Battle of the Best

Galaxy and RSL meet with MLS Cup berth on the line

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CARSON, Calif. – Seattle Sounders FC may have tried to crash the party, and even FC Dallas and the defending MLS Cup champion Colorado Rapids had their share of moments this year. But once everything played out, it’s pretty much what everyone expected: the LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake playing for the Western Conference Championship on Sunday at The Home Depot Center (6 p.m., ESPN, ESPN Deportes, espn3.com, live chat on lagalaxy.com/gamedaylive, BUY TICKETS).

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READ: Preview: Galaxy, RSL clash in rematch of '09 final

“Definitely,” the Galaxy’s Mike Magee said. “Obviously our expectations are to be in MLS Cup every year. Salt Lake is a team that’s established themselves as a competitor in every game they play in, every competition.

“I think if you’re going to win a championship, you expect to go through them.”

The teams split the regular season meetings, with Real Salt Lake winning 4-1 on March 26 at Rio Tinto Stadium and the Galaxy taking the rematch, 2-1, on Oct. 1 at The Home Depot Center. Interestingly, Sunday’s matchup will mark only the second postseason meeting between the clubs. The first one, of course, was MLS Cup 2009 in Seattle, where Real Salt Lake won 5-4 on penalties after the teams battled to a 1-1 draw over 120 minutes.

The Galaxy’s A.J. DeLaGarza also is among those who were not surprised that supremacy in the West has come down to these two clubs.

“Obviously after they were up 3-0 at home, I was pretty convinced we’d be playing them if they went through,” he grinned, referring to Real Salt Lake’s 3-0 victory over Seattle in the first leg of their Conference Semifinal Series. “They’re just a very good team. They like to play, and they like to play soccer. It’s going to be a good game.”

WATCH: Arena, Donovan, Beckham,
Gonzalez on RSL

Said Landon Donovan, “Salt Lake, probably for the last four or five years has been one of the best teams in the league. They’re consistent, they do things a certain way, they have good leadership, they’re well-coached and have a lot of talented players.

“Certainly it’s no surprise that they’re here.”

Under the tutelage of head coach Jason Kreis, Real Salt Lake is led by Alvaro Saborio and Fabian Espindola, who scored 11 and 10 goals, respectively, during the regular season. Kyle Beckerman also had a team-leading nine assists and goalkeeper Nick Rimando had 13 shutouts, along with a 1.09 GAA.

David Beckham also figured the teams would be meeting up again in the Conference Championship. He called Real Salt Lake “one of the best teams in the league.”

“To be honest, we know at this stage of the playoffs whoever you come up against is going to be a difficult game,” he said. “We know we’re up against it, but we’ve got to be ready for them.”

The Galaxy will face Real Salt Lake on Sunday, November 6 at 6pm PT in the Western Conference Championship at The Home Depot Center. Tickets are on sale now! BUY NOW