Los Angeles Soccer: Jaime Moreno
Dema Kovalenko, whose fierce approach to defense was pivotal in the Galaxy's run to the Western Conference title game, could be parting ways with L.A.
The club declined the option on the 33-year-old Ukrainian midfielder and can bring him back at a lower salary only if he isn't taken in next week's first stage of Major League Soccer's re-entry draft.
The Galaxy also declined the option on 34-year-old forward/midfielder Jovan Kirovski, and Chivas declined options on midfielder Marcelo Saragosa and 33-year-old Romanian-born defender Alex Zotinca.
Five local-bred players -- Kansas City defender Jimmy Conrad (Temple City/Temple City HS and UCLA), Colorado midfielder Peter Vagenas (Pasadena/St. Francis HS and UCLA), Columbus defender Frankie Hejduk (UCLA) and midfielder Duncan Oughton (Cal State Fullerton) and Philadelphia goalkeeper Chris Seitz (San Luis Obipso/Thousand Oaks HS) -- are among 35 players available in the re-entry draft. All but Seitz are older than 30.
A look at Saturday's Eastern Conference final:IN BRIEF: Colorado reached its second MLS Cup final -- its first in 13 years -- with a deserved 1-0 triumph over visiting San Jose in sub-freezing temperatures just outside Denver. … Right back Kosuke Kimura's cross sneaked into the net in the 43rd minute, but the Rapids would have had more if not for another superb performance by Earthquakes goalkeeper Jon Busch. … The Rapids await the winner of the Galaxy-FC Dallas clash in Sunday's Western Conference final at Home Depot Center.
BEST PLAYER: It's Omar Cummings again. The speedy Rapids forward tormented the Quakes with runs through and behind the defense, constantly creating or exploiting space -- had his shot been on, he would have had a hat trick. He doesn't get an assist on Kimura's goal, but he deserves one: His near-post run froze Busch, allowing the in-swinging cross to skip past and inside the far post.
BEST GOAL: There only was one, and, no, it wasn't a work of art, but who cares? Kimura, the only Japanese player in the league, scored his first goal of the campaign -- and just his third in four seasons -- with a sensational cross from the right flank after a throw-in. With Bobby Convey applying pressure, Kimura curled a left-footed ball toward Cummings, who split San Jose's Jason Hernandez and Sam Cronin to get free at the near post. At first, it looked like Cummings got a touch on the ball, sending it past Busch, but replays indicated the cross had sneaked through on its own, and Cummings acknowledged at halftime that he hadn't gotten a piece of it.
BIGGEST STOP: Busch had plenty, including two big stops on Cummings and another on Pablo Mastroeni, but Brazilian forward Geovanni made the biggest, keeping the Quakes in the game by clearing Drew Moor's header from a Wells Thompson corner kick off the line at the right post in the 70th minute.
WORTH NOTING: The Rapids are the third successive crossover finalist. New York, sent to the Western Conference bracket in 2008 after finishing fifth in the East, stunned Houston and Real Salt Lake to reach the MLS Cup final, and Real Salt Lake's title run last year went through the East after a fifth-place finish in the West. Colorado was, naturally, fifth in the West this year. … The Rapids upset Kansas City and Dallas en route to the 1997 MLS Cup final, but lost, 2-1, against D.C. United in front of 57,431 at RFK Stadium in Washington. Jaime Moreno and Tony Sanneh gave D.C., coached by current Galaxy boss Bruce Arena, a two-goal lead, and Adrian Paz got one back in the 75th minute for Colorado.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I think the goal was maybe a little fortuitous, and he doesn't get on the score sheet all that often. … If there had been a bet on it, you would've had very long odds on Koski scoring the game-winner.” -- Colorado head coach Gary Smith.
at Commerce City, Colo.
Colorado 1 (Kimura 43), San Jose 0
Western Conference final
Sunday: L.A. Galaxy vs. FC Dallas at Home Depot Center, 6 p.m., ESPN and ESPN Deportes
Nov. 21: at Toronto, 5:30 p.m., ESPN and TeleFutura (KFTR/Channel 46)
Until it cleared up so nicely on Saturday, Major League Soccer’s playoff scenarios were complicated, to be sure. The Galaxy might have ended up with a first-round series with Colorado or San Jose or FC Dallas; that they’ll face Seattle is fine with them.
Not that it’s perfect.
“Seattle’s not going to be easy. It never is,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said after Sunday’s victory over FC Dallas set up encounters with the Sounders on Sunday in Seattle and Nov. 7 at Home Depot Center. “But I think the choices were … what were the choices? I think they were Dallas … none of the choices were real good, to be honest. I wouldn’t want to be going into Dallas either.
“I do prefer going to Seattle than going into altitude. There was always a chance at some point we could go to Colorado or Salt Lake, and the altitude is an issue, and the one thing we’ve assured ourselves is that we’re not going to be playing in altitude. Not that guarantees anything, but I think that’s good. It’s a lot easier for the players to adjust to the artificial field [in Seattle] than to altitude. So In think that’s a positive out of this.”
Perhaps so. If L.A. and Real Salt Lake win their first-round series, they’ll meet in Carson. Toronto, where MLS Cup will be played Nov. 21, has a lower elevation than downtown L.A. But the Galaxy are hardly happy they’ll start their home-and-home, total-goals series on the fake turf at Qwest Field.
“I don’t like it,” said Edson Buddle, who led the Galaxy with 17 goals. “I’m not a big fan. I never was. But I have to deal with that and get over it.”
Said David Beckham: “At the end of the day, it is what it is. We have to go there, and we have to play. It’s the same for both teams. Obviously, it’s an advantage for them, because they play on it every other week, but it is what it is.”
The most absorbing storylines for Major League Soccer's final weekend:END OF THE LINE: Much has been made, and for good reason, of Brian McBride’s final game, but his teammate C.J. Brown, a Chicago Fire original, also will be bowing out when the club visits Home Depot Center on Saturday night to play Chivas USA. It’s also the final game with the Goats, at least for the near future, for Mexico-bound midfielder/defender Jonathan Bornstein.
Jaime Moreno’s long tenure with D.C. United ends, too. The Bolivian forward, who shares MLS’s all-time goals record (with 132) with FC Dallas’ Jeff Cunningham, figures to play on somewhere, and he’s suggested in recent weeks he could be tempted to stay in the league, if there are any offers. D.C. interim coach Ben Olsen, who played alongside Moreno for a decade, says the last remaining player from MLS’s inaugural 1996 campaign will start in Saturday’s game against Toronto FC.
As for McBride, the iconic forward who represented the U.S. at three World Cups, he says the game against Chivas is “the same as any other game,” and Fire coach Carlos de los Cobos hasn’t determined whether he’ll be in the starting lineup.
AWARDS: Last chance for players to make impressions for the big awards: MVP, Rookie of the Year, Defender of the Year, Goalkeeper of the Year, Best XI -- we’ve got to missing one or two, right? … Coach of the Year, but that won’t go to a player.
L.A.’s Landon Donovan says he’d give the MVP honor to FC Dallas’ David Ferreira, and we tend to agree. San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski says he’d give it to L.A.’s Edson Buddle. All four of them are viable candidates.