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

Full-strength LA take on short-handed RSL on Sunday in battle for place in MLS Cup

REFEREE: Jorge Gonzalez.
SAR (bench): Greg Barkey; JAR (opposite): Jeff Hosking;
4th: Andrew Chapin

INJURY REPORT: 
LA GALAXY -- OUT: DF Sean Alvarado (R knee surgery); DF Leonardo (R knee surgery); QUESTIONABLE: MF David Beckham (back spasms); DF Gregg Berhalter (R foot sprain); DF Bryan Jordan (L middle finger tendon rupture)
REAL SALT LAKE -- OUT: MF Nelson Gonz·lez (R foot fracture); DOUBTFUL: FW Cody Arnoux (L hamstring strain); DF Blake Wagner (R adductor strain); QUESTIONABLE: DF Nat Borchers (L quadriceps strain); DF Jamison Olave (R quadriceps strain)

SUSPENDED: none

LEAGUE HEAD-TO-HEAD: Galaxy 7 wins, 28 GF ... Real 7 wins, 31 GF... Ties 5
2011 HEAD-TO-HEAD: LA 1 win, 3 GF; RSL 1 win, 5 GF; 1 tie
AT THE HOME DEPOT CENTER: 10/1: LA 2, RSL 1 (Barrett 59; own goal 72 - Espindola 45)
MLS CUP PLAYOFFS: LA 0 wins, 1 GF ... RSL 0 wins, 1 GF... 1 tie

LA GALAXY

 

  • The LA Galaxy face a second game in four days for the second time in just more than a month -- and the second time it involves Real Salt Lake. On Oct. 1, LA defeated RSL 2-1 in Carson before losing 2-0 to New York on Oct. 4 at Red Bull Arena.
  • "This is maybe the 10th time this year we've done this," Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said. "We know how to recover for this. It's never easy but we'll get our team recovered. Obviously, the players that played [Thursday] will have a real easy couple of days to get ready for Sunday."
  • Mike Magee scored his second goal in as many playoff games to give the Galaxy the lead on aggregate. "That goal was big," Arena said. "I thought he started the game slow. He got into it as the half went on and had a good second half as well. [He's] obviously scoring some timely goals, some important goals."
  • Just seconds before serving the corner kick Magee headed home, David Beckham suffered an apparent back injury. He was later taken off in the 79th minute.
  • READ: Beckham overcomes back scare to help LA prevail
  • "I just headed the ball wrong and that was it. It was my back more than anything," Beckham said. "I headed the ball, but obviously I've had issues in my back all season and it was just a spasm in my lower back.
  • Said Arena: "He's a player with an unbelievable desire to win and compete. When we got down a goal, David helped pick up the team. His energy in the second half and earning the penalty it was all David. David, I think, was an inspiration to our team."
  • READ: Arena: Beckham inspired Galaxy to rally past Red Bulls
  • With Juninho suspended, the holding midfield role fell to Chris Birchall. "Chris Birchall was an absolute beast," said Magee. "I think it took him and all of us in the midfield about 10 minutes to get our bearings, but as you can see he had (Thierry) Henry and about four other guys buzzing around in the middle of the field."
  • READ: Birchall comes up big
  • The Galaxy are playing host to the Western Conference final for a third consecutive season. It's their 11th appearance in a conference championship.
  • Landon Donovan's penalty kick was his first playoff goal since the 2009 West final. The five-game playoff drought was the longest of his MLS career; Donovan is the all-time leader with 18 playoff goals.

Watch: Galaxy players preview Western Conference Championship

REAL SALT LAKE

 

  • Despite suffering a 2-0 loss in the second leg in Seattle -- their fifth loss in their last eight games -- the story for Real was their defense.
  • "We battled," said RSL keeper Nick Rimando. "It was one of those games we had to battle and stick in there to the end. We stuck in there, and we advance. Itís a loss, but it feels like a win for sure."
  • With center backs Jamison Olave and Nat Borchers both out with quadriceps injuries, RSL head coach Jason Kreis installed Chris Schuler and Chris Wingert into central defense.
  • "Our choices were one of three: we could pull [Robbie] Russell into the middle, we could pull [Chris] Wingert into the middle, or we could play Rauwshan McKenzie. And the choice was, obviously, when you get to the playoffs, you're looking for guys that have enough experience and have been there and done that before, so that left us with Russell and Wingert," Kreis said.
  • That also meant Tony Beltran came into the team at left back -- and his goal-line clearance in the first half set the tone for the match. "There is no doubt about [the importance of the play]," Kreis said. "You really need guys to make plays in these situations, and that was a critical one."
  • Beltran was making his first appearance since Sept. 10. "That is as athletic a play as you'll ever see," Borchers said. "That's what Tony brings out there and it made a big difference."
  • Javier Morales once again started in the center of midfield, but after playing the full 90 minutes in the first leg, he came off late in the game in Seattle.
  • "He wouldn't have come out but he had gotten really fatigued," Kreis said. "This is going to be a challenging situation, let's face it. Javi hasn't played matches in a very long time so to ask him to play three matches in a week may be difficult."
  • Real have advanced to a conference championship for the third time in four seasons. When they advanced to MLS Cup 2009, it came after a win in Chicago in the Eastern Conference final.
  • "In some ways it may have been good that we didnít play that well (Wednesday)," Kreis said. "To get our feet back on the ground and to say the team that won the [first leg] 3-0, that was probably the peak of the peak. And this may be the low of the low, so we need to get back somewhere in the middle (this) weekend."