LA Galaxy vs. Real Salt Lake | MLS Cup Playoffs Western Conference Semifinal Preview
LA GALAXY v REAL SALT LAKE
StubHub Center, Carson, Calif.
Nov. 3, 2013 (MLS Cup Playoffs, Western Conference Semifinals, First Leg)
(6 pm PT; ESPN/Deportes; TSN2/RDS2)
The MLS Cup 2009 finalists meet again in the postseason when the LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake kick off their Western Conference Semifinal series on Sunday evening at StubHub Center. The Galaxy begin defense of their back-to-back MLS titles riding a four-game undefeated streak, after having allowed just one goal in the entire month of October, and rolled to a 4-2 win against RSL in the only league meeting this season in Carson. Real also come into the playoffs having ended the regular season with a four-game undefeated run. The Claret-and-Cobalt's only MLS title came in the shootout win against the Galaxy in MLS Cup 2009 in Seattle.
REFEREE: Kevin Stott. AR1 (bench): Kermit Quisenberry; AR2 (opposite): Fabio Tovar; 4th: Juan Guzman
LA 10 wins, 40 goals … RSL 10 wins, 43 goals … Ties 5
2013 HEAD-TO-HEAD: LA 2 wins, 7 goals … RSL 1 win, 5 goals … Ties 0
AT STUBHUB CENTER:
8/17: LA 4, RSL 2 (Keane 56, 67, 86; Gonzalez 75 - Plata 53; Findley 95+)
MLS CUP PLAYOFFS: LA 1 win, 4 GF … RSL 0 wins, 2 GF … Ties 1
- Thanks to the late equalizer in the season finale in Seattle, the Galaxy did not face the midweek Knockout Round match as they did a year ago, on their way to a second consecutive MLS Cup title.
- "Both teams probably come out of that pretty beat up, and if we had to play Wednesday or Thursday, that'd be very tough," said Landon Donovan. "So we'll happily take a week of rest, and then we've got a real hard game against a team that I think has been the best team in the league over the last four or five years."
- The Galaxy come into the postseason riding a four-game undefeated streak, with two draws following two wins. They have lost just twice in league play since the start of August -- both 1-0 defeats (to Colorado and Portland).
- "We've had a good run since August. Weíve done a good job and weíll hopefully be healthy by the weekend when we play. We'll be in a good position to be competitive and hopefully win the first series," said Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena.
- The Seattle goal was the only goal the Galaxy conceded in the month of October, and ended their shutout streak at 338 minutes, the fifth-longest in MLS this season.
- "I thought it was Omar's [Gonzalez] best game in a while. Kofi Opare has been really solid for us. Heís a good young player. We play two first-year players with Kofi and [Greg] Cochrane so I'm real pleased with those young players. And Gyasi [Zardes] as well, so we got incredible experience tonight for our young kids. I think down the stretch, our veteran players made a difference for us."
- Robbie Keane scored his 16th league goal this season in the season finale, giving him 9 goals over his last 10 MLS games. Keane matched his goal output from a season ago -- but scored the 16 goals in five fewer games this year.
- Landon Donovan played the full 90 minutes for a second consecutive match, but ended the year with 134 career league goals, still tied for the all-time lead with Jeff Cunningham.
- "When (Keane) gets that goal, you have to say he had a very good game. Goals are rare in this sport and Robbie seems to get them at the right time," Arena said. "Overall, I thought the last 10 or 15 minutes of the game, he was very influential for us in terms of leadership. He and Landon [Donovan] really stepped up and got the players organized and confident so we could walk off the field with a point."
REAL SALT LAKE
- Real Salt Lake will come into the MLS Cup Playoffs with the most rest of any team -- having not played on the season's final weekend -- and also riding a four-game undefeated streak.
- "If at the beginning of the season you told me we would barely slip into the playoffs I would have said I'll take it," said RSL coach Jason Kreis. "Absolutely I'll take it. Give it to me and I'll take it, we'll have a chance in the playoffs. ... To pick up the points necessary to put ourselves in a position with a chance for all this stuff is nothing short of remarkable."
- After scoring just three goals over their previous five matches, RSL scored a pair in the season-ending win vs. Chivas USA. Real had scored multiple goals in a game 15 times over 19 matches from May to August.
- "We play our best soccer," goalkeeper Nick Rimando said, "when we possess the ball and play good team defense." Said Kreis: "It's not just about what we do with the ball. It has to be about what we do without the ball – and then what that can mean when we do have the ball."
- After missing the previous match, Javier Morales was able to come on as a halftime substitute in the season finale vs. Chivas USA, and hopes to be fully fit for the postseason opener.
- Chris Schuler started for a fourth consecutive match in central defense in the season finale, and will be available for the first playoff match. Schuler missed the last two meetings with the Galaxy -- including the 4-2 loss in August in Carson.
- "I think that [Schuler] gives us just a little bit of a different dimension. He gives us a player who can physically put a little bit of fear into forwards. That's something we've lacked," Kreis said. "...It's something anybody that plays for our team needs to recognize. We can't just allow forwards to have an easy day against us. I felt that too often this entire season we've allowed that."
- Lovel Palmer was forced out of the final league match with a hamstring injury, coming off after just eight minutes, replaced by Tony Beltran.
- "That's not easy to do, to come off the bench and be cold and be in that mindset where youíve kind of been looked over for two matches. So we will welcome Tony back with open arms and we will hope that Lovel isn't injured for a long spell."