Turning points of 2012: The Donovan show at Rio Tinto

Over the next seven days, LAGalaxy.com will look back at the seven turning points during the 2012 season that led to the Galaxy winning their second straight MLS Cup championship.


The odds were stacked against the LA Galaxy from the start as they prepared to take on Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium on June 20, but a stellar performance from captain Landon Donovan set the Galaxy on a course that would end with a second straight MLS Cup title.

Ahead of their trip to Utah, the Galaxy were in seventh-place in the Western Conference facing an RSL side that appeared to be front-runners for the Supporters’ Shield.

The game’s start was delayed for 15 minutes after the Galaxy team bus found itself stuck in heavy traffic on Salt Lake City’s I-5. Once the match started, RSL exploded out of the gates as they built a two-goal lead in the first 25 minutes with goals from Fabian Espindola and Alvaro Saborío.

Magee on Donovan

But in the 29th minute, Donovan cut the lead to one as he intercepted an errant back pass from RSL’s Tony Beltran to goalkeeper Nick Rimando. With the ball at his feet, Donovan danced around Rimando and slotted home to put LA on the board. Once the goal was scored, Donovan quickly ran to his teammates signaling that the comeback had just begun. [watch above]

Just after the break, Donovan would be involved once more as LA leveled the score through another RSL giveaway in the 50th minute. A heavy first touch from center back Jamison Olave was scooped up by Mike Magee, who worked a give-and-go with Donovan that set up Magee to beat Rimando with  a low shot just inside the far post, tying the score at 2-2.

Watch: Saunders with a clutch save

The goal scorers weren’t the only ones who contributed as goalkeeper Josh Saunders made a clutch save on a one-on-one with Saborío in the 59th minute.  With Salt Lake wantonly pushing forward in search of the go-ahead-goal, the Galaxy capitalized in the 68th minute by striking RSL on the counter. [watch above]

After collecting a pass along the sideline at midfield, Magee spotted Donovan making a darting run from the center circle through the heart of the RSL defense and clipped a left-footed pass into his path. Rimando raced off his line to cut off the pass, but Donovan got there first, touching the ball past the Salt Lake goalkeeper and rolling his shot into the back of the net, stunning the sellout crowd at Rio Tinto and sealing the victory for the Galaxy. [watch above]

For LA, the comeback victory against RSL proved to be a major test of character for a side still looking to pull themselves into playoff contention.  The job was hardly complete though, despite the victory the Galaxy remained in seventh place, though they were now just two points out of a playoff berth.  Meanwhile, the loss sent RSL into a midseason slide, starting a three-game losing streak and a run that would see them take just four of a possible 15 points from their next five games, effectively ending their bid for the Supporters’ Shield.

When LA lifted their second consecutive MLS Cup trophy in December, the victory over RSL was not forgotten as many including head coach Bruce Arena cited the match as a major turning point in the Galaxy’s championship season.

Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com