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.