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Galaxy is still in the chase

Donovan comes off the bench to lead the team to a 3-2 victory over Colorado, keeping L.A.'s faint playoff hopes alive.

October 13, 2008|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

Clinging by its fingernails to the cliff of Major League Soccer, the Galaxy is still hanging on.

A 3-2 victory over the Colorado Rapids at the sold-out Home Depot Center on Sunday evening not only lifted the Galaxy out of last place in the league but kept alive its flickering playoff hopes.

"We live for another day," said Coach Bruce Arena, whose team has two games left in the regular season -- on the road at Houston on Saturday and at home against Dallas on Oct. 26.

Even if it wins both those matches, the Galaxy (8-12-8) still will probably miss the playoffs.

The outcome no longer is in its own hands in a season that went south long before Arena arrived.

If the Kansas City Wizards New York Red Bulls and Real Salt Lake each win one of their remaining two games, the Galaxy is out, no matter what it does.

On Sunday, it was Landon Donovan who sparked the team to only its second victory since June. Having played the full 90 minutes in the U.S. national team's World Cup qualifying victory over Cuba in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, Donovan flew home Sunday and was on the bench for the 5 p.m. match.

"Landon volunteered," Arena said. "He called me when he arrived and said he'd be available to play. I told him to take a nap and come to the stadium and we'd see what the possibilities were."

Donovan came into the match with half an hour left to play.

The score was tied, 1-1, after first-half goals by Edson Buddle for the Galaxy -- his 14th of the season -- and Cory Gibbs for Colorado.

Donovan's mere presence lifted the Galaxy team, which first forced a Colorado error that resulted in an own-goal by defender Ugo Ihemelu off an Eddie Lewis free kick and then took a 3-1 lead when midfielder Brandon McDonald fired in a stupendous 35-yard shot for his first MLS goal.

"Landon really came in and asserted his leadership on the field and that was great to see," Arena said. "It was a fabulous effort. Hats off to Landon."

McDonald's goal was a gem.

"I just blasted it and the rest is history," he said.

Arena wasn't surprised.

"He's hit a couple of those in training too," he said.

Colorado (10-14-4) got a late consolation goal on a penalty kick by Tom McManus after a dubious handball call against Galaxy defender Troy Roberts, but it was not enough for the Rapids.

Even though the Galaxy was without David Beckham, who is still with England's national team for World Cup qualifiers, Colorado failed to take advantage and its own playoff hopes are now also hanging by a thread.

"I'm extremely disappointed," said Rapids Coach Gary Smith. "I thought we had a very good opportunity against a Galaxy team not having a great run of form and without its two most influential players.

"L.A. played with a lot more freedom, less shackled, and was a deserved winner."

The only negative for the Galaxy on Sunday was a right quadriceps injury suffered by midfielder Peter Vagenas late in the first half that forced him out of the game.

But it was McDonald who took Vagenas' place on the field and scored the eventual game-winning goal.

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grahame.jones@latimes.com

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