CARSON -- The Galaxy's response to its Labor Day collapse in Kansas City was succinct and explosive. Their domination of the first 45 minutes Friday night against reigning MLS Cup champion Colorado was comprehensive, and the reward was a playoff berth. Officially.
That didn't mean a whole lot to L.A. (15-3-10), which posted a 1-0 victory at Home Depot Center in a match that wasn't nearly so close. Landon Donovan got the goal -- his 12th, tied for New York's Thierry Henry for the MLS lead -- with an expert finish in the 36th minute, and Donovan Ricketts made one big save in his return from a broken arm as the Galaxy extended their club record for shutouts to 14.
Uruguayan rookie Paolo Cardozo, making just his third start of the league season, had a breakout performance for L.A., which is heading to Major League Soccer's postseason for the third successive season after missing three in a row following their 2005 MLS Cup championship run.
Not that it matters.
“I think we clinched awhile ago, to be honest with you,” said head coach Bruce Arena. “That's probably not cause enough to jump through hoops and have parties. But, obviously, that's part of it. To have a chance to win an MLS Cup, you've got to be in the playoffs, and I guess we are in the playoffs.”
The mood in the locker room wasn't much different than after any win. No champagne.
“We're kind of laughing that off,” said defender Todd Dunivant. “I think we made the playoffs a couple of weeks ago, in reality.”
Donovan didn't even realize that L.A. had clinched -- the first team to do so.
“Oh, yeah, I forgot,” he said when reminded afterward. “Yeah, it's nice. It’s good to have that out of the way. I said earlier in the week: Every year the first goal at the top of the list is to make the playoffs. We can cross that one off.
“We’ve put ourselves in an even better position with the Supporters’ Shield. The beauty of playing on a Friday night and winning is now you get to sit back all weekend and watch the other teams beat each other up. We’ll be hoping for some favorable results and maybe we’re a little closer to the Supporters’ Shield on Sunday.”
A quick look at the Galaxy's victory:
BEST PLAYER: The most electrifying player, without question, was Cardozo, who put on an often mesmerizing display -- full of guile and with skills silkier than anyone else on the field can muster -- and played a huge role in at least five scoring chances in the first half-hour.
He forced two outstanding saves from Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens, the other candidate here, and walked off after 66 minutes to a loud, deserved ovation.
“He's a player we've been bringing along the whole season,” Arena said. “In the beginning of the year, we adapted to him and tried to help him get a little bit refreshed with this league. And over the last couple of months, we've kind of forced him to adapt to us. Never easy, but it's all part of the development of a young player.
“He's responding well. He's had such a great attitude over the last couple of months, to try to get better, to listen to some of the things we talked to him about. I thought his performance tonight was real good.”
BEST GOAL: The only goal, from a counterattacking sequence involving five players, was superb. It went from Bryan Jordan (getting a rare start at right back) to David Beckham (on the right sideline at midfield) to Chad Barrett (a first-time pass that opened space) to Sean Franklin (in the middle at the top of the box) and square to Donovan, whose finish inside the right post, as left back Todd Dunivant put it, was “clinical.”
“They’re a team that does a good job of really compacting one side of the field, and if you pass well and you get out of pressure, there was a number of times where the guy on the far side of the field had a lot of space,” Donovan said. “So between [Jordan] and David and Chad and Sean, they did a great job of combining, and Sean did a great job to find me.
“Put yourself in good positions, and tonight they found me, and it worked out.”
BIGGEST STRUGGLE: The Galaxy would certainly like a better finishing rate, no matter how on Pickens is. And he was on. He made three jaw-dropping saves, two on Cardozo and the best on a Dunivant header from Beckham's free kick in the 26th minute -- leaping to his right to somehow push the ball past the post.
L.A. should have been up by four or five goals at halftime, but the one was enough.
“The first half was a really good performance,” Beckham said. “It was professional, we was up on every play, up against each of their players every time they got the ball, and we worked hard, and the positioning of our team was great. I thought the first half was a great performance.”
WORTH NOTING: Juninho departed in the 74th minute with an injury to his left hamstring. He can't play Tuesday in the CONCACAF Champions League game at Morelia after picking up a red card against Alajuelense 2½ weeks ago. ... Ricketts, who was hurt June 25 at San Jose and missed 12 games, all competitions, had little to do in his return, making just two saves. Only a leaping stop on Sanna Nyassi in the 57th minute was difficult. (Wells Thompson scored on the rebound, but he was flagged offside.) ... Jordan made his fourth start of the season, and his second in league play. ... A moment of silence was held to commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and to honor the memory of former FC Dallas standout Bobby Rhine, who died Monday at 35. Rhine was the Hoops' play-by-play announcer after serving two seasons as broadcast analyst.
FINAL JUDGMENT: “We had success tonight when we kept it on the ground and moved it one- and two-touch,” Dunivant said. “We had a couple other sequences where we got in behind and we really caused some problems. When we weren't as effective was when we were a little impatient and tried to play too direct.
“It's a good lesson for us. If we keep the ball on the ground, we're going to hurt teams.”
NEXT: Tuesday in a CONCACAF Champions League game at Morelia (Mexico), 5 p.m. (Fox Soccer Channel). Next league game: Saturday, Sept. 17 vs. Vancouver at Home Depot Center, 7:30 p.m. (Fox Sports West, delayed, 10:30 p.m.)
Home Depot Center (Carson)
Galaxy 1, Colorado Rapids 0
LA -- Landon Donovan (Sean Franklin, Chad Barrett) 36
Galaxy: Donovan Ricketts; Bryan Jordan, Omar Gonzalez, A.J. DeLaGarza, Todd Dunivant; Sean Franklin, David Beckham, Juninho (Michael Stephens, 74), Paolo Cardozo (Mike Magee, 67), Landon Donovan; Chad Barrett (Robbie Keane, 60). Unused subs: Frankie Hejduk, Jovan Kirovski, Miguel Lopez, Josh Saunders.
Colorado Rapids: Matt Pickens; Kosuke Kimura (Omar Cummings, 69), Marvell Wynne, Chad Marshall, Danny Earls; Jeff Larentowicz, Pablo Mastroeni; Brian Mullan, Wells Thompson; Caleb Folan, Macoumba Kandji (Sanna Nyassi, 39).
Yellow card: Mullan 66.
Referee: Kevin Stott. Att.: 20,068.