Rogondino: LA can take a big step with win on Saturday

Galaxy look to clinch Supporters’ Shield with win over Rapids

buddle_colorado2

Photo Credit: 
Doug Pensinger / Getty Images

There
is so much to play for at The Home Depot Center on Saturday night when the
Galaxy host the Colorado Rapids.  In
addition to trying to capture the Supporters’ Shield, LA can come within a
point of 60 for 2010, a total only two other teams have accomplished in the
history of MLS. 

Defeating
a Western Conference rival would also add some much needed clarity to the
playoff table, though it would not completely solidify things entirely. 

For
all intents and purposes, the playoffs begin now.

The
Colorado Rapids arrive in Carson
for their penultimate game of the year with plenty at stake. Needing just a
single point to secure their first postseason berth since 2006, Gary Smith’s
team looks to be a good bet to become the eighth team to complete the MLS Cup
Playoffs dance card. However, the Rapids must face the top two teams in the
league to close out the season, while Kansas City,
who can catch Colorado with a pair of wins to
end their season, travel to New England and host San Jose to end their season.

The
Rapids certainly do not want to leave their playoff hopes resting on a regular
season finale, against their rivals, Real
Salt Lake,
in what is always one of the most unpredictable matches of the year – the Rocky
Mountain Cup. Given Colorado’s
late season struggles over the past few years, they will be doing everything
that they can to remove any drama heading into the season’s final week.

The
Rapids bring a lot of dangerous pieces into the game.  Two players in particular, Conor Casey and
Omar Cummings, have been thorns in the Galaxy’s side in the past.  Both have appeared six times against the
Galaxy, and collectively have five goals and four assists.  It is an ideal blend of speed and physical
play from the two.  Behind them, Pablo
Mastroeni and Jeff Larentowicz have been holding down the center of the field,
breaking up attacks and quickly starting their own.  For years the Rapids have searched for a
talented, steady player to play along side Mastroeni, and after trading for the
long time Revolution mainstay during the offseason, it appears that their
search is over. 

Defensively
there is some athleticism and speed with Marvell Wynne and Anthony Wallace while
Matt Pickens has put up solid numbers (1.07 GAA and seven shutouts) in his
second year in goal for Colorado.

Looking
now at the Galaxy, the area of the game that has been exposed the most over the
past two months of the season has been the club’s defense.  Granted there have been some major injuries,
a suspension, and even some bad luck during that stretch.  But the recent win against Philadelphia
was the second straight game that Omar Gonzalez
and A.J. DeLaGarza were paired in central defense, with Gregg Berhalter missing
an eighth straight game because of a neck strain and Yohance Marshall away with
Trinidad and Tobago’s
National Team.

If
Gregg is not back in time for the postseason, would this be Bruce Arena’s first
choice pairing in central defense? The two second year players are former
college teammates and have shown a good understanding of one another, so I
don’t think that it is as dire a question as it may have seemed just a few
weeks ago.

I won’t leave out Donovan Ricketts
either.  Yes, he needed a shutout to give
himself a shot at putting his name in the Galaxy record book… again.  Even further, looking outside the numbers, that
was a hugely important performance for the psyche of the big Jamaican.  It is no secret that keepers are streaky, and
it is fair to say that Ricketts has allowed a few goals that he would like back
of late, so getting a performance of that caliber was a very welcomed site.

At
the attacking end, what is not to love about the Galaxy?  For the opponent it has to be a case of pick
your poison.

There
is Edson Buddle, the MLS leading
scorer, the potential MLS MVP in Landon Donovan, plus a healthy and improving David
Beckham; that is not a bad front three in any league. Add into that a player
like Juninho, who has shown all season that he has fantastic vision with the
ball, and is a threat on the dead ball situations, and it is no surprise that
the Galaxy are tied for the most goals scored on the season. 

With
those players handling the bulk of the attacking movements, LA’s trio of hard-working
and versatile midfielders, Chris Birchall, Dema Kovalenko and Michael Stephens
are left to do the dirty work.  Those
three players understand their roles perfectly and are adept at filling in the
gaps to help snuff out opposing attacks while also starting LA’s, no matter who
is on the field.

Bottom
line - the Galaxy have the chance to take a big step forward with a win on
Saturday.  It would also allow Bruce Arena to potentially rest a few bodies for the
season finale against FC Dallas and at the same time get a look at some of the
depth on the bench.  That is not to say
that LA would be throwing the points away, but I would expect them to be a bit
looser bunch with the Supporters’ Shield already assured.  It is a fantastic opportunity for the Galaxy
to put a bow on the body of work that is their 2010 regular season - even with
a game still left on the schedule.

Quick
Hits

I
mentioned Ricketts getting his name in the record books already, but another
shutout would give the Jamaican the club record for the most in a single
season, passing Kevin Hartman.  Plus it
might put the second year keeper in a great frame of mind heading to the
postseason.  If he gets that in a Galaxy
win, I would think that Josh Saunders would get the start in the season finale
against Dallas.

Rapids’
forwards Conor Casey and Omar Cummings will be a handful in this match.  LA has to be ready for the track meet with
Cummings’ speed and the physical, yet still technical game of Casey.  Omar Gonzalez
will be in for a long 90 minutes.

Last
week I urged those that read this column on a regular basis to get out there
and get some people into the HDC for these final two matches.  I would like to take the credit for the fact
that the Galaxy is opening up the grass berm for general admission for
Saturday’s game.  Not sure if there is a
correlation between my words and the number of ticket sales, but hey, why
not!  Well done!!  I look forward to seeing a few familiar faces
and a couple of new ones too. It is almost as if the playoffs begin now!

Bookmark and Share

Related:
BUY NOW
Preview:
LA vs Colorado

Beckham’s
return lifts LA in stretch run
LA
looking to back up claims against Colorado
Grass
berm tickets now available for Galaxy-Rapids at The Home Depot Center