CARSON, Calif. – For the LA Galaxy to advance to the Western Conference Championship for the fifth year in a row, striking a balance will be key.
A balance between the defensive mindset needed to preserve their 1-0 aggregate lead on Real Salt Lake and the ability to hit home side on the counter when they press forward. The transition game has been vital to the team’s recent success over the past four years and will once again be important on Thursday at Rio Tinto Stadium.
“It’s very critical in the first 15 minutes of each half. If we can control the past 15 minutes then the game is set up a little bit and the speed comes down a little bit. Counterattacking is a weapon for us because we have players fast enough to do this and we’re going to find those gaps,” said midfielder Marcelo Sarvas. “They’re going to press with two forwards and depending how the game goes, they’re going to put three or four guys in the penalty area. I think the most important is that when you have one chance and score then it will be a different situation.”
However, they’ll be taking on an RSL team that is well-aware of what the Galaxy can do on the counterattack as Salt Lake captain Kyle Beckerman reiterated in a conference call with reporters on Tuesday.
“The counter that they do is unbelievable,” said Beckerman. “They don’t give it away right away and they make you defend. It’ll be difficult and any time that you play the Galaxy, you’re going to have an eye on Landon [Donovan] and Robbie [Keane] and that’ll be the same on Thursday. But only being a goal down, we don’t have to get desperate right off the bat.
“We’ll try to put some high pressure, but I don’t feel like we’re going to have to score like we have to score in the opening 15 or 20 minutes,” added Beckerman. “It’s a 90 minute game and we’ll have time to get a goal to send it into overtime or whatever we need. It’ll be key to not get caught up and give up opportunities for them to counter. We know that I’ll happen, but if we can limit their chances it’ll help our chances for sure.”
But when the Galaxy get those chances come Thursday, they’re confident that they’ll be able to make RSL pay.
“We need to not give up a goal,” Donovan said. “If we don't give up a goal, we advance, so that needs to be the starting point. But as the game goes on, as it opens up, as they expose themselves, we're certainly going to have chances to score.”