LA Galaxy (17-6-5, 56 points, first place in Western Conference) vs. Colorado Rapids (11-8-9, 42 points, sixth place Western Conference) at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
LA Galaxy lead all-time series 27-20-6, including 7-3-2 all-time at the HDC.
8:30 p.m. PT (Delayed broadcast on PrimeTicket)
It’s the penthouse vs. the potential outhouse. With a win, the Galaxy would claim the best record in MLS this season, capturing their third-ever Supporters’ Shield title. Such a result could force Colorado into a tricky situation.
The Rapids sit in the eighth and final playoff spot, but a loss, combined with a Kansas City victory over New England, would set up a potentially disastrous scenario for Colorado. Kansas City would be three points back of the Rapids with one game remaining. If Colorado can earn at least a point, they would claim the final playoff ticket.
The Galaxy have had their share of criticism since their summer swoon began, but the club is back to grinding out results, and enters the match with four wins in its last five games. The last three of those victories have each been by one goal.
Edson Buddle scored his league-leading and career-high 16th goal of the season in a 1-0 win at Philadelphia Union on Oct. 7. The Galaxy also picked up what, as of July, has been a bit of a rarity as they had their first shutout since Aug. 14 and just their second shutout since June.
LA defender Gregg Berhalter is likely to return against Colorado and pair with Omar Gonzalez in central defense.
"It's important," Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said about beating Colorado. "We'd like to have [the Shield], as it obviously qualifies us automatically for group play in the Champions League. Certainly, [the win] gives us hopefully somewhat of an advantage in the playoffs."
Colorado’s playoff hopes seemed strong at the end of September, but a 1-0 home loss to D.C. United stunned the club. A 2-2 draw at FC Dallas followed, and though admirable, admirable efforts won’t clinch playoff spots.
The Rapids need just one point to claim their first playoff berth since 2006, but the remaining schedule is harsh. After this game against table-topping LA, Colorado close out the season with a game against rivals Real Salt Lake at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
Since their match against Dallas, Colorado then will have played a bit of a murderer’s row to close out the season, which could come in handy should they reach the playoffs. They could finish lower than fourth place in the west and thus play against either New York or Columbus.
“The emphasis still is on us to not only continue to perform, but to move into those playoffs feeling comfortable and confident ... and being in a real positive frame of mind,” head coach Gary Smith told the club's website. “That can only be achieved by adding the points that are necessary to get us into that playoff situation.”
Heroes & Villains
Omar Gonzalez vs. Omar Cummings: Which Omar will come out ahead? Colorado’s Cummings enters the game with 12 goals, seven of which have come in his last seven games. The Jamaican played just 30 minutes against DC and went the distance against FC Dallas, going score in both appearances.
Gonzalez, though, might receive a boost in his fight against Cummings as Berhalter’s long-awaited return to action. Berhalter last played on Aug. 14 and Gonzalez has played with three different central defenders since.
Stat that makes you go “Hmm”
Colorado and Los Angeles each have teammates who have combined for 23 goals, tied for the highest-scoring duo in the league.
Keys to the Game
- Win midfield battles to slow down service to Omar Cummings and Conor Casey
- Come out with more energy than Colorado; the Rapids have six first-half goals in their last five games
- Get ball to Omar Cummings in open space, as he is faster than any of Galaxy’s central defenders
- Cut down on fouls in own defensive third; Beckham’s set-piece ability is recuperating along with his match fitness
QUESTIONABLE: DF Gregg Berhalter (neck strain); MF Dema Kovalenko (R adductor strain); DF Leonardo (L quad strain)
OUT: MF Ciaran O'Brien (L hip sprain); FW Ross Schunk (R ACL tear); PROBABLE: DF Julien Baudet (L hamstring strain); FW Omar Cummings (L ankle sprain); MF Brian Mullan (R ankle sprain); GK Matt Pickens (groin strain); DF Anthony Wallace (groin strain)