Preview: LA, RSL take aim at silverware - and each other

LA GALAXY vs REAL SALT LAKE
THE HOME DEPOT CENTER, Carson, Calif.
March 10, 2012 (WEEK 1, MLS Game #4)
7:30 p.m. PT (KDOC/KWHY; KTVX)

A pair of clubs that have developed a healthy rivalry in the Western Conference kick off the 2012 season against each other when Real Salt Lake travel to Carson to take on the defending MLS champion LA Galaxy. The Galaxy won the third title in club history just a few short months ago, at their Home Depot Center home. They reached the final with a victory against RSL in the Western Conference Championship; it was in 2009 when Real Salt Lake claimed their first MLS title with a victory against the Galaxy in MLS Cup in Seattle.

REFEREE: Kevin Stott. SAR (bench): Fabio Tovar; JAR (opposite): Jason Cullum; 4th: Paul Ward
MLS Career: 213 games; FC/gm: 25.8; Y/gm: 3.4; R: 58; pens: 44

INJURY REPORT:

  • LA GALAXY -- OUT: FW Adam Cristman (concussion); DF Omar Gonzalez (L knee surgery); MF Bryan Jordan (L hamstring strain); DF Leonardo (R knee surgery); MF Kyle Nakazawa (tonsillectomy); MF Jose Villarreal (bilateral lower leg surgery)
  • REAL SALT LAKE -- OUT: MF Will Johnson (R adductor strain); DOUBTFUL: DF Nat Borchers (L quadriceps strain); DF Chris Wingert (facial laceration); QUESTIONABLE: MF Javier Morales (R quadriceps strain); FW Álvaro Saborío (R knee internal injury); MF Jonny Steele (L knee internal injury)

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INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
SUSPENDED: none

HEAD-TO-HEAD

  • ALL-TIME (19 meetings): Galaxy 7 wins, 28 goals … Real 7 wins, 31 goals … Ties 5
  • AT LA (10 meetings): Galaxy 6 wins, 16 goals … Real 3 wins, 14 goals … Ties 1
  • RETURN MATCH: 6/20: Real Salt Lake vs. LA Galaxy, 7 p.m. MT

LAST YEAR (MLS):
3/26: RSL 4, LA 1 (Williams 2; Morales 10, 41; Araujo 68 – Angel 80)
10/1: LA 2, RSL 1 (Barrett 59; own goal 72 – Espindola 45)

  • The teams meet again after the Galaxy claimed a 3-1 victory over Real in the Western Conference Championship last year at The Home Depot Center. The clubs split their regular season meetings, each winning on their home ground.
  • It’s also a rematch of MLS Cup 2009 in Seattle, dramatically won by Real Salt Lake on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw through 120 minutes.
  • Since a 3-2 win at Rice-Eccles Stadium on April 29, 2006, the Galaxy have not won in Utah. Real have won all three meetings lifetime at Rio Tinto Stadium.
  • Coaches record: Bruce Arena vs. RSL: P10 W3 L3 D4 … Jason Kreis vs. LA: P11 W4 L3 D4

LA GALAXY

The defending MLS champions begin defense of their title at The Home Depot Center, where they won the third league title in club history just a few short months ago. The Galaxy have made few changes in the offseason – with their Designated Player trio of Landon Donovan, David Beckham and Robbie Keane still at the forefront.

  • The Galaxy come into the MLS season opener off a 2-2 draw with Toronto FC in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal at Rogers Centre.
  • Ryan Johnson and Luis Silva knocked in goals in the first 18 minutes to give TFC the lead, but Mike Magee turned home a deflected cross from Sean Franklin in the 29th minute, then Landon Donovan scored the leveler from a goalmouth scramble off a corner kick with just two minutes to play.
  • “This is a game where you can come up with a bunch of excuses not to get any kind of result but they hung in there and showed a lot of character,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “The point is huge because going back to LA next Wednesday, we're in a decent position. It's not perfect but it's not bad.”
  • Here’s the Galaxy team: Josh Saunders; Sean Franklin, Andrew Boyens (Chad Barrett 87’), A.J. DeLaGarza, Todd Dunivant; Landon Donovan, Juninho (Michael Stephens 87’), David Beckham, Mike Magee; Robbie Keane, Edson Buddle.
  • The Galaxy concluded their preseason schedule with a victory on penalty kicks in the final of Desert Diamond Cup in Tucson, Ariz., after reaching a scoreless draw with the New England Revolution.
  • With the CCL quarterfinal looming, Arena took the opportunity to run out a very young side. Seven players were 24 or younger – including the center back pairing of 2012 draftees Tommy Meyer and Bryan Gaul (21 and 22, respectively).
  • Here’s the Galaxy team: Brian Perk, Todd Dunivant (J.T. Murray 46), Bryan Gaul, Tommy Meyer, Dan Keat (Justin Davies 64), Pat Noonan (Paolo Cardozo 66), Marcelo Sarvas, Juninho (Kenney Walker 69), Mike Stephens, Jack McBean, Chad Barrett (Hector Jimenez 61)
  • “The story tonight was our young kids playing well, getting challenged in a game with a good crowd and a little bit of a pressure setting,” Arena said, “and I thought that was real positive. It’s real good any time players are put in a competition where they’re playing for a trophy, whether it’s in the preseason or whatever. You want to see how they respond to that kind of pressure, how they receive that pressure, how they deal with it. I think our young kids did surprisingly well tonight.”
  • After missing the final match of his loan stint with Everton FC in England, then the USA’s friendly with Italy, Landon Donovan did not return to full training until the team was in Arizona.
  • “The frustrating part was that I was fit and healthy as I’ve felt in a long time,” Donovan said. “You don't train for two weeks and you’re ill – it kind of takes it out of you. This week has been about kind trying to get fitness back and getting myself sharp again. Everything's happening the way it's supposed to and maybe that two week break was good in the long run.”
  • But his form was certainly improving by the CCL match in Canada. “Landon played well,” Arena said. “He was dangerous most of the day. He created a bunch of chances for us, obviously got that second goal and it was his ball on the first goal as well.”

OFFSEASON TRANSACTIONS

  • IN: D Andrew Boyens (12/12: Re-Entry Stage 2/Chivas USA); D Chris Leitch (12/12: Re-Entry Stage 2/San Jose); F Pat Noonan (12/12: Re-Entry Stage 2/Seattle); M Marcelo Sarvas (12/13: free/Alajuelense); M Jose Villarreal (12/22: Homegrown); D Tommy Meyer (1/12: SuperDraft); M Kenney Walker (1/12: SuperDraft); F Bryan Gaul (1/17: supplemental draft); M Rafael Garcia (1/17: supplemental draft); D Justin Davies (1/17: supplemental draft); F Edson Buddle (2/1: free); M Kyle Nakazawa (2/1: trade from Philadelphia); G Bill Gaudette (2/29: free)
  • OUT: D Gregg Berhalter (12/9: retired); G Donovan Ricketts (11/28: trade to Montreal); G Jon Conway (1/10: retired); M/F Miguel López (1/10: loan expired); M Jovan Kirovski (1/23: retired); D Dasan Robinson (1/27: retired); D Chris Leitch (1/30: retired); D Frankie Hejduk (1/30: contract expired)

REAL SALT LAKE

Real Salt Lake kick off the club’s eighth season of existence aiming for a second trip to MLS Cup – which they won in 2009 with a victory against the LA Galaxy. Real lost in a conference championship for the second time in four seasons last year, a 3-1 defeat by the Galaxy in this very same Home Depot Center. RSL finished the 2011 season in third place in the West, 14 points adrift of the Supporters’ Shield-winning Galaxy.

  • Real Salt Lake concluded their preseason schedule with a 1-0 win against the New York Red Bulls in the third place match in the Desert Diamond Cup in Tucson, Ariz. Chris Wingert scored the game’s lone goal.
  • Here’s the RSL team: Nick Rimando (GK), Tony Beltran, Jamison Olave (Leone Cruz 80’), Chris Schuler, Chris Wingert (Terukazu Tanaka 56’), Ned Grabavoy, Sebastian Velasquez (Javier Morales 60’), Kyle Beckerman, Luis Gil (Jonny Steele 60’), Paulo Jr., Emiliano Bonfigli (Alvaro Saborio 60’)
  • RSL concluded the Arizona tournament with a pair of 1-0 wins against New York, and loss to the LA Galaxy (0-2) and New England Revolution (1-2).
  • But coming out of training camp, Real more resemble a squad of walking wounded. Will Johnson will certainly miss the contest, in Germany following sports hernia surgery.
  • Alvaro Saborio, Javier Morales, Nat Borchers and recent signing Jonny Steele all trained in Utah during the week, but RSL head coach Jason Kreis all but ruled them out of the first team.
  • "We could see some brand new faces in the starting lineup Saturday night who've never donned an RSL jersey before. It could be a real interesting situation, and again, exciting to get some new players some experience right off the bat," Kreis said to the Deseret News.
  • With Borchers out, 6-foot-4 Chris Schuler will likely slot into central defense alongside Jamison Olave, on the heels of a good training camp. “He’s had a really strong preseason, which is following up on a really great season for him last year. He just continues to move forward and continues to impress,” Kreis said.
  • In addition, fullback Wingert was forced to leave the FC Tucson tournament finale after scoring the game’s lone goal, after taking a large wound above the right eye that could impair his ability to head the ball.
  • “I’ll take the stitches if I can score again – about 10 of these a year,” Wingert joked. “If I could score double digits, I think I’d be OK with that. Obviously, I was psyched to get a goal. It was just a freak accident and sometimes that stuff happens, but if I don’t have to miss a game then it’s not a big deal.”

OFFSEASON TRANSACTIONS

  • IN: M Enzo Martinez (1/12: SuperDraft); D Diogo de Almeida (1/12: SuperDraft); M Sebastián Velásquez (1/12: SuperDraft); F Emiliano Bonfigli (1/17: supplemental draft); D Leone Cruz (1/17: trade rights from Seattle); M Jonny Steele (2/22: Carolina RailHawks); G Lalo Fernandez (2/24: Homegrown)
  • OUT: G Tim Melia (11/23: waived); M Collen Warner (11/23: expansion draft); D Robbie Russell (11/29: trade to D.C.); M Jean Alexandre (12/1: trade to San Jose); M Arturo Alvarez (12/5: Re-Entry Stage 1/Chivas USA); M Andy Williams (12/5: retired); D Nelson González (12/12: option declined); D Rauwshan McKenzie (12/12: option declined); M Blake Wagner (12/12: option declined)