<
>

MLS WEEK 17: Galaxy meets an old rival

Before Chivas USA arrived in 2005, the L.A. Galaxy counted two teams as rivals: D.C. United, which it twice met (and lost to) in MLS Cups in Major League Soccer's first four seasons, and the San Jose Earthquakes, a natural fit into the longstanding L.A.-Bay Area feud.

The Quakes were the Galaxy's true archrival until they moved to Houston in 2006, but the battle hasn't been the same since San Jose's return in 2008 with an expansion team that kept the name, colors, logo and (officially) history of its forerunner.

It might be as sizzling as in the early-2000s heyday -- when the Quakes and Galaxy combined for four MLS Cup titles in five years -- if the games meant more. Neither team was very good in 2008, and San Jose hasn't been nearly as fine as L.A. these past two seasons.

Now the Quakes (6-4-4) are squarely in the playoff chase, sitting fifth in the Western Conference with 22 points -- just three behind third-place FC Dallas -- heading into Thursday night's clash with L.A. (12-2-3) at Home Depot Center.

There is overlap between the clubs: Frank Yallop took charge of San Jose, his second stint with the Quakes, after L.A. dumped him following the 2007 season. Some San Jose fans remain angry with Landon Donovan, who left their team to play in Germany, then returned four months later to join the Galaxy. L.A. defender Todd Dunivant and San Jose goalkeeper Joe Cannon have played for both sides.

And the Quakes would like it to be a rivalry again.

“I think I saw an article about a month ago, with them kind of talking about this game, looking forward to playing it and trying to keep pace with us, all that kind of stuff,” Dunivant said. “We've been on their radar, so they're going to be up for it. …

“These days, (the rivalry) is a little bit different than it used to be, but we still have that California rivalry, and I think it will heat up a little bit this time around. The last couple of years, with them being an expansion team, it's been a little bit different, but now they've got their feet under the.”

This week's slate (all times PDT):

THURSDAY, JUNE 22

San Jose Earthquakes (6-4-4, 22 points) at L.A. Galaxy (12-2-3, 39 points), Home Depot Center (Carson), 7:30 p.m., ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes

Midfielder Dema Kovalenko could return to the Galaxy lineup for the first time since April 1. He has been out because of a hamstring strain and played for the first time in three months in L.A.'s U.S. Open Cup loss at Seattle on July 7. The Galaxy has won only two of its past six games and posted only one shutout in its past seven against MLS opposition after turning in clean sheets in 12 of its first 14 games, friendlies included. The Quakes are unbeaten since MLS's World Cup break began -- three MLS games, five including friendlies -- but have won only once in that span, against expansion Philadelphia.

SATURDAY, JUNE 24

FC Dallas (6-2-7, 25 points) at Toronto FC (6-5-4, 22 points), BMO Field (Toronto), 1 p.m., MLS Direct Kick

Toronto FC hasn't lost at home in nearly a year, but the Reds have only one victory in their past seven games of any stripe and saw their six-game MLS unbeaten streak end with last weekend's loss at Philadelphia. Spanish striker Mista, who debuted in Wednesday's draw against English club Bolton, adds to the attack. FC Dallas hasn't lost a league game on the road since April 17, is on a six-game unbeaten tear and is 6-1-4 -- with just six goals surrendered -- since May 1. Colombian striker Milton Rodriguez was superb in his first game for the Hoops, playing atop a 4-1-4-1 formation. Bruno Guarda figures to get a recall in midfield for injured Dax McCarty.

Houston Dynamo (5-7-4, 19 points) at Columbus Crew (9-3-4, 31 points), Crew Stadium (Columbus, Ohio), 4:30 p.m., MLS Direct Kick

The Dynamo have won five of their last 13 games, but none of those victories have been in league action. They're winless in their past six MLS encounters, including a 0-0 draw with the Crew two weeks ago in Houston. This is their ninth match in the past month, and Wednesday's brutal SuperLiga clash with Puebla -- 12 cards, 35 fouls -- has worn them down. The Crew has been up and down the past month or so, but when tested in a first-place Eastern Conference showdown last week with New York, they came out 2-0 winners. Brian Carroll is out with an ankle sprain. Frankie Hejduk is serving a red-card suspension, which may give speedy rookie Shaun Francis his first start.

Chivas USA (4-9-2, 14 points) at Real Salt Lake (9-4-3, 30 points), Rio Tinto Stadium (Sandy, Utah), 7 p.m., FSN Prime Ticket and KWHY/Channel 22

The Goats are a far different team than when they last played a league game, the 2-0 win over K.C. two weeks ago (to end a seven-game MLS winless span): Venezuelan forward Giancarlo Maldonado and Mexican winger Rodolfo Espinoza impressed at times, Espinoza more so, during SuperLiga, and Paulo Nagamura's return adds bite and creativity in midfield. Coach Martin Vasquez has plenty of midfield options -- more when Sal Zizzo becomes eligible -- and if that's a big plus in the long haul, Chivas needs a few games to sort things out. Perhaps the biggest question: What will be rookie sensation Blair Gavin's role? RSL lost its 10-game MLS unbeaten streak with a loss last week at even-hotter FC Dallas, twice hitting the goal frame.

SUNDAY, JUNE 25

Colorado Rapids (6-4-5, 23 points) at Seattle Sounders (5-8-4, 19 points), Qwest Field (Seattle), 7:30 p.m., Fox Soccer Channel (live) and Fox Sports en EspaƱol (delayed, 8:30 p.m.)

The Sounders' search to turn things around seems to be centering on its two biggest attacking stars. The biggest, Swedish midfielder Freddie Ljungberg, has probably played his last game in Seattle: He has been a divisive force for the team, and is looking for opportunities elsewhere. The other is forward Fredy Montero, who has returned to form in the past six games, scoring three goals and assisting four more. Congolese-born Swiss forward Blaise Nkufo is eligible. Colorado has lost only once in eight games since a mid-May loss to the Galaxy, but it hasn't won in their past five and was abysmal in the first half of last week's draw against Kansas City. A halftime switch to a 4-4-2 alignment, with Omar Cummings joining Conor Casey up front and the insertion of Jamie Smith and Claudio Lopez in midfield, worked wonders, and the Rapids would have won had Casey not hit the crossbar while facing an open net in the 89th minute.