Already without Landon Donovan and Donovan Ricketts, the LA Galaxy had another major absence Saturday when David Beckham did not make the trip to Denver for the match against the Colorado Rapids.
The team hardly noticed. Juninho scored a magnificent goal and Chad Barrett added a late tally as the Galaxy beat Colorado by 3-1 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
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Still, Galaxy coach Bruce Arena tried to focus on the players who were there and not the ones who were absent.
“I don’t think we were short-handed,” Arena said after the game. “If we’d lost, our story line can’t be that we lost because of missing players. ... It’s a team game. We don’t put our heads down when we’re missing somebody. We got here and our objective was to try to win the game.”
In Ricketts, Donovan and Beckham, the Galaxy were short players who had accounted for six shutouts, nine goals and eight assists. But the team had done well to pick up results missing players before, and Saturday was no different.
“Those are never excuses,” Arena said. “If you’re missing players, you’re missing players. It’s all part of it. We’ve missed Landon Donovan for about seven games this year. If you use that as an excuse, you’re not putting yourself in position to win the game.”
Josh Saunders started for the third consecutive match for Ricketts in goal while the midfield comprised Chris Birchall, Mike Magee, Michael Stephens and Juninho, who missed the 2-2 draw against Toronto FC for his wedding in São Paulo last weekend.
One week after hearing wedding bells, Juninho scored a strong goal, a “special one,” Arena said, as the Brazilian ripped a 25-yard bomb over Matt Pickens’ head and into the back of the net for LA's second strike.
“A two-goal cushion heading into the second half is big, and certainly Colorado came out hard,” Arena said.
The defensive plan for the match was simple but effective and, even with Colorado pressuring the Galaxy’s back line, the defenders stayed firm.
“Our thing for this game was just keeping them in front of us and dropping the line early and not letting balls get behind us,” Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez said. “We knew they were targeting their guys. I think we did a great job managing that. … We did a great job of getting back and clearing balls out.”
But when Casey pulled one back in the 65th minute and the Rapids pressing with three forwards including Omar Cummings and Caleb Folan, the hosts suddenly had a new wrinkle. Then Folan swung the momentum back towards the visitors as he picked up a red card nine minutes later. Chad Barrett added a late goal with LA up a man and the match ended in victory for the Galaxy, who extended their unbeaten streak to nine.
“We held on,” Arena said. “It was a good, intelligent performance on our part.”