Carson, CA – Landon Donovan scored the only goal in a fixture that saw the LA Galaxy take the full three points and secure a spot in the MLS playoffs as they welcomed last year’s cup champions, the Colorado Rapids. The Galaxy captain received an in the box pass from Chad Barrett and slotted it past Rapids keeper Matt Pickens to make it 1-0 in the 36th.
Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena has been shuffling the deck with his lineup of late, adding striker Robbie Keane during the transfer window, playing defender Sean Franklin as an attacking midfielder and in Saturday’s fixture, deploying midfielder Paolo Cardozo in a striking role. Although the Irishman Keane came on late in the game, Arena’s changes had an immediately visible impact on the pitch with the Galaxy out-shooting the Rapids nine to two, despite only scoring once.
In truth, for much of the match, it was Pickens who kept the Rapids in the running. The keeper made at least half a dozen vital saves for his side, stopping a header from Franklin in the 5th minute of play. He also punched away a David Beckham freekick in the 16th minute and then stopped shots in rapid succession from Cardozo and Juninho. Throughout the first half, the keeper came up big time and again as the Galaxy peppered the MLS champions goal with shots.
Cardozo, for his part, seems comfortable with his new striking role and throughout the match, he demonstrated pace, skill and a willingness to get into dangerous positions and shoot at the slightest opening.
The Rapids tested Galaxy keeper Donovan Rickets only once during the first half in the 33rd minute, when Jeff Larentowicz found space and shot from 20 yards out. However the Jamaican keeper, who was playing his first game back from injury, was alert to the danger and made the save.
The Galaxy were a tad more sedate in the second half and allowed the Rapids to come back into the game. It nearly turned disastrous right around the hour mark when Sanna Nyassi got off a shot that was saved but fumbled by Ricketts. Wells Thompson swept in on he rebound and netted a goal that was disallowed for being offside.
Moments later Cardozo again tested Pickens, from close range. However as ever, the Rapids keeper was up to the task.
Arena further tinkered with the lineup, introducing Keane for Barrett in the 60th, Magee for Cardoza in the 67th and Stephens for an injured Juninho in the 74th.
Rapids head coach Gary Smith also make changes, bringing Omar Cummings on for Kosuke Kimura.
But try as they might, neither side could find the alchemy that could lead to another goal. Keane nearly did in the 67th when he received a through ball from Juninho but rather casually chipped it just over the crossbar.
Magee shot wide from the edge of the 18 in the 77th and Landon Donovan tested Pickens from close range in the 88th. Colorado continued to move the ball well but were unable to snatch the last minute equalizer and as the final whistle was blown, the 20,068 fan in attendance had just the one goal from Donovan to talk about on the drive home.
But the win valuable secures the Galaxy a playoff spot and shores up their position atop the Western Conference standings with seven points now separating them from their closest rivals, the Seattle Sounders. The Galaxy welcome expansion side, the Vancouver Whitecaps on September 17th.