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THE HOME DEPOT CENTER
7 pm PT (FSC; FSN-W; FSN-RM)
When these two teams met a month ago, Real Salt Lake claimed a historic victory against the Los Angeles Galaxy at home. The Galaxy haven't lost since and are still unbeaten at their Victoria Street home, although the record has been dented a bit with draws in their last two matches at The Home Depot Center. While Real followed that Galaxy win with another against fellow Carsonites Chivas USA, RSL haven't won in three matches - and haven't hit the back of the net in that time.
REFEREE: Marcel Yonan. SAR (bench): Richard Eddy; JAR (opposite): Steven Davidson; 4th: Ian Anderson
MLS Career: 49 games; FC/gm: 29.4; Y/gm: 3.2; R: 8; pens: 16
Games involving Galaxy: P4 W2 L1 T1; FC/gm: 33.5; Y/gm: 3.5; R: 0; pens: 1
Games involving Real: first game
INJURY REPORT: LOS ANGELES GALAXY - OUT: DF Chris Albright (L knee MCL sprain); FW Alan Gordon (R hip strain); FW Joseph Ngwenya (sports hernia surgery); DF Ben Benditson (sports hernia); DF Paul Broome (L foot sprain); MF Ned Grabavoy (R hamstring strain); PROBABLE: MF Paulo Nagamura (L foot contusion) ... REAL SALT LAKE - OUT: DF Rustin Pierce (L hamstring tightness); DF Michael Lookingland (L knee MCL sprain); PROBABLE: GK D.J. Countess (L shoulder subluxation)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
YELLOW PERIL: LA: MF Paulo Nagamura (18 CP) ... RSL: DF Nelson Akwari (20 CP)
This is the third meeting between the two clubs. The fourth and final meeting during Real's inaugural season for the Western Conference clubs will be in less than two weeks, June 22 at Rice-Eccles.
Coaches record: John Ellinger v LA: P2 W1 L1 D0 ... Steve Sampson vs. RSL: P2 W1 L1 D0
ALL-TIME (1 meetings): Galaxy 1 win (0 shootout), 4 goals ... Real 1 win (0 shootout), 3 goals ... 0 draws
AT THE HOME DEPOT CENTER: (1 meeting): Galaxy 1 win (0 shootout), 3 goals ... Real 0 wins (0 shootout), 1 goals ... 0 draws
The teams have split their two meetings thus far. The Galaxy began the Landon Donovan era with a bang in a 3-1 victory against Real Salt Lake on April 9 at The Home Depot Center.
It took Donovan just nine minutes to open his Galaxy account. Jovan Kirovski laid a pass back to Donovan at the top of the area, and he clinically drove a low left-footed shot inside the right post. But Jason Kreis pulled Real level when he scored the first goal in club history, swooping in to smash home a rebound after Kevin Hartman failed to hold a low angled drive from Dipsy Selolwane (29).
Just before the break an opportunistic Donovan put the Galaxy ahead for good (44), heading home a deflected cross from close range. Cobi Jones then rounded off the scoreline in the 72nd minute when he scored his first goal since June 14, 2003.
On May 14 at Rice-Eccles Stadium, Real Salt Lake won their second match in club history, coming from behind to record a 2-1 victory.
Real's victory was backstopped by goalkeeper Jay Nolly, making his professional debut. Jovan Kirovski put the Galaxy in front after 39 minutes, tapping home from close range after Chris Albright's cross from the right wasn't dealt with and then helped on by Peter Vagenas - who minutes earlier had a shocking miss in front of an empty goal.
But after the break, Real pulled level when Eddie Pope came driving into the box to poke home a chest-high deflection of a corner kick (49), then in the 65th minute, a perfectly-weighted ball from Clint Mathis from his own end over the Galaxy defense found Jason Kreis, and his lovely side-foot volley on the run chipped Kevin Hartman to put Real in front with his 95th career goal.
Here's John Ellinger's team (4-1-4-1): Jay Nolly - Rustin Pierce, Brian Dunseth, Eddie Pope, Nelson Akwari - Brian Kamler (Seth Trembly 84) - Chris Brown (Evan Whitfield 89), Clint Mathis, Andy Williams, Leslie Fitzpatrick (Marlon Rojas 77) - Jason Kreis
Here's Steve Sampson's team (4-4-2): Kevin Hartman - Chris Albright, Ugo Ihemelu, Tyrone Marshall, Todd Dunivant - Cobi Jones, Paulo Nagamura (Mubarike Chisoni 78), Peter Vagenas (Ednaldo da Conceicao 69), Guillermo Ramirez - Landon Donovan, Jovan Kirovski.
LOS ANGELES GALAXY
A Galaxy side hit with numerous absences to injury and international duty saw a late MetroStars goal leave the teams sharing the spoils in a 2-2 draw, the visitors continuing their outstanding road form.
Abbe Ibrahim gave the MetroStars a lead after just five minutes, left free at the top of the six and allowed a clear header as a corner dropped right to him.
But then Cobi Jones - allowed to return to the Galaxy after having been earlier called in for the USA's World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica on Saturday - created a pair of goals within a quarter-hour. First Jones burst through on the right, and as he tried to push the ball past Zach Wells was tripped up by the MetroStars keeper. Jovan Kirovski neatly converted from the spot (19).
Then Jones gave the home side the lead with a wonderful goal. A long angled ball from all of 60 yards from left back Todd Dunivant found Jones on the right, and he hit a sublime side-foot first-time volley from the corner of the area over Wells and inside the far post.
But after the break the MetroStars pulled level as they still have just one loss on their travels. A neat pass from Mark Lisi split open the Galaxy defense, Sergio Galvan Rey running onto it before curling a shot past Kevin Hartman inside his left-hand post for the equalizer (72). The Galaxy haven't beaten the MetroStars in the last seven meetings between the clubs.
Galaxy boss Steve Sampson made one change to the team that knocked off Chivas USA in an "away" match at The Home Depot Center the previous weekend. With Tyrone Marshall added to the list of international absences, Troy Roberts made his MLS debut.
Here's Sampson's team (4-4-2): Kevin Hartman - Ugo Ihemelu, Pablo Chinchilla, Troy Roberts, Todd Dunivant - Cobi Jones, Peter Vagenas, Paulo Nagamura, Ned Grabavoy (Herculez Gomez 46) - Ednaldo da Conceicao (Paul Broome 76), Jovan Kirovski.
"I thought they did a very good job moving the ball around. They forced us work hard in the midfield, which ended up being what I felt was the key to the game. He who won the midfield tonight was going to win the game tonight and it went back and forth. Sometimes, there are certain games you take your point and go home." Sampson said.
The Los Angeles Galaxy extended their unbeaten streak to four matches and remained undefeated at The Home Depot Center on the season, but were again left with only a share of the points after a late goal gave the MetroStars a 2-2 draw last Saturday evening. The Galaxy remain in second place in the Western Conference with 20 points from 10 matches, four behind FC Dallas and still six points ahead of third-place San Jose Earthquakes.
While the Galaxy were rueing a number of key absences, there was good news before the match when Cobi Jones was released by U.S. national team boss Bruce Arena. He made plays that led to both of the Galaxy's goals.
"Let's not even talk about that situation,'' Jones said. "I was just playing as always, no extra motivation, not trying to send any messages.''
There was some issues with a very young back four, including rookies in Ugo Ihemelu and Troy Roberts and an MLS rookie in Pablo Chinchilla. Todd Dunivant, a third-year pro, had the most experience of the group. From the opening whistle the Metros tried to expose Roberts, and even when Sampson moved the University of California product out of the middle, the visitors had a response.
"We switched Troy up with Ugo [Ihemelu] and put him on the right," said Sampson about his second-half adjustment. "They matched us tactically and put [Amado] Guevara on the left so he could still go at him. I think it's obvious what they were trying to do."
Landon Donovan was the hero for the USA as they went a long way in securing their passage to Germany 2006, scoring a pair of goals in the 3-0 home victory against Costa Rica on the weekend, then scoring the second goal (while serving the corner that led to the first) in a 3-0 win away to Panama on Wednesday. In the current World Cup qualifying campaign, Donovan has figured in at least one U.S. goal in 12 of the 13 matches, and he now has 22 international goals, fourth all-time on the U.S. books.
Guillermo Ramirez started both matches for Guatemala over the World Cup qualifying cycle, as the chapines suffered through a lost week, falling 2-0 at home to Mexico (where he wore the captain's armband) and 3-2 in Costa Rica. But there was an injury concern in the match in San Jose - Ramirez came off in the 83rd minute after an apparent leg injury.
Michael Umaña did not play in either qualifier for Costa Rica over the week, the 3-0 loss to the USA in Salt Lake City and the 3-2 win against Guatemala at home.
On Wednesday, a reserve-filled Galaxy side lost 2-0 to defending J-League champion Yokohama F-Marinos in a friendly at The Home Depot Center. After a scoreless first half, the F-Marinos scored twice off restarts to claim the victory.
Galaxy coach used every available he had, with the exception of goalie Kevin Hartman and holding midfielder Paulo Nagamura - whose father is Japanese. He did have six of his regular starters in for the first 45 minutes, but none of them finished the game.
"We got some players some real important minutes," Sampson said. "The game served an important purpose. ... When we made some changes in the second half, we lost a lot of rhythm. There was just too much inexperience to play against what I thought was a very good Yokohama team."
REAL SALT LAKE
FC Dallas scored opportunistic goals on either side of halftime to ease to a comprehensive victory. Both goals came from rebound opportunities. In the first half, Abe Thompson collected a pass in the penalty area and a hit a low shot that Real 'keeper D.J. Countess was able to turn aside with a dive to his left, but Ronnie O'Brien was quickest to the rebound and knocked it into the unguarded goal (22).
Then just before the hour the visitors doubled their lead when O'Brien's angled shot was kicked straight up the heart of the penalty area. Thompson steamed in and drove the rebound right back through the Real defenders and into the back of the net.
Real coach John Ellinger made three changes to the team that lost 3-0 to the Chicago Fire at home the previous weekend, the first home loss in club history. Nelson Akwari and Seth Trembly came into the back four in place of Matt Behncke and Marlon Rojas while No. 1 overall pick in this year's SuperDraft, Nik Besagno, made his MLS debut, coming into midfield for Leslie Fitzpatrick (the final two changes caused by national team duty).
Here's Ellinger's team (3-4-1-2): D.J. Countess - Rusty Pierce (Matt Behncke 61), Brian Dunseth, Nelson Akwari- Chris Brown, Brian Kamler, Nikolas Besagno (Jordan Cila 68), Seth Trembly - Andy Williams - Clint Mathis - Jason Kreis.
"Our final third is not clicking. The midfielders and forwards are not on the same page," Williams said. "We're getting burned when we make mistakes, and when we get mistakes on the other end, we're not punishing the other teams."
Real Salt Lake lost for the third consecutive weekend and saw their goalless streak pass the five-hour mark, falling at home for the second successive match 2-0 to FC Dallas on Saturday night. Real are in fourth place in the Western Conference with 11 points from 11 matches, three behind the San Jose Earthquakes but still three ahead of the fifth-place Colorado Rapids in the race for the final playoff place.
Ellinger thought the 16-year-old Besagno did well in his professional debut. His only other MLS experience had come in a reserve match. "Nik did fine," Ellinger said. "He struggled a little bit, but he didn't play like a 16-year-old. The first hour, he had to figure out the pace."
Ellinger will be forced into a change on his back line on the weekend, as Rustin Pierce suffered a hamstring strain against FC Dallas.
Ellinger also won't know about three returning internationals until later in the week. Forward Dipsy Selolwane started and played 77 minutes for Botswana in their 3-1 home loss to Tunisia on Saturday. Leslie Fitzpatrick and Marlon Rojas did not play in either match for Trinidad & Tobago in the World Cup qualifying week, as the Soca Warriors defeated Panama 2-0 in Port-of-Spain on the weekend, then lost 2-0 to Mexico on Wednesday.
Eddie Pope was a stalwart in the back four for the USA, anchoring the backline a pair of shutout victories in the World Cup qualifying wins against Costa Rica and Panama. However, Pope received a second yellow card of the round Wednesday, and will out through suspension for the Aug. 17 match against Trinidad & Tobago.
On Wednesday, Real came from behind to defeat Universidad Catolica of Chile 3-2 at Rice-Eccles Stadium in a friendly. Down 2-0 at the half, rookie Jamie Watson came on in the 70th minute as a substitute and sparked the RSL revival.
His pass to Kenny Cutler four minutes later led to the first Real goal, then two minutes later he was pulled down in the box, Dipsy Selolwane converting from the spot to pull RSL level. Then two minutes from time he sent in a cross that was knocked home by Nelson Akwari for the match-winner. "Jamie was a big, big spark for us the last 20 minutes," said Ellinger. "He proved he belongs in this league tonight."
Here's Ellinger's team (4-4-2): Countess (Nolly 46); Akwari, Dunseth (Knowles 22), Behncke, Kamler; Besagno (Cutler 46), Brown, Williams (Trembly 46), Kreis (O'Brien 46); Mathis (Selolwane 46), Washington (Watson 71)
Ellinger tried Jason Kreis in an attacking midfield role on the night. For much of the season so far, Kreis has been a lone striker for Real. "I'd like an engine," Ellinger said. "A guy like Landon Donovan, who is running the show, what he does for L.A. Or Robbie O'Brien, what he does for Dallas. . . . But Jason came into the league as a central midfielder, and he's willing to do that again for us."