CARSON, Calif. – It is with an understandable sense of anticipation that the LA Galaxy’s Pablo Mastroeni faces his former teammates on Saturday against the Colorado Rapids at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo. (4 p.m., ESPN 2, ESPN Deportes).
But it is with a renewed sense of vigor that the Galaxy (10-8-3, 33 points) take on their Western Conference rivals, thanks to a badly-needed 2-1 win over Vancouver Whitecaps FC that came on the heels of a stunning, last-second 2-1 loss to the Portland Timbers.
“It was a big performance for us,” defender Todd Dunivant said of last Saturday’s win. “We responded well and now we have to keep the momentum going.”
Added fellow defender Sean Franklin, “It was needed. Not just for the standings and things like that, but for our confidence. When we lose a game in Portland, where we should have come out with a point at least, and to be able to come back like we did, it showed our character.
“It’s going to help us down the road.”
That road begins Saturday in Colorado against the Rapids (8-7-7, 31 points), who are on a five-game unbeaten streak, taking 11 of a possible 15 points in that time. Oscar Pareja’s club has gotten strong performances this season from rookies Deshorn Brown and Dillon Powers while Nathan Sturgis, a former No. 1 pick of the Galaxy, has added four goals while taking over in the center of midfield.
“They’ve had a very good run over the last couple of months,” Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said. “They’ve made lot of changes from the start of the year and for the better. They’ve hung in a lot of games, and even when they don’t play well they’ve managed to get some results.
“This a positive sign for any team. Obviously they’re going to be tough to beat.”
The Galaxy actually have not lost in Commerce City since 2008 (a 3-0-2 run), but coaches and players are expecting a tough time nonetheless. Saturday’s game is a rematch LA’s of a March 23 game won by the Galaxy, 1-0, on a penalty kick by Mike Magee.
“It’s a team that’s been on the rise for a while now,” Dunivant said. “They’ve really pushed up the standings and are in the hunt with everybody else. They have a lot of confidence and they just got a great a result in Seattle, going in there and getting a draw.
“They’ll be flying high.”
So likely will Mastroeni, who was a member of the Rapids for 12 years until last month’s trade to the Galaxy. But the 36-year-old veteran surprisingly said he did not have the game circled on his calendar once the trade was finalized.
“It was about embarking on a new journey and I didn’t even contemplate it,” he said. “I think it’s going to be an emotional game for me, but it doesn’t make sense to get all ramped up four days before to where you can’t sleep.
“To play in the stadium you played for a lot of years and playing against a lot of good friends of mine, when the whistle blows you’re out there to do a job. That will be the focus.”