Colorado Rapids-Galaxy at Home Depot Center

The Galaxy (4-4-2) can leap frog the Rapids (5-5-0) and claim first place in the Western Conference tonight with a win over a team they’ve lost to twice already this season.

Landon Donovan is away on international duty with the U.S., while David Beckham has returned from England.

Coach Ruud Gullit has Steve Cronin in goal as usual, but makes two changes to the back four.

Abel Xavier moves into central defense in place of a benched Troy Roberts, while Mike Randolph moves back from midfield to left back for Greg Vanney, who is also on the bench.

That allows Pete Vagenas to make his first start in midfield since the 4-0 loss to the Rapids on the opening day of the season, slotting in alongside David Beckham, Alvaro Pires and Ely Allen. Joe Franchino and Brandon McDonald also drop to the bench.

Up front it’s Alan Gordon and Edson Buddle, with Carlos Ruiz (who played 90 minutes for Guatemala in midweek, losing 2-0 to Chile) on the bench, too.

The Galaxy are looking to break a string of two consecutive losses, both suffered without both Donovan and Beckham. Gullit looks to be sending his troops a message with the major changes.

Rapids Coach Fernando Clavijo has a much more settled lineup, although Pablo Mastroeni is with the U.S. team.

Former Chivas USA goalkeeper Preston Burpo gets the start again because of the continued absence of Senegal’s Bouna Coundoul for World Cup qualifying.

Jordan Harvey is drafted into an otherwise stable back four with Ugo Ihemelu, Facundo Erpen and Rafael Gomes.

In midfield it’s Jacob Peterson, Christian Gomez, Nick LaBrocca and Colin Clark.

Tom McManus and Conor Casey start up front for the second consecutive game with Herculez Gomez and Terry Cooke both on the bench.

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About Nick Green

South Bay-based Los Angeles News Group columnist and blogger Nick Green writes about soccer at the 100 Percent Soccer blog at www.insidesocal.com/soccer and craft beer at the Beer Goggles blog at www.insidesocal.com/beer. Cheers!