Real Salt Lake Shocks Host Galaxy 3-1

For the first seventy minutes of yesterday’s First Kick match-up between the Galaxy and RSL, the predictions about the amazing 2012 Galaxy season looked like they were more than just hype.  Only the crossbar and some timely RSL defending denied the Galaxy a multi-goal lead and the defense looked shaky but solid.  When Edson Buddle converted a David Beckham pass into a goal in the 71st minute, fans could be forgiven for switching off the game and assuming it would spiral out of control from there.

But a funny thing happened at The Home Depot Center last night, and it was an intangible that we sometimes forget affects soccer games.  The Galaxy had played in Toronto on Wednesday night and with an older team, the travel visibly began to affect the team in the second half.  In addition, they needed a two goal comeback to get a draw from their CCL match.  Those watching closely could see how the Galaxy defense began to sag in the middle of the field and, when losing a step on an RSL player, committed more fouls (fourteen for the game).

Two minutes after the Buddle goal, new RSL midfielder Sebastian Velazquez created some space down the right and put in a cross towards goal.  Brian Dunseth on the MLS Live feed noted earlier that the pitch at Home Depot Center gets a little damp as the temperature drops, and Sean Franklin possibly fell victim to this.  He threw his leg out to deflect the bouncing cross but ended up stabbing it into his own net.  At that point the game changed as Real Salt Lake had the momentum and the home side looked deflated.  Adding to this momentum was key substitutions by Jason Kreis who brought on banged up Javier Morales and Alvaro Saborio midway through the second half, substitutions that gave RSL a more confident and attacking line-up.  In the 80th minute, Morales scored his first goal since his injury last season when he poked a loose ball in the LA box into the net.  Fabian Espindola, who had a big second half, put the exclamation point on the win with a nice drive down the left that saw him juke a few defenders before finishing with a goal.

Even though this was the first MLS game for both teams, the impact cannot be understated.  For the visitors, scoring the first away win against the Galaxy since 2010, especially when down a goal, is a major momentum boost for this side.  Nick Rimando had an excellent game and while LA put RSL under a lot of pressure throughout the game, the Reds held the high-flying Galaxy to only one goal.  The negative this game revealed is the team’s depth.  With Morales and Saborio sitting, players like Paulo Jr., Louis Gil, and Sebastian Velasquez got the start.  Despite Velasquez setting up the first goal, these players were shaky in the midfield and Espindola lacked any consistent quality passes from the midfield.  LA gave the visitors some good chances at counters, but they failed to take advantage of them for the first part of the game.

As for the Galaxy, this game was a bit of a wake-up.  Coming back to force a draw with Toronto is a confidence booster; this result should show them that they can’t play the entire season by wasting chances.  Looking up at Real Salt Lake should help show this team that they won’t cake walk to another title and this is a good lesson to see early.  That said, they could have easily gone home last night with a multi-goal win.  Their offensive pressure was as advertised and the big names (especially Donovan and Beckham) were dynamic.  Fatigue was a factor but that will be a factor all season.  How they handle that will be a key to how far they advance this season.  But this result should in no way lesson the impression that they are the most dangerous team in MLS.

A few other observations for you from the game:

  • The broadcast crew for RSL were pretty good, especially Brian Dunseth in the booth.  That said, the unintentional comedy moment of the night was them hosting Don Garber in the booth.  After introducing the Commish, there was about three minutes of play-by-play, with Garber finally interjecting that he felt like he was butting in.
  • I watched this game on the new MLS Live on my computer but about 10 minutes in hooked it to my HD TV.  The picture was incredible and when MLS Live says it has an HD feed, it isn’t lying.  I haven’t tried the phone or iPad feed but look forward to it.
  • I loved the LA Galaxy faux-Real Madrid shirts.  They look great on TV with the sash.
  • The return match on June 20 will be fun to watch.  This game got chippy midway through and it is obvious the players on these two teams don’t care much for each other.

10 Responses to Real Salt Lake Shocks Host Galaxy 3-1

  1. Joe says:

    I know that LA won last year, but RSL is the team to beat. Withou
    the Morales injury after the CONCACAF loss RSL would’ve been the
    team to beat. While battling through injuries all year and
    finishing 3rd we showed that we were the better team against
    Seattle. LA in the WC Finals was just one game,one game where they
    were bette. I don’t know why RSL wasn’t getting the respect in the
    preseasonThis is going to be an incredible season this year. I
    can’t wait for Seattle Toronto/LA representing the leagu in
    CONCACAF. Best of luck to the league. 2012′s going to be great!!!

  2. Charles says:

    I thought this was a great game, but that Salt Lake was the better
    team from the kickoff. LA is going to miss playing with a central
    defender. That game would have been 1-0 last year,

  3. Michael says:

    If the travel affected LA that much in Match 2 of the year, they’re
    in much, much worse shape than I thought. The reality seems to be
    that: 1. They’re getting older. Donovan and Buddle are now on the
    wrong side of 30, joining Keane and Beckham. 2. The Gals may not be
    able to duplicate the utter defensive dominance responsible for its
    2011 success. Even after Gonzalez returns, there was a certain
    chemistry they had in the back last year that made Bruce Arena’s
    defend-and-counter strategy look brilliant despite the fact that
    LA’s vaunted offense had the third-worst shots taken and
    sixth-worst SOG in the league. 3. The biggest mistake the club may
    have made in the offseason was ditching Donovan Ricketts for Josh
    Saunders. It was a move apparently made for money, because
    Saunders, in what, his first full season as an MLS starter, is 31
    so it wasn’t a youth move. Saunders looked plain bad at times
    yesterday, while despite the Vancouver goals Ricketts looked
    strong. If the defense falters, Saunders may be exposed as a weak
    link.

    • Ramiro says:

      1. True. But as you get on the wrong side of 30, you also tend to
      be less involved for your respective national team (i.e. Donovan,
      Buddle, Keane), which may play to LA’s strengths in the second half
      of the season. 2. True. Dunivant is year older and probably a step
      slower and there’s no equal replacement for Gonzalez. 3. Too early
      to say, but after 1-2 games, then I would agree that Saunders has
      not looked as solid as he did towards the end of last season. But
      I’m still not sure if it was even a mistake. Remember because of
      how MLS works with the salary cap, trading away Ricketts for
      allocation money opened up a lot of cap space to keep Sean
      Franklin, give Saunders a raise AND sign Edson Buddle. Match 2 is
      too early to be playing double gameweeks. LA is just as fit as any
      other team in MLS to play every weekend. It’s not that LA is unfit,
      but they’re just not fit enough so early in the season to play
      every 3 days. No team in MLS is fit enough to play on 3 days rest.
      If this was a little later in the season, then it might be a
      different story. Just ask yourself, how many other teams in MLS
      play in Toronto on an artificial surface, fly back to LA and play
      RSL on 3 days rest with almost identical starting XI as against
      Toronto and achieve better results? Obviously this is a theoretical
      question, but I can only think of 2-3 teams (Seattle, RSL and SKC).
      That’s not bad company to be in if you’re LA.

  4. Robert Hay says:

    Michael – You makes some really good points including two I don’t
    think a lot of people are discussing. Donovan, Keane, and Buddle
    are all on the wrong side of thirty AND have just come off a
    European season (loans in the first two cases, but still). Everyone
    assumes they will be supermen, but we’ll have to see if this is the
    case. Secondly, the Galaxy have been praised for smartly cutting
    ties with Rickett and going with the cheaper Saunders. While they
    needed to do this to get under the cap and sign some of their big
    names, maybe that could be a critical mistake in a tough Western
    conference if Saunders turns out to be merely adequate.

    • Charles says:

      Did you see the Wash Post ? Rumors of a stadium along the Potomic.

    • Michael says:

      Robert – yeah, the Euro tours were something I had forgotten (and
      gives Bruce Arena plenty of “I told you so” ammunition to try and
      keep his players from doing it again next year although AEG may
      overrule him), and probably hurt LA far more than it would have
      hurt Seattle, SKC or RSL to play 2 matches in their first week.
      Ramiro – another thing that gets lost in the “too many games”
      argument: LA went down 2 goals in their first 20 minutes of
      competitive soccer. They’ve had a lead for approximately 2 of the
      past 180+ minutes, while playing behind for about 90 of those
      minutes. While it’s most likely true is that they were tired before
      they even started, I don’t see how they’re going to “regain”
      fitness, with most of their offense having been theoretically match
      fit in Europe before they arrived back in LA.

      • Ramiro says:

        2 goals conceded in under 20 min is glaring, but after the second
        goal, TFC only got one more shot off, which was a half-field
        attempt and off target. LA’s defense is not what it was. Looking
        forward to Wednesday’s game against TFC, LA will not have to deal
        with travel, having played on an artificial surface and will now
        have 4 days of rest. This added 4th day of rest can’t be
        underestimated. I would speculate that it will afford the majority
        of the LA players to recover adequately. They will play better and
        do just enough to progress. Though Donovan and Keane are coming
        back from loans in Europe, Donovan was sick with bronchitis for 2
        weeks, essentially decimating any match fitness he had acquired and
        he’s still trying to get fit.

  5. Charles says:

    Number of times LA gave up 2 goals or more at home last year.
    ONE…………………..Not saying that LA isn’t good, just
    saying, Seattle is the best team in the league and there are many
    teams that are very good.

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