CARSON, Calif. — The Colorado Rapids have a roster full of talented players, but the way Landon Donovan sees it, the defending MLS champions’ heart and soul is in the center of their midfield.
“That’s what has held this team together through some of their injuries,” the Galaxy captain said. “Between Jeff [Larentowicz] and Pablo [Mastroeni], those two are as good as it gets in this league.”
The Rapids will visit the LA Galaxy in a key Western Conference tilt on Friday (11 pm et; FOX Soccer). With a win, the Galaxy would extend their lead over the Seattle Sounders to seven points (though Seattle play RSL on Saturday) and would also clinch a playoff berth.
But in order to get further ahead of their conference rivals, the Galaxy will have to deal with Colorado’s influential midfield pair, and one way to do that is to counter with their own strong midfield duo of David Beckham and Juninho.
“We’ve just got to get possession of the ball,” Beckham said. “You get possession of the ball and keep it. We pass the ball well, so as long as we’re working hard in the midfield ... it’s important we get control of that midfield, and once we do that we can create from there.”
Donovan, who has a team-high 11 goals on the season, will also play a part in breaking down Colorado’s midfield and defense. Having the chance to go up against current and former US teammates makes Donovan antsy to face them.
“I’m looking forward to the way our guys compete against those two," he said of Larentowicz and Mastroeni. "Those two are about as competitive as it gets in our league. First and foremost, you have to match the intensity that Pablo and Jeff bring. They’re also good skillful players, so it’s going to be a good matchup.”
The Galaxy already beat Colorado this season, 3-1, at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on June 18. Colorado have changed somewhat since then as Conor Casey was lost for the season in July.
In his absence, though, the Rapids have been rather strong. Colorado lost to Chicago 2-0 on Aug. 27, a match that snapped an eight-game streak that saw them score at least twice in each game. Casey started the first two games during that streak but once he was lost for the year, the Rapids piled up 14 goals in six games.
“[Caleb] Folan and [Sanna] Nyassi have done a great job of coming in and helping,” Donovan said. “Omar Cummings is Omar. He’s good and certainly their pace is a factory and they know how to play. They’re a team that knows exactly who they are and how they want to play and they execute it well.
Luis Bueno covers the LA Galaxy for MLSsoccer.com and can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org