A nine-man Colorado Rapids held out for a remarkable victory Wednesday night, continuing the Los Angeles Galaxy's road woes in a 1-0 win at Invesco Field at Mile High. A Jeff Cunningham penalty kick in the ninth minute was the difference in the match, as the Rapids defense did an excellent job of defusing a normally potent Galaxy attack.
The first real scoring chance of the game led to the only goal. In the ninth minute, a long Joe Cannon punt found Jean Philippe Peguero deep on the right flank and he quickly sent a cross toward Cunningham in the box. But after some contact with Cobi Jones, Cunningham, fell down and referee Ricardo Valenzuela wasted no time in blowing the whistle for a penalty kick.
Cunningham calmly stepped up and banged the kick into the upper right corner of the goal for his team-leading fifth goal of the season.
Much of the first half was a hard-bitten affair and saw two yellow cards and a red card within the first 20 minutes of the game, as Rapids midfielder Pablo Mastroeni was sent off after just 18 minutes for a flying tackle on opposite number Paulo Nagamura.
Down a man, the Rapids worked harder on defense to stymie the L.A. attack. The Galaxy finally had a scoring chance in the 26th minute as Landon Donovan received a pass slashing through the Rapids back line. Although Donovan was alone on the right side of the box, Cannon did an excellent job of cutting off the Galaxy forward's angle, forcing him to attempt to pass the ball across the box to a streaking Jovan Kirovski, and Nat Borchers was able to clear.
In the last 15 minutes of the first half, the Galaxy started to play with more urgency with the man. But the Rapids defense quickly stopped any attacks that looked dangerous, limiting their opponents to shots from outside of the penalty area that Cannon had no trouble saving.
The most dangerous chance came during stoppage time in the first half when an Ugo Ihemelu throw-in bounced across the goalmouth, but no Galaxy players were able to get to it before defender Ricky Lewis cleared the ball out for a corner kick.
The Rapids defense continued to stifle the Galaxy in the second half, but they suffered another blow in the 60th minute when midfielder Guy Melamed was sent off for a two-footed tackle on Nagamura close to the top of the Galaxy box.
Even down two men, the Rapids backline did a great job absorbing the pressure. It took until the 75th minute for the Galaxy to really threaten the Colorado goal, from a short corner. A blast from substitute Michael Umaña from the top of the area was well parried by Cannon and the rebound fell back to Jones, whose low, curling cross was just headed over the bar by Naldo da Conceicao.
Since the Rapids were sending no players outside of their own half, everyone was involved in the attack for the Galaxy. Center back Tyrone Marshall received a pass into the box in the 76th minute, but his chipped shot hit the side of the net.
Just after, a Galaxy corner kick led to the ball falling right to Jones at the top of the box. His first time volley froze everyone, including Cannon, but the ball rebounded harmlessly off the base of the post.
A late goal mouth flurry in the 85th minute led to an incredible sequence. Shots from the top of the goal box by Conceicao, Marshall and Donovan all occurred in rapid succession but Borchers, Petke, and Cannon all did well to block, dive, and smother the three chances.
Although Los Angeles had 20 shots on the night, the Rapids did an excellent job of limiting them to low percentage chances, and only seven of those shots were on goal. Colorado had only one shot on goal, and forced Kevin Hartman to make no saves, but still came away with a valuable three points while keeping the Galaxy winless away from The Home Depot Center.
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Joe Cannon (Colorado Rapids)
Geoffrey Urland is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.
Los Angeles Galaxy (7-3-2) vs. Colorado Rapids (3-8-2)
June 15, 2005 -- Invesco Field at Mile High
COL -- Jeff Cunningham 5 (penalty kick) 9
Los Angeles Galaxy -- Kevin Hartman, Ugo Ihemelu (Michael Umana 46), Pablo Chinchilla (Herculez Gomez 64), Tyrone Marshall, Todd Dunivant, Cobi Jones, Paulo Nagamura, Peter Vagenas, Ednaldo da Conceicao (Mubarike Chisoni 73), Landon Donovan, Jovan Kirovski.
Substitutes Not Used: Steve Cronin, Michael Enfield.
TOTAL SHOTS: 20 (3 tied with 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 7 (3 tied with 2); FOULS: 10 (Todd Dunivant 3); OFFSIDES: 3 (3 tied with 1); CORNER KICKS: 7 (Landon Donovan 5); SAVES: 0
Colorado Rapids -- Joe Cannon, Ricky Lewis, Nat Borchers, Mike Petke, Eric Denton, Leo Cullen, Pablo Mastroeni, Guy Melamed, Jean Philippe Peguero (Dan Gargan 76), Luchi Gonzalez (Alain Nkong 70), Jeff Cunningham (Kyle Beckerman 63).
Substitutes Not Used: Joshua Elbaum, Byron Foss, Sasha Gotsmanov, Wolde Harris, Ritchie Kotschau, Amir Lowery.
TOTAL SHOTS: 4 (Jean Philippe Peguero 2); SHOTS ON GOAL: 1 (Jeff Cunningham 1); FOULS: 14 (Guy Melamed 4); OFFSIDES: 6 (Jean Philippe Peguero 4); CORNER KICKS: 1 (Luchi Gonzalez 1); SAVES: 7 (Joe Cannon 7)
LA -- Pablo Chinchilla (caution; Reckless Foul) 13
COL -- Leo Cullen (caution; Reckless Foul) 17
COL -- Pablo Mastroeni (ejection; Serious Foul Play) 18
LA -- Tyrone Marshall (caution; Professional Foul) 31
COL -- Guy Melamed (ejection; Serious Foul Play) 60
LA -- Michael Umana (caution; Professional Foul) 80
COL -- Joe Cannon (caution; Delaying a Restart) 92+
Referee: Ricardo Valenzuela
Referee's Assistants: -Chris Strickland; C.J. Morgante
4th Official: Ben Chouaf
Time of Game: 1:53
Weather: Partly Cloudy-and-75-degrees
All Statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial.