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08 November 6:08 pm

SANDY, Utah -- In the end, set pieces proved to be the fatal flaw of the LA Galaxy in 2013.

LA crashed out of the Western Conference Semifinals Series 2-1 to Real Salt Lake after dropping a 2-0 result to RSL at Rio Tinto Stadium. Both of the goals that RSL scored on the windy evening came directly or indirectly off set pieces with Chris Schuler’s goal in the 101th one minute coming off a Javier Morales free kick.

In 2013, the Galaxy conceded 17 goals on set pieces: 15 in MLS play and the two in CONCACAF Champions League play. Meanwhile LA tallying just nine on dead ball chances—seven in MLS play and two in CCL. In comparison, in league play in 2012—albeit with David Beckham on the squad—LA scored 15 set piece goals allowing just nine.

After crashing out at Rio Tinto Stadium, LA’s players gave their thoughts on the team’s set piece deficiencies.

OMAR GONZALEZ: “A lot of things hurt us this season from set pieces to…that was the main thing. That’s something we need to figure out, and tonight that hurt us again. It was the story of our year and tonight it ended up biting us in the butt.”

LANDON DONOVAN: “They had a number of quality set pieces. Obviously, the wind blowing the way it was going was going to make it difficult, and we’ve got to give Schuler credit. He made a great play to get his foot on it and put it in. It’s frustrating, you know at this point it’s over with and you’ve got to learn. We know there are a number of areas where we fell short, and we just didn’t get it done tonight.”

ROBBIE KEANE: “Set pieces has kind of been our downfall the whole season, so I think we go away now and come back next year hopefully a stronger team as we reflect on this season, which I’m sure that Bruce [Arena] and the players certainly will, but that’s life. That’s the nature of the beast. That’s what we’re in this game for. It happens to the best of teams. Maybe this year, we probably weren’t the best team, but we were certainly the team that people probably expected us to go on and win it, but in football, it doesn’t happen like that, I’m afraid.”

ROBBIE ROGERS: “Yeah, set pieces are a thing -- the whole team is responsible for that. I think over the course of the season, as long as I’ve been here, I think it’s been one of our weaknesses, defending set pieces as a team. There have been a number of games where we’ve given away points at the end of the game off set pieces, and it’s something that I’m sure will be addressed and worked on.”

TODD DUNIVANT:  “There were quite a few. We were sort of bending not breaking, and finally they broke through, and they were dangerous especially on their wide free kicks. I think that Morales was definitely putting in really dangerous balls behind our line and putting Jaime [Penedo] in difficult spots. Those were great balls and they finally got on the end of one. We defended well for long stretches and I think let our guard down on that one. Tip your hat to that them.”

08 November 1:36 pm

SANDY, Utah—Robbie Rogers had his opportunities, but in the end, he like the rest of the LA Galaxy attack were unable to help send the team through to the Western Conference Championship.

In 75 minutes of LA’s extra time 2-0 defeat to Real Salt Lake that caused them to fall 2-1 in the Western Conference Semifinal Series, Rogers tied for the team lead in shots with five. Three of Rogers chances came during a seven minute span midway through the first half, but each of his efforts were sprayed just wide.

Throughout the match, Rogers was one of the more active players on the field for LA, but was unable to capitalize on the time and space afforded to him by the Salt Lake defense.

“We created chances,” Robbie Rogers said. “That's, I guess, the difference between great players and mediocre players is when [great players] get those chances, they finish them. We just weren't good enough in front of goal and defending in front of our goal.”

In the end, Rogers’ struggles were emblematic of the entire team as of 22 chances; the Galaxy had just two shots on frame.

“That’s not a great stat,” Rogers admitted. “We’ll obviously look at this game and see what we did right and what we did wrong, but probably over the course of the two games, we just didn’t finish our chances and made it hard on ourselves.”

08 November 12:22 pm

A.J. DeLaGarza is set to begin his international career with Guam. 

The LA Galaxy defender confirmed via his verified Twitter account on Friday that he'll be heading to play with the "Matao" during their upcoming friendlies against Laos and Cambodia in the November international period. Since the matches are friendlies, DeLaGarza will not be tied to Guam. 

DeLaGarza received interest from Guam last November and commited to the nation earlier this year after racking up two caps for the U.S. National Team.

08 November 12:16 am

SANDY, Utah – LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena’s comments from LA’s 2-1 aggregate defeat to Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference Semifinal.

(On the team’s defeat…)

ARENA: “We didn’t play well tonight or over 210 minutes. We really had our opportunities on Sunday to have a cushion coming in here and didn’t do it. Tonight we failed on defensive set pieces. The win made the game terrible with the field conditions and all that, so it was a really sloppy game, a scrappy game, and they were more opportune on their set pieces than we were, and it was the difference in the game.”

(On whether the season was a failure…)

ARENA: “I don’t know about that, but these are tight games in the playoffs.”

(On the play of Keane and Donovan…)

ARENA: “They were not factors tonight for us. Give Salt Lake credit, they played them well.”

(On Penedo’s play…)

ARENA: “Penedo had a very good game, you said? He was alright.”

The conditions were both for teams with the hard field. This field is like playing on the street and it makes for balls bouncing a lot. The conditions were tough, but both teams have to play on these conditions and they played better than we did. They were very direct, they put balls behind us, put our backs under pressure, scrapped a lot, and were  hectic in their attack and created some opportunities from that.”

 (On the second goal…)

ARENA: “The last goal, the referee [calls] the whole night like it’s a boxing match and he calls that foul, but in all fairness, we shouldn't position ourselves to be called for a foul down there and they score. We had to be smart to place this game into penalty kicks once we got to overtime, and we didn’t get it done.” 

07 November 2:31 pm

SALT LAKE CITY -- We're just hours away from Thursday's Western Conference Semifinal Series second leg between the LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake. Remember LA advance with a win or a draw at Rio Tinto Stadium. 

Below are a series of links, matchups to watch and a predicted score. 

*There may be a risk for the LA Galaxy to be defensive-minded against an RSL, but the Galaxy are confident that they'll be able to attack a desperate RSL side

*Could the Galaxy have a blueprint for success in their victory over Salt Lake in April? 

*RSL are confident that their history of coming up short in big games will be changed on Thursday, but they'll do so without midfielder Ned Grabavoy

*LAGalaxy.com's Larry Morgan previews the second leg.

*Lastly, my Three Points to the match.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

Marcelo Sarvas vs. Kyle Beckerman

Stopping Beckerman will be key as he provides the main conduit between RSL and their attack. Preventing him from enjoying success is key to LA earning a victory. 

Omar Gonzalez vs. Nat Borchers

Watch these two on each Galaxy set piece chance as Borchers and company have resorted to extremely physical tactics to limit Gonzalez's effectiveness.

Luis Gil vs. Todd Dunivant. 

The wily youngster will look to cause consdierable problems for the Galaxy left back, but Dunivant will need a strong performance to keep him at bay. 

PREDICTED SCORE

LA 2 REAL SALT LAKE 2: Goals by Sarvas, Keane and Morales and Gil

07 November 2:17 pm

Ahead of Thursday's match between the LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake, I previewed the match in this video piece for LAGalaxy.com

Check it out below..

07 November 10:23 am

SALT LAKE CITY -- Winning decisive matches at Rio Tinto Stadium have been a major problem for Real Salt Lake, but RSL aren't anticipating the same type of struggles in Thursday’s Western Conference Semifinal Series second leg against the LA Galaxy.

In recent years, RSL has been faced with several opportunities to win silverware or close out a postseason series at Rio Tinto—most notably: the 2011 CONCACAF Champions League Final against Monterrey and the 2013 U.S. Open Cup vs. D.C. United—and fallen short each time.

This time around with LA up 1-0 on aggregate heading into the second leg, Salt Lake need a two goal victory to advance outright or a one goal advantage and risk penalty kicks. Even though RSL has not enjoyed much success in important matches at the stadium that they once labeled “the Fortress” they’re hopeful of advancing against LA.

“I think that there’s definitely magnified when it’s a home game, but for us the way that I look at it, we’re doing something good to get opportunities to win on our home soil,” said RSL captain Kyle Beckerman in a conference call with reporters earlier this week. “There’s been some good games where we've won… I feel confident, we keep putting ourselves in the opportunities and we’re going to succeed in one of these.

“It’s a big task. They’re a very dangerous team and they’ll get the best out of themselves in the playoffs. It would have been tough regardless, but we just have to go in with a confident mindset,” Beckerman continued.  “We’ll see what happens early… but the advantage is there. It’s at our place, we have the altitude so we’re feeling alright and really excited to get to Thursday to see what happens.”

NOTES: RSL will not have the services of midfielder Ned Grabavoy due to a hamstring strain. It’s likely that spritely midfielder Sebastian Velasquez will take his spot in the lineup…A near sellout is expected at Rio Tinto Stadium on Thursday with more than 70 LA Galaxy fans in attendance. 

07 November 8:13 am

CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy may need just a draw to advance to the Western Conference Championship, but the team isn’t anticipating putting in a measured performance against Real Salt lake at Rio Tinto Stadium—they’re going for the victory.

With LA up 1-0 on aggregate in their Western Conference Semifinal Series heading into the second leg, the onus will be on Salt Lake to attack early, but with RSL expected to dominate possession, the Galaxy should have opportunities on the counterattack.  Although that is the expected narrative to start, Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena would like his team to wrestle control of  the tempo from the start.

“The way that you start the game is important. You have to be good and solid to start the game. We’d like to be ahead at halftime, that’s one way to look at it,” said Arena.” If we can do that we’ll be in really good position.”

The stats confirm Arena’s comments as the Galaxy are 13-2-3 in MLS play in 2013 when scoring first and 8-1-0 when leading at the half. The lone defeat when leading at the half came on June 29 at Stanford Stadium during their dramatic 3-2 defeat to the San Jose Earthquakes .

Although the simple strategy would be to pack numbers in the box and hold the slim lead, Landon Donovan is confident that the Galaxy aren’t going to Utah to simply hold a lead, but add to it.

“We have to be very good defensively, but we’re not going there to defend for 90 minutes, we’re going there to try to keep the ball and move the ball and put them under pressure too,” said Donovan. “You’d do think that the game is going to look open at times and the added pressure of having to win is the expectation.

“I’m sure that they’re not going to go crazy because the reality is that they just need a goal at some point,” added Donovan. “For us the mentality is to be aggressive and get around the ball and get after the ball, but also when we have chances to possess and go forward.  We’re going there to win the game, we’re not going there to get a tie.” 

 

06 November 4:58 pm

CARSON, Calif. -- In the latest edition of View from the Booth, Cobi Jones and Joe Tutino analyze the LA Galaxy's Western Conference Semifinal Series second leg against Real Salt Lake.

Check it out below..

06 November 8:51 am

CARSON, Calif. – Former LA Galaxy assistant coach Gregg Berhalter has returned to the coaching ranks after being appointed head coach and sporting director of the Columbus Crew on Thursday.

The former LA Galaxy defender and longtime U.S. international was not well-hyped candidate for the position but beat out reported interest from Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper Brad Friedel, former Columbus Crew legend Guillermo Barros Schelotto, and interim head coach Brad Bliss.

After serving as a player coach during the Galaxy's  2011 MLS Cup winning season, Berhalter moved on to manage Swedish side Hammarby IF –becoming the first American to manage a European club-- where he managed until the 2013 campaign when he was dismissed with an 18-11-16 record over two years.  

It's good. It's a great appointment and we wish him the best. He's a good young coach and he's got a great future, I'm hopeful that it is a good opportunity for him," said Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena. "[He had a] thirst to learn and a lot of energy to learn about his profession [as a player]. He's got a good foundation in coaching now and the essential tools to be a good head coach. He has the makeup of a coach for sure." 

Associate head coach Dave Sarachan agrees. 

"He's a student of the game. He loves the game and he's very passionate, and very driven. I think that he's now had some experience as a head coach which I think that he's going to learn from," said Sarachan, who said that Berhalter's 'outside the box thinking' was key to his development as a Galaxy assistant. "Having played in our league, he has an understanding of what it takes to be in our league. He checks a lot of the boxes that it takes to be successful."