Preview of Wednesday's Western Conference Clash Between the Colorado Rapids and LA Galaxy

(For full details on the match vs. LA with all the inside information you need on head-to-head matchups projected lineups the latest injury and suspension reports game notes and more check out the Rapids' MatchUp page by CLICKING HERE).

COLORADO RAPIDS VS. LA GALAXY MATCH PREVIEW
By MLSnet.com Staff

INVESCO FIELD at MILE HIGH
DENVER Colo.
7:30 pm MT (Altitude; KNLA)

The Colorado Rapids return home hoping to put an end to their recent struggles - winless in a month and scoreless in three games in a row. But they play host to a Los Angeles Galaxy that while near the top of the Western Conference all season has not seen the road a friendly place for a number of years now - including a loss to the Rapids in Denver in last year's Western Conference Semifinals. There's also another motivation present - the memory of the last meeting between the teams where a wild three penalties were awarded in the final five minutes of a 3-2 Galaxy victory.

REFEREE: Ricardo Valenzuela. SAR (bench): Chris Strickland; JAR (opposite): C.J. Morgante; 4th: Ben Chouaf
MLS Career: 64 games; FC/gm: 34.5; Y/gm: 4.7; R: 26; pens: 21
Games involving Rapids: P10 W5 L5 T0; FC/gm: 33.4; Y/gm: 5.3; R: 8; pens: 5
Games involving Galaxy: P13 W6 L3 T4; FC/gm: 33.2; Y/gm: 3.5; R: 3; pens: 2

INJURY REPORT:
COLORADO RAPIDS - OUT: MF Terry Cooke (R knee); FW Eugene Sepuya (R hamstring contusion); QUESTIONABLE: GK Byron Foss (L groin); FW Jean-Philippe Peguero (L ankle); MF Matt Crawford (R quadriceps strain) ...
LOS ANGELES GALAXY - OUT: DF Chris Albright (L knee MCL sprain); FW Alan Gordon (R hip strain); FW Joseph Ngwenya (sports hernia surgery); DF Ben Benditson (sports hernia); DF Paul Broome (L foot sprain); MF Ned Grabavoy (R hamstring strain)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: COL: DF Hunter Freeman (USA U-20; FIFA World Youth Championship)

SUSPENDED: none

YELLOW PERIL: COL: DF Nat Borchers (20 CP); DF Mike Petke (10 CP in 3 gms) ... LA: MF Paulo Nagamura (18 CP)

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (37 meetings): Rapids 11 wins (1 shootout) 38 goals ... Galaxy 22 wins (2 shootout) 66 goals ... 4 draws
IN DENVER: (18 meetings): Rapids 8 wins (0 shootout) 22 goals ... Galaxy 7 wins (1 shootout) 26 goals ... 3 draws

This is the second of four meetings between the clubs this season and the first of two in Denver. The next meeting will also be in the Mile High City on Aug. 6 then they'll conclude their league series on Sept. 10 on Victoria Street.

LAST MEETING
The Galaxy claimed a 3-2 victory at The Home Depot Center on May 8 under bizarre circumstances with three late penalties called (two for Los Angeles one for Colorado).

The Galaxy won their fourth game on the trot -- all at home and all against West opposition -- in a bizarre climax. The teams traded goals six minutes apart in the first half: Tyrone Marshall just reached in ahead of Chris Albright to poke home a corner kick (21) but Jean-Philippe Peguero powered home a header from the heart of the penalty area from a pinpoint Chris Henderson cross to pull the Rapids level.

Just as the match seems destined to wind down to a draw the Galaxy won a penalty when Nat Borchers tripped up Guillermo Ramirez as he burst into the area and Landon Donovan converted (86). Yet just two minutes later the Rapids received a penalty of their own L.A. goalkeeper Kevin Hartman sending Luchi Gonzalez head over heels with his challenge as he slashed through the box Jeff Cunningham neatly converting from the spot.

But just as the clock ticked over for the full 90 minutes substitute Guy Melamed was adjudged by referee Jair Marrufo to have hauled back Marshall as they challenged for a free kick swung into the box and despite the bitter recriminations from the Colorado players Donovan sent Rapids 'keeper Joe Cannon the wrong way for the game winner.

Here's Steve Sampson's team (4-4-2): Kevin Hartman - Chris Albright Ugo Ihemelu Tyrone Marshall Todd Dunivant - Cobi Jones Paulo Nagamura (Mubarike Chisoni 69) Peter Vagenas Guillermo Ramirez (Michael Umana 89) - Landon Donovan Jovan Kirovski (Ednaldo da Conceicao 78).

Here's Fernando Clavijo's team (4-4-2): Joe Cannon Hunter Freeman Nat Borchers Ritchie Kotschau Eric Denton (Alain Nkong 89) - Chris Henderson Leo Cullen (Guy Melamed 60) Kyle Beckerman Mark Chung - Luchi Gonzalez Jean Philippe Peguero (Jeff Cunningham 75).

HISTORY
A year ago the Galaxy won one of the four league meetings between the two teams - with the other three ending in draws. The teams played to a 1-1 draw at Invesco Field at Mile High on April 17 (Peguero 9 - Ruiz 20) then almost exactly a month later (May 15) they played to a 1-1 draw in Carson (Moreno 61 - Peguero 71).

The Galaxy won 2-0 at home on July 10 in the first game of a home-and-home series (Grabavoy 39 Ruiz 80) the clubs playing to a scoreless draw four days later in Denver.

The teams then met in the Western Conference semifinals. Behind the stellar goalkeeping of Joe Cannon the Rapids won the first game 1-0 in Denver but the Galaxy came back to win the series with a 2-0 victory in the second leg at the HDC.

Last year was the first time since 2001 the Galaxy had won the season series - a four-game sweep that year. The teams had split the series in 2002 then the Rapids won two games in four meetings between the clubs in 2003 (with one draw).

Coaches record: Fernando Clavijo v LA: P5 W2 L2 D1 ...
Steve Sampson vs. COL: P1 W1 L0 D0

COLORADO RAPIDS
-The Colorado Rapids returned to league action after a week off and lost for the fourth time in five matches as their winless streak hit five falling 1-0 to the Columbus Crew on Saturday afternoon. The Rapids are still in fifth place in the Western Conference with eight points from 12 matches two ahead of last-place Chivas USA and three behind Real Salt Lake - still 16 points out of first place.
-Even though it was from the penalty spot the home side finally found the back of the net after some more bad luck while keeping the Rapids winless on their travels.
-The Crew hit the woodwork on either side of halftime - Kyle Martino having a shot deflect off the base of the left post before the interval and Cornell Glen a header glance off the post after the break.
-But 20 minutes from the end Mario Rodriguez was tripped up from behind by Ritchie Kotschau as he burst into the Colorado penalty area and Glen cleanly converted from the spot for the match-winner the Crew's first goal in exactly 300 minutes. For the Rapids it was their sixth loss in seven matches on the road and they've still scored just once away from home.
-Rapids coach Fernando Clavijo made just one change to the team that played to a scoreless draw with the New England Revolution in their last match May 28 in Foxborough. Pablo Mastroeni returned to the lineup for the first time in four matches after suffering a quadriceps strain coming in for the suspended Guy Melamed sent off in the New England match.
-Here's Clavijo's team (4-4-2): Joe Cannon - Ricky Lewis Nat Borchers Mike Petke Ritchie Kotschau (Alain Nkong 73) - Matt Crawford (Terry Cooke 57) Kyle Beckerman Pablo Mastroeni (Leo Cullen 61) Eric Denton - Wolde Harris Jeff Cunningham
-"We had some chances at the beginning that we need to put away. Scoring those goals changes the game completely. Without them we give life to the other team Clavijo said.

TEAM NEWS

-Once again the Rapids failed to build on a good result. Two weeks ago the Rapids went into Gillette Stadium and came away with a scoreless draw against the New England Revolution then holders of the league's best record.
-"We've said all year long it doesn't mean anything unless we can build on it goalkeeper Joe Cannon said to the Rocky Mountain News. "We thought maybe the game against Chivas would be a turning point after we beat them (2-1 on May 14). Then we go on that road trip and let in two goals in Dallas and two in Chicago. We just looked like a different team."
-Mastroeni had played just 15 minutes since the 3-1 loss to the MetroStars on April 30 - a start against Dallas on May 18 when he was forced from the field injured. He lasted an hour before coming off for Leo Cullen.
-"I'm getting back in the swing of things the Rapids captain said. "I still feel a step behind trying to find my fitness and stuff but it's good to be out there with the guys and trying to overcome this injury."
-Terry Cooke also saw in first action in more than a month a substitute appearance for just more than the final half-hour after coming off a knee injury.
-"We held possession in the first half but that was not the case in the second in which we needed to make adjustments due to the fact that the returning players are still not at 100 percent. We need to continue working for 90 minutes at a time Clavijo said.

LOS ANGELES GALAXY

-The Los Angeles Galaxy extended their unbeaten streak to five matches and closed the gap in the Western Conference after coming away with a 1-0 victory against Real Salt Lake on Saturday night at The Home Depot Center. The Galaxy have 23 points from 11 matches and now trail FC Dallas by just a single point in the West with a match in hand. The Galaxy also have the third-best record in the league the top four separated by just four points.
-The Galaxy completely stifled the Real attack but could only hit home once though they remain unbeaten on their home ground.
-The visitors were kept without a single attempt at goal for the first 51 minutes then a minute later Landon Donovan hit for the game-winner his sixth goal of the season. A long ball from Cobi Jones on the right flank found Donovan behind the RSL back line and he neatly slotted home past D.J. Countess after racing into the penalty area.
-Kevin Hartman was called upon to make a fine save on Real forward Dante Washington - then left back Todd Dunivant cleared the rebound attempt off the line as the Galaxy 'keeper was credited with his 100th win in goal the first goalkeeper in MLS history to reach that milestone.
-With his host of internationals back in the fold Galaxy coach Steve Sampson made three changes to the team that played to a 2-2 draw with the MetroStars the weekend before on Victoria Street. U.S. international Landon Donovan played his first match for L.A. since May 21 while Tyrone Marshall (Jamaica) and Guillermo Ramirez (Guatemala) all returned from national team duty as Naldo da Conceicao Ned Grabavoy and Troy Roberts all returned to the substitutes' bench.
-Here's Sampson's team (4-4-2): Kevin Hartman - Ugo Ihemelu Pablo Chinchilla Tyrone Marshall Todd Dunivant - Cobi Jones Paulo Nagamura Peter Vagenas Guillermo Ramirez - Landon Donovan Jovan Kirovski (Ednaldo da Conceicao 78).
-"I think a number of players were very tired and I think you saw the results of that tonight. So I'm happy to have them back. I think Pando Ramirez played well tonight and held the ball beautifully for us. I didn't expect him to bring as much energy as he did Sampson said.

TEAM NEWS
-Sampson was very complimentary of his goalkeeper after the match which was also his 51st career clean sheet four from the MLS all-time record currently held by Tony Meola. "One hundred career wins the first ever to do so as a goalkeeper well over 50 percent of those as shutouts ... certainly the success of the Galaxy over the last 10 years in large part is due to Kevin Hartman. I was disappointed that he had to come up with a few saves at the end to keep the result. But he did and again that shows his quality Sampson said.
-Donovan continued his remarkable form recently after scoring three goals in the two World Cup qualifying matches for the USA as they got ever closer to a berth in Germany 2006.
-"Tonight you saw a tired Landon Donovan. He chose his moments at the end of the game and he chose obviously a very good time Sampson said. " ... Once again Landon even as tired as he is coming off 2 1/2 weeks with the national team found a way to score a goal for us tonight."
-While the victory might have been slim it was also a good result with a tired team after Galaxy sides full of reserves had maintained the unbeaten streak. "We didn't lose a game Todd Dunivant said. "It's a good thing for us and it's a good sign that this is a solid team from top to bottom because you can't just have three or four players on a team that run the show. To win a cup you need to have everybody contributing."
-The Galaxy now face four consecutive matches on the road - where they haven't won this season and have won just three times since the beginning of the 2003 season. "Really the first 10 out of 12 ... were at home and we've done well'' Donovan said. "... We're going to be on the road for a while all of August we're on the road as well so those especially with this team as I've learned whatever the deal is on the road we need to sort it out and get it taken care of.''
-Said Hartman to the Daily Breeze: "Our first road win was against Chivas so we got some road confidence. We probably are too comfortable here so we need to disprove the rumors of us not being a good road team.