Competition: MLS Cup Playoffs (Western Conference Semifinal – First Leg) – LA Galaxy vs. Colorado Rapids
Venue: StubHub Center – Sunday, October 30 – 19:00 ET (21:00 GMT)
Match Odds: LA Galaxy 5/6 – Draw 23/10 – Colorado 100/30
LA Galaxy host the Colorado Rapids in what looks an intriguing Western Conference Semifinal first-leg clash on Sunday night, with one of the league’s most potent attacks coming up against the league’s best defence at StubHub Center.
LA eased past Real Salt Lake in the Knockout Round on Wednesday night and will undoubtedly have their eyes firmly set on the MLS Cup title. However, they have a long way to go yet and need to try and navigate their way past a very solid Rapids team over the next two weekends to reach the Conference Final.
The Galaxy have been dealing with injuries to key players for a number of weeks but appear to be coping well, with the likes of Alan Gordon and Emmanuel Boateng stepping up to deliver the goods when needed.
The onus is on LA to take Sunday’s game to Colorado, with the home fans no doubt expecting a victory in this first leg. That’s not unusual for the players, but they must make sure they don’t press too hard or risk being undone on the counter-attack.
Colorado are preparing for their first MLS Cup Playoff game for three years. They have not played in a Conference Semifinal since 2011 but know that they have more than earned their place in the postseason after a fine season.
The worry for the Rapids is that they ended the regular season poorly, losing out to Dallas on the Supporters’ Shield after failing to win either of their last two games.
These two met three times during the regular season, drawing twice at StubHub with Colorado winning the only meeting at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park back in March. This will be their first playoff clash since 2005.
LA Galaxy remain without Gyasi Zardes, who is out for the season, while Steven Gerrard remains a doubt as he’s struggling with a hamstring problem. Robbie Keane missed out again on Wednesday night but could make a return to the starting lineup in place of Alan Gordon if passed fit in time. Landon Donovan will be hoping to start once again.
Colorado have had longer to prepare for this game than LA and also have three key men back and available to start after overcoming injuries, with Jermaine Jones, Marlon Hairston and Bobby Burling all ready to start. Dillon Serna remains Pablo Mastroeni’s only absentee.
LA Galaxy’s last five: L/L/W/D/W
Colorado Rapids’ last five: W/W/W/L/D
Key Stat: Colorado Rapids have the best defence in MLS this season, having conceded only 32 goals in 34 games. They kept a clean sheet in two of their three meetings with LA during the regular season.
Key Player: Tim Howard – Colorado know that this is a very tricky first-leg against an experienced side who will be looking to take full advantage of the home crowd. Tim Howard will expect to be busy but he has the ability to keep the Galaxy out and if he does, the Rapids will be in a very strong position.
LA Galaxy 1-0 Colorado Rapids – This is likely to be the most tense and cagey affair of all the Conference Semifinal games on Sunday, with neither team likely to take too many risks. LA know they need to take the game to Colorado, but the Rapids are so good defensively that it will take something special for the Galaxy to seal a victory. However, they have enough talent to nick a goal and should take a small lead into next week’s game in Colorado.