SANDY, Utah— The LA Galaxy needed “San Penedo” to deliver a miracle during their Western Conference Semifinals first leg— and he delivered.
In fact, he delivered six of them.
Goalkeeper Jaime Penedo came up big for the Galaxy on Saturday, making six saves in LA’s scoreless draw with Real Salt Lake on a blustery Saturday evening at Rio Tinto Stadium. The stalemate was the first ever match between the two teams that ended in a scoreless draw.
Penedo’s clean sheet means that the Galaxy will need to get a victory in next week’s second leg at StubHub Center. After struggling down the stretch, Penedo’s stellar showing had his teammates singing his praises on Saturday evening.
"He was very good. He made the saves you expect him to make, and then he made one really great save on [Joao] Plata,” said Landon Donovan referencing Penedo’s stop on Plata in the second half.
“In the past few weeks, he's had quite a few similar plays at that angle that I think he would tell you he wants to do better on, and tonight he adjusted a little bit and made a really great save.
“That was the save we needed tonight. The other ones were some degree of difficulty, but ones you expect a good goalkeeper to make. That one was the save we needed."
As RSL dominated the chances, time and time again, it was Penedo who held the Claret-and-Cobalt at bay. Whether it was his repeated saves on attempts by Plata—including a clutch palm stop of a windswept chance by the Ecuadorian—or his clutch final save of a Javier Morales chance in the closing minutes, Penedo was the difference maker that the Galaxy needed with the offense stuck in neutral.
“Penedo had a good game. It's definitely what we expect him to do game in, game out,” said defender Omar Gonzalez. “I'm happy he made the saves today, but hopefully next week we won't give him as much work to do."
Added Juninho, “He was huge. He had a great game and I hope that he can have more good games all the way to the final."
Even Real Salt Lake head coach Jeff Cassar joined the Galaxy in heaping praise on the LA net minder and made special note of his ability to command the penalty area despite the gusty conditions.
"He was fantastic. He was making a lot different saves. He was commanding his box,” said Cassar. “He was very, very good tonight."
While Cassar praised the Panamanian goalkeeper’s ability to keep his side from finding the back of the net, Salt Lake’s dynamic attack means that Penedo might see plenty of action in next week’s return leg at StubHub Center.
And the Galaxy goalkeeper says that he’s completely ready for the challenge that lies ahead.
"We have to work hard this week and know that we have to win at home. With the away goal rule, we need to make sure we are impeccable at home and finish the game with a win," said Penedo. "We got a great result tonight; we got a result where we won't feel pressured to come out at home knowing you are down or looking for a comeback.
“But we have to get a victory."