LA Galaxy 1 : 2 Real Salt Lake
By Cory Ritzau, at the Home Dept Center
Real Salt Lake came into Los Angeles and became the first team ever to beat the LA Galaxy twice at the Home Depot Center in one season with a 2-1 victory Saturday evening before a sold out crowd.
A pair of first half Fabian Espindola goals brought Real Salt Lake back from an early 1-0 deficit with the Galaxy having dominated much of the possession and chances in the early going.
After a sublime finish by Robbie Keane, Espindola responded with goals in the 25th and 28thminutes against the run of play to shock the home crowd and give the visiting the side the lead that they would secure until the final whistle.
“We did start well, and I think their first goal came a little against the run of play, but we were sloppy,” said Galaxy coach Bruce Arena, “We were sloppy defending in our penalty area, and not real sharp with our attacking play in the other penalty area.”
The win moves Real Salt Lake five points clear of the Galaxy with two games play for the second spot in the Western Conference and six points clear of Seattle who still have four games to play.
RSL site on 55 point now with LA and Seattle to battle to avoid the play-in that would come with fourth place.
“We’re finally getting ourselves back into what we know we have to do to succeed,” said Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis postgame, “We know that there is more in us, and that there needs to be more in us if we want to be contenders for a championship.”
Landon Donovan went down late in the game with what he described as a left knee injury. He will have his knee scanned as soon as possible and those results will determine his availability for the World Cup Qualifiers over the next ten days.
The Galaxy got off a good start as they were clearly the aggressor in the early going. Two good chances by Donovan were blocked away by the RSL defenders and Juninho took a nice volley from 22 yards out that rang off the crossbar in the sixth minute for the first great chance from either side.
The good start was punctuated by a sublime goal by Robbie Keane in the 17thminute as he found space unmarked on the far left side of the field and took a looping cross by Juninho one-time, catching it flush and sending it into the far corner of Rimando’s net. It was a deserved goal for the home side after working the ball around in possession in the attacking half for the bulk of the first quarter hour.
Donovan and Magee each had a chance at a second as Keane did work down the right side and was able to cut his cross back across the face of goal to Donovan. The captain has hit shot blocked and ball bounced back to an open Magee but his goal-bound shot hit Donovan and bounced to safety for RSL.
And just as it seemed that Los Angeles had taken control of the game, Fabian Espindola capitalized with two quick goals before the home crowd knew what hit them.
The first game on a slow build up in the attack for RSL as Morales found space on the left flank. He played in a ball toward Espindola who dummied the pass and made a direct run toward goal.
The ball found came to the feet of Saborio who tried to play through to Espindola. His first attempt was thwarted by Gonzalez but the defenders deflection came right back to the feet of Saborio who this time threaded the needle to Espindola who calmly slotted the ball past Saunders for the equalizer.
And while the Galaxy defense was still trying to figure out what happened, Espindola struck again. This time his attack went aerial as he took a cross from Morales as he looped back in front of the backline to expertly steer a header from about 12 yards out into the far post for the early lead.
The game opened up even further after Salt Lake took the lead and Keane had another good look on frame that was parried away, but the visiting side would again have another quality scoring chance as rookie replacement centerback Tommy Meyer was run off the ball in the back by Saborio who was able to turn with a one-on-one breakway against Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Saunders but Saunders would get the best of him coming out to make the save and collect the ball to boot.
When the teams returned from the break the game slowed down a bit, but again the Galaxy got on the front foot to start the half. A couple chances by the home side led to corner kicks but nothing proved fruitful when it came to the score line. The best of the opportunities may have come in a build-up that allowed Juninho to have two opportunities from distance but RSL did well to get their bodies in front of the Galaxy shots.The game slowed down a bit with both teams winded late in the match.
The Galaxy brought on Edson Buddle in an attempt to be more direct in their attack but Salt Lake looked much too experienced and held their shape well as the Galaxy struggled to break them down in the attack.
As the minutes wound down, Donovan seemed to land awkwardly on Olave and had to come out with an apparent injury. The Galaxy attack lacked the composure of a defending champion as there was little patience in the build up.
But credit Real Salt Lake who showed that after their string of poor performance over the summer that they are a team to be reckoned with during this playoff push now having gone unbeaten in their last five league matches.
Each team was missing a pair of key starters as the Galaxy started two rookies in their backline in Bryan Gaul and Tommy Meyer in place of the injured AJ De La Garza and Todd Dunivant. Real Salt Lake started youngsters Jonny Steele and Luis Gil in place of Ned Grabavoy and Will Johnson.
For the Galaxy, De La Garza’s was expected as he had sprained his knee in last weekend’s match in Colorado but Dunivant suffered a hip pointer at some point during the week and was not listed on the injury report. For Real Salt Lake, Johnson missed the game following the birth of his first child and Grabavoy has been listed out due to a quad strain.
LA Galaxy: Josh Saunders; Sean Franklin, Tommy Meyer (Christian Wilhelmsson 85′), Omar González, Bryan Gaul; Juninho, David Beckham, Marcelo Sarvas, Mike Magee (Edson Buddle 61′), Landon Donovan (Jose Villarreal 85′), Robbie Keane
RSL: Nick Rimando; Chris Wingert, Jamison Olave, Nat Borchers, Tony Beltran (Chris Schuler 84′), Javier Morales (Paulo Jr. 89′), Luis Gil, Jonathan Steele (Yordany Alvarez 77′), Kyle Beckerman, Alvaro Saborio, Fabian Espindola