Ellinger all too familiar with Landon
MLS expansion side Real Salt Lake experienced a night of firsts, including its first goal in franchise history on Saturday night, but that's where the positives end.
RSL also conceded its first-ever goal, and then two more in a 3-1 away defeat to the Los Angeles Galaxy before a sellout crowd at The Home Depot Center.
At the heart of every Galaxy goal stood Landon Donovan, who made his Galaxy debut after MLS obtained the U.S. international playmaker in a transfer from Bayer Leverkusen of the German Bundesliga less than two weeks ago, scored twice in the first half and created the Galaxy's third.
When Real coach John Ellinger coached Donovan years ago on the U.S. under-17 national team, he saw stardom in Donovan's future and likened his game and ability to that of Chelsea's England international, Joe Cole. Having Donovan on the opposite side of the pitch was a first for Ellinger, and one that he would rather not have seen.
"We tried to get his girlfriend (Bianca Kajlich, an L.A.-based actress) to move to Salt Lake, but that ain't working. There's a nice studio in Salt Lake and everything," Ellinger quipped about a purported attempt to land Donovan in a Real shirt, which wasn't going to happen.
"You're dealing with someone like Landon Donovan, who is just a different class. He definitely makes a difference. He holds the ball and rarely loses it. Well, he never loses it, really. With him out there, you can take more risks, offensively."
Real's first goal conceded in franchise history came nine minutes in as right-side cross from Chris Albright was touched off by Kirovski into the path of Donovan. Real central defender Nelson Akwari failed to close down Donovan, who settled the ball, took a touch to his left and calmly tucked a 16-yard shot inside the foot of the right goalpost with his left foot.
Compounding matters for Real was the departure of Jamaican attacking midfielder Andy Williams before the restart. Williams had to be taken off due to a left groin strain as Leighton O'Brien came on.
"Andy's obviously a playmaker. He does so much for us," said Ellinger, who fears Williams could miss significant time after he gets an MRI this weekend. The team did not know the severity of the injury after the game. "He was going to go (into camp) with Jamaica but that's not happening."
Donovan, who collected a turnover and set up Jones for the Galaxy's third goal in the 72nd minute, really broke Real's spirit a minute before halftime in running onto the back post, stepping in front of flat-footed Real defender Matt Behncke and heading home Guillermo Ramirez's cross from the goalmouth.
"Towards the end (of the half) we kind of let up," striker Clint Mathis said. "It's deflating. Once that goal happened, I think we were just out of it. We're a better team than this."
Real's lone highlight came in the 29th minute as Kreis followed up an open rebound from seven yards after Dipsy Selolwane's shot was saved by Galaxy goalkeeper Kevin Hartman. It was the 93rd goal in Kreis's career, the all-time MLS leader.
"I'll chalk that one up as one of the prettier ones. I'll take it for the historical factor," Kreis said. "But on both sides of the ball, I don't think we worked hard enough for each other. That's uncharacteristic for this team, from what I've seen so far. Organizationally, we have some things to figure out. When we had the ball, we didn't work hard enough. We didn't make the runs."
Added Mathis: "It was great to get a goal but when it's all said and done, it didn't mean anything. With Jason, that's what he's good at. It's nice to get that first goal but it's really about getting RSL its first win."
Again, Ellinger was pleased with the goalkeeping of D.J. Countess, who made several reaction saves from close range to keep his side in the match before the Galaxy carved a third goal.
"They could've blown us out in the second half," Ellinger said. "For us, you need competitive matches to figure out answers. We've still got to sort out our wides. We did OK with our left side. I don't think we got enough good crosses in from the right."
After earning a point from its two away fixtures, RSL should be rejuvenated in knowing it makes its home debut next Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium against the Colorado Rapids.
"There's no Landon on that team," Ellinger said.
Damian Secore is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.