California Clasico takes on new significance

[MLS WEEK 22: Three games to watch] The California Clasico series between San Jose and Los Angeles is a long and contentious rivalry, and Landon Donovan is just one of many players who have worn the jerseys of both teams.

He’ll be squarely in the spotlight Friday (live at 10:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) at StubHub Center for the latest renewal following the announcement of his decision to retire at the end of the season. His winning goal in the All-Star Game against Bayern Munich punctuated a revival in his form and that of the Galaxy, which has won seven of its last 11 league games, including a 1-0 defeat of the Quakes June 28 at Stanford Stadium.

Gyasi Zardes scored that goal against San Jose, and since that game he and Robbie Keane have been nearly unstoppable. The duo has scored nine goals in the last four games. The Galaxy is also getting a lot of attacking impetus from left back Robbie Rogers, who set up Zardes for a goal last Saturday in a 3-1 defeat of Portland, and midfielder Marcelo Sarvas, credited with two assists in a 3-0 thumping of Seattle 10 days ago and not credited for a shot that rebounded for Donovan to put away.

San Jose has revived its playoff hopes by drilling Chicago, 5-1, and beating Seattle, 1-0, at home (Levi’s Stadium hosted the Sounders match).  Portuguese loanee Yannick Djalo scored his third goal of the season against Seattle and the injury absence of bruising forward Steven Lenhart (knee surgery) may encourage head coach Mark Watson to stick with the skillful, possession attack that has worked so well in the past two games. But Djalo suffered a strained quadriceps muscle in the Sounders' game, so Watson may employ someone else to partner leading scorer Chris Wondolowski (seven goals).

All one can say about the Quakes on the road is they keep things tight. They’ve scored and conceded the fewest road goals, five and eight, respectively, in MLS. They are also 1-4-2 away from home, and last year came back from StubHub Center with a 0-0 tie and a 3-0 defeat.

The paperwork to register San Jose's Designated Player, Matias Perez Garcia, has been completed and he is eligible to play.

CHAMPIONSHIP REMATCH. For the second time since head coach Oscar Pareja left Colorado last winter to take over at FC Dallas, the teams meet in league play, and both are radically different from the 2010 MLS Cup final contestants.

A year after winning the title, the Rapids dismissed head coach Gary Smith and replaced him with Pareja. When last fall FCD parted ways with Schellas Hyndman, Pareja was regarded as the top choice to replace him, but the process dragged on so long the Rapids turned to longtime veteran and captain Pablo Mastroeni to take over. Both teams are a work-in-progress, but FCD is getting back to the form it showed by starting off the season 4-0-1.

FCD is undefeated in its last seven games; the Rapids have lost two in a row and three out of the last four. FCD took the first meeting of the season, 3-2, on June 7 and hosts this one, too, at Toyota Stadium (live at 9 p.m. ET on MLS Live/Direct Kick).

Fabian Castillo scored the Dallas winner in the 3-2 victory and last week against Chivas USA rolled a ball into the goalmouth for rookie Tesho Akindele to bang home his third goal in the last four games. Akindele also started for the 10th consecutive time and is giving the team a supplemental threat to forward Blas Perez, who is tied with Michel for the team lead in goals with six.

Colorado’s only victory in the last six games was a 3-0 defeat of Chivas USA that was preceded by a ceremony inducting Mastroeni into the team’s Gallery of Honor. Since then it has lost, 3-0, to New England, which thus snapped an eight-game losing streak, and 1-0 at home to Real Salt Lake, which scored while down to 10 men.

SECOND HELPING. Real Salt Lake and D.C. United are both in second place, two points behind the respective conference leaders for their match Saturday (live at 10 p.m. ET on MLS Live/Direct Kick) at Rio Tinto Stadium.

They haven’t played since the opening day of the 2013 season. D.C. United won, 1-0, at RFK Stadium yet would go on to set a league record for futility by posting just three victories. Their revival in part has been spurred by former RSL striker Fabian Espindola, who leads D.C. with seven goals and eight assists despite missing the last six games with a sprained MCL.  He might be fit enough Saturday to face his former team but others -- notably Eddie Johnson (three goals in those six games) and Perry Kitchen and Luis Silva (two goals apiece) -- have picked up the slack.

Last week Houston snapped United’s four-game winning streak by capitalizing on a dreadful mixup between defender Steve Birnbaum and keeper Bill Hamid in stoppage time. It acquired forward David Estrada from the Sounders this week in exchange for a draft pick.

RSL captured the Rocky Mountain Cup and extracted a valuable three points last weekend by beating Colorado, 1-0, despite playing the entire second half down to 10 men. Aaron Maund’s ejection spurred a determined RSL effort that preserved the advantage granted by Javier Morales’ goal in the 14th  minute.

A few dazzling saves by RSL keeper Nick Rimando in the All-Star Game held off Bayern Munich until the second-half MLS squad turned the game around. He tied the league record of 112 shutouts in Colorado and the Rio Tinto faithful, despite the caliber of opponent, will be anxious to salute the zero that puts him alone on top. And since a win could put one team on top of its conference this game should not be missed.

MLS WEEK 22: Schedule:
Friday, August 8   
10:30 pm ET
LA Galaxy vs. San Jose, NBCSN
Saturday, August 9
7 pm ET
Philadelphia vs. Montreal
7:30 pm ET
Columbus vs. Toronto FC
9 pm ET
FC Dallas vs. Colorado
10 pm ET
Real Salt Lake vs. D.C. United
10:30 pm ET
Portland vs. Chivas USA
Sunday, August 10
8 pm ET
Chicago vs. New York, UDN
Vancouver vs. Sporting KC
10:30 pm ET
Seattle vs. Houston, ESPN2, WatchESPN, ESPN Deportes

MLS Standings:
39 Sporting KC 11-5-6 32/20
37 D.C. United 11-6-4 32/21
29 Toronto FC 8-7-5 29/28
28 New York 6-6-10 35/33
27 Columbus 6-7-9 26/28
26 New England 8-12-2 29/35
24 Philadelphia 5-8-9 34/36
22 Houston 6-11-4 23/40
22 Chicago 3-5-13 28/34
14 Montreal 3-13-5 21/39

38 Seattle 12-6-2 35/28
36 Real Salt Lake 9-4-9 33/27
33 LA Galaxy 9-4-6 32/17
33 FC Dallas 9-7-6 35/31
30 Colorado 8-8-6 31/28
29 Vancouver 6-4-11 31/29
27 Portland 6-7-9 36/38
23 San Jose 6-8-5 23/20
23 Chivas USA 6-10-5 21/34
MLS: Leading Scorers
18 Bradley Wright-Phillips, New York
14 Erick Torres, Chivas USA
14 Dom Dwyer, Sporting KC
12 Robbie Keane
, LA Galaxy
11 Jermain Defoe, Toronto FC
9 Joao Plata, Real Salt Lake
9 Clint Dempsey, Seattle
8 Will Bruin, Houston
8 Obafemi Martins, Seattle
8 Sebastien Le Toux, Philadelphia
8 Gyasi Zardes, LA Galaxy

MLS WEEK 23: Schedule:
Friday, August 15
9 pm ET
Houston vs. Philadelphia, NBCSN
Saturday, August 16
2:30 pm ET
Real Salt Lake vs. Seattle, NBCSN
6:30 pm ET
Montreal vs. Chicago
7:30 pm ET
Columbus vs. LA Galaxy
New England vs. Portland
8:30 pm ET
Sporting KC vs. Toronto FC
10:30 pm ET
Chivas USA vs. Vancouver
San Jose vs. FC Dallas
Sunday, August 17
8 pm ET
D.C. United vs. Colorado, UDN

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