MLS Playoffs Preview and Prediction: LA Galaxy vs Colorado Rapids

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

Match Preview

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.

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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.

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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.

Team News

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.

Key Points

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.

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Score Prediction

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.

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MLS Preview and Prediction: Houston Dynamo vs Colorado Rapids

Competition: Major League Soccer – Houston Dynamo vs. Colorado Rapids

Venue: BBVA Compass Stadium – Saturday, October 8 – 20:30 ET (01:30 BST) 

Match Odds: Houston 11/10 – Draw 23/10 – Colorado 23/10

Match Preview

Houston Dynamo take on the Colorado Rapids on Saturday in this weekend’s lone MLS clash in what is an important battle in the West.

It may be international week, but neither of these sides have any call-ups to contend with and so an intriguing battle is expected to take place on Saturday evening.

Houston’s 2-0 loss to NYCFC last time out effectively ended their playoff hopes. They looked to be mounting a late-season surge, but they failed to register a single shot on target in that defeat and will likely struggle against a strong Colorado side here.

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The Dynamo are rock bottom of the Western Conference, 11 points off the playoff spots with four games to play so it’s all about preparing for 2017 now.

On the other hand, Colorado are still fighting for the MLS Supporters’ Shield. They are five points behind league leaders FC Dallas but have two games in hand over the Texan side.

A win in Houston on Saturday would move the Rapids to within two points of FCD, setting up what should be a thrilling end to the regular season.

After struggling for the past couple of seasons, 2016 has been a fantastic year for Colorado. They have the best defence in the league and have only suffered five defeats all season.

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They come into Saturday’s game unbeaten in four and are expected to prove too strong for the Dynamo in what could be a low-scoring affair.

These two sides will meet again on the final day of the regular season at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, in a game that could see the Rapids crowned Supporters’ Shield winners.

Team News

Houston Dynamo have two players sidelined, with Tyler Deric and Agus both out. Midfielder Alex is one booking away from suspension and will need to watch his step as a result.

Colorado Rapids could be without five first-team players. Dillon Serna, Jermaine Jones and Bobby Burling are all definitely out, while Kevin Doyle and Sean St Ledger are doubts. Sam Cronin, Marc Burch and Dominique Badji are all one booking away from suspension.

Key Points

Houston Dynamo’s last five: L/D/W/W/L

Colorado Rapids’ last five: L/W/D/D/W

Key Stat: Houston Dynamo have lost just one of their ten all-time regular season home clashes against the Rapids, with that lone loss coming in the 2011 campaign.

Key Player: Tim Howard – The signing of Tim Howard turned the Rapids into a real force. Their defensive solidarity is proven by the fact they have kept 13 clean sheets this season – the most in MLS, and Howard is a key reason for that. He has three clean sheets in his last four and will expect to keep Houston out on Saturday night.

Tim Howard, MLS: New York City FC vs. Colorado Rapids

Score Prediction

Houston Dynamo 0-1 Colorado Rapids – The Rapids have the best defence in the league and should be able to keep a clean sheet against a side that tend to struggle for goals. This might not be the most entertaining of games but a Rapids win would put them in a strong position at the top end of the Western Conference heading into their final three games.

Getting Stuck In: The American definition of “world class”

The Getting Stuck In column delves into some of the more intriguing aspects in US Soccer and MLS, shining a light on the stories regarding the league’s teams and its most-loved characters. This week Dave Lewis looks into whether the U.S. have ever produced a world-class soccer player and looks at three candidates…

When will the U.S. produce a world-class soccer player? It’s a fair question. We haven’t come close and probably won’t unless we get some of our best athletes from American football (throwball) and basketball to make the switch to soccer. We need the Stephen Curry’s and Russell Wilson’s of the world to fall in love with the game at six years old, see the financial potential of soccer (MLS would likely need to trash the salary cap), and then maybe, just maybe, we could produce a world-class player.

But wait. On further inspection, maybe we have produced a world-class player. Ok, maybe not an outfield player, but what about a goalkeeper?

People in the know say Americans make great net-minders because of the hand-eye coordination it takes to play basketball, baseball and American football – the three sports most commonly played by youngsters when growing up. It’s why there have been three American goalkeepers who I would categorise as “world class.” We are not talking Ronaldo or Messi calibre here, but within the ‘keeper fraternity, there are three top guys: Tim Howard, Brad Friedel and Kasey Keller. Let me make a case for each one:

Brad Friedel

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Friedel is one of my favourite U.S. players to have played the game. He comes from Ohio but has a legit English accent to this day due to his lengthy playing career in England. The man owns a ton of Premier League records playing for Liverpool, Blackburn, Aston Villa and Tottenham. He makes many people’s top 10 list for the best Premier League goalkeepers of all time. But his most impressive work came with the U.S. Men’s National Team, most notably during the 2002 World Cup when the U.S. made a magical run to the quarterfinals. Friedel was arguably the best ‘keeper in the tournament behind Germany’s Oliver Kahn. In that tournament Friedel made two non-shootout penalty saves, which is almost unheard of at such a high level. Kahn was out of his mind, making world-class save after world-class save, but Friedel was not far behind.

You probably need to win a World Cup to be considered truly world class in today’s game, but look at a player like Iker Casillas. He’s a World Cup winner but has looked terrible for a few years now – have you seen him with Porto lately? Friedel was at the top of his game well into his late 30’s and early 40’s. Longevity, class, talent and one of the most accurate long kicks in the world surely mean Friedel was knocking on the door of being labelled world class.

Kasey Keller

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I put Keller slightly behind Friedel. But only slightly. His cat-like reflexes and cool demeanor made him a fan-favourite when he was with Millwall. And we all know how tough those fans can be. He played with Tottenham and Borussia Monchengladbach as well as Fulham and Leicester City during his time in Europe. But he was best known for being capped with the USMNT 102 times. The highlight of his career came in a historic win over Brazil, in which he made a staggering 13 saves, many from point-blank range. This prompted Romario to say: “That is the best performance by a goalkeeper I have ever seen.” Keller was a real good guy, who was a leader, great communicator and was able to dictate the pace of the game from the back. So what if he sulked at times for not being picked as first choice? We have all done that.

Tim Howard

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Yes, we all know about the record 16 saves made against Belgium in the 2014 World Cup, which says a lot about Howard but more about the questionable U.S. backline. But it’s his club career where he has really distinguished himself. He was bought by Manchester United and played incredibly well during his first year, being named to the best XI in the Premier League. Unfortunately Alex Ferguson (the manager) never forgave him for blowing it in the Champions League against Porto. He was buried, and to make it even worse, was replaced by the great (insert sarcasm here) Roy Carroll. Everton signed Timmy and boy, was that good business! He has appeared in over 350 games for the Toffees over a ten-year period, making save after save on his way to becoming endeared by the Goodison Park faithful. His shot-stopping ability is world class. Unfortunately his work on crosses is not as good as it could be. That’s why he is third on this list behind Keller and Friedel. But hey, nobody’s perfect.

I may never see another crop of American goalkeepers like Friedel, Keller and Howard in my lifetime. But what concerns me is that the next star between the sticks is yet to step forward. Friedel and Keller have retired. Howard’s form has slipped to the point of backup and he is set to return to MLS with the Colorado Rapids this summer.

What about Guzan? Good start to his Villa career, not so good this year. Sean Johnson? Bill Hamid? Good MLS ‘keepers but not worth mentioning, even though I just did. Cody Cropper may be in line for greatness, but right now he is playing for Championship side Milton Keynes Dons.

Wow, I just got a world class headache.

From MLS to Premier League, and back again – has Tim Howard still got what it takes?

USA international goalkeeper Tim Howard looks set to join MLS side Colorado Rapids from Everton, according to reports by ESPN FC.

First appearing in MLS in 1998 for MetroStars (now the New York Red Bulls), Howard then moved to Manchester United in 2003, before signing for Everton in 2007 after a year-long loan spell.

After 13 years of service in the Premier League, he’s finally returning home to the USA for a transfer fee believed to be in the region of $600-750k.

Howard will reportedly sign a contract with the Rapids until 2019, which will see him earn around $2 million per-year.

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It comes after initial reports had indicated that he was after a deal that would have seen him receive an annual salary of $5m.

Either way, he’s about to become the highest-paid goalkeeper in MLS, but the question is, is he really worth it?

Here’s a look at his Premier League stats over the last four seasons:

Tim Howard's Premier League stats since 2012 (via Squawka)

Tim Howard’s Premier League stats since 2012 (via Squawka)

Despite enduring one of his more uncomfortable seasons between the sticks for Everton so far, including losing his place in the side to Joel Robles, Howard has maintained a fairly consistent level of performance.

A closer look at the stats shows that he’s actually performed better in some areas this season than he did in the last campaign, with a higher clean sheet percentage and more saves-per-goal, although he has conceded more goals-per-game.

The 2013/14 season was particularly outstanding, but if you compare this year to 2012/13, his numbers are very similar, so he hasn’t gone downhill over the course of time.

The 36-year-old has been a stalwart for both club and country over the years, making more than 400 appearances for Everton and gaining 106 caps for the US national side, including being part of the 2006, 2010 and 2014 World Cup squads.

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He also made 77 appearances for Manchester United, winning the FA Cup and League Cup during his three-year tenure with the Red Devils.

Verdict: Tim Howard will be an excellent signing for the Colorado Rapids and provides stability, experience and most importantly, top quality goalkeeping. He’s bound to be a hit in MLS and could provide the Rapids with performances that make the difference between winning and losing games.

Howard’s transfer from Everton to Colorado Rapids is expected to go through when the MLS summer transfer window opens in July, meaning he will remain with the Toffees until the end of the Premier League season.

Will Tim Howard be a good signing for Colorado Rapids?

Tim Howard ‘wants $5m per season’ to make MLS switch to Colorado

The Colorado Rapids are continuing their pursuit of Everton and USMNT star Tim Howard, but the latest reports suggest the 36-year-old goalkeeper wants almost $20 million over four seasons if he is to return to Major League Soccer.

Howard currently earns around £70,000 per week at Everton – just short of $100,000 dollars-a-week – and wants to remain on the same sort of money if he is to return stateside, according to The Sun.

The report also claims the 2001 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year is also looking for a four-year contract if a move to Colorado is completed, meaning he is looking for around $5 million per season until 2020.

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It’s tough to know how accurate these figures are but it is clear that the Rapids remain in the hunt to sign the 106-time capped US International.

Howard has over two years remaining on his Everton contract and so a transfer fee might also be required to complete a switch to Colorado in the immediate future.

He has made 23 Premier League appearances for the Toffees this term, keeping six clean sheets but faces competition from Joel Robles.

Is Tim Howard worth $5 million per season?

Tim Howard has no MLS plans, wants to end career with Everton

US Men’s National Team goalkeeper Tim Howard has reiterated that he plans to end his career with Everton despite rumours suggesting that he could be set for a return to Major League Soccer before retiring.

Howard signed a contract extension with the Premier League club last April that will see him remain in England until the summer of 2018, at which point the shot-stopper will be 39.

And the former Metrostars star has no plans of leaving the Toffees before the end of that deal, confirming to CNN that he wants to end his career with Everton.

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“It’s the club that I love. It’s been a brilliant relationship with myself and the chairman and both managers – and with the fans,” Howard said.

“It’s a place where I can achieve the things I want to achieve and push myself every day and I am still hungry for the game.

“All of the questions I have been looking for in my career have been answered here. So I think I would like to finish here and then be done.

“I’m living the good life here at Everton and I don’t think I really need to change the scenery.”

The summer that Howard’s Everton contract expires sees the 2018 World Cup take place in Russia and the USMNT hero from last summer’s tournament has his eyes set on the competition as a career finale.

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“I don’t know how it’s going to end but my plan is to certainly be part of a US team that qualifies for Russia and to be in Russia and be part of that team,” the 35-year-old ‘keeper added.

“How it works with selection and my standing within the team, it’s hard to say this far out. But my passion, my drive is to be there, then fly home and finish and go to the beach.”

Howard is currently taking a year away from international duty in order to spend more time with his two children though he is fully focused on returning to Jurgen Klinsmann’s side when his sabbatical ends, adding that he missed be a part of the USMNT setup.

Will Tim Howard still be the starting goalkeeper for the USMNT at the World Cup in 2018?

Tim Howard edging closer to MLS return as Everton look to Caballero – report

Tim Howard could be set to return to Major League Soccer this summer to finish his career as Everton are looking to bring in Manchester City goalkeeper Willy Caballero as the American’s replacement, according to a report in the Daily Star.

Howard has been the latest US Men’s National Team hero to be linked with a move back to MLS but his contact with Everton runs until 2018, as he recently signed an extension.

Though the Toffees might be looking at moving on their shot-stopper a lot sooner than anticipated with the latest reports suggesting Roberto Martinez wants to bring Caballero to Goodison Park at the end of the current Premier League season.

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Howard has been linked with a move to New York City FC, LA Galaxy, Toronto FC and Sporting Kansas City though the 35-year-old would surely demand Designated Player status were he to return to his homeland.

Only New York City and Sporting KC currently have a slot free and those two clubs are believed to be keen on acquiring Howard if the opportunity presents itself.

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A transfer fee would have to be paid to sign the former MetroStars as he has three years remaining on his Everton deal and his signing would prove to be a hefty investment in a league where the goalkeeping position is not usually one to use a DP slot on.

If Caballero does indeed join the Blues in the summer, Howard would likely want to leave Everton after nine years in order to play regular football for the final few years of his successful career.

Will we see Tim Howard return to MLS this summer?

Is an MLS return for Tim Howard a realistic possibility?

US Men’s National Team hero and Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard is the latest American to be linked with a return to Major League Soccer with the LA Galaxy, New York City FC and Toronto FC all interested, according to the Daily Mail.

Howard’s heroics at the World Cup last summer inspired a nation as the 35-year-old put in some of the most incredible goalkeeping displays ever seen on the biggest stage of all, and so a return to MLS would certainly excite the entire population of US soccer fans.

The problem is that Howard only recently signed a contract extension with Premier League side Everton that will take him through to 2018, when he will then be 39 and set for retirement.

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[Howard has made 370 appearances with Everton, keeping 123 clean sheets]

The Toffees are believed to be looking at long-term options to replace the shot-stopper who has been with the team for nine years, with Cardiff’s David Marshall and Orjan Nyland of Molde both linked with Everton.

If Howard were to return to MLS now a transfer fee would have to be agreed, because of his extended contract, and Howard would surely demand high wages that would make him a Designated Player.

Teams don’t tend to use DP slots on defensive players, especially goalkeepers, and so it would be a major investment in a position that doesn’t necessarily require a player of enormous quality.

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Two of the teams reportedly interested, LA Galaxy and Toronto FC, have already filled all three DP slots so a move for Howard is out of the question for now at least.

That leaves New York City FC, who have also been linked with Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas, but it would be a bold move to use their final DP slot on a goalkeeper for their inaugural season in MLS.

It would be great to see Howard finish his career in MLS after such success in Europe but it would appear to be more of a hope than a realistic possibility at this stage.

Should Tim Howard finish his career in MLS? Which club would he join?

Tim Howard named as US Soccer Male Athlete of the Year

Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard has been named as the US Soccer Male Athlete of the Year after beating off competition from a number of fellow USMNT stars to claim the award.

Howard beat Kyle Beckerman, Alejandro Bedoya, Clint Dempsey, Fabian Johnson and Jermaine Jones to the award by picking up 64% of the votes, with MLS duo Jones and Beckerman in second and third places respectively.

The 35-year-old is currently taking a leave of absence from the National team after some incredible displays at the World Cup in Brazil this summer, but he certainly earned the award, which he also claimed in 2008.

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2014 saw Howard make eight international appearances in a year which also saw the shot-stopper earn his 100th cap for the USA.

The Everton ‘keeper picked up two Man of the Match awards during the World Cup and set a competition record for most saves in a single match with an extraordinary 16.

Howard becomes the fifth player to win Male Athlete of the Year on multiple occasions, joining defender Marcelo Balboa (1992, 1994), goalkeeper Kasey Keller (1997, 1999 and 2005), forward Landon Donovan (2003, 2004, 2009 and 2010) and forward Clint Dempsey (2007, 2011 and 2012).

Do you think Tim Howard deserves to be named as US Soccer Male Athlete of the Year for 2014?

Stats: Howard vs Guzan – Who has been better this season?

The USA’s top two goalkeeper’s are set to go head-to-head when Everton welcome Aston Villa to Goodison Park as the Premier League returns following the international break this weekend.

The Toffees come into the game in poor form, having failed to win in their last five in all competitions, but they will be confident of getting a result against a Villa side that has lost its last three league games without scoring a goal.

Tim Howard will hope to earn his first home clean sheet of the campaign against his fellow USMNT goalkeeper Brad Guzan, who has taken the number one spot in Klinsmann’s team while Howard has a break from international football.

Statistic Tim Howard Brad Guzan
Appearances 7 7
Clean sheets 1 3
Goals conceded 16 9
Saves/game 2.43 2.71
Punches/game 0.29 0.57
Successful catches/game 2.29 1.00
Accurate goal kicks/game 5.43 3.86

Howard has endured a tough start to the new season, and has conceded 16 times in his first seven matches, a significantly worse record than Guzan so far.

The Villa ‘keeper has conceded nine in the same number of games, but Everton’s defence is considerably stronger on paper, and Howard is maybe struggling with a ‘World Cup hangover’ after such excellent displays in Brazil.

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Guzan has made more saves per game this season, and tends to punch the ball away from danger more often that Howard too, but the Everton shot-stopper is much better at catching the ball, and is also more accurate with his feet.

The game at Goodison Park this weekend looks set to be a good one as both sides are desperate to find some form after the break, and whichever US goalkeeper performs best will likely see his team succeed.

Who has been more impressive this season – Guzan or Howard?