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02 November 4:10 pm

CARSON, Calif. – Real Salt Lake’s midfield diamond is one of the defining aspects of the possession-oriented playing style that has led RSL to seven consecutive postseason experiences.

This season RSL head coach Jason Kreis has primarily turned to the quartet of Kyle Beckerman in the back, Javier Morales at the point, and Luis Gil and Ned Grabavoy on the flanks. With the diamond, Salt Lake is able to control the tempo and create scoring opportunities that have helped Salt Lake to an MLS-best of 57 goals scored in 2013.

Even though the diamond is an identifying factor of RSL’s style of play, Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant admits that it is RSL’s fluidity with their formation that causes problems for opposing defenses.  

“They like to unbalance you. They like to overload sides; they like to play out of position if you will. They don’t have traditional positions and their diamond turns into all sorts of shapes throughout the game,” said defender Todd Dunivant. “What that does is that pulls defenders out of position and causes chaos. They run in behind, their midfielders make late runs and they punish you so from that standpoint, we need to be good. We need to be talking all the time, shifting and [we need to] be disciplined.”

But just don’t count Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena among those who believe that formation will change the outcome of the first leg between LA and RSL.

“It has nothing to do with diamonds or any of that other stuff, it’s 11 against 11,” said Arena. “The shape of your midfield is usually based on the talents and skills of your players so they just pieced their formation based on the group they have in the midfield and to play off their strengths and weaknesses the right way.”

02 November 11:55 am

CARSON, Calif. – Goalkeeper Jaime Penedo has been a major cog in the LA Galaxy’s second half resurgence and if they are to defend their MLS Cup for a third consecutive time, they’ll likely need to lean on their Panamanian shot stopper.

Penedo will make his debut in the MLS Cup Playoffs on Sunday after a stellar season since being signed in August. Penedo ended the regular season with 24 saves, a goals against average of 0.78 and four shutouts in nine appearances.  

The 32-year-old goalkeeper has plenty of playoff experience with Guatemalan side Municipal and his national team, but the tension of the MLS Cup playoffs will be a new test for Penedo, but one that he feels confident that he can overcome.

“I’m very blessed to be in this situation having just joined the team and having been able to be a part of the group is something that is really good,” Penedo told LA Galaxy Insider. “I would just like to keep it simple, the way I see it is we have five games to go for MLS Cup and we’re going to take it one at a time. . [Against Real Salt Lake] either going to be a game where it’s very open or very tight and that’s what we’ll have to deal with.”

In his first postseason performance, he’ll face veteran RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando. In 2013, Rimando once again put forth a goalkeeper of the year type of season with 82 saves and a goals against average of 1.04 in 27 appearances.  

Although Rimando may be new to the league, he’s excited for the opportunity to test himself against Rimando.

“I got the chance to play against him in the Gold Cup final,” said Penedo. “He’s a goalkeeper who’s not very tall but he’s very agile with his feet.  I don’t know him personally but it looks like he’s a very confident goalkeeper.”

02 November 10:40 am

CARSON, Calif. – A right MCL sprain has kept Todd Dunivant on the shelf for the LA Galaxy’s last two league matches, but with the 2013 MLS Cup Playoffs set to begin, the left back is moving ever closer to returning to the field.

Dunivant suffered the injury during the closing stages of LA’s victory over the Montreal Impact on Oct. 16 and missed the team’s remaining two regular season matches as well as their CONCACAF Champions League group stage finale against Isidro Metapán. On Friday, Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena confirmed that Dunivant trained fully with the club on Thursday and Friday with an eye to allowing him to be available for selection against RSL.

The defender himself gave no assurance that he’ll be back in action, but did admit that his condition is improving.

“It’s been good. I've been working really hard to come back ahead of schedule and it’s been good,” said Dunivant, who admitted the injury diagnosis was initially more severe. “I think fitness wise I’m doing pretty well and now it’s just getting the confidence back with cutting and the lateral stuff. I’m pushing to try and be ready for Sunday. “

The Galaxy will need Dunivant at full strength against an RSL attack that boasts an array of weapons from target forward Alvaro Saborio, tricky attacker Joao Plata as well as midfielders Javier Morales, Luis Gil and Ned Grabavoy.

“You can’t hobble into the playoffs and Greg has done a good job filling in as well. We have options so that’s a good thing. RSL brings a lot of firepower… so we've got a lot to deal with,” said Dunivant. “They have a lot [in the attack] and there’s a reason that they were in the hunt for the Supporters’ Shield this season. This is a grizzled playoff team that knows how to win in November.” 

01 November 4:25 pm

CARSON, Calif. -- In the latest edition of "View from the Booth" Cobi Jones and Joe Tutino preview Sunday's Western Conference Semifinal first leg between the LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake.

Check it out below...

01 November 2:53 pm

CARSON, Calif. – LA Galaxy forward Robbie Keane has put forth an MLS MVP type season in 2013, but will that earn LA’s Irish captain the honor?

During the regular season, Keane tallied 16 goals and 11 assists this season for the Galaxy in just 22 games played while missing time due to international duty and injury. Keane also joined Portland Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri in being the only players to finish with double digit goals and assists.

When the Irishman was on the field, his presence was felt as LA went 12-7-4 in his 22 games while falling to a disappointing 3-8-0 when he was missing. Even though Keane has had quite the impact on LA’s fortunes this season, the Galaxy captain remains modest about his chances for the individual honor—instead focusing on larger aspirations.   

“Not for me to say. It depends what MVP means. If it is most valuable player which it is and what you do for the team, it’s about scoring the most goals then no?” said Keane.  “If I get it great, it’s always nice to get accolades, but if I don’t then I certainly won’t any sleep over it. It’s about championships. The MVP means nothing if you don’t win things. If you win the championships then I don’t care. … It’s not something that I’m too concerned really.”

As for alternatives to Keane, two names earning the most publicity as of late are Chicago Fire forward Mike Magee and New York Red Bulls midfielder Tim Cahill, each of whom the Irishman lauded for their stellar showings in 2013.

But the question is:  who is the 2013 MLS MVP? Vote below. 

01 November 1:11 pm

CARSON, Calif. –  We’re inching ever closer to the LA Galaxy’s clash with Real Salt Lake , but as we prepare to analyze the midfield diamonds, counterattacks and crushing tackles that are emblematic of matches between the two sides, let’s look at the series by the numbers.

To accompany the LA Galaxy’s Quest for Three infographic, Real Salt Lake got into the fun themselves with an infographic that you can see here.

Check it out below…

*ZERO— The number of two-leg, aggregate goals series played between the LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake. Both postseason contests were one-off matches with the Galaxy leading by a 1-0-1 margin.

*THREE of FOUR – The LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake have three of the last four MLS Cup titles with RSL defeating LA in 2009 before LA rattled off two straight in 2011 and 2012. The lone team to win the club in recent years that wasn’t LA or RSL was the Colorado Rapids in 2010.

*THREE – Times that Real Salt Lake have gone 10 or more days between games and their record after a layoff is 2-0-1. Both wins were by multiple goals with RSL defeating Seattle on June 22 after a 10 day off and FC Dallas 3-0 after another 10 day gap. Their lone draw came after 14 days between games a 0-0 draw with Portland. By game time on Sunday, RSL will have gone 10 days between games.

*3.4— Average number of saves per game by Nick Rimando, who has 93 saves in 27 games against the LA Galaxy.  In games against RSL since 2009, the Galaxy have used a total of four different goalkeepers against Salt Lake: Donovan Ricketts, Josh Saunders, Brian Rowe, and Jaime Penedo.

*FIVE— The number of goals scored by Javier Morales against the LA Galaxy. The Argentine midfielder is the team’s leading scorer against LA while also adding nine assists. Second is Robbie Findley with four goals against his former club.

*10—The number of goals scored by Landon Donovan against Real Salt Lake. He is the team leader with goals against RSL while Robbie Keane is second with five goals against the Utahans. 

*11-10-6 – The overall record between the LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake in regular season and postseason play.

*7-6-5— Bruce Arena’s record in all MLS competitions against Real Salt Lake.

*5-1-1— The LA Galaxy’s record against RSL when leading at the half. The lone draw came in the 2009 MLS Cup when RSL won in penalty kicks. The Galaxy are 7-6-4 when being tied at the half with RSL and 0-2-0 when trailing at the half.

*7-0-1—Real Salt Lake’s record when leading the Galaxy at the half. 

01 November 11:04 am

CARSON, Calif. –When the LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake take the field on Sunday to start the Western Conference Semifinal series, two of the finest coaches in MLS will be leading them on the sidelines.

Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena and RSL boss Jason Kreis have led their clubs to the highest point totals in MLS since they met in the 2009 MLS Cup final with the Galaxy holding a 233 to 222 advantage on Salt Lake while also winning three of the last four MLS Cup trophies.

Kreis, who took over as RSL head coach in 2007 after a successful 11-year career as a player admitted that Arena has been a source of inspiration as he’s shaped Salt Lake into one of the prominent clubs in MLS.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that Bruce is the best coach in the history of soccer in this country. I certainly have tried to pick his brain any chance I get, to ask him to gain some nuggets of knowledge along the way,” said Kreis in a media conference call on Thursday. “I think there’s no question again that he gets it right at the right time otherwise he wouldn’t have five MLS Cups to his name already.”

Meanwhile, Arena was just as quick to admit that Kreis has blossomed into one of the bright young coaches in MLS.

“I think he’s grown into a terrific coach,” said Arena. “He had to learn on the job, it took him some years to get grounded and now I think he’s real comfortable in the way he goes about and does his business and gets his teams ready. So we’ve seen consistently over the last three or four years that Salt Lake has a good team year in year out.”


Are one of these two men the best coach in MLS?

Share your thoughts below. 

31 October 7:41 pm

CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy won the regular season series against Real Salt Lake 2-1-0 and because of that stat, RSL head coach Jason Kreis believes that it will make LA favorites to win the Western Conference Semifinal.

LA picked up two wins against RSL this season winning the first meeting 2-0 at Rio Tinto Stadium on April 27 before falling in Sandy, UT 3-1 on June 8th. The Galaxy then clobbered RSL 4-2 on Aug. 17 in the lone game at StubHub Center.  

Although the Galaxy outscored his side seven to three in 2013, Kreis is confident in RSL’s ability to disregard their regular season struggles against LA.

“I think [the regular season record is] relevant in some ways that it makes them the favorite. But do I think that will be the end all be all to determine the playoffs? No I don’t,” said Kreis. “I think that when players get into the playoff situation they quickly forget what records were like during the regular season and I think all of look at the playoffs as a completely new and fresh opportunity so records sometimes go out the window.”

As for Kreis’ gameplan to stop the two-time defending MLS Cup champions, he believes that it will depend on his ability to stop the Galaxy’s dangerous forward pairing of Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane.  

 It’s the best forward partnership in the entire league with Donovan and Keane if that’s who they choose to play there. I think that for me, Robbie Keane is probably the MLS MVP this year,” said Jason Kreis. “He’s been the most consistent and best player this year and so those two players we have to be mindful of all the time. And then they have some other guys that mix in well and come in late with the central midfielders so we’ve got to be mindful of them.

“We always have to be concerned with the potential of a team like LA because they get it,” Kreis added. “They put things together in the playoffs, players that have been there and done it so many times that they know what they’re capable of and often times will be playing there absolute best so we need to be worried about their potential, not necessarily what we’ve seen over the last week or two.”

31 October 7:04 pm

CARSON, Calif. – There’s no doubt that Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane provide the skill and cunning for the LA Galaxy, but in the center of the park beats a Brazilian heart fueled by Juninho and Marcelo Sarvas.

In the latest feature for, I speak to Juninho and Sarvas about their connection ahead of Sunday's Western Conference Semifinal first leg against Real Salt Lake

“I think that we are doing well [in midfield]. I think that we are responding well to the expectations of the team. We know each other so it’s easy. Our relationship outside the field makes everything easy,” said Sarvas. “The way that we think about soccer is the same so it’s easy to click on the field. In the same way, we’re two pieces in this puzzle in a team that everyone is doing well.

Sarvas’ energetic style of play has quickly endeared him to teammates and fans alike with Galaxy supporters group LA Riot Squad naming him their player of the year while voters voted him the runner-up to Robbie Keane as the team's MVP.

Although Sarvas’ popularity may be hard to understand for outsiders, the Brazilian believes that his style of play allows for such a close relationship with fans.

“I think that with the way that I play and show myself on the field, it’s easy for me to make this indent between me and the fans because they are people who have passion for the team before players and everything,” said Sarvas. “When they find someone who shows the same passion that they have it is easy. This is the type of player that I am and it’s not just here, but it’s everywhere they I've been.” 

31 October 8:01 am

CARSON, Calif.  – Robbie Keane has stated a firm case for the 2013 MLS MVP, but will the Irishman win the award once he it is announced in December?

Despite missing time with injury and international duty, Keane tallied 16 goals and 11 assists this season for the Galaxy in just 22 games played. Keane was one of just two players in MLS –Portland Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri being the other—who tallied double digit goals and assists this season.

Although his numbers are high, the impact that he has when he is on the field is even greater. In his 22 games played, the Galaxy tallied a 12-7-4 record with Keane on the field while going 3-8-0 without him.

So is Robbie Keane the MLS MVP?

BRUCE ARENA: “I would think so. Not to be belittle anyone else’s performance, but to me, Robbie has been the best player in the league. His numbers prove that in terms of his goal production and in terms of the team success. The numbers tell you that when he’s on the field, we’re clearly a better team. It’s his ability, his spirit, his leadership."

LANDON DONOVAN: “I think that it’s hard to argue that he shouldn’t be. I would say that Mike [Magee] has been the most valuable player to any team in MLS, but it’s hard to select a player whose team didn’t make the playoffs as MVP. That being said, I think that everyone in this locker room knows the impact that Mike has and what he’s done for Chicago. Robbie has been terrific from game one and again scored a goal [on Sunday] that meant so much for us. I think it’db be hard to argue that he’s not MVP. This year he’s taken a lot more leadership and he’s just a battler. When it comes to game time, he’s competitive and he’s carried us through a lot of situations and he’s been fantastic. He’s the most clever player in the league. …I don’t think that I’ve ever played with a forward that creates that many chances in a game. It’s remarkable what he does in every game.”

TODD DUNIVANT: “He’s got a great case for it. There’s probably two on this team who are the top two in the league in Mike and Robbie Keane. For 23 games, he’s scored 16 goals with 11 assists so it’s a goal or an assist per game and that’s crazy. With what Mike has done in Chicago was incredible. He came within a hair of winning the golden boot and really turned that team around into one that was an inch from the playoffs. I think those are your two front runners. He’s a difference maker for us. He’s our captain and we need him out there.”

OMAR GONZALEZ: “For sure. He’s been great for our team and he’s played a lot less games than the other guys who are considered MVP candidates. He’s scored a lot of goals for us and he’s gotten us a lot of points. He’s been a great leader on this team and he helps us get ready and pumped up for games. …He’s just has this fighting personality. He just gets us ready. He’s got spirit and when he speaks –and the way that he speaks with that accent—gets us all ready to play.”  

DAVE SARACHAN:  “I’m biased, but I would say yes. With the number of starts and the amount of production that he’s had when he’s been involved with us, for me, scoring goals is the hardest thing to do in our sport and not only does he score goals, but he creates so much every time he’s out there. When you put it out together, he’s the most valuable player. You throw in all ingredients of what a top pro does as far as intangibles, but as far as the tangibles—the movement, the activity on the field, and the cunning [nature] with how he creates space and works with partners—he’s got all the attributes to make it difficult for him to be bottled. Because he’s Robbie Keane, it’s harder [to produce] and there is a target on his back every time that we play. ”