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.
*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.
LA 2 REAL SALT LAKE 2: Goals by Sarvas, Keane and Morales and Gil
Video Preview: LA Galaxy Insider previews the Western Conference Semifinal second leg against Real Salt Lake
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..
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.
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.”
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..
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."
CARSON, Calif. – For the LA Galaxy to advance to the Western Conference Championship for the fifth year in a row, striking a balance will be key.
A balance between the defensive mindset needed to preserve their 1-0 aggregate lead on Real Salt Lake and the ability to hit home side on the counter when they press forward. The transition game has been vital to the team’s recent success over the past four years and will once again be important on Thursday at Rio Tinto Stadium.
“It’s very critical in the first 15 minutes of each half. If we can control the past 15 minutes then the game is set up a little bit and the speed comes down a little bit. Counterattacking is a weapon for us because we have players fast enough to do this and we’re going to find those gaps,” said midfielder Marcelo Sarvas. “They’re going to press with two forwards and depending how the game goes, they’re going to put three or four guys in the penalty area. I think the most important is that when you have one chance and score then it will be a different situation.”
However, they’ll be taking on an RSL team that is well-aware of what the Galaxy can do on the counterattack as Salt Lake captain Kyle Beckerman reiterated in a conference call with reporters on Tuesday.
“The counter that they do is unbelievable,” said Beckerman. “They don’t give it away right away and they make you defend. It’ll be difficult and any time that you play the Galaxy, you’re going to have an eye on Landon [Donovan] and Robbie [Keane] and that’ll be the same on Thursday. But only being a goal down, we don’t have to get desperate right off the bat.
“We’ll try to put some high pressure, but I don’t feel like we’re going to have to score like we have to score in the opening 15 or 20 minutes,” added Beckerman. “It’s a 90 minute game and we’ll have time to get a goal to send it into overtime or whatever we need. It’ll be key to not get caught up and give up opportunities for them to counter. We know that I’ll happen, but if we can limit their chances it’ll help our chances for sure.”
But when the Galaxy get those chances come Thursday, they’re confident that they’ll be able to make RSL pay.
“We need to not give up a goal,” Donovan said. “If we don't give up a goal, we advance, so that needs to be the starting point. But as the game goes on, as it opens up, as they expose themselves, we're certainly going to have chances to score.”
Baldomero Toledo to officiate the LA Galaxy's Western Conference Semifinal Series second leg against Real Salt Lake
CARSON, Calif. – Veteran referee Baldomero Toledo will be handling the LA Galaxy’s Western Conference Semifinal Series second leg against Real Salt Lake on Thursday at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Toledo handled four games for the Galaxy this season during which the team went 1-2-1 with the lone win coming during LA’s 4-0 win over the Seattle Sounders on May 26. Meanwhile, he handled two games for RSL where they racked up a 2-0 record.
Toledo’s breakdown for Galaxy matches is as follows: Oct. 20 in the scoreless draw against San Jose. Toledo awarded 20 fouls and three yellow cards in LA’s draw—one of which to the Galaxy. July 13 in a 2-1 defeat to the Portland Timbers. Toledo awarded 30 fouls and seven yellow cards—three to LA. May 26 in a 4-0 win over Seattle where he awarded 21 fouls as well as four cautions—two to the Galaxy—and one red card which was awarded to the Sounders. April 13 in a 1-0 loss to FC Dallas where he awarded 28 fouls, three cautions—two to the Galaxy—and a red card to LA defender Leonardo as well as a pair of penalty kicks.
Toledo’s breakdown for RSL matches is as follows: Sept. 28 in a 1-0 win over Vancouver Whitecaps FC where he awarded 24 fouls and three cautions—none to Salt Lake. Lastly, he officiated RSL’s 4-2 victory over Portland while calling 30 fouls, six cautions—four to RSL—as well as a red card to Portland.
The complete referee crew for Thursday is below:
REFEREE: BALDOMERO TOLEDO
ASST 1: Ian Anderson
ASST 2: Mike Rottersman
4TH: Armando Villarreal
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.”