CARSON, Calif. – Swedish midfielder Christian Wilhelmsson made his Major League Soccer debut one to remember, completing a decent hour-long assignment with a goal as the LA Galaxy climbed to third place in the Western Conference with a 2-0 triumph over the visiting Colorado Rapids at the Home Depot Center.
Robbie Keane netted his ninth goal in his past 14 games while Marcelo Sarvas notched his first two MLS assists and made a sliding stop on Conor Casey near the end. The effort ensured LA posted their fourth straight shutout in all competitions and third in a row in MLS play.
The victory sent the Galaxy (14-11-3) ahead of Real Salt Lake in third place on goals scored and within a point of second-placed Seattle, who plays Saturday at Portland. Colorado (9-18-2) remain a point ahead of Chivas USA, who play Saturday at HDC against San Jose, and two ahead of Portland at the bottom of the West.
FULL LINEUPS AND INDIVIDUAL STATS
Wilhelmsson, who got the start on the right flank, fared well without making a huge impact until Sarvas' long ball found him racing behind Colorado's backline in the 58th minute. He spun around to avoid Marvell Wynne and Luis Zapata at the top of the box, then fired low from 20 yards off the hands of the outstretched Matt Pickens.
Keane's 12th MLS goal this season, good for fifth-best in the league, gave LA a 15th-minute lead. Sarvas played a give-and-go with Sean Franklin on the right flank, then squared the ball toward Keane, who took off into Colorado's box as the ball rolled past.
Donovan played a quick through ball as Keane ran past center back Tyrone Marshall, and the Irishman easily beat Pickens. Donovan picked up his 12th assist of the year, one behind Seattle's Mauro Rosales and Sporting KC's Graham Zusi, in his first game action – not counting Tuesday's MLS Reserve League appearance – in nearly a month.
The Galaxy were without David Beckham, who missed training this week with a sprained ankle.
MATCH HIGHLIGHTS & REACTION
Colorado coach Oscar Pareja went with the same starting XI that beat Portland 3-0 on Sept. 5, with Conor Casey again on the bench and Omar Cummings joining him after returning from Jamaica's World Cup qualifiers. Cummings came on late in the first half when rookie Tony Cascio went down with a sprained ankle after an Omar Gonzalez tackle.
Casey came on in the 63rd minute and nearly scored after eluding Gonzalez and Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Saunders to find an open goal ahead of him in the 79th, but Sarvas slid in to block the shot and preserve the shutout.
The Galaxy head to Puerto Rico to take on the Islanders in a CONCACAF Champions League match Wednesday night, then return home next weekend against Toronto FC, their final regular-season game against an Eastern Conference foe. The Rapids play a week from Sunday at Vancouver and are home the following weekend against LA.
LA - Robbie Keane (Marcelo Sarvas, Landon Donovan) 15'
LA - Christian Wilhelmsson (Marcelo Sarvas) 58'
LA - A.J. DeLaGarza (caution) 77
Colorado Rapids lineup: Matt Pickens, Drew Moor, Marvell Wynne, Tyrone Marshall, Luis Zapata, Hendry Thomas, Jeff Larentowicz (Brian Mullan), Jaime Castrillon, Tony Cascio (Omar Cummings 41), Martin Rivero, Andre Akpan (Conor Casey)
Subs not used: Stew Ceus, Scott Palguta, Joseph Nane, Kamani Hill.
Referee: Ismail Elfath