The Galaxy's depleted lineup was without another star Saturday, not that it mattered. L.A. didn't much need David Beckham, who was left home because of back spasms, to take down reigning MLS Cup champion Colorado, using an own goal, a superb Juninho strike and a late Chad Barrett tally in a 3-1 victory in Commerce City, Colo.
Beckham suffered back spasms in training Tuesday, right after returning from a whirlwind trip to London on 2012 Olympic duty, spent most of Wednesday in bed, then failed to train Thursday and Friday. With captain Landon Donovan and goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts off at the CONCACAF Gold Cup, where their teams (U.S. and Jamaica) meet in a quarterfinal Sunday, didn't it leave L.A. (9-2-7), well, shorthanded?
Don't suggest that to Galaxy coach Bruce Arena.
“It is a team game. If you are missing players, you are missing players -- it is all a part of it ...,” he said. “We were not shorthanded today. If we would have lost today, our excuse could not have been that we were missing players. They were missing some players as well, but I think that our team played well.
“It is a team game, and we don’t put our heads down when we are missing someone.”
Juninho, just back from his Brazilian wedding, took charge with Beckham out, scoring a brilliant goal at the end of the first half and setting up Barrett's clincher despite a sore right ankle after a Caleb Folan challenge that drew a red card and left the Rapids (5-4-7) with just 10 men for the final 16 minutes plus stoppage.
The Galaxy went ahead on a Drew Moor own goal that finished a fine sequence that started deep in L.A. territory and turned on Sean Franklin's ball up the right flank that Juan Pablo Angel sliced between two defenders to send Chris Birchall racing toward the byline.
Birchall got to the ball just as it reached the endline -- the Rapids argued that it had crossed the line -- and a sliding Moor booted the Englishman's feed into the net.
Juninho's 35-yard rocket made it 2-0 in the 42nd minute, and Barrett's 80th-minute strike answered a Conor Casey goal in the 64th.
A quick look at the Galaxy's victory:
BEST PLAYER: Juninho was the best player on the field (with possibly one exception), taking charge in midfield and making plays both ways, scoring a sensational goal and starting the sequence that led to Barrett's strike with a takeaway, quick burst forward and defense-splitting ball to Todd Dunivant.
The possible exception: Omar Cummings, who came off the bench at halftime -- his first appearance since May 4 -- and injected some life into the Rapids, who were the better team in the second half until Folan's red card after looking well out of sorts in the first half. “He showed all of the qualities that we’ve been missing in the last five or six weeks,” Rapids coach Gary Smith said.
BEST GOAL: Juninho's third long-range blast of the campaign was his best -- and the sweetest goal the Galaxy have scored all year. He picked up a clearance in open space about 45 yards from the net, dribbled toward the box and unleashed a 35-yard bullet to the upper-left corner.
It'll be a contender for Goal of the Week and might be on a short list of MLS's best strikes this season, but it won't beat Eric Hassli's jaw-dropper from Vancouver's draw last week against Seattle for Goal of the Year honors.
BIGGEST STRUGGLE: The Galaxy looked good after subpar performances in draws with D.C. United and Toronto FC, especially Juninho and the work defensively to close down Colorado the first 45 minutes. They didn't manage as well once Cummings came on and, with his speed and inspiration, lifted the Rapids' game considerably.
Casey did well after Cummings hit the left post to get inside A.J. DeLaGarza and deposit the rebound, which pulled the Rapids to within one goal, and they might have found the equalizer and perhaps more had Folan not taken what appeared to be a harsh red card in the 74th.
WORTH NOTING: Dunivant wore the captain's armband for the Galaxy. … Central defender Gregg Berhalter made his season debut, coming on near the end for DeLaGarza. … Colorado winger Jamie Smith was a pregame scratch after failing a fitness test in warmups. He's been dealing with a calf strain. … Casey's goal was his third in four games. … The Galaxy has petitioned MLS to add an assist for Juninho on Barrett's goal.
FINAL JUDGMENT: “We had Birchall get down the right side a couple of times and got some dangerous balls in,” Arena said. “He got a ball in there and it was difficult for Drew Moor, and he put it in his own goal. Sometimes that’s what happens when you put the defense in that position. Juninho’s strike was a special one. A two-goal cushion going to the second half, and Colorado certainly came out hard. They got their goal, and we hung on. The red card certainly helped us as well. It was a good, intelligent performance on our part.”
NEXT: Saturday, June 25, at San Jose, 3:30 p.m. (Fox Soccer Channel)
DSG Park (Commerce City, Colo.)
Colorado Rapids 1, Galaxy 3
LA -- own goal Drew Moor 25
LA -- Juninho 42
C -- Conor Casey 64
LA -- Chad Barrett (Todd Dunivant) 80
Colorado Rapids: Matt Pickens; Kosuke Kimura, Tyrone Marshall, Drew Moor, Danny Earls; Sanna Nyassi (Omar Cummings, 46), Pablo Mastroeni, Jeff Larentowicz, Wells Thompson (Quincy Amarikwa, 85); Caleb Folan, Conor Casey.
Galaxy: Josh Saunders; Sean Franklin, Omar Gonzalez, A.J. DeLaGarza (Gregg Berhalter, 83), Todd Dunivant; Chris Birchall, Juninho (Jovan Kirovski, 81), Michael Stephens, Mike Magee; Miguel Lopez (Chad Barrett, 61), Juan Pablo Angel. Unused subs: Paolo Cardozo, Frankie Hejduk, Bryan Jordan, Brian Perk.
Yellow card: Nyassi 36. Red card: Folan 74.
Referee: Hilario Grajeda. Att.: 18,277.