - Cila 13, 89; Borchers 78), then the lone goal from Long Island native Jordan Cila (54) gave the Rapids a 1-0 home victory on Aug. 21.
The MetroStars win in the first meeting this season snapped a three-game Rapids winning streak in meetings between the two clubs, which answered a two-game MetroStars winning streak in the series.
There hasn't been a draw in the last nine meetings between the clubs, since a 1-1 draw on April 14, 2001. Over that time, five of the matches have been won by shutout (Rapids 3, MetroStars 2).
Coaches record: Bob Bradley vs. COL: P22 W11 L9 D2 ... Fernando Clavijo v MET: P9 W1 L7 T1
The MetroStars got the go-ahead goal midway through the second half and this time held on, defeating the Los Angeles Galaxy 2-1 last Saturday at Giants Stadium. The MetroStars are in fourth place in the Eastern Conference with 24 points from 16 matches, a point behind the Kansas City Wizards, two ahead of D.C. United for the final playoff spot and 11 out of first place.
The Galaxy remained winless away from The Home Depot Center for the season - and since June 27 of a year ago, a span of 15 matches - while the MetroStars held on to a late lead after a recent spell of seeing results slip away.
The MetroStars took the lead after just 14 minutes when Amado Guevara converted from the penalty spot after Ugo Ihemelu bundled over Ante Razov from behind as he raced to latch onto a ball played over the top of the Galaxy defense.
But four minutes after the break, the Galaxy pulled level despite starting a team decimated by international duty and injury. Herculez Gomez collected a pass on the right flank and from a tight angle hit a wicked dipping ball that surprised Metro 'keeper Zach Wells and hit off the inside of the far post and into the goal.
Yet at the three-quarter mark, the Metros again pulled ahead. Eddie Gaven found Guevara at the top of the restraining arc, and he scooped the ball over the static Galaxy defenders back to Gaven, whose initial header was saved. But Hartman spilled the rebound, and Gaven knocked it home from close range.
MetroStars coach Bob Bradley made one change to the team that saw Real Salt Lake come back to claim a 2-2 draw the Monday before at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Eddie Gaven made his first start since returning from the FIFA World Youth Championships, coming into an attacking midfield role for Mike Magee.
Here's Bradley's team (4-4-2): Zach Wells - Chris Leitch, Jeff Parke, Jeff Agoos, Tim Regan - Michael Bradley (Mike Magee 66), Mark Lisi (Carlos Mendes 75) - Eddie Gaven, Amado Guevara - Ante Razov, Sergio Galvan Rey (Abbe Ibrahim 72)
With Youri Djorkaeff still sidelined, and Abbe Ibrahim still recovering from his knee surgery, Sergio Galvan Rey was given the start alongside Ante Razov in attack.
"I think Sergio again in the flow of the game he made some good plays, but I am still looking for more from him and tonight I didn't think he led the line well and he was offside a few more times than I would have liked and that's a fine line because obviously you want your forwards to move along that line," Bradley said. "... Hopefully we can keep pushing him along. The movement is there all the time, it is just making sure it adds up and counts for a little more."
Guevara was given Man of the Match honors, converting the penalty then laying on the second goal with a truly special touch. "Amado wasn't even 100 percent tonight, his back was bothering him. I don't think that he had his usual movement, I think that he picked and chose a little more as far as plays that he felt that he could get to and that kind of thing, but he still obviously has the ability with the ball to make special plays and so that led to our second goal," Bradley said.
After blowing a pair of two-goal leads in a loss at New England and a draw at Real Salt Lake, the Metros made sure this lead held up. Zach Wells didn't even have to make a save as the Galaxy's offensive woes and road troubles continued.
"The way things have been going lately, we really wanted to concentrate on finishing out the last 15 minutes," Wells said. "The last two games we've given up four goals. We wanted to come out and close the game out. It was a big focus before the game and at halftime and we were able to do that."
At the halfway point of the season, the MetroStars snapped a two-game winless streak while also recording a third victory at home this season after starting without a victory in their first five games at Giants Stadium.
"As a team we try and break each quarter of the season down and I think if I added it up right, in this last quarter we won four, lost one and tied three," Bradley said. "I felt like in this eight-game stretch we've made progress and now we want to build on that and in this next quarter of the season see if we can't go a bit further."
Amado Guevara was the only MetroStars player selected for the MLS All-Star Game, voted to start in the midfield.
Although the host Rapids had won eight of their nine previous Fourth of July matches at home - and often with late heroics - the Wizards got off to the best possible start when Chris Klein took a pass on the right and let fly with a screaming blast from just outside the area that bounced off the underside of the crossbar and into the back of the net.
But after the break the Rapids continued their run of form on the holiday with two goals in four minutes. First, Eric Denton swung in a corner to the near post where Alain Nkong fought off his defender and send a downward header homeward (57).
Then four minutes later Terry Cooke hit a free kick that took a slight deflection off the wall, but it was enough to wrong-foot Wizards 'keeper Bo Oshoniyi and sneak past into the net.
Rapids coach Fernando Clavijo made two changes to the team that lost 1-0 to the San Jose Earthquakes the weekend before at Spartan Stadium. Guy Melamed was suspended and Kyle Beckerman returned to the substitutes' bench as Ritchie Kotschau came as well as Jean-Philippe Peguero to partner Jeff Cunningham in attack.
Here's Clavijo's team (4-4-2): Joe Cannon - Ricky Lewis (Terry Cooke 46), Nat Borchers, Mike Petke, Eric Denton,- Alain Nkong (Dan Gargan 83), Leo Cullen, Ritchie Kotschau, Luchi Gonzalez (Kyle Beckerman 46) - Jeff Cunningham, Jean Philippe Peguero
"We're underachievers," said Petke. "We have to find a way to take our potential and put it on the field. This team is struggling and not playing good soccer, but we have talented players. We have to find a way to take out talent and put it on the field."
The Colorado Rapids return to action for the first time since coming back to claim a 2-1 victory on their Independence Day extravaganza in Denver. The Rapids are still in fourth place in the Western Conference with 17 points from 17 matches, now eight points behind third-place Los Angeles Galaxy and four points ahead of Real Salt Lake in the race for the final playoff spot.
It was a ninth victory in 10 Independence Day matches in Denver for the Rapids. The Rapids also stayed undefeated when they've been at a disadvantage after having a player sent off. It was their third victory in four games, the other a draw, when a man down.
"We've been in this situation before," said center back Nat Borchers. "Being one man down, even being two men down in games. I wish we wouldn't get in these situations, but everyone was able to play well and hold on for a victory." Said fellow central defender Mike Petke: "It was an unbelieveable battle. We have a bunch of guys who just won't accept defeat. The last three games have taken two years off my playing career."
Clavijo said: "We don't react until we are provoked or we are scored against or we are given a red card that puts us against the wall. I think we need to react before some of these punches."
Perhaps also helping the cause were the changes Clavijo made at the half. He took off fullback Ricky Lewis and Luchi Gonzalez, leaving three in the back and going with three out-and-out forwards.
"I want to win, I want to go for the points. So I came out with three defenders and four midfielders. With having three defenders the midfield has to have two defenders, and that is what I did with Leo (Cullen) and Kyle (Beckerman) and allowing (Alain) Nkong to get on top of that and with Jeff (Cunningham) to combine. I put (Terry) Cooke outside because he plays out there and he is good on set pieces. The subs worked but we if we didn't come out with these types of sacrifices we would not have won," Clavijo said.
During the lengthy break, Clavijo said he was examining options to add players to his squad - especially in attack. "Right now, no one is making an impact," Clavijo told The Denver Post of Rapids strikers Jean Philippe Peguero (two goals) and Wolde Harris (zero), looking to partner Jeff Cunningham.
Clavijo said he has interest in U.S. national team striker Conor Casey, but the FSV Mainz striker and Denver native suffered a torn ACL in his right knee in the USA's win against Cuba in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
"It was not a good week for me, put it that way," Clavijo said. "Everybody who we were working extremely hard to bring (in) somehow faded out. We have to keep looking. We don't have the luxury right now of waiting too much time."
In addition, Clavijo said he is looking for a left-sided midfielder. "I think (Eric) Denton has done an incredible job, but it's not his natural position," he said to the Rocky Mountain News. "I was looking at him playing left back."