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 2:30 pm

CARSON, Calif. -- LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena spoke with local and national media on a conference call on Thursday ahead of this weekend’s Western Conference Semifinal first leg against Real Salt Lake.

Arena’s comments are below…

(On the development of Omar Gonzalez…)

ARENA: “He’s had a solid year with a few injuries. I think that the national team call-ups have been challenging for him. It’s hurt his contiguity with our team and as well as with the national team. Those are things that happen with young players in their initial outings with trying to balance their club careers and international careers. It’s been challenging for Omar, but I think that as of late, he’s gotten his feet on the ground and is ready to go. He’s a great person, but it’s challenging for anyone and he’s gone through experiences throughout the year and now that we’re at the end of the year, he’s settled in. He’s using the experiences to get better as a player and as a person.”

(On the differences of the Galaxy since August…)

ARENA:  “We’re a little bit more consistent on both ends of the field. We were fairly erratic in the first half of the season and solidified ourselves on both ends. Part of the reason is our performance, which has not been as consistent as I’d like, is that we've just had a difficult time this year getting our whole group together for any extended period of time. As of late, we've been able to do that with a little more consistency and it’s obviously helped us.

(On the influence of [Gyasi] Zardes and [Jaime] Penedo…)

ARENA: If we were going to play Landon and Robbie as forwards, we had to make the decision of what to do with Gyasi, so we made the decision to play him in midfield. That was big for our team. Penedo has come in and given us more consistency in goal. He’s capable of making big saves in games to preserve game. A.J. [DeLaGarza]’s injury has been unfortunate, but I think that the moves have helped us. As well as the fact that we've had Robbie and Landon together as strikers, but during the playoffs, I’d imagine that we’ll move that around as well.”

(On Real Salt Lake…)

ARENA: As usual they have a very good team and I think that they’re solid on every end of the field. Nick Rimando has been an outstanding goalkeeper for them this season as he has been for the last five, six, seven years. [Alvaro] Saborío is an excellent goal scorer for them up front. The midfield of [Javier] Morales, [Kyle] Beckerman, [Ned] Grabavoy, and [Luis] Gil is outstanding. The return of [Chris] Schuler helps them in the back; [Nat] Borchers is an excellent leader for them in the back as is [Chris] Wingert. They’ve got a nice team and an experienced team. It’s a team that is very talented.”

(On how important it is to figure things out before the playoffs and get through...)

ARENA: The little that I understand with this thing is that you can’t win the MLS Cup unless you’re in the tournament, so that’s half the battle to start. This year was very competitive from start to finish in the league as we know. It’s challenging and I don’t know if anyone has the formula for success. It’s going to be very competitive. I like the home-at-home leg that we have; it’s something new over the last couple of years. The schedule is very awkward, the play-in game could take its toll on some teams because they’re going to be a number of games over a period for those teams as well. Every step of the way, it’s going to be challenging and this is new territory for everybody. There are a lot of games that are coming quick and the teams that are successful and reach the conference final will have to deal with a long layoff between the first and second legs of the conference final and the MLS Cup final. There are a lot of challenges ahead. It’s uncharted waters for everyone so it will be interesting to see how everyone comes out of it. It’ll be interesting and challenging for sure.”

(On the impact of the international break scheduled in the middle of the postseason...)

ARENA: “It makes it more crowded and more open. I think that it’s going to be real difficult for the teams and the team coming out of the semifinals not knowing where they’re headed for the next game and waiting for teams to prevail. It’s going to be difficult and recovery time is very difficult in this schedule. It’s going to be interesting. I don’t think anyone knows how it is going to play out.”

(On the measure of success of the first leg…)

ARENA: “I don’t think that we know the formula for success, but one would think that it would be to start the competition with a win, having said that, we didn't do that last year [in the Conference Semifinals] with the San Jose Earthquakes. Anything goes. It’s a 180 minute plus competition right now and if you prevail in the first 90, it doesn't mean that you’re going to come out on top after 180 plus minutes. Every step of the way is going to be challenging and it’s important that you get off in good form in the first 90 minutes. However, we know from experience that it is not all said and done after 90 minutes.”

(On the tactical flexibility that his team has…)

ARENA:  “We’re playing two games in [five days] and if we prevail than it is three games in seven or eight days then it gets a lot more difficult. That’s where there could be changes.  And the play-in teams, that’s where it can be really difficult. In the beginning, I don’t think that anything is different, but as you move on and you have a lot of games with a lot of travel, it’ll be challenging. We’ll have to see players and how they’re doing and make decisions based on that.”