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Galaxy on a high after Portland win, but a sterner test awaits

CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy’s Mike Magee found Sunday’s much-needed 1-0 victory over the Portland Timbers one of the most difficult he’s had to watch.

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WATCH: Match Preview

Not so much because it was a tightly-contested affair, but because he was unable to help. The veteran midfielder, now in his 10th season in MLS, was serving a one-game suspension that was handed down by the MLS Disciplinary Committee.

“It’s hard to watch, especially knowing you kind of let the team down getting suspended,” he said Monday. “I was probably the happiest guy in the stadium knowing I’d be an easy blame if we hadn’t had a good result.”

With his duties as a spectator now behind him, Magee can concentrate on his playing duties starting with Wednesday’s game at Real Salt Lake’s Rio Tinto Stadium (6 p.m., KDOC, KWHY,

Salt Lake has a league-best 10-3-2 record and has lost just once at home this season, a surprising 1-0 loss to Chivas USA on March 24.

“I would say right now they are the best team in the league,” Magee said of their Western Conference rivals. “And especially at their place they’ve always kind of made it hell on any team that’s going in there.

“It’s a very hard place to have a solid game, let alone win. Right now, I’d say they’re the class of the league.”

View from the Booth

Real Salt Lake, coming off a 3-0 victory over Chivas USA at The Home Depot Center on Saturday, are led by the usual cast of characters, including Fabian Espindola and Javier Morales, each of who scored in RSL’s 3-1 win over the Galaxy in Carson on March 10. Espindola, who is tied for the team lead in goals, along with fellow forward Alvaro Saborio, with six, has two goals and an assist in his last three games against the Galaxy.

In the back, central defenders Nat Borchers and Jamison Olave once again marshal the defense in front of goalkeeper Nick Rimando, who was back in goal for head coach Jason Kreis on Saturday after missing two of his team’s three previous games.

Real Salt Lake will enter Wednesday’s game in the midst of a seven-game unbeaten streak that has seen them go 5-0-2 to move to the top of the Western Conference standings. They have also never lost to the Galaxy at Rio Tinto, with the Galaxy claiming an 0-2-1 record there since the stadium opened in 2008.

The Galaxy had been on their own seven-game streak, although theirs was a considerably more dubious one. The Galaxy hadn’t won in seven games prior to Sunday’s victory, and head coach Bruce Arena agreed it was like a weight had been lifted from their shoulders.

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“What made the difference?” he said. “Simple math, I think. We scored one goal and they scored none.”

The Galaxy, because of suspensions and injuries, did tweak their formation in switching from their usual 4-4-2 alignment to a 4-3-3 to open the game with Chad Barrett playing as a lone central striker while Landon Donovan and Bryan Jordan manned the wings. But Arena said the only thing that mattered was the defending MLS Cup champions got a long-overdue victory.

“Nobody cares about anything except winning,” Arena said. “In our entire league, everything is about winning. Whether it’s great quality or not good quality, it’s immaterial. It really is.

“You don’t get too high or too low in these situations. But it was a much-needed three points. It was good for the entire organization.”

Said Magee, “Just seeing smiles in the locker room after the game was unfamiliar. It’s kind of bizarre. Usually that’s the way it’s been the last three years. Even after draws it’s still been a sense of we fought and battled for each other and we can live with the draw, even a loss at certain moments.

“We haven’t had that, we haven’t good efforts and obviously good results. We needed that badly.”