CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy may need just a draw to advance to the Western Conference Championship, but the team isn’t anticipating putting in a measured performance against Real Salt lake at Rio Tinto Stadium—they’re going for the victory.
With LA up 1-0 on aggregate in their Western Conference Semifinal Series heading into the second leg, the onus will be on Salt Lake to attack early, but with RSL expected to dominate possession, the Galaxy should have opportunities on the counterattack. Although that is the expected narrative to start, Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena would like his team to wrestle control of the tempo from the start.
“The way that you start the game is important. You have to be good and solid to start the game. We’d like to be ahead at halftime, that’s one way to look at it,” said Arena.” If we can do that we’ll be in really good position.”
The stats confirm Arena’s comments as the Galaxy are 13-2-3 in MLS play in 2013 when scoring first and 8-1-0 when leading at the half. The lone defeat when leading at the half came on June 29 at Stanford Stadium during their dramatic 3-2 defeat to the San Jose Earthquakes .
Although the simple strategy would be to pack numbers in the box and hold the slim lead, Landon Donovan is confident that the Galaxy aren’t going to Utah to simply hold a lead, but add to it.
“We have to be very good defensively, but we’re not going there to defend for 90 minutes, we’re going there to try to keep the ball and move the ball and put them under pressure too,” said Donovan. “You’d do think that the game is going to look open at times and the added pressure of having to win is the expectation.
“I’m sure that they’re not going to go crazy because the reality is that they just need a goal at some point,” added Donovan. “For us the mentality is to be aggressive and get around the ball and get after the ball, but also when we have chances to possess and go forward. We’re going there to win the game, we’re not going there to get a tie.”