Galaxy clinches playoff berth win 1-0 win over Rapids
What has been assumed for months finally became official Friday: The Galaxy is going to the MLS playoffs.
With Landon Donovan scoring the only goal late in the first half, the Galaxy beat the defending MLS Cup champion Colorado Rapids, 1-0, at the Home Depot Center, becoming the first team to claim a spot in the 10-team postseason field.
And while that might be something worth celebrating in most places, Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena all but pretended not to notice.
“It’s an accomplishment,” he said. “But we think we should be able to make the playoffs every year.”
Which isn’t to say the Galaxy has nothing left to play for. There’s the Supporters’ Shield and home-field advantage in the playoffs, both of which go to the team that finishes with the best regular-season record. The Galaxy, with 55 points, has a seven-point lead over Seattle with six matches left.
“The most important things for us right now are certainly to protect ourselves in terms of home field in the playoffs,” Arena said. “And that means we need to win games. Those are the things we’re focused on.”
They’re also focused on trying to get through the next three weeks without injury or undue fatigue. Between the MLS schedule and CONCACAF Champions League play, the Galaxy won’t have anything longer than a three-day break in mid-October, two weeks before the playoffs begin.
“We have a number of players that I think can help us that have not played a whole lot to date,” Arena said. “Obviously we’re going to be counting on them over the next month.”
The Galaxy began working on that rotation Friday, giving defender Bryan Jordan and forward Paolo Cardozo their first starts in more than two months while welcoming keeper Donovan Ricketts back after a 10-week absence caused by a broken bone in his left forearm.
But that did little to slow the Galaxy, who outshot the Rapids, 12-2, in the first half yet had just a goal to show for it. That score came in the 36th minute after Chad Barrett rolled a centering pass to Sean Franklin, who drew two defenders toward him before dumping the ball off to Donovan, unmarked at the top of the 18-yard box on the left wing.
From there Donovan had no trouble beating Colorado keeper Matt Pickens and tying New York’s Thierry Henry atop the MLS scoring table with 12 goals apiece.
The Galaxy — whose passes were cleaner and whose possessions were crisper than Colorado’s all night — continued to toy with the Rapids in the second half, though its inability to finish no doubt troubled Arena.
And it almost cost the Galaxy when Wells Thompson beat Ricketts on a rebound shortly after the intermission. But Thompson was clearly offside and the goal was waved off, preserving the Galaxy’s 14th shutout in 28 matches.
“This is a very good win for our team,” Arena said. “To win the MLS Cup you have to be in the playoffs. And we’re in the playoffs.”
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