CARSON, Calif. — After the first leg of their Western Conference Semifinal against the two-time defending champion LA Galaxy, Real Salt Lake are down a goal and feeling incredibly lucky they don't have a higher hill to climb.
“I think it's a fantastic result for us, looking back at the chances they had,” Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando told reporters after his team fell 1-0 at StubHub Center Sunday night. “I'm happy with it because it could have been a lot worse. We got very, very lucky not to get scored on a lot more.”
It's not often that a team loses a match and feels lucky doing it. But while nobody in the RSL locker room was celebrating, nobody was hanging his head, either.
The Galaxy walked out of the stadium knowing they could have put one, two, or even three more goals between them and Real Salt Lake heading into Thursday's second leg (9 pm ET, ESPN2 in US, TSN2 in Canada).
RSL know it, too.
“I think we should feel a little bit fortunate,” head coach Jason Kreis told reporters. “The Galaxy showed us how incredibly dangerous they can be tonight.”
And RSL struggled to put passes together through long stretches of the game, mounting little in the way of counterattacks and instead repeatedly fending off LA.
“The bad news is, we weren't good with the ball,” said defender Nat Borchers. “The good news is, it's only a one-goal game.”
Salt Lake need to outscore LA by at least one goal on Thursday to take that match into overtime; a two-goal advantage would send the Claret-and-Cobalt to the Conference Championship.
And perhaps the best news is that there's another 90 minutes left to play, and that match will be played in a more familiar environment.
“We're going back to our pitch, where I feel we're a much better team,” Borchers said.