After dropping two critical points on the road, Bruce Arena's Los Angeles Galaxy will hope that fortune smiles on them on Friday when they host the Colorado Rapids at the Home Depot Center.
The Galaxy may have the best record in Major League Soccer at 14-3-10 (52 points), but with so many points dropped at and away from Victoria Street, the likes of the rival Seattle Sounders are holding sway.
One obvious key to Friday's match is for Los Angeles to hang on to a lead as well as to play a complete 90 minutes of football. Actually, those are two obvious keys.
"We got a good second goal and you think at that point we’re just going to say ‘Listen, we’re on the road, it’s one of those nights, don’t give up another goal and get out of here.’ We didn’t get it done," Arena told MLSSoccer.com's Luis Bueno on Monday after their 2-2 draw with Sporting Kansas City. "We made too many individual mistakes, too many mental mistakes over the last ten minutes or so."
Team captain/midfielder Landon Donovan was also one to find excuses for the club laying an egg against Sporting.
"It always happens this time of the year - teams are fighting for playoff spots," Donovan said. "We certainly know that every time we come into an environment like this where a team is fighting for their playoff lives, that’s what it’s going to look like and we did a good job matching that tonight."
One player that was not available was forward Robbie Keane, whose presence up top was sorely missed due to international team obligations to the Republic of Ireland and their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign. Keane is expected to be available for Friday night's contest, which will be televised at 8 p.m. PT/11 p.m. ET by Fox Soccer Channel.
Gary Smith's Colorado Rapids, the defending MLS Cup Champions, are currently 10-7-11, and occupy one of the four wild card spots in this year's playoffs. In their last meeting with the Galaxy, the Rapids fell 3-1 at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado.
Drew Moor scored an own goal in the 28th minute, Juninho made it 2-0 in the 42nd minute, and while Conor Casey pulled on back in the 64th minute, Chad Barrett put the game out of reach in the 80th minute of play.
Casey, however, is sidelined for the rest of the year, which means that other players have stepped up in his absence. Three of those players are Caleb Folan, Omar Cummings and Jeff Larentowicz.
Folan and Larentowicz each have six goals this season while Cummings leads the team in assists with six.
Defensively, the back line of Moor, Kosuke Kimura, Marvell Wynne and Tyrone Marshall have a tough assignment in marking Keane, although they may have an easier time with Adam Cristman, whose passing has yet to shine this year.
Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens has a record of 10-7-11 with a 1.29 goals against average, a 63.5 percent save percentage and 61 saves to his credit. His counterpart, Galaxy netminder Josh Saunders, has an 8-2-4 record to go with a 1.13 goals against average, a 72.7 save percentage and 40 saves to his credit.
Frankie Hejduk is arguably the weakest link in a porous Galaxy backline that features A.J. DeLaGarza, Todd Dunivant and Omar Gonzalez. The Rapids will hope that a miscue inside the box gives Colorado a surprise ascendancy. Look for Larentowicz and Pablo Mastroeni to delive through balls that break this defense down.
Otherwise, the 1-2 combo of Donovan and midfielder David Beckham will be a talking point of this match. Donovan leads LA in goals with 11, while Beckham leads the club in assists with 12. With Keane returning to the forefront, as well as Chris Birchall, the Galaxy will have all hands on deck on Friday.
It's a tough contest to pick a winner in, but I will go with the Galaxy due to Keane's return. Keane was sorely missed against Sporting Kansas City, and the skills he brings to this club will help Los Angeles get back on the winning track.
Los Angeles Galaxy 3, Colorado Rapids 1