SANDY, Utah — The LA Galaxy were without several of their top veteran players, but that proved to be no problem for the back-to-back defending MLS Cup champions as they cruised to a 2-0 victory over Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday night.
Mike Magee and rookie Charlie Rugg both found the back of the net against RSL inside the opening 13 minutes and untested goalkeeper Brian Rowe came up big on a few occasions in his pro debut to make sure the young Galaxy side went back home with all three points. The win moved LA to 4-1-2 on the year and dropped Real Salt Lake to 3-4-2.
Both teams played without some of their top players. The Galaxy were missing Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane, Todd Dunivant and Carlo Cudicini while RSL lost forwards Alvaro Saborio and Robbie Findley to injuries sustained during pre-game warm-ups
Even without their key veterans, LA did not seem to miss a beat. Magee beat Tony Bletran to a spot just outside the six-yard box and deftly headed a ball sent in from a free kick by Juninho past a helpless Nick Rimando in the sixth minute and things only got better from there for the visitors.
In the 13th minute, Rugg doubled the defending champs' lead. After some quality hold-up play from Marcelo Sarvas, the midfielder sent the ball out to the right side to Hector Jimenez, who hit a hard one-time bullet across the middle to a streaking Rugg. The 22-year-old, who was making his pro debut, outraced Beltran to the ball and hammered home the goal from close range
Giving a team that defends as well as the Galaxy a two-goal lead pretty much decided the game before the quarter-hour mark, as LA put as many as seven and eight men back in the box to defend.
RSL were able to possess the ball for long stretches but they were unable to break down the compact and well-positioned Galaxy defense, settling instead for shots from distance that sporadically challenged Rowe.
As the match played out, the stats were heavily in RSL's favor but the Galaxy protected their lead well thanks to the defense of the likes of Sean Franklin and Omar Gonzalez. On the few occasions that Real Salt Lake did pose a threat, poor finishing usually cost the hosts.
The Galaxy did receive a bit of bad news early in the second half, as promising youngster Jack McBean left the match in the 52nd minute with what appeared to be an injury to his collarbone or shoulder.
The Galaxy return to the Home Depot Center to face the Houston Dynamo next Sunday. RSL, meanwhile, will play the last match of their three-game homestand next Saturday against the Vancouver Whitecaps.