Real Salt Lake vs. LA Galaxy | MLS Cup Playoffs Western Conference Semifinal Preview

REAL SALT LAKE v LA GALAXY
WESTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS - SECOND LEG
Thu., Nov. 7, Rio Tinto Stadium (7 p.m. MT; ESPN; TSN2)

The Western Conference Semifinal Series between Real Salt Lake and the LA Galaxy sits on a knife edge as the teams play the second leg on Thursday evening at Rio Tinto Stadium. A Sean Franklin goal was the only tally as the Galaxy opened defense of their back-to-back MLS Cup triumph with a win in the first leg at StubHub Center. Real return home needing to end a five-game winless streak in the MLS Cup Playoffs – and end a postseason goalless streak now at more than five hours.

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REFEREE: Baldomero Toledo; AR1 (bench): Craig Lowry; AR2 (opposite): Mike Rottersman; 4th: Armando Villarreal
SUSPENDED: none
WARNINGS (suspended next yellow card): RSL: Kyle Beckerman ... LA: Juninho, Rafael Garcia

LEAGUE HEAD-TO-HEAD: 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 RIO TINTO STADIUM:
4/27: RSL 0, LA 2 (Magee 6; Rugg 13)
6/8: RSL 3, LA 1 (Stephenson 44; Garcia 84, 92+ -- Donovan 46+)
MLS CUP PLAYOFFS: LA 2 wins, 5 GF … RSL 0 wins, 2 GF … Ties 1

REAL SALT LAKE

READ: RSL hopes quick turnaround is just what they need

  • Since a 3-0 win vs. Seattle in the first leg of their 2011 Western Conference Semifinal Series, Real have gone winless in their last five postseason matches.
  • “I think we should feel a little bit fortunate,” RSL head coach Jason Kreis said. “The Galaxy showed us how incredibly dangerous they can be [Sunday].” Said defender Nat Borchers: “We've been in situations like this before. We definitely haven't gotten the results we needed to in big games.”
  • Real have not scored a goal in their last 335 minutes of play in the MLS Cup Playoffs, and have scored once in the five-game winless run. “We're going back to our pitch, where I feel we're a much better team,” Borchers said. Said goalkeeper Nick Rimando: "We needed a goal anyway. No matter what. if we want to go through. Now we've got to go home, score a goal, tie it up. Just look for the first one, really. And when the first one comes, then we can think about the second one.”
  • For the series opener, Kreis returned to his scheme with Alvaro Saborio as the lone striker in front of a five-man midfield block including a holding pair, something they had tried once earlier in the season, in a mid-July victory vs. FC Dallas.
  • "We gave the ball away so cheaply, so many times in very dangerous spots and so even the goal comes from our giving the ball away in our defensive third of the field on just an easy pass that’s just missed,” Kreis said. “So we can talk all we want about how we have to be better defensively but for me, we wouldn’t have to defend as much if we were much better with the ball. ... The passes are there, you can see that the options were there, we’re just missing simple passes."
  • Real came into the playoff opener having not played in 11 days, and now face a quick turnaround for the second leg.
  • “I think it’s going to be very difficult and then if you succeed you’re looking at playing another one three days later. I think that’s extremely difficult, I think we have some problems because of all the gaps we’ve had lately," said Kreis. "If we can have two weeks in between matches, for us, I think it’s really hard to have a consistent rhythm and a flow and a tempo about what we’re doing."
  • There was good news on the injury front as forward Joao Plata and defender Lovel Palmer have recovered from hamstring injuries and should be available. Starting midfielder Ned Grabavoy is “looking doubtful” after suffering a hamstring injury in the first leg.

LA GALAXY

READ: No secret to success of midfielders Juninho and Sarvas

  • The Galaxy have won their last six conference semifinal series in the MLS Cup Playoffs. After losing in the first year the two-leg format was adopted (2003, to San Jose), the Galaxy have reached at least the conference championship in each year they have made the postseason since (2004-05, 2009-12).
  • "All the games in the league are all competitive going into the second game. It’s going to be difficult. Obviously, having the one goal is a real plus, but it’s going to take a heck of an effort in the next 90 minutes.” said Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena.
  • Said Robbie Keane: “Certainly, it's not over. If the players think it is, then they're going to be in for a big problem on Thursday night, so as long as we know that we start off nil-nil in the game, knowing we can counter and score with the players that we have in the team and defense play very, very well, we should be OK. But if we think that we're going to there and the game is done, then we'll be in for a shocker.”
  • Over 42 two-leg series all-time in MLS, teams that have had the second leg at home have advanced 22 times. Teams hosting the second leg did not advance 20 times (including all 6 last year).
  • “We need to not give up a goal. We don’t give up a goal we advance," said Landon Donovan. "That has to be the starting point, but as the game goes on, as it opens up, as they expose themselves, we’re certainly going to have chances to score.”
  • Sean Franklin scored his first goal in 17 career playoff matches to give the Galaxy the first leg victory. Franklin has five goals in his career in regular season games, scoring one goal in 2013.
  • “When we attack, we encourage our midfielders and our outside backs to stay forward more, so we can keep the attack going if the ball pops out,” Donovan said. “Sean did a really good job with that all night, and he got rewarded for it.”
  • For the fourth time over the last four years, the Galaxy began a series with a shutout victory. They've won each of the previous three (Seattle, 2010 and 2012; New York, 2011).
  • “We talked about how we didn’t want to give up any goals," said Franklin. "Everyone was flying in front of balls. Everyone did a good job today of shutting down their players and that’s kind of what is needed going into the second leg.”
  • A.J. DeLaGarza made his first appearance since Sept. 14, coming on as a substitute for the game's final minutes. DeLaGarza had been out with a dislocated elbow.