The expectations were low for the Colorado Rapids in this one, to say the least. Colorado's offense was stale, they were coming off of a 4-1 loss to the Seattle Sounders, and they were finally facing an LA Galaxy team that had Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan in it. Donovan, of course, was also still going for that record-setting 135th goal, and he had to score it at some point, right?
Colorado, as they've done more than once this year, responded in a big way. Pablo Mastroeni made some very big changes to his line-up to face off against his former manager Bruce Arena, bringing in Marlon Hairston, Marc Burch and Marvell Wynne to the starting lineup. Hairston grouped with Dillon Serna and Nick Labrocca in the midfield diamond for a bit more attacking push that we were used to, while Vicente Sanchez, a midfielder by trade, was given a role as a deep lying, roaming forward.
Though the Galaxy had a spell of pressure to start the game, the first half as a whole belonged to the Rapids. Sanchez especially was tearing the Galaxy defense apart, and they seemed to have no answers as the Rapids got a truckload of chances. Eventually, it was Sanchez who broke the deadlock in the 20th minute with a crafty little chip into the top corner during the second phase of a corner kick. Deshorn Brown came close to hitting a goal of the year candidate at the end of the half in the best chance after the Sanchez goal, but his backheel hit the post to keep the game close.
Unfortunately, Sanchez's knee had clearly been tweaked throughout the entire first half, and he was forced off at halftime. Shortly after the start of the second, Hairston was also forced out after a frightening-looking collision with Jaime Penado left him on the ground with what looked like a concussion. Hopefully, it isn't all that bad, as he seemed to get better after he was taken off for Charles Eloundou.
Hairston leaving the game, along with Pablo Mastroeni having no natural midfielders on the bench for this match (the closest they had was Kamani Hill) left the Rapids with a lot less midfield possession ability as the game went along. The Galaxy, oddly enough, didn't seem interested in playing it up the middle despite that. Instead, they seemed to respond by changing their tactics to route one at first sight, lofting longballs towards Rob Friend and the rest of the gang up top. Eventually, Friend was able to win a rather soft penalty after Drew Moor put a high foot near him, but the soccer gods' karma was enough to force Robbie Keane's PK wide of the post.
Longball tactics were the order of the day for both sides after the PK miss, and both sides had their chances to add to the goal tally. Despite their best efforts though, nothing went in. 1-0 was enough for the Rapids after a nervy five minutes of stoppage.