CARSON, Calif. – If it’s story lines you’re looking for, Saturday’s MLS regular-season opener between the Galaxy and Real Salt Lake at StubHub Center (7:30 p.m., TWCS, TWCD) has plenty.
The first one involves the opposing coaches. The Galaxy’s Bruce Arena has been with the club since August of 2008 and directed the franchise to back-to-back MLS Cup titles in 2011 and 2012. On the other hand, Real Salt Lake is led by Jeff Cassar, who is in his first season at the helm. He replaces former boss Jason Kreis, who left to become head coach of New York City FC, which begins play in the 2015 season.
Second are the rosters. The Galaxy underwent considerable offseason tinkering this year, bringing in the likes of Samuel and Rob Friend to beef up the front line and Stefan Ishizaki and Baggio Husidic to solidify the midfield. Real Salt Lake, on the other hand, pretty much stayed put and returns much of the same team that advanced to last year’s MLS Cup final (where it lost to Sporting Kansas City) and U.S. Open Cup final (where it was beaten by D.C. United).
But perhaps the most intriguing story to watch is that of Landon Donovan, who resumes his pursuit of the all-time MLS goal-scoring record, which he shares with Jeff Cunningham. Donovan, who needed 62 fewer career games (303) to tie Cunningham’s mark of 134 goals, said he hasn’t paid that much attention to it as Saturday’s game approached.
“I honest really don’t care, to be honest,” he told reporters. “I guess it’s going to happen at some point. Honest as I can be it’s not on my mind at all. I’m just focusing on the game.”
He grinned when asked if it was inevitable he will break the mark.
“I would hope so. Knock on wood,” he said. “You never know. Let’s hope it happens.”
Saturday’s game, the first of two meetings between the clubs in 14 days, is a rematch of last year’s Western Conference Semifinals, which was won by Real Salt Lake 2-1 on aggregate. The Galaxy had taken the first leg 1-0, but Real Salt Lake prevailed in the second game, thanks to a goal by Chris Schuler in extra time.
Schuler, however, is questionable for Saturday because of a foot injury. In fact, several Real Salt Lake players have been battling injuries.
Forwards Robbie Findley and Devon Sandoval are out. Findley ruptured his patellar tendon in last year’s MLS Cup final and is not expected back for several weeks. Sandoval is rehabbing from offseason foot surgery.
The status of Alvario Saborio, who was called up to the Costa Rican national team for a friendly against Paraguay on Wednesday, is unknown, but he is expected to be available.
Real Salt Lake still features the likes of midfielder Kyle Beckerman, goalkeeper Nick Rimando, midfielder Javier Morales and defender Nat Borchers and remains a formidable side, to say the least.
“They’re one of the few teams that hasn’t changed a lot,” Donovan said. “We can probably predict their lineup right now, depending on if Saborio plays after playing mid-week.
“Other than that we know their team; there’s not a lot of surprises. We know what we’re getting.”
Said the Galaxy’s Robbie Keane, about exacting any payback for last year’s loss in the final: “No. You can’t cry over spilled milk. It’s behind me. I’ve never been one to look back.
“To be honest,” he continued, “I haven’t even thought about it one bit.”