Galaxy Continue Winning Ways Despite Missing Stars Donovan and Beckham
Task completed. Despite missing midfielders Landon Donovan and David Beckham to international duty and back spasms, respectively, the Galaxy rode two first half goals to a 3-1 win over the Colorado Rapids in Commerce City, Colo.
"It is a team game and we don’t put our heads down when we are missing someone," Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. "We got here today and our objective was to win the game."
With the victory, the Galaxy (9-2-7, 34 points) extended its unbeaten streak to nine matches and maintained its six-point lead over FC Dallas atop the Western Conference. The Rapids (5-4-7, 22 points) dropped into a tie for fourth, 12 points behind the leaders from Los Angeles.
Both teams failed to create any scoring chances early and the first goal came only when Rapids defender Drew Moor put the ball into his own net. Galaxy midfielder Chris Birchall hurtled down the right flank in the 25th minute, getting to Miguel Lopez's pass just before it rolled over the end line and sending a low pass across the box for Mike Magee at the back post. Moor, running toward his own goal, lunged for the ball in an attempted clearance but instead redirected Birchall's pass past Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens.
"I was just trying to get back into a good spot," Moor said about the own goal. "I tried to just get a foot on it and it happened."
Los Angeles added a second goal in the 42nd minute through a wonder strike by midfielder Juninho. The 22-year-old, fresh off of getting married last week in his native Brazil, intercepted Moor's failed clearance, took a steadying touch and unleashed a shot from 25 yards out into the far upper corner of Pickens' net for his third goal of the year.
"Juninho's strike was a special one," Arena said of his midfielder.
Trailing 2-0 at the break, the Rapids came out with a renewed sense of urgency in the second half. Colorado's Irish striker Caleb Folan hit a powerful shot from the top of the box just over the crossbar in the 48th minute and midfielder Pablo Mastroeni put a bending shot wide in the 57th.
Colorado striker Conor Casey got his team on the scoreboard in the 64th minute. Halftime substitute Omar Cummings, playing in his first match since injuring his ankle in early May, cut inside on Galaxy defender Sean Franklin and fired a low shot off of the near post. Casey beat Galaxy defender A.J. DeLaGarza to the rebound and tapped the ball into the open net for his third goal of the season.
"Omar gave us a bit of energy," Colorado coach Gary Smith said. "It was great to get on the score sheet, and I thought at that point we had turned the corner. It looked like we were just starting to get a bit of pressure."
The Rapids continued to press and nearly found the equalizing goal in the 67th minute. Midfielder Jeff Larentowicz received a pass from Cummings in the box, turned on his defender and slammed a shot into the side netting of the goal.
It seemed only a matter of time before the Rapids would score again, until the momentum switched with Folan's 74th minute red card. The striker lunged into an ill-advised two footed tackle that left Juninho on the ground holding his ankle, and left the Rapids with only ten men on the field.
"We had the momentum at that point," Moor said. "Red cards, yellow cards, these things happen and unfortunately it was at a tough time tonight."
Juninho hobbled back onto the pitch and had a hand in the Galaxy's clinching goal. The Brazilian led defender Todd Dunivant, the Galaxy's captain on the night, with a pass down the left flank. Dunivant played a square ball across the box that Moor couldn't get a foot on, leaving substitute forward Chad Barrett all alone at the back post. Barrett deftly tucked his shot passed the diving Pickens and just inside of the far post for his fourth goal of the season.
News and Notes
-- 37-year-old Galaxy defender and assistant coach Gregg Berhalter made his first appearance of the MLS season when he came on for DeLaGarza in the 83rd minute. The former United States national team defender played in 16 games last season for Los Angeles.
-- Up next for the Galaxy is trip to the Bay Area to face the San Jose Earthquakes next Saturday at 3:30 p.m. The Earthquakes (5-5-4, 19 points) sit in sixth place in the West and have won four of their last six MLS games.
-- The knockout portion of the CONCACAF Gold Cup got underway Saturday at the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., with Mexico and Honduras winning to advance to the competition's semifinals.
-- Honduras defeated Central American rivals Costa Rica on penalties after playing to a 1-1 draw for 120 minutes. Costa Rica striker Alvaro Saborio, who plays his club soccer for MLS's Real Salt Lake, had two crucial misses from the penalty spot in the loss. Honduras striker Jerry Bengston opened the scoring in the 49th minute, tapping Javier Arnaldo Portillo’s cross into an open net. Costa Rica defender Dennis Marshall equalized in the 56th minute off of a corner, getting free in the box and heading Christian Bolaños' pass into the net. Saborio's first PK miss came in the 76th minute after a Honduras foul in the box. Saborio stepped up and put a weak shot on target that was easily saved by Honduras goalkeeper Noel Valladares. The game remained tied through 30 minutes of extra time and was decided when Saborio and teammate Celso Borges hit their penalty kicks off the crossbar, giving Honduras a 4-2 shootout win.
-- The other semifinals, set for Sunday at RFK Stadium in Washington D.C., feature Jamaica against the United States and Panama vs. El Salvador