CARSON, Calif. -- The mission is simple for the LA Galaxy on Thursday: a victory or a draw will put them through to the Western Conference Championship for a fifth consecutive year.
Although LA struggled away from StubHub Center this season with a 4-9-4 record -- one of those victories being against Chivas USA -- LA's seminal road performance came on April 22 when they picked up a 2-0 victory over RSL. This win could be a blueprint for the Galaxy as they head into Thursday's second leg as I analyze in the latest Quest for Three.
"That game was different because we scored two goals and stayed in a good shape till the end," said midfielder Juninho, who went 90 minutes in the victory. "That was the key because we kept good shape and had to control all the game. Sometimes RSL pressed us, but that was normal. In that game, we did so well."
Highlights of that game can be seen below...
CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy’s 1-0 victory over Real Salt Lake featured a pair of occurrences that was rare throughout the 2013 MLS regular season: the substitution of Marcelo Sarvas and Juninho.
Both midfielders exited the Galaxy’s 1-0 Western Conference Semifinal Series first leg in the final 10 minutes with Sarvas giving way in the 83rd minute and Juninho leaving in the first minute of stoppage time. The exit was a little bit of a surprise due to the Brazilians’ saying power as Sarvas and Juninho finished first and second among minutes played in 2013 and were substituted just a combined 13 times throughout the season.
However as LA look ahead to a vital second leg at Rio Tinto Stadium on Thursday that will either prolong or end their season, an early exit was necessary.
“It was a tough week. I was tired and I think that it was a good situation with [Rafael Garcia] coming on to provide fresh legs. From now, everyone on the field has to be 100 percent,” Sarvas, who admitted to dealing with back issues earlier in the week, told LA Galaxy Insider. “Especially at the end of games because teams throw numbers into the box and try to put balls in the air, so you have to be able to run and be cover.
“I think that it was smart from Bruce to take me out. I’m recovering and we’re doing everything to recover,” said Sarvas. “I think that the key to next game is that the team that recovers and has fresher legs will have the advantage.”
Sarvas’ Brazilian counterpart Juninho was just as optimistic about his status for Thursday.
“I was feeling my abductor [in the first leg], but I think that was because I was tired. It was normal,” said Juninho. “I don’t feel anything anymore though. I just need to rest and then I’ll be ready for the RSL match.”
In the latest edition of "Be a Pro" the growth and development of Gyasi Zardes' finishing touch is documented.
Check it out below.
CARSON, Calif. -- Three of the LA Galaxy's prime contributiors are up for FutbolMLS.com's Latino del Ano or Latino of the Year award.
Galaxy midfielders Juninho and Marcelo Sarvas as well as goalkeeper Jaime Penedo are up for the honor which opened group stage voting on Monday. Each impressed in 2013 as Sarvas led the team in minutes with 2897 while also tallying four goals and six assists while Juninho finished second in minutes played scoring a goal and four assists of his own. Meanwhile, Penedo was one of the more remarkable finds after joining the team in August as he made 24 saves keeping four shutouts in nine appearances.
CARSON, Calif. – Time and time again, Nick Rimando and the Real Salt Lake defense bailed out the team’s struggling attack during their 1-0 defeat to the LA Galaxy, but the ‘keeper understands that Salt Lake will need more if they’re to best LA in the Western Conference Semifinal second leg at Rio Tinto Stadium on Thursday.
Rimando may not have made an enormous save total as he tallied just a pair of stops, but the goalkeeper was once again steady as he was able to marshal an RSL back four that kept the Galaxy off the board until Sean Franklin’s 31-yard strike in the 48th minute.
“I think we did a great job defending for fifty, sixty minutes and then we started to cheat a little bit. You saw they got a lot of chances from us not wanting to get back and track back to some of their players from bad giveaways,” said Rimando. “To win this series, everyone has to pitch in and play together, offensively and defensively and we know that we can play very, very good at home and we have to continue to do that and show that on Thursday.”
“I think it’s a fantastic result for us,” Rimando added. “Looking back at the chances they had, 1-0 at halftime, I’m happy with it because it could have been a lot worse and we just have to build on and watching tape on what we have to do better.”
But for RSL to advance for the Western Conference Final, Rimando admits that the team must be sharper in the final third after failing to test LA goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, who also made just two saves.
“We got to possess the ball, create some chances and not give the ball away in dangerous spots. As you saw, they have dangerous players and I think we got very, very lucky not to get scored on a lot more. I don’t think they were as sharp as they’ve always been up top on their counter attacks and we need to do a lot better possessing the ball and not giving the ball away.”
CARSON, Calif. – LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena addressed the media following LA’s 1-0 victory over Real Salt Lake.
Check it out below…
(On struggles of Robbie Keane and the Galaxy offense in general…)
ARENA: “Our team played well tonight. We certainly had a chance to get a few more. As expected, the return game will be a difficult one.”
(On Sean Franklin’s goal…)
ARENA: “The goal was a great goal. No question about that. He had a great night. He’s last 15 minutes in the first half and second half were real good.”
(On Gyasi Zardes…)
ARENA: “I thought he played well. Beltran played well against him. It was a good match up. Gyasi was a handful and helped create a number of potential goal scoring opportunities for us, and had a very solid game.”
On the LA Galaxy’s defense not giving Real Salt Lake a lot of chances:
ARENA: “Not much, but a little at the end there. [Chris] Wingert cross to the back post, but for the most part they were pretty solid. They will have to be pretty good on Thursday as well.”
(On Real Salt Lake changing their formation…)
ARENA: They went will 11 players as we anticipated. Everyone makes too much of formations. It’s 11 against 11. They obviously came here to try to get a point or steal three. They fell a little short there. “
On the Galaxy’s finishing problems:
AREANA: “Shit happens. We had our chances. A couple of players were a little off tonight. I think Rimando did very well. He was very composed in goal and didn’t make things very easy. “
(On going into the second leg with a 1-0 lead…)
ARENA: “I’d rather be the team ahead. These are always difficult matches. All the games in the league are all competitive going into the second game. It’s going to be difficult. Obviously, having the one goal is a real plus, but it’s going to take a hectic of an effort in the next 90 minutes.”
CARSON, Calif. -- Sean Franklin played the hero for the LA Galaxy as they sealed a 1-0 victory over Real Salt Lake to put them ahead heading into the decisive Western Conference Second Leg at Rio Tinto Stadium on Thursday.
When asked about the goal, Franklin was understandably pleased with his strike.
"The ball just came out on top of the box. I had time and space. I hit it. I just hit it and kept in on frame. And, it went in. It was a great goal personally for me," said Franklin. "I’m just glad I got it for the team and stuff. I’m happy we won with the shut out."
A field view look at the goal is below...
Sean Franklin tallies as the LA Galaxy win Western Cofnerence Semifinal first leg 1-0 over Real Salt Lake
CARSON, Calif. -- The score line wasn't as flattering as the LA Galaxy may have wanted, but they managed a 1-0 victory over Real Salt Lake in their Western Conference Semifinal first leg in front of a sold-out at StubHub Center.
The Galaxy dominated the match from start to finish, but found the back of the net in the 48th minute off a laser of a goal by Sean Franklin from 25 yards out.
RSL and the Galaxy will renew their hostilities in the second leg on Thursday at Rio Tinto Stadium.
CARSON, Calif. -- Ahead of tonight's Western Conference Semifinal First Leg, I provide a few last minute links and matchups to watch as well as my prediction.
*Todd Dunivant is hopeful that he'll be back on the field against LA and is likely to lineup against the emerging Kofi Opare.
*No two players will be more important for LA in their series against Real Salt Lake than Marcelo Sarvas and Juninho.
*LAGalaxy.com's Larry Morgan's preview of LA vs. RSL.
*Lastly, my Three Points to the game
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
MARCELO SARVAS AND JUNINHO vs. KYLE BECKERMAN AND JAVIER MORALES
The match and the series will be won in the center of the park between these four players. Their ability to clean up second balls, break up opposing attacks as well as spark counters will be vital.
KOFI OPARE vs. ALVARO SABORIO
A rookie against the veteran typically favors the more experienced player, but Opare has done well in matchups against the likes of Eddie Johnson and Steven Lenhart in recent weeks.
GYASI ZARDES vs. TONY BELTRAN
Zardes' speed will be vital with dealing with the intelligent Beltran, who will also look to go forward early.
LA Galaxy 3 Real Salt Lake 1. Goals from Keane (2), Zardes, and Plata
CARSON, Calif. – One of the most surprising aspects of the LA Galaxy’s recent run to the postseason has been the emergence of rookie center back Kofi Opare.
The 23-year-old defender has started the last five matches for the Galaxy since filling in for the injured Leonardo on Sept. 29. Even though the Brazilian has returned to full fitness, Opare has held the position with his intelligent play alongside center back Omar Gonzalez.
Associate head coach Dave Sarachan admitted that Opare’s rise truly began at the MLS Combine when the Galaxy spotted a talented, but raw defender from Michigan.
“It’s a little surprising. At the combine, we saw a guy who was a little raw, but he was purely a centerback. He wasn’t a guy where we were going to say that ‘maybe we can convert him into something else’ and we needed a center back,” said Sarachan. “We thought that he was a couple that stood out as far as his pure defending; now all the other stuff, dealing with pressure, playing at the next level was a mystery. I think that he’s grown in the position by getting reserve games and training with [the back four] and he’s just accelerated. He’s got a brain for it as well.”
Opare will need to use that wily nature on Sunday when he takes on RSL forward Alvaro Saborio, who will be expected to test the rookie from the start.
“From what I know about Saborio is that he’s a physical striker. He has very good technique. He definitely is one of the target stars on the team so it’s definitely not going to be easy going up against him but I think throughout the week the players and coaching staff are going to educate me further on the way he plays and his tendencies so I’m looking forward to that matchup if I am fortunate to start the weekend.”