View from the Booth: LA-RSL

MLS CUP 2009 REMATCH IS PERFECT TEST FOR GALAXY EARLY IN THE YEAR

DL Ricketts

Photo Credit: 
Robert Mora

The Galaxy
is coming off a solid 2-0 win over the Houston Dynamo last weekend, and will
now turn their attention to Real
Salt Lake.  Doesn’t this feel like Déjà vu?  If you are nodding your head, then we are on
the same page.  Only this time LA wants
the final result to be different.  Either
way, Saturday’s game will be the toughest obstacle the Galaxy has faced early
in the 2010 campaign.

Let’s
briefly look back to November of 2009, to give us a bit of perspective for the
present. 

 - The Galaxy played well for most of the
opening half of play at MLS Cup, something we all hope to see this week.  

- Mike
Magee sent his team into the locker room at halftime with a 1-0 lead, again,
that sounds good. 

- But then,
20 minutes in the second half, with RSL controlling the tempo, the score
becomes 1-1, and Donovan Ricketts is forced to leave the game with what turned
out to be a broken hand. None of that sounds good to me. 

- Both
teams had chances to tally the winner, but it was clear RSL were the more
dominant team in the second half, don’t like that either! 

-
Eventually the game goes to extra time and penalties, well we know that will
not happen this time around. 

The lesson
here boys and girls, just as has been the case for the 2010 edition of the LA
Galaxy, finish the way you start!

Real Salt Lake is coming off a midweek win over San Jose in a U.S. Open
Cup Play-In Game, but the majority of the regulars will still be rested.  Former Galaxy forward, Robbie Findley
continues where he left off last season, with one goal and two assists in four
games in all competitions for RSL.  In
addition, Javier Morales, who may not feature because of an injury he picked up
last week, appears to have found the form he displayed in 2008 with three goals
in three league games so far in 2010.

The
combination of these two has given LA trouble in the past, and it will be
crucial for the Galaxy defense to stay focused on these two at all times.  Findley brings blazing speed to the pitch,
which LA is better prepared for this year with a more experienced Omar
Gonzalez, along with Leonardo and a healthy Sean Franklin.  As for dealing with Morales, Chris Birchall
will have his hands full, especially if Dema Kovalenko is once again unable to
go. Remember Dema was a member of RSL in 2008, so certainly you would think he
will have a pretty good idea where and when Morales likes to work his magic.
Hopefully he has passed some of that along to Birchall.

If Morales
plays, Birchall will need to remain right on the hip of the Argentine
playmaker. But if he is not in the team, Birchall will likely have a bit more
freedom to get forward.

Defensively
Real Salt Lake
has two very strong players in front of goalkeeper Nick Rimando.  Nat Borchers and Jamison Olave have the
physical aspects to match up with just about any striker in the league, but
speed is a different story.  This is
where Landon Donovan will have to put his stamp on the match.  If Landon can play a little closer to Edson
Buddle, the chance for the Galaxy captain to pick up a loose ball or two and
get himself in behind the RSL back four might open up.  Buddle must stay busy and make it difficult
for the RSL center backs to feel comfortable with the ball at their feet.  The second part of the equation is beating
Nick Rimando.  Arguably one of the best
shot stoppers in the league, Rimando can make reaction saves look routine at
times.  From what I have seen of the RSL
netminder over the past few seasons, if you test him early and try to shake his
confidence a bit, that gives you the best chance and getting one or two by him.

This is
going to be a fantastic chance for LA to not only separate themselves from the
rest of the teams in the West, but also to test their team against another one
of the top teams in MLS. 

RSL have
not won in the league since they opened the year with a convincing 3-0 win over
San Jose, and
will no doubt be eager to get a result against a team they have had the better
of lately.  LA have started strong in all
three matches this season, but the question still is out there, can they finish
the 90 minutes the way they have started it? 

We will
find out Saturday.