(For the match recap and video highlights of Saturday's semifinal series victory over FC Dallas CLICK HERE).
In the Western Conference Championship this Saturday the Rapids will be hosting the Los Angeles Galaxy who are winless in Denver in the last 3 years scoreless in Denver in almost 2 seasons and 0-2-0 in their two previous visits to Invesco Field in 2005.
The Rapids' defense has been spectacular in Denver vs. LA; the Galaxy are currently in the midst of a 430-minute scoreless drought at Colorado since their last goal which was a tally by ex-Galaxy player Carlos Ruiz all the way back on April 17 2004. Los Angeles has been shut out by the Rapids in their last four games at Invesco Field including a 1-0 defeat in the first leg of last year's 2004 MLS Cup Playoffs Semifinal series in Denver.
The Rapids have also not lost a game to the Galaxy in Denver in over 3 years. The last Galaxy victory in the Mile High City came on Oct. 9 2002 a 1-0 victory over the Rapids at Invesco Field.
To download the Rapids vs. Galaxy Western Conference Championship Playoff Guide (Acrobat Reader required) CLICK HERE.
For the full match preview of Saturday's match including projected lineups the latest injury report miscellaneous game notes broadcast information head-to-head stats and more visit the Rapids MatchUp Page by CLICKING HERE.
With a win in regulation the Rapids can advance to the MLS Cup championship match for the second time in franchise history (the other year being 1997). If the match is tied at the end of regulation a 30-minute overtime period will be played in its entirety in two 15-minute halves. If the match is still tied at this point the winner will be decided via penalty kicks.
Playoff tickets for the match went on sale Monday morning. To purchase tickets for the Conference Championship call the Rapids Ticket Hotline at (303) 825-GOAL or order your tickets online by CLICKING HERE.
The Rapids announced on Wednesday that the first 5000 fans into the stadium on Saturday will receive a free ski lift ticket courtesy of Crested Butte Mountain Resort. For details on the giveaway CLICK HERE.
Saturday's match will also see a special pregame Rapids "Buck-a-Bud" Playoff Party presented by The Village at Legacy Ridge with $1 beers from 5:00-7:00pm in the pregame party tent outside the stadium! For more information on the Buck-a-Bud Playoff Party CLICK HERE.
Fans should also plan to stick around after the game for the on-field presentation ceremony of the Western Conference Championship trophy to the winning team.
To view the Rapids Playoff webpage with fully-updated details on the playoffs format all the prospective dates ticket information and all the information you need on the Rapids' run to the 2005 MLS Cup CLICK HERE.
The Colorado Rapids need all fans to attend this game to give your Rapids the home field advantage! Remember to wear your Black & Blue to the game!
Help the Rapids "Kick Up the Intensity" for the 2005 MLS Cup Playoffs and get your tickets for Saturday's Western Conference Championship today!
COLORADO RAPIDS VS. LA GALAXY MATCH PREVIEW
Rapids Galaxy up for Western title
COLORADO RAPIDS v LOS ANGELES GALAXY
WESTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP
Sat. Nov. 5 Invesco Field at Mile High
Kickoff: 7 p.m. MT
TV: HDNet FSN-W2 & Fox Soccer Channel
LEAGUE HEAD-TO-HEAD: COL 13 wins 42 gls; LA 23 wins 70 gls; 4 ties
2005 HEAD-TO-HEAD: COL 2 wins 6 gls; LA 2 wins 7 gls; 0 ties
6/15: COL 1 - LA 0 (Cunningham 9 pen)
8/6: COL 2 - LA 0 (Cunningham 7 Peguero 30)
MLS CUP PLAYOFFS: COL 1 win 1 goal; LA 5 wins 12 gls; 0 ties
REFEREE: Brian Hall
SAR (bench): Thomas Supple; JAR (opposite): Nate Clement; 4th: Abbey Okulaja
MLS Career: 103 games; FC/gm: 29.3; Y/gm: 3.2; R: 27; pens: 33
2005: 15 games; FC/gm: 26.1; Y/gm: 2.6; R: 4; pens: 3
COLORADO RAPIDS - OUT: DF Matt Crawford (R hip); DOUBTFUL: DF Nat Borchers (R ankle sprain); PROBABLE: GK Joe Cannon (L abdominal strain)
LOS ANGELES GALAXY - OUT: DF Ben Benditson (sports hernia); QUESTIONABLE: Marcelo Saragosa (R adductor strain); PROBABLE: MF Cobi Jones (R abdominal strain)
SUSPENDED: COL: Alain Nkong (through Nov. 6)
COLORADO RAPIDS TEAM NEWS
The Rapids will be left with a hole in their attack as midfielder Alain Nkong is suspended after being sent off in the 54th minute of the semifinal second leg. The club appealed the sending off but to no avail. "I jumped like any other player in any (game) in any other place in the world Nkong said to The Denver Post. "He came and crashed into me. I don't understand."
Nkong took over a starting role in the midfield in mid-June and has been there since. He missed five games over the final four months - one to suspension and four to personal reasons when he had to return home to Cameroon.
In Nkong's place Clavijo is expected to use Jovan Kirovski behind the front two of Jeff Cunningham and Jean-Philippe Peguero. Kirovski had wanted to play in an attacking midfield with the Los Angeles Galaxy but more often found himself partnered in attack with Landon Donovan. Still after coming to the Rapids he's also been more of an out-and-out striker as Nkong has filled the central attacking role.
Leo Cullen had not played with the first team since July 20 before he was surprisingly installed at right back for both games in the semifinals after Nat Borchers was unavailable to an ankle injury. "It's an adjustment to go to the outside but with Pablo (Mastroeni) Mike (Petke) and Joe (Cannon) in the back it makes it a lot easier for someone to step into that spot Cullen said to the Post. Cullen also credited playing with the reserves as key to his staying fit.
After his heroic performance in both legs of the semifinals MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Joe Cannon has been held out from full training during the week. Despite a lower abdominal strain - which didn't allow him to take goal kicks in both matches and which left him noticeably limping although making an MLS-record 12 saves in the second leg - he expects to be ready.
"At least for the first three or four days I think we're going to try to do the same schedule we've been doing which is resting Cannon said to the Rocky Mountain News. "I think at the end of the year we're going to get surgery. Before that there really isn't any treatment."
Defender Nat Borchers has returned to agility training but is still listed as doubtful for the match.
Striker Jean-Philippe Peguero said the Rapids will continue their mastery over the Galaxy in Denver. In two games at Invesco Field the Galaxy did not score. "It's going to be us the Haitian striker said. "This is our time this year. There's no chance for L.A."
Substitute Ritchie Kotschau scored his first goal since July 12 2003 when he poked the 106th-minute equalizer home. "We were kind of going blow for blow and everything was going against us Kotschau said. "Everyone is excited. All the odds were against us going into Dallas."
LA GALAXY TEAM NEWS
When the Galaxy travel to Denver for the Conference Championship the club hopes there are also some goals in their equipment bags. The Rapids and the Galaxy split the four-game regular season series 2-2 both teams winning their games at home. At The Home Depot Center the Galaxy scored seven goals in two games. In the two games played in Colorado the Rapids held the Galaxy scoreless.
"What's great about this team is they really don't care about what happened during the regular season said Galaxy head coach Steve Sampson. "This team what I love about them is they can put behind them the good and the bad and they look forward to the next challenge. I think you can throw away those results come Saturday."
The Galaxy have their full complement of players heading into Colorado which should help spark the attack. Last weekend it was stifled both by the high-pressure tactics of San Jose and the confined spaces of Spartan Stadium but this weekend Landon Donovan and Herculez Gomez should again be paired together up top and will have more room to operate in at Invesco Field.
To reach a fifth MLS Cup Final in 10 seasons the Galaxy will have to win on the road. And that's not something easily come by. When they defeated D.C. United on Aug. 20 at RFK Stadium it was their first victory outside of southern California in nearly 14 months. The Galaxy lost two of their final three away matches in the regular season but did grind out the draw in San Jose last weekend.
"At some points in the season I think we sacrificed results for style of play. We're at the point in the season where we're trying to get results said Galaxy captain Pete Vagenas. "If we have to roll up our sleeves and play ugly to get a result then that's what we'll do."
After starting just two games over the first half of the season Ned Grabavoy will likely fill the left-sided role for a third consecutive postseason match. "What happened whenever we played up there it's a completely different time now. We have to throw away what happened before said Grabavoy. "We need to get Landon and Herc running at their back four. We have to be aggressive."
A year ago the teams met in the Western Conference Semifinals and after the Rapids claimed a 1-0 win in Denver the Galaxy advanced with a 2-0 victory at home. They also played to a scoreless draw in Denver on July 14 - meaning the Galaxy have gone 430 minutes without scoring a goal in the Mile High City.
"We have to continue to do what we do. It's only a matter of time before (being shut out in Colorado) changes and hopefully it's this next game said Vagenas. "But it's not something we're going to analyze - 'why we didn't score in Colorado?' Hopefully we'll break the seal.""