Galaxy down Rapids, Clinch Playoff Spot

Posted on 10 September 2011 by iyeo

Over the years, the Colorado Rapids had enjoyed success against the Los Angeles Galaxy at the Home Depot Center.

The Rapids had beaten the Galaxy in its last three visits to the stadium, with one of them being a US Open Cup match, which Colorado won in a penalty shootout. This time however, LA made sure the result was to their liking. One strike in the first half off the foot of Landon Donovan was all the Galaxy needed to break the Rapids’ hex at the HDC and more importantly, re-assert themselves in the Supporters Shield race, as Los Angeles became the first MLS team to clinch a playoff spot with a 1-0 win over the Rapids.

“It was a big game for us tonight,” Galaxy midfielder David Beckham said. “Colorado always comes in here and gives us a hard time, so I think it was important we were on top of our game.”

The win gives Los Angeles 55 points, seven ahead of the second-place Seattle Sounders pending the outcome of its important matchup with Real Salt Lake tonight at Qwest Field. Just as important for the Galaxy, they are the first team to clinch a playoff spot.

“I think we clinched one a while ago,” joked Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena.

After countless opportunities for Los Angeles went begging, the Galaxy finally delivered in the 36th minute. It started when Chad Barrett played a ball forward from the right to a sprinting Sean Franklin. The midfielder, who had a brace on Labor Day against Sporting Kansas City, saw Landon Donovan unmarked at his left and quickly played a ball to him and Donovan’s one-timer beat Matt Pickens to the back post to put LA ahead.

“Between Paolo (Cardozo), David, Chad (Barrett) and Sean, they did a great job of combining and Sean did a great job to find me,” Donovan said of the goal.

The Galaxy, bolstered by the return of goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts between the pipes, held Colorado to only two shots, one on goal, in the first half. The Rapids didn’t improve that number by much, but the chances it had were very dangerous. Colorado’s first real chance at an equalizer actually went in when Wells Thompson buried a rebound shot far post after Ricketts had denied Sanna Nyassi inside the penalty area, but Thompson was ruled offside thus negating the goal. Ricketts came up huge again in the 71st minute when he denied fellow Jamaican countryman Omar Cummings point-blank inside the 18, though Ricketts was again aided by the linesman.

“The second half was much better for us,” Rapids head coach Gary Smith said. “Possession was much better and we were able to disrupt the possession that the Galaxy had had in the first half (and) we had better territorial advantage in the second half.”

Midfielder Paolo Cardozo got the start for Los Angeles as part of Bruce Arena’s plan to conserve bodies ahead of the Galaxy’s huge CONCACAF Champions League matchup at Monarcas Morelia on Tuesday. Cardozo rewarded Arena with a solid performance, controlling possession and igniting several chances for LA. Cardozo himself had as many as four chances to put one in the back net, but was undone either by bad luck or the efforts of Rapids keeper Matt Pickens.

“He’s responding well,” Arena said of Cardozo. “He’s had such a great attitude over the last couple of months to get better and listen to some of the things we’ve talked to him about. Tonight, his performance was real good.”

While Cardozo and Ricketts were in the starting 11, forward Robbie Keane began the match on the bench as Arena preferred to play it safe just days after Keane had returned from Europe following international duty with the Ireland national team. Keane eventually entered the match in the 60th minute for Chad Barrett.

“If Robbie had his way, he’d probably play 90 minutes.” Arena said. “We’ve got to think about the player as well as the team and we didn’t want to put him in a position where he could get hurt.”

The Galaxy now turn its attention to its scintillating CONCACAF Champions League matchup with Mexican Club Monarcas Morelia at Estadios Morelo on Tuesday. The Rapids will also be busy in CCL play with a Mexican squad on Tuesday night, though they will have the fortune of having it in the friendly confines of Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, as they host Santos Laguna.

Los Angeles Galaxy 1, Colorado Rapids 0
September 9, 2011; Home Depot Center

Scoring Summary
LA – Landon Donovan (Sean Franklin, Chad Barrett) 36

Discipline Summary
Col – Brian Mullan (Reckless challenge) 66

Colorado Rapids – Matt Pickens, Kosuke Kimura (Omar Cummings 69), Marvell Wynne, Tyrone Marshall, Danny Evans, Brian Mullan, Jeff Larentowicz, Pablo Mastroeni, Wells Thompson, Caleb Folan, Macoumba Kandji (Sanna Nyassi 39).

Substitutes not used: Steward Ceus, Mike Holody, Scott Palguta, Joseph Nane, Ross LaBauex.

Los Angeles Galaxy – Donovan Ricketts, Bryan Jordan, AJ DeLaGarza, Omar Gonzalez, Todd Dunivant, Sean Franklin, David Beckham, Juninho (Michael Stephens 73), Landon Donovan, Chad Barrett (Robbie Keane 60), Paolo Cardozo (Mike Magee 67).

Substitutes not used: Josh Saunders, Frankie Hejduk, Jovan Kirovski, Miguel Lopez.

Referee: Kevin Stott
Assistants: Mike Rottersman, Anthony Vasoli.
Fourth Official: Alejandro Mariscal
Weather: Partly Cloudy and 69 degrees
Attendance: 20, 068
Time of match: 1:50

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