THE HOME DEPOT CENTER
5 pm PT (FSN-W; Altitude)
The Los Angeles Galaxy finish off their four-game homestand - all against conference opposition - with a rematch of last year's Western Conference Semifinal against the Colorado Rapids, the teams having started the season in opposite directions. The Galaxy have won three in a row in impressive fashion to move to within a point of the West lead, while the Rapids have managed just one win in five matches on the campaign.
REFEREE: Jair Marrufo. SAR (bench): Paul Scott; JAR (opposite): Emiliano Monje; 4th: Ramon Hernandez
MLS Career: 27 games; FC/gm: 30.9; Y/gm: 3.4; R: 6; pens: 11
Games involving Galaxy: P6 W4 L2 T0; FC/gm: 31.8; Y/gm: 3.7; R: 2; pens: 2
Games involving Rapids: P7 W2 L4 T1; FC/gm: 24.6; Y/gm: 2.3; R: 1; pens: 2
INJURY REPORT: LOS ANGELES GALAXY - OUT: FW Alan Gordon (R hip strain); PROBABLE: MF Josh Gardner (L foot sprain) ... COLORADO RAPIDS - PROBABLE: FW Jeff Cunningham (L knee injury); MF Matt Crawford (R quadriceps strain); MF Terry Cooke (L adductor strain)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
SUSPENDED: COL: DF Pablo Mastroeni (through May 15)
YELLOW PERIL: none
ALL-TIME (36 meetings): Galaxy 21 wins (2 shootout), 63 goals ... Rapids 11 wins (1 shootout), 36 goals ... 4 draws
AT LOS ANGELES (18 meetings): Galaxy 14 wins (1 shootout), 37 goals ... Rapids 3 wins (1 shootout), 14 goals ... 1 draw
This is the first of four meetings between the clubs this season. Their first meeting in Denver will come on June 15, with the second on Aug. 6. They'll conclude their league series on Sept. 10 on Victoria Street.
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: first game ... Fernando Clavijo v LA: P4 W2 L1 D1
LOS ANGELES GALAXY
The Los Angeles Galaxy ended the FC Dallas unbeaten run to start the season, winning for the third consecutive match - all at home - in a 2-0 victory at The Home Depot Center on Saturday night. The Galaxy are still in second place in the Western Conference with nine points from four matches, but now trail FC Dallas by just one point with a match in hand.
The Galaxy made a strong statement that they're the team to beat in the West, getting a pair of first-half goals in sending FC Dallas to defeat.
Landon Donovan scored his third goal in as many games since joining the Galaxy after just nine minutes, Cobi Jones lofting a ball from midfield into the heart of the Dallas backline where Donovan collected it, skipped through a tackle and slipped the ball over FCD 'keeper Scott Garlick.
Peter Vagenas doubled the Galaxy lead just before the break on a well-designed set piece. Jovan Kirovski sent the ball wide of the goal from straight out from goal, where Jamaican international center back Tyrone Marshall headed it back down into the heart of the area. Vagenas sailed in unmarked and pounded home his second goal in as many weeks (39).
"I was very pleased the way we came out. I thought we had two early opportunities that really set the tone. The first-half goals gave our guys a lot of confidence. We knocked the ball around beautifully in the first half against a very good team," Galaxy coach Steve Sampson said.
For the third consecutive week, Sampson ran out the same starting XI. Here's Sampson's team (4-4-2): Kevin Hartman - Chris Albright (Michael Umana 84), Ugo Ihemelu, Tyrone Marshall, Todd Dunivant - Cobi Jones (Ned Grabavoy 89), Paulo Nagamura, Peter Vagenas, Guillermo Ramirez - Landon Donovan (Ednaldo da Conceicao 87), Jovan Kirovski
"This whole week we've been hearing about how good this team [Dallas] is and how they're the team [to beat] in the West, and this and that," Vagenas said. "We wanted to come out in the first half and make a statement."
While the Galaxy tried to tilt the field and force FC Dallas to worry about defending, it was the Galaxy defenders that came in for high praise after the match. "I thought our guys in the back did an outstanding job," Sampson said. "Chris (Albright) for the most part matched up with (Ronnie) O'Brien and (Eddie) Johnson, and Ugo (Ihemelu) just continues to impress."
Said Donovan: "We've had patches when we've played really well defensively but we hadn't done it for a whole game. Dallas still had a couple good chances. But to play against those three frontrunners and to shut them out is phenomenal. I don't think they'll get shut out too often this year. That's something we should be proud about."
Ihemelu, the rookie selected with the Galaxy's first pick in this year's SuperDraft, started his third consecutive match alongside Tyrone Marshall in central defense after Michael Umaña was dropped following his start in the Galaxy's season-opening 3-0 loss to Columbus. Sampson said he doesn't know if he's seen a better candidate for Rookie of the Year honors.
"This is more than I expected," said Ihemelu, crediting Marshall with being an influential figure in his development. "He's helped me get over the mistakes (I'm making) and he's telling me how to play and how to think. Playing beside him is comforting."
But Sampson held his highest praise for left back Todd Dunivant. "He's playing exceptionally well for us right now,' Sampson said. "He just goes about his business and plays such a clean game. By clean, I mean almost error-less. Everyone says the best referee is one you never see, right? Todd is almost exactly the same way. Such a great job ... so unassuming."
Vagenas scored for the second consecutive match - after going the entirety of the last two league seasons without a goal. "He's enjoying his new role," Sampson said. "And that new role is to play higher, closer to the front-runners (and) look in to get behind defenses."
Sampson has stayed with the same first XI for three weeks, and that isn't likely to change. But with the summer approaching - and increasing international duty - the Galaxy gaffer knows he will have to begin some sort of squad rotation. "With [Donovan] and others being gone with national teams, we have to start giving guys time so that when they're on the road with their national teams we have a solution," Sampson said. "That's going to be the next challenge."
The Colorado Rapids suffered a rare home loss, falling 3-1 to the MetroStars behind a hat trick from Amado Guevara on Saturday at Invesco Field at Mile High. The Rapids are in fifth place in the Western Conference with four points from five matches, one point behind fourth-place Real Salt Lake and three ahead of Chivas USA - while they are six points adrift of West leader FC Dallas.
Guevara hit for his first multi-goal game in MLS on a snowy night, as the Rapids went down to defeat at home for the first time since last June. 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.
"Last week might have give us a false sense of security, that we could come out at home and play calm and just win," said goalkeeper Joe Cannon. "I think tonight we were very soft and I think they came out and wanted it more than we did."
Rapids boss Fernando Clavijo made no changes to the team that posted its first win the week before, a 2-0 home triumph against the Columbus Crew. Here's 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
"That was the first wake-up call that I had, because every game was getting better and better," Clavijo told The Denver Post. "We had an opportunity to take control of things and win this game, and we didn't do that."
Pablo Mastroeni was suspended for two matches by the MLS Disciplinary Committee for violent conduct at the end of the MetroStars match when he struck Abbe Ibrahim in the face, an incident not seen by the officiating team. Mastroeni was fined $1000 and will be suspended for this weekend's match and the May 14 match against Chivas USA. Mastroeni appealed the decision, and had it heard by MLS Commissioner Don Garber on Wednesday. A decision will be rendered before the weekend's games.
It was the first time the Rapids had allowed more than two goals at home since a 6-3 loss to Dallas on June 16, 2001. "We looked lost out there from the start," said Borchers. "We couldn't sort out their offense, we weren't getting stuck in on tackles, and we were giving the ball away way too easily. They took it to us at home and that should never happen."
Clavijo said he is looking to return to two out-and-out strikers for the Galaxy match. He said Jean-Philippe Peguero - a halftime substitute last weekend - should start and he's hopeful Jeff Cunningham will be healthy enough to start alongside. But the only player Clavijo said played well against the MetroStars was starting striker Luchi Gonzalez.
Rapids defender Ricky Lewis is hoping he'll be fit enough to face his former team this weekend after again coming through a reserve match on the weekend. Lewis hasn't played in a league game after suffering a facial fracture during the preseason. He moved from the Galaxy to Colorado last August. "Whether there's a change or not, whether I come in and play, I obviously just want the team to do well," Lewis said.