DENVER CO (10-22-04)- The Colorado Rapids took the early advantage in their Western Conference Semifinal series against the Los Angeles Galaxy tonight with a 1-0 win in front of 8028 fans on a cold night at INVESCO Field at Mile High.
Jean Philippe Peguero scored his first career postseason goal in the 30th minute and Joe Cannon made that goal stand by making five saves in the Colorado goal for the shutout which was the Rapids’ first clean sheet in the playoffs since September 28 2002.
With each team trying to feel out the opponent in the early going chances were few and far between. Chris Albright Marcelo Saragosa and Danny Califf all tested Cannon in the opening 25 minutes but Cannon was equal to all challenges and kept the game scoreless.
The first goal of the game would come at the other end of the pitch as Jean Philippe Peguero beat Galaxy keeper Kevin Hartman from close range in the 30th minute. The Rapids won a left wing corner and Matt Crawford swung a ball into the center of the box for Nat Borchers. The Colorado centerback sent a downward header toward goal only for it to be blocked by a Galaxy defender and come right back to Borchers. He hit a left footed volley on goal only for it to be blocked again but this time by Peguero. The ball fell directly to the Haitian's feet and he swiveled and hit a left-footed shot just inside the left post past Hartman who had dove to his left in an effort to stop Borchers’ initial volley.
That would be the score at halftime but the Rapids nearly doubled their lead less than five minutes after the intermission. Jean Philippe Peguero ran at the Galaxy defense and played a quick through ball down the left-center channel for Jordan Cila who raced onto the ball all alone in the LA box only to fire a shot with the outside of his right foot just wide of Hartman’s left post keeping the score 1-0.
Shortly after the Rapids’ near miss the Galaxy went close with a chance of their own from Jovan Kirovski in the 63rd minute. Just two minutes after he came on as a substitute for L.A. Paul Broome raced down the left flank and flung a cross into the box for Kirovski who dove and directed a low header that was destined to squeeze just inside the left post. However Cannon flung himself to his right and palmed the ball around the post at full stretch for a jaw-dropping world-class save keeping the score 1-0.
In the 77th minute Kirovski would go close again but this time with his feet. Pablo Mastroeni was shown a yellow card for a foul on Carlos Ruiz just outside the Rapids’ box setting up a dangerous freekick from 20 yards out and just outside the right post. Sasha Victorine stepped over the dead ball and Kirovski curled a right-footed shot over the wall that Cannon was blocked from seeing. However there would be no equalizer as the ball clipped the crossbar and went out over the top for a goal kick.
The Galaxy would continue to pressure the Rapids backline as the match drew to a close but it would all be for naught. Kirovski had another pair of chances as did Albright but none could get past Cannon who made five saves on the same night that he was named Colorado Rapids Defensive Player of the Year and Rapids Most Valuable Player in the Rapids' pregame Team Awards presentation.
The Rapids return to action in the second leg of this Western Conference Semifinal series against the Galaxy this Saturday October 30. That match will be played at The Home Depot Center in Carson Calif. with kickoff slated for 8:00 p.m. (MT).
The Galaxy will need to win by more than a goal to advance to the Conference Finals while the Rapids can advance by holding L.A. to a draw. If the match ends with the Galaxy ahead by one the match will go to a 30-minute golden goal overtime (two 15-minute halves) after which if it is still tied will come penalty kicks.
This match can be seen live on Fox Sports World beginning at 8:00 p.m. (MT).
Colorado Rapids Man of the Match: Joe Cannon
COL – Peguero (Borchers) 30’.
LAG – None.
COLORADO RAPIDS— Joe Cannon Ricky Lewis Nat Borchers Ritchie Kotschau Matt Crawford Kyle Beckerman Pablo Mastroeni Chris Henderson (Gary Sullivan 91+) Mark Chung Jordan Cila (Seth Trembly 88’) Jean Philippe Peguero (Alberto Delgado 78’).
TOTAL SHOTS: 10 (Peguero 4); SHOTS ON GOAL: 4 (Peguero 3); FOULS: 21 (3 tied with 3); OFFSIDE: 0; CORNER KICKS: 4; SAVES: 5 (Cannon 5); CAUTIONS: Kotschau 40’; Mastroeni 76’; EJECTIONS: None.
LOS ANGELES GALAXY— Kevin Hartman Chris Albright Tyrone Marshall Danny Califf Sasha Victorine Marcelo Saragosa Peter Vagenas Joseph Ngwenya (Cobi Jones 57’) Jovan Kirovski (Alan Gordon 87’) Alejandro Moreno (Paul Broome 61’) Carlos Ruiz.
TOTAL SHOTS: 13 (Kirovski 5) SHOTS ON GOAL: 5 (Kirovski 2) FOULS: 17 (Moreno Saragosa 3) OFFSIDE: 1 CORNER KICKS: 3 SAVES: 3 (Hartman 3) CAUTIONS: Broome 66’; EJECTIONS: None.
Referee: Terry Vaughn.
Referee's Assistants: George Gansner Steve Taylor
4th Official: Ricardo Valenzuela.
Temperature: 53 degrees and partly cloudy.