Half Time: Colorado Rapids-Galaxy at Home Depot Center

It was largely one-way offensive traffic in the first half of this U.S. Open Cup qualifier, with the Galaxy dominating, yet spurning, most of the opportunities that came their way.

Carlos Ruiz, taking a page from the David Beckham playbook, had the most exciting chance, spotting goalkeeper Preston Burpo out of position and sending a hard shot clunking off the post from just a yard inside the Rapids’ half. He also saw another vicious 23-yard shot parried onto the post by Burpo in the 36th minute.

Colorado actually had more shots on target (2) than the Galaxy (1), but the Galaxy looked the most dangerous team especially in the opening half hour.

Stephen Keel was forced to clear a shot off the goal line and almost scored an own goal that required a Burpo save inside the opening 10 minutes alone.

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Colorado Rapids-Galaxy at Home Depot Center

Good evening from sparsely populated Home Depot Center, where the power of the U.S. Open Cup apparently fails to match the draw of the Lakers (surprise, surprise).

As usual for the U.S. Open Cup, both teams are exploring their respective depth charts.

The Galaxy, missing both Landon Donovan and David Beckham for the first time this season, makes five changes to their starting 11.

Long-term injury victims Ante Jazic and Carlos Ruiz are back in defense and attack respectively, while veteran Pete Vagenas also returns.

Coach Ruud Gullit opts for a three-man attack, with Edson Buddle and Alan Gordon alongside Ruiz.

Rookie Ely Allen is in midfield.

The Rapids have just three holdovers from their weekend game: Kosuke Kimura, Colin Clark and Nick LaBrocca.

Conor Casey makes his first start of the season in attack, while former Chivas USA goalkeeper Preston Burpo makes a start. Rafael Gomes also makes his first start of the season in defense.

The Rapids left six starters at home including Pablo Mastroeni and Ugo Ihemelu.

Herculez Gomez is on the bench.

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Tuesday Galaxy Gameday & More

No column today after the long weekend, but the Galaxy are back in action tonight in Carson against the Colorado Rapids in a U.S. Open Cup qualifier at Home Depot Center.

Valentin played in and started two of the three U.S. matches in France, by the way, while Gavin and Jordan each started one. The U.S. lost all three games at the tournament. Long-term injury victim Pete Vagenas could also play tonight.

The Galaxy lost 4-0 to the Rapids in the season-opener and the two teams last met in the U.S. Open Cup two years ago with the Galaxy winning 3-1 to clinch a semifinal spot.

The Rapids took an early lead through Clint Mathis before Quavas Kirk equalized just before half time. Landon Donovan scored twice in extra time to give the Galaxy the victory.

There’s no TV, but I’ll blog from the game as usual.

Meanwhile, the hype is building for the U.S.-England game Wednesday with Fabio Capello naming Chelsea’s John Terry captain in a bid to cheer him up after his penalty kick miss in last week’s Champions League final.

David Beckham apparently has a good chance of playing, while Columbus Crew midfielder Frankie Hejduk has been called into the U.S. squad.

In other national team news, U.S. Women’s midfielder Leslie Osborne tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee during training at Home Depot Center last week and is out of the Olympics.

Osborne, 25, has played 60 times for the U.S., but faces up to 10 months out with the injury.

In local games this past weekend, David Estrada scored three times and Camillo Rojas added a goal and an assist as the Galaxy Rios U-20s defeated the Poway Vaqueros 6-0 at Home Depot Center Saturday. Palos Verdes Estates’ Kyle Nakazawa (UCLA) also scored as the Rios improved to 2-0-0 on the season and are alone in first place in the USL Super-20 League Pacific Southern California League.

In PDL action it was:
Bakersfield Brigade 1 Southern California Seahorses 0
Ventura County Fusion 0 San Francisco Seals 1
San Fernando Valley Quakes 0 Los Angeles Legends 5
Orange County Blue Star 3 Fresno Fuego 4

In the W-League:
Los Angeles Legends 1 Vancouver Whitecaps 2
Los Angeles Legends 0 Seattle Sounders 0

Finally, those psyching themselves up for Euro 2008 can relive the last nine finals in a condensed one-hour version of each game showing on ESPN Classic at 4 p.m. through June 5.

Tonight it’s the 1976 final between two nations that don’t exist anymore: West Germany and the Crech Republic.

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Galaxy post-game

A curious game against the Wizards with curious goals naturally led to a curious outcome: the Galaxy have a winning record for the first time since October 2005, according to MLSNet reporter Greg Dario.

Trivia time: Who was the Galaxy coach then? (Answer at end of post).

The Galaxy scored three unanswered goals to snatch their first come from behind victory of the year.

No wonder Ruud Gullit was about as happy as I’ve ever seen him, cracking jokes and then laughing heartily at them.

Best line was on Beckham’s garbage time, yet slightly wondrous goal from fully 70 yards:

“If he was to miss that, his reputation would be gone.”

Landon Donovan had a pretty good line, too:

“Maybe goalies will think twice about coming out of their goals at the end of games like that. It doesn’t help their stats.”

Gullit was effusive in praise of Donovan (calling him the key factor of the game) and unflinching in his reasoning for sitting an out of form Abel Xavier at the start of the season:

“I put Xavier on the bench to stimulate him. He was not happy about it.”

But, he acknowledged Xavier had “responded well” in his second consecutive start.

Gullit said he took Franchino out early because he was having a “difficult time,” BTW.

Aside from Beckham’s goal the two main talking points was Landon Donovan’s suspect-looking penalty kick award and Buddle’s apparently offside goal.

Wizards Coach Curt Onalfo declined comment on the quality of the referee’s decision; midfielder Sasha Victorine jumped right in:

“I don’t think it’s a penalty kick to be honest.”

Donovan disagreed, naturally, saying Tyson Wahl tripped him and observing that the Wizards defender didn’t exactly argue with the decision.

HD telecast commentator Marcelo Balboa said replays clearly showed Donovan was tripped.

However, Balboa also said replays showed that Edson Buddle was a half-yard offside on his goal, something even Buddle didn’t know about.

The Galaxy began the game in “ridiculous” fashion, Gullit said, giving the ball away too easily and looking nervous, should have “buried” the game early, but eventually won a “great victory.”

Hmmmm.

Here’s Chris Klein on why the Galaxy have played much better in the second half of games most of the time:

“It’s a very good question. The bigger question is why we haven’t played so well in the first. We’ve got to start putting 90 minutes together.”

Here’s Donovan on the Galaxy’s outlook this season given the parity/unpredictability of MLS:

“If we focus we can be very good, but if not we’ll be back with the pack.”

By the way. I’ll have more later on this week on Donovan about collecting his 100th cap against England Wednesday as well as comments from Canadian Ante Jazic about playing Brazil in Seattle later in the week.

Game story is here.

The LA Times ripped into the officiating in this one.

Finally, don’t look now, but injury-ridden Chivas USA is riding a two-game winning streak.

Chivas USA was missing eight senior players through injury.

Anaheim’s Jorge Flores had a good night: It was the second goal of the 2007 Sueo MLS winner’s career in as many games, in just his third ever match and first game as a starter.

Trivia Question answer: Steve Sampson.

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Final Result: Kansas City Wizards at Galaxy

It was neither pretty nor convincing, but the Galaxy (4-3-2) secured a 3-1 win against the Wizards (3-3-2) Saturday to go top of the Western Conference against a team that ceded more territory than the French in the Ardennes Forest in WW II.

A soft penalty won by a diving Landon Donovan (worth about an 8.5 at least) in the 54th minute and a winner by Edson Buddle that had a whiff of offside about it 20 minutes later gave the Galaxy the three points.

David Beckham added the third seconds before the end, when Kevin Hartman left his goal to come up for a last-ditch Wizards corner kick. Becks collected the clearance on the outside of his own box, dribbled up the wing, heard the crowd yelling that Hartman was well out of position, looked up and sent a long shot from about 70 yards into the empty net.

The Wizards also had a shot cleared off the line, while Buddle hit the crossbar five minutes from time.

Carlos Ruiz came on in the 86th minute and with his first touch tried to win a free kick – or penalty – in or near the Wizards box. He didn’t get the call.

Incidentally, Joe Franchino was pulled just before half time in favor of Ely Allen in what was a tactical move.

Allen was guilty of a horrendous miss on the hour mark, when Beckham squared the ball to him perfectly only to see it completely mishit just outside the box.

Back with more from the locker rooms later.

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Half Time: Kansas City Wizards at Galaxy

A lone piece of class from the Wizards’ Argentine forward Claudio Lopez was enough to separate the teams going in at the half.

Lopez, a veteran of the likes of Spain’s Valencia and Italy’s Lazio, made Brandon McDonald look hapless before slamming home his third goal of the season five minutes before half time in a move that came out of nowhere.

The Galaxy almost responded immediately, David Beckham nodding the ball past an apparently awed Michael Harrington, but not Kevin Hartman who saved from an acute angle two minutes later.

In truth that was about it for excitement.

The Galaxy didn’t look particularly sharp and as usual the Wizards were content to bunker in and look for the counter attack.

Guess that worked.

Chivas USA beat the Rapids 2-1 in Colorado tonight, with Jesse Marsch and Jorge Flores scoring.

The result means the Galaxy can top the West if they can come back to win since they will leapfrog the Rapids.

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Kansas City Wizards-Galaxy at Home Depot Center

Not surprisingly, Galaxy Coach Ruud Gullit keeps faith with the same starting 11 that shelled Dallas 5-1 last Sunday.

Steve Cronin is in goal; Chris Klein gets his MLS-record 94th consecutive start (beating Kevin Hartman’s record), along with Sean Franklin, Abel Xavier and Greg Vanney in the back. In midfield, it’s David Beckham, who jets off to England right after the game, Alvaro Pires, Brandon McDonald and Joe Franchino. Up front: hat trick hero Edson Buddle and MLS goalscoring leader Landon Donovan, who also climbs on a red-eye to England tonight for the game against the U.S..

South Bay product Kevin Hartman is in goal for the 3-3-2 Wizards, behind the same back four that drew against New York: Chance Myers, Jimmy Conrad, Tyson Wahl and Michael Harrington.

Carlos Ruiz is on the bench and available for the first time since the season opener.

In midfield, Davy Arnoud replaces Ryan Pore, alongside Jack Jewsbury, Carlos Marinelli and Sasha Victorine.

In attack are Claudio Lopez and Scott Sealey.

Chivas USA and the Colorado Rapids are without a goal in their game, incidentally, which is about 30 minutes in.

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Galaxy/Chivas USA Saturday Gameday

Galaxy Preview

Late with today’s post and in part you can blame this excellent restaurant (it’s essentially a Japanese pub/barbecue place) that is a convenient dining option (and one of the few) near Home Depot Center either before or after (it stays open late) tonight’s Galaxy game.

Especially recommended: the melt in your mouth chicken livers and the crunchy fried cartlidge (no, really).

And brace yourself if you go: We call it the “yelly restaurant.”

Kampai!

Looks to be another chilly and possibly wet evening in Carson for the Galaxy-Wizards game (no local TV for this one).

Need motivation to go to the game? Tickets are up to 50 percent off through a Ticketmaster special offer. The code to know: FANATIC.

Former Galaxy goalkeeper Kevin Hartman (UCLA, CSUDH), who grew up in the South Bay, is looking forward to the game, although not necessarily because he gets to face David Beckham for the first time:

“To be honest, I’m just looking forward to getting back to playing in front of friends and family.”

Read the whole story here.

I’ll bundle up and blog from the game.

Chivas USA Preview

Meanwhile, Chivas USA (2-4-2, 8 pts) are on the road in Colorado hoping they have enough healthy bodies to put on the field against the Western Conference-leading (4-4-0, 12 pts) Rapids (kickoff is at 6:30 p.m. on Prime).

Loyola Marymount product Bobby Burling is likely to play on his return home, though.

Chivas USA need to make a little bit of history for the second consecutive game to get a victory: the team has never won in Colorado, although the record stands at one loss and four ties.

ETC.

*The U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team dropped its second game of the Toulon International Tournament to Ivory Coast, 1-0, Friday. UCLA product conceded the penalty kick that led to the goal; Galaxy players Bryan Jordan and Michael Gavin saw action in the game, while Julian Valentin did not.

*Mexican National Team Coach Jess Rmirez announced the roster Friday for the upcoming internationals against Argentina June 4 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego and Peru four days later in Chicago:

goalkeepers Guillermo Ochoa (Club Amrica), Oswaldo Snchez (Santos), Jos de Jess Corona (Tecos); defenders Carlos Salcido (PSV Eindhoven / HOL), Johnny Magalln (CD Guadalajara), Oscar Rojas (Amrica), Ricardo Osorio (VFB Stuttgart / GER), Aarn Galindo (Eintracht Frankfurt / GER), Patricio Araujo (CD Guadalajara), Hector Moreno (AZ Alkmaar / HOL), Adrin Aldrete (Morelia), Julio Csar Domnguez (Cruz Azul); midfielders Gerardo Torrado (Cruz Azul), Francisco Arce (Santos Laguna), Andrs Guardado (Deportivo la Coruna / SPA), Antonio Naelson (Toluca), Sergio Amaury Ponce (Toluca), Luis Prez (Monterrey), Gonzalo Pineda (CD Guadalajara); forwards Carlos Vela (Osasuna), Csar Villaluz (Cruz Azul), Sergio Santana (CD Guadalajara), Edgar Andrade (Cruz Azul), Jared Borgetti (Monterrey).

The game is sold out, BTW.

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Galaxy Post-game

A curious game against the Wizards with curious goals naturally led to a curious outcome: the Galaxy have a winning record for the first time since October 2005, according to MLSNet reporter Greg Dario.

Trivia time: Who was the Galaxy coach then? (Answer at end of post).

The Galaxy scored three unanswered goals to snatch their first come from behind victory of the year.

No wonder Ruud Gullit was about as happy as I’ve ever seen him, cracking jokes and then laughing heartily at them.

Best line was on Beckham’s garbage time, yet slightly wondrous goal from fully 70 yards:

“If he was to miss that, his reputation would be gone.”

Landon Donovan had a pretty good line, too:

“Maybe goalies will think twice about coming out of their goals at the end of games like that. It doesn’t help their stats.”

Gullit was effusive in praise of Donovan (calling him the key factor of the game) and unflinching in his reasoning for sitting an out of form Abel Xavier at the start of the season:

“I put Xavier on the bench to stimulate him. He was not happy about it.”

But, he acknowledged Xavier had “responded well” in his second consecutive start.

Gullit said he took Franchino out early because he was having a “difficult time,” BTW.

Aside from Beckham’s goal the two main talking points was Landon Donovan’s suspect-looking penalty kick award and Buddle’s apparently offside goal.

Wizards Coach Curt Onalfo declined comment on the quality of the referee’s decision; midfielder Sasha Victorine jumped right in:

“I don’t think it’s a penalty kick to be honest.”

Donovan disagreed, naturally, saying Tyson Wahl tripped him and observing that the Wizards defender didn’t exactly argue with the decision.

HD telecast commentator Marcelo Balboa said replays clearly showed Donovan was tripped.

However, Balboa also said replays showed that Edson Buddle was a half-yard offside on his goal, something even Buddle didn’t know about.

The Galaxy began the game in “ridiculous” fashion, Gullit said, giving the ball away too easily and looking nervous, should have “buried” the game early, but eventually won a “great victory.”

Hmmmm.

Here’s Chris Klein on why the Galaxy have played much better in the second half of games most of the time:

“It’s a very good question. The bigger question is why we haven’t played so well in the first. We’ve got to start putting 90 minutes together.”

Here’s Donovan on the Galaxy’s outlook this season given the parity/unpredictability of MLS:

“If we focus we can be very good, but if not we’ll be back with the pack.”

By the way. I’ll have more later on this week on Donovan about collecting his 100th cap against England Wednesday as well as comments from Canadian Ante Jazic about playing Brazil in Seattle later in the week.

Game story is here.

The LA Times ripped into the officiating in this one.

Finally, don’t look now, but injury-ridden Chivas USA is riding a two-game winning streak.

Chivas USA was missing eight senior players through injury.

Anaheim’s Jorge Flores had a good night: It was the second goal of the 2007 Sueo MLS winner’s career in as many games, in just his third ever match and first game as a starter.

Trivia Question answer: Steve Sampson.

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Friday Football

*The U.S. Under-23 National Team plays the Ivory Coast at 9 a.m. today on Fox Soccer Channel from France.

*Fontana’s Maurice Edu of Toronto FC has been called into the senior national team for next week’s game against England, presumably as a replacement for the injured Benny Feilhaber.

*The Galaxy’s Ante Jazic has only just returned from injury, but the defender has been recalled by Canada’s National Team for its May 31 game against Brazil in Seattle.

*In other MLS news, former Galaxy midfielders Jovan Kirovski and Kelly Gray have joined the San Jose Earthquakes from the Colorado Rapids, with former Chivas USA reserve goalkeeper Preston Burpo moving in the opposite direction.

*ESPN has announced that Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League final between Manchester United and Chelsea – the first-ever between two English teams – was ESPN2′s highest-rated and most-watched UEFA telecast in history.

From the ESPN press release:

The telecast was seen in an average of 798,000 homes (and by 1,097,000 viewers), and received an 0.8 rating. The network’s previous UEFA record was the 2006 final, seen in 613,000 homes (and by 770,000 viewers), based on a 0.7 rating.

On ESPN Deportes, the Spanish-language telecast earned a 4.5 Hispanic coverage rating, representing 153,000 Hispanic homes, the highest rating the network has ever received.

ESPN Classic will re-air the telecast as an instant classic at 5 p.m. Saturday.

*Meanwhile, Electronic Arts’ UEFA Euro 2008 video game has gone on sale, featuring 52 teams.

From their press release:

A new game mode called Captain Your Country will enable gamers to put themselves on the pitch, earn the captaincy of their team, and truly inspire their country to glory. Gamers will be able to celebrate their success on-field through user-controlled celebrations that will add to the pageantry and atmosphere of the event.

*Cal State Northridge women’ soccer has announced the signing of eight high school seniors to letters of intent: sweeper Nicole Cruz and defender Emily Geckle (both Thousand Oaks High); goalkeeper Christina Herrera (Pasadena High); defender Marie Hirsch (Notre Dame High); midfielder Marissa Miller (Righetti High); defender Katie Russ (Canyon High); midfielder Brielle Slepicoff (Saugus High); and midfielder Sinead Vaughan (Royal High).

*Only two local PDL games scheduled this weekend.

At 7:30 tonight the San Fernando Valley Quakes play at Los Angeles Legends.

At 7 p.m. Saturday, it’s the Bakersfield Brigade at Southern California Seahorses at La Mirada High.

*The Women’s Premier Soccer League begins play locally this weekend.

Games scheduled locally:
Saturday- Ajax America Women- Los Angeles Rampage at noon at Nansen Field in Rolling Hills Estates.
San Diego WFC SeaLions- West Coast FC at 7 p.m. at Cathedral Catholic High in San Juan Capistrano.
Claremont Stars- SD United at 5:30 p.m. at Claremont High School.

*Finally, if you thought MLS officiating was bad, check this out.

Have a great weekend.

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