CARSON, Calif. – The last time that the LA Galaxy took on Real Salt Lake on June 20 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, the two teams were on the opposite end of the Western Conference spectrum.
The LA Galaxy were a dismal 4-8-2, sitting near the bottom of the Western Conference while Real Salt Lake 10-3-2 perched atop the West ahead of the then-second place San Jose Earthquakes.
The match started poorly enough for LA as the game was delayed for 15 minutes because the Galaxy team bus was stuck in Salt Lake City gridlock, but it would get worse once the opening whistle was sounded. Within 25 minutes, goals from Kyle Beckerman and Alvaro Saborío saw RSL take a 2-0 lead on the Galaxy.
Although things had taken a turn for the worse, LA would pull one back in the 29th minute on a brilliant individual effort from Landon Donovan, who capitalized on a Salt Lake defensive gaff. Following his goal, Donovan shouted at his teammates seemingly signaling that the time for a comeback was now. They immediately responded. LA would tally two more goals in the second half from Mike Magee and Donovan as LA roared back to earn a valuable three points at the RioT.
Now heading into the MLS Regular Season’s final week, the Real Salt Lake sit two points ahead of the Galaxy in the chase for second place in the West. As the Galaxy reflect on their season ahead of Saturday’s match against RSL at The Home Depot Center, there is no doubt that June’s clash was a turning point for the Galaxy.
BECKHAM: “I think it brought us together. Going there is always a difficult place to go so going there and being 2-0 down and winning the game 3-2 was a big thing for us.”
DONOVAN: “I think that it gave us come belief to go down there and get a result after being down 2-0. It’s a big feat and what really helps is that if we play them in the playoffs, we have the belief that we can go down there and do it again so that’s good.”
CARSON, Calif. – Since 2009, two teams have reigned supreme in the Western Conference—the LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake.
Having appeared won two of the last three MLS Cups and two of the last three Supporters’ Shield trophies, matches between the two clubs have emerged as one of the top competitive rivalries in MLS. For the LA Galaxy, matches against RSL are always contentious, physical clashes that have a flair for the dramatic. Just how dramatic have LA and Salt Lake matches been? In the seven matches the 2009 MLS Cup—a match RSL won in penalties—four have been decided by one goal as the Galaxy have amassed four wins and three defeats in all competitions.
investigate this rivalry, I asked Galaxy fans, players (David Beckham, Landon Donovan, Edson Buddle and Todd Dunivant) and head coach Bruce Arena about the view of RSL as LA’s main competitive rival.
BECKHAM: "I consider them to be a good team. I think that we've got quite a few rivals because we won the championship last year and people want to come here [to The Home Depot Center] and beat us. I do consider most teams our rivals, but Salt Lake are a good team, I think they play the game well and they have done that for a number of years. They've had quite a lot of success over the last few years so I think that they're a very good team."
DONOVAN: "I don't know, Seattle are a tough team, San Jose through the years. Salt Lake and us for the last four or five years have been two of the best teams in the league so it makes for good games all the time and I'm sure that this one will be the same."
BUDDLE: "I would consider them a rival especially because of the Final. We look forward to playing these games. I thought about the [2009 MLS Cup Final] a lot in the  offseason [before Buddle scored 17 goals en route to an appearance on the U.S. national team's squad for the 2010 World Cup ] I didn't want that [penalty miss that set up Robbie Russell's Cup winning penalty] to be the last memory of me in a Galaxy uniform. I've let that go now, but I'm still shooting for that championship so whomever is in my way has to get taken down."
DUNIVANT: “You can date it back to ’09, we didn't have anything going into that even or even through that season, but obviously the Cup final kind of changed that. They made it through the Eastern side of the bracket and then beat us in penalties so that’s the start of the rivalry right there. But it’s really been two of the better teams over the last four years, when you have that, you have a lot of meaningful games, a lot of things that matter and battling each other for the Supporters’ Shield for the last couple of years and they're two of the better teams so of course, it’s a rivalry.”
ARENA: "I think that every team in your conference is a rival. I think that any is much different. Obviously, the one that brings a lot of attention is the geographic [rivalry] because of Chivas here, but everything else in the conference is pretty much the same. They're all pretty competitive rivals."
@lagalaxyinsider For competitive reasons they are the only team I care about beating. Seattle next cause their fans bother me so much.
— Chris Tucker (@ZeroCool138) October 4, 2012
@lagalaxyinsider Definitely true - they have had some of the best games over the last 3 years - hard fought, wins at each other's home, etc
— Michael (@SaltyGunner) October 4, 2012
— Denzel Eslinger (@f4denz) October 5, 2012
Three members of the LA Galaxy will be away on International duties over the next two weeks as Christian Wilhelmsson (Sweden), Robbie Keane (Ireland) and Dan Keat (New Zealand) have been called up by their respective nations for World Cup qualifiers, the club announced on Friday.
All three players will leave on Sunday and return to Southern California around October 17, ahead of LA's penultimate league match of the year against San Jose Earthquakes at Buck Shaw Stadium on October 21.
Wilhelmsson rejoins the Swedish national team after missing the last International period to finalize his deal with the Galaxy. "Chippen" and Sweden continue World Cup qualifying in UEFA Group C with matches against Faroe Islands in Tórshavn, Faroe Islands on October 12 and against Germany at Olympic Stadium in Berlin on Oct. 16. Meanwhile, also in group C, Robbie Keane's Ireland will face off against Germany in Dublin, Ireland on Oct. 12 before taking on the Faroe Islands in Tórshavn. Across the globe, Keat and New Zealand face a pair of World Cup qualifiers against Tahiti, the first on Oct. 12 in Papeete, Tahiti and the second taking place on Oct. 12 in Christchurch, New Zealand.
The Galaxy may be joined by Galaxy captain Landon Donovan, who may be called up by the United States for their own World Cup qualifiers against Antigua and Barbuda on the Caribbean island on Oct. 12 and Guatemala at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kans. on Oct. 16. The USMNT will announce their roster on Monday at 12pm PDT.
Galaxy commentators Mark Rogondino and Cobi Jones preview Saturday's game against Real Salt Lake...
CARSON, Calif. -- There's a postseason atmosphere in the air around the LA Galaxy training ground these days.
As club looks to continue their ascent up the Western Conference standings ahead of the start of the MLS Cup Playoffs later this month, the Galaxy have begun to raise their level across the field. LA look to continue the drive to postseason this Saturday in a crucial match against Real Salt Lake, a team that the Galaxy would face in the Western Conference Semifinal if the playoffs began today. For the Galaxy to defeat RSL on Saturday, they'll need another big game from leading goal scorer forward Robbie Keane, who has scored an impressive 14 goals -- the fifth highest mark in MLS-- along with eight assists.
Keane, who scored a goal in the Western Conference Final against RSL last season admits that a postseason atmosphere has arrived at The Home Depot Center a bit earlier this year.
KEANE: "I think so yeah, if you look at the teams that we're playing they're the teams that we could get in the playoffs. It's going to be three tough games, we know that. They're good teams and we're going to get these out of the way and focus on the playoffs, but we're hoping to finish as high as we can."
(On Salt Lake...)
KEANE: "They're a good team and a tough team to play against. From now until hopefully the final, there's not going to be too many easy games. They're very, very good and a solid team. They've been scoring goals and scored quite a few goals against Chivas. We know that it's going to be difficult, but we're playing at home and we always fancy our chances when we're playing at home."
CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy may be able to call upon Swedish winger Christian Wilhelmsson for this Saturday’s clash against Real Salt Lake.
Last week, a strain in his left calf prevented him from appearing in last Sunday’s 1-1 draw against the Colorado Rapids, but the Swede told reporters on Thursday that he believes that he expects to be up for selection.
“I should be ready to be available this week at least,” said Wilhelmsson, who is still listed as questionable on the club’s injury report. “I’m optimistic.”
Wilhelmsson’s comments come after his first day of full training since sustaining an injury last week according to Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena. The Galaxy boss said on Thursday that Wilhelmsson participated in just half a session on Wednesday and still needed to be evaluated ahead of Saturday’s game.
Although Wilhelmsson hopes to participate, the Swede, who has already scored one goal in two appearances with the Galaxy, is not looking to rush back and risk another injury.
“Every time that you’re injured or have some problems, you just want to get back as soon as possible, but you can not rush it or hurry because you could get injured again,” said Wilhelmsson. “You need to take care of what the body tells you and how fast that you can go with them.”
Steadily, the number of households that can view Time Warner Cable's newest sports networks is growing.
On Thursday, Time Warner reached a deal with Bright House Networks to carry both Time Warner Cable SportsNet and spanish language station Time Warner Cable Deportes.
“Our partners at Bright House Networks value Southern California sports as much as we do and we’re excited to work with them to bring Lakers, Galaxy and Sparks games and programming to our viewers,” said David Rone, President, Time Warner Cable Sports in a statement. “We’re extremely happy to work with Bright House Networks to bring sports fans in Southern California Time Warner Cable SportsNet and Time Warner Cable Deportes.”
Bright House is the sixth largest owner and operator of cable systems in the U.S. and is one of the predominant cable operators in the Bakersfield, California area.
CARSON, Calif. -- Ahead of Saturday's clash against Real Salt Lake, reporters caught up with Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant.
Dunivant touched on a number of topics including RSL's attack, playing without A.J. DeLaGarza and LA's vital month of October.
Dunivant's thoughts are below...
“He’s tough to keep track of because he’s moving sometimes to the wing, sometimes up high and sometimes underneath and that’s when he’s at his best when he’s dribbling and making plays and being a distributor as well as a finisher. It causes a lot of headaches for defenses that’s for sure.”
(On RSL being a team of unsung heroes…)
DUNIVANT: “They’re a good team all around. Over the years, they’ve been very good defensively and part of that is just the way that they keep the ball and limiting the chances. Their midfield is the key to that. Will Johnson, Ned Grabavoy, Beckerman all those guys and Morales, it’s a very good midfield and it’s certainly key to their team.”
(On the role of Javier Morales to RSL’s midfield…)
DUNIVANT: “He can make the special play and he’s a wildcard because at any point, he can change the game. In playoffs in crucial times, those are the types of plays and players that you need and he’s been able to do that throughout the years. You’ve seen it in MLS, you’ve seen it in Champions League. He steps up when it counts.”
(On heading into October…)
DUNIVANT: “We’ve only got three games left [in league play] and it’s against three teams that we’re battling with playoff position so you can’t ask for anything more than that really. When it comes down to it, we have to win to get in, we control our destiny and that’s what you want. It’s certainly not easy, but you have it no other way . The way that we made up grown this season is by beating Western Conference teams and climbing up the table that way and now we have a chance again to play teams that are right there with us. For the second, third, and fourth spot.”
(On the postseason atmosphere of the last four games…)
DUNIVANT: “Absolutely, these games are going to be playoff intensity and these games matter. These games really matter and when you get down to these last couple then you know exactly what you need to do and that’s fun.”
(On LA being happy with their place in the standings heading into the last month…)
DUNIVANT: “We’ve set ourselves up well, but we’ve got to finish it off now. Like you said, three months ago, a lot of people didn’t think we could be in this position, but we always believed and we knew that we had a good team and we’ve stuck together and the club has stuck by us and we’ve rewarded that with some good results.”
(On playing without DeLaGarza…)
DUNIVANT: “It’s tough to lose A.J. at this stage, but you have to deal with those things and it’s certainly not easy and guys are going to have to step up and the whole team is going to have to step up.”
(On the role the comeback victory to RSL played in LA’s comeback this summer…)
DUNIVANT: “That was right when we started putting results together….we needed wins and we needed them fast and we started to put those on and suddenly we were eight points out of the playoffs at that point and for 3-8-2, that’s not that bad. Suddenly we win those games and we’re two points out of the playoffs and it’s a whole different ballgame with 20 games to go.”
(On chemistry concerns among the back four without DeLaGarza…)
DUNIVANT: “We haven’t had this where A.J. has been out. He’s been real reliable for us when he’s been in there and we’ve been working this weekend in practice in getting things right so certainly , it’s not going to be easy without him, he’s a huge part of our defense so we’re going to have to not use it as an excuse and just plow forward.”
(On Meyer being a different type of defender than DeLaGarza…)
DUNIVANT: “It’s going to be on us, so only time is going to tell. We’ve got to have baptism by fire in these last three games and we have confidence in Tommy or whoever goes in there and if we continue to play well as a group and we continue to play as we have a team then we’re going to continue to get shutouts, we’re going to continue to get results. It hasn’t just been the starting four that has gotten results, it’s been the other group as well in Reserve games and Champions League games so as a team we’ve improved well defensively and we need to keep that going if we want to win the championship. “
And then there were two.
With Vancouver Whitecaps FC's 4-0 victory over Chivas USA--which featured a little Gangnam Style courtesy of Camilo-- there are just two teams left in contention for the final MLS Cup Playoff berth in the Western Conference.
The victory eliminated Chivas, the Colorado Rapids and Portland Timbers from playoff contention. With 32 games played, Vancouver is five points ahead of FC Dallas, who have played one fewer game than their Western rival for the fifth and final playoff spot. The Whitecaps sit seven points adrift of the fourth place Seattle Sounders, who Vancouver would face if the playoffs began today.
If you've been following along on Twitter today, you'd know it's been a busy day for me.
I'll be making an appearance on Time Warner SportsNet's Access: SportsNet show tonight at 7pm and 10pm talking about the LA Galaxy. Also, I'll be on Galaxy Revealed with Chris McGee on Thursday and Friday talking about LA's latest turnaround.
Never one not to poke fun at myself, below is a photo of me in the makeup chair snapped by an intrepid Galaxy staffer earlier today.
— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) October 4, 2012