There was no blood drawn on Saturday by Real Salt Lake or the LA Galaxy in the first leg of their Western Conference semifinal series of the MLS Cup Playoffs, presented by AT&T, as LA ‘keeper Jaime Penedo turned in a stellar performance in a 0-0 draw at a windy Rio Tinto Stadium.
RSL controlled the match but couldn’t get anything past Penedo, who made six key saves to set up a dramatic second leg at StubHub Center next Sunday, Nov. 9. The winner of the series will advance to the Western Conference Championship series against the winner of the Seattle-Dallas semifinal.
Real Salt Lake started quickly, nearly scoring in the 12th minute, when Alvaro Saborio headed a corner just wide of the right post. Salt Lake almost went ahead again in the 37th, when LA defender A.J. De La Garza made a key last ditch clearance to prevent Salt Lake midfielder Luis Gil from tapping in a rebound off a Saborio shot.
Both sides were denied good looks at goal in the first half by controversial offside decisions, with RSL forward Joao Plata having a would-be breakaway pulled back in the 23rd minute, before LA striker Gyasi Zardes was denied a one-on-one opportunity with RSL ‘keeper Nick Rimando in the 37th.
RSL picked up where they left off in the second half, forcing Penedo into a terrific save in the 46th minute. Saborio made a mazy run down the left side, cutting past Galaxy center back Omar Gonzalez and finding Plata in the box. Penedo came up huge on Plata’s ensuing effort, flashing quick reflexes to change direction and blocked the deflected 15-yarder.
The Galaxy had an excellent opportunity on the counter five minutes later, but star forward Robbie Keane couldn’t take advantage of a four-on-three opportunity, dribbling deep into the RSL box before rolling a shot to Rimando at the near post.
Penedo made another huge save in the 69th minute, stoning Plata again to keep things level. Saborio played his strike partner into the right side of the area with a wonderful flick, but Penedo handled the one-on-one opportunity, decisively coming off his line to block Plata’s attempt.
Penedo had yet another save in the 75th minute, acrobatically stopping a Javier Morales corner kick that looked destined to tuck inside the near post. The Panamanian international made another stop in the 90th minute, turning away a late RSL charge by swiping a Morales shot over the bar.
LA Galaxy 0, Real Salt Lake 0
Saturday, Nov. 1 – 5:00 p.m. PT
MLS Cup Playoffs – Western Conference Semifinals First Leg
Rio Tinto Stadium – Sandy, Utah
LA – Omar Gonzalez (caution) 53’
RSL – Tony Beltran (caution) 63’
RSL – Chris Wingert (caution) 67’
LA – Robbie Rogers (caution) 77’
LA Galaxy: Jaime Penedo; Robbie Rogers, A.J. DeLaGarza, Omar Gonzalez, Dan Gargan; Baggio Husidic (Alan Gordon 87’), Marcelo Sarvas, Juninho, Landon Donovan; Robbie Keane ©, Gyasi Zardes.
Substitutes Not Used: Brian Rowe, Tommy Meyer, Kenney Walker, Stefan Ishizaki, Jose Villarreal.
TOTAL SHOTS: 3; SHOTS ON GOAL: 1; FOULS: 24; OFFSIDE: 3; CORNER KICKS: 2; SAVES: 6.
Real Salt Lake: Nick Rimando, Tony Beltran, Chris Schuler, Chris Wingert, Luke Mulholland, Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales, Luis Gil, Alvaro Saborio, Joao Plata.
Substitutes Not Used: Jeff Attinella, Robbie Findley, Ned Grabavoy, Cole Grossman, Sebastian Jaime, Abdoulie Mansally, Carlos Salcedo.
TOTAL SHOTS: 16; SHOTS ON GOAL: 6; FOULS: 11; OFFSIDE: 8; CORNER KICKS: 6; SAVES: 1.
Referee: Silviu Petrescu
Referee’s Assistants: Baboucarr Jallow and Mike Rottersman
4th Official: Sorin Stoica