LA Galaxy head to Utah for an early season test against Real Salt Lake

Galaxy players aware of the challenges presented by Real Salt Lake

CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy passed an early-season test with last weekend’s 2-0 victory over Sporting Kansas City and have a follow-up exam on Saturday against Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium (6 p.m., Time Warner Cable SportsNet, Time Warner Cable Deportes, MORE BROADCAST INFO). This will be the first of three games this season between the two Western Conference rivals, with two of those three being played in Utah.

“This is definitely a bigger test,” the Galaxy’s Mike Magee said.

“We’re going to find out even more where we’re at right after this game.”

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The Galaxy (3-1-2, 11 points) are tied with Real Salt Lake (3-3-2) for second place in the Western Conference behind pace-setting FC Dallas, which has 19 points. The Galaxy are just 1-2-1 all-time at Rio Tinto, though that lone win came last season courtesy of a stirring, come-from-behind 3-2 victory in which the Galaxy rallied from a two-goal deficit behind two goals and an assist from Landon Donovan and a goal and an assist from Magee.

Galaxy players admitted there is something special every time the rivals get together.

READ: LA Galaxy veterans reflect on potential rivalry with Real Salt Lake

“The last few years there have been some pretty good games between us,” Galaxy defender A.J. DeLaGarza said.

 “This is my fifth year here,” Magee said, “and every time you kind of get the feeling if you want to win a cup or a shield, you’re going to have to play Salt Lake.

“It’s obviously good to try to get in their head and win one at their place because you know there’s a decent chance if you want to win a cup you’re going to have win a game at Salt Lake. That’s the feeling.”

Real Salt Lake, who are 2-0-1 at home this year, including last weekend’s 1-0 victory over Chivas USA, have generally the same cast of characters with a couple of notable exceptions in Fabian Espindola, who had nine goals and seven assists in the league last season and 2010 MLS Defender of the Year Jamison Olave, both of whom were sent to the New York Red Bulls for allocation money in December.

But the likes of Kyle Beckerman, Nat Borchers, Javier Morales, Alvaro Saborio (who leads RSL with three goals this year) and veteran goalkeeper Nick Rimando are still around.

“They’re different in some ways,” said Donovan, who was nursing a strained right leg during training this week. “But they’re still a very good team and their core is very good. They have Javier back, who’s arguably one of the best players in the league when he’s in form, and when Saborio is on the field they’re very dangerous. Maybe they lose a little athleticism in the back with Olave, but other than that they’re very good.”

READ: Landon Donovan eager to get fit in time for Real Salt Lake

Donovan agreed there is a rivalry with Real Salt Lake going back to RSL’s victory over the Galaxy in the 2009 MLS Cup final in Seattle. It could be a bit more special than most, he said.

“I guess you create rivalries by playing important games against teams that mean something,” Donovan said, “and we’ve had a lot of that over the last few years.

“All it says to me is we’re two teams that are consistently very good. That comes down to the stability of the organizations, the stability of the coaches and then having good players, good leaders on the field, which I’ve thought both teams have.”