SANDY, Utah— Steven Gerrard left Rio Tinto Stadium with a “cheeky smile” on his face after the LA Galaxy’s 1-0 defeat to Real Salt Lake in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals.
The Galaxy may have seen their U.S. Open Cup campaign end due to a late goal by Salt Lake defender Aaron Maund, but Gerrard put forth a solid showing in his second-half cameo. Even though there was a melancholy tone in the locker room after the game, Gerrard was pleased with his ability to acclimatize to Major League Soccer competition.
"I walk away disappointed with the result. I move away with another 45 minutes out the locker room, so that will get me towards full fitness,” Gerrard said after his competitive debut for the Galaxy. “But I'm walking away with a cheeky smile, because I'm very happy with my feeling in the game I'm very confident moving forward.
"It's been a whirlwind change over the last week or two. I'm two weeks into a brand new challenge and a very big change and I'm still searching for 100 percent fitness, but I can feel it coming,” he added. “I'd be very frustrated and disappointed if I wasn't getting chances while the chances are there. I know and have full belief in myself that them chances will sooner rather than later go in the back of the net."
During his second 45-minute appearance for the Galaxy, Gerrard saw time both as a withdrawn striker behind Robbie Keane and in a central midfield role beside Juninho. In each position, Gerrard had his chances to give the Galaxy the lead, but saw an attempt in the 54th minute saved by Salt Lake goalkeeper Jeff Attinella, and then a chance in the 76th minute agonizingly sail over the Salt Lake net.
Despite Gerrard not being able to open up his Galaxy account, Keane was all-smiles when asked about Gerrard’s shift.
“All these minutes add up for him. I think he’s played at altitude maybe once in the World Cup but he’ll certainly benefit from that,” said Keane. “I thought that we certainly more comfortable at times especially than in the first half. Stevie got a lot of space. … I thought it was good.”
Although Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena told reporters afterward that Gerrard did “fine,” but the Englishman offered a much more frank assessment of his performance.
"I'm not surprised [I missed]," Gerrard said. "I've had two 45 minutes in seven, eight weeks … but I'm strangely very happy at the moment. It's given me a flavor of the MLS standard tonight, and I'm very confident that the goals and the assists and the dangerous play will come from me in the future."
With his first minutes against MLS competition under his belt, Gerrard is hopeful that he can make a greater impact when he makes his league debut on Friday against the San Jose Earthquakes.
"We had some good chances tonight to at least take the game to extra time, and I'm guilty of missing one, so I take responsibility for that, but the big game this week was always going to be Friday, and we move on."