CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy get a rematch with their opening-day opponent, and they've got some unfinished business after losing two weeks ago to Real Salt Lake despite thoroughly dominating the action.
But it's a more recent defeat, Tuesday's 4-2 loss to Club Tijuana in the CONCACAF Champions League, that's fueling LA's drive – and perhaps forcing some personnel changes – heading into Saturday afternoon's clash with RSL at Rio Tinto Stadium (4 pm ET; NBCSN).
“We just want to play well,” Landon Donovan told reporters on Thursday. “What's more fresh in our mind is [the 4-2 loss to Tijuana], and the way we started that game was not indicative of the team we are. We're very talented, we know that – we have a number of guys that can make plays on both sides of the field – but if we don't compete, we can get beat, especially against good teams.
“Tijuana's a very good team. Salt Lake's a very good team. Maybe against some other teams during the year you don't play your best and you can still get by, or you don't play as hard and you can still get by. Not in these games. If we don't compete Saturday, we're not going to win the game.”
The Galaxy competed quite well in their March 8 opener, outshooting RSL 27-9 and creating more than a dozen scoring opportunities. Nick Rimando's play in the nets, capped by a save on Robbie Keane's penalty-kick attempt in stoppage time, was pivotal in RSL's 1-0 triumph.
“They obviously knocked us out [in the Western Conference semifinals] last year, and [in the opener] they kind of stole the game at the end, and it's on us to concentrate the whole time,” said left back Todd Dunivant, who figures to return to the starting lineup after playing the second half in Tijuana. “And there were some bad calls that went our way, too, so you can't really say it's a bad result, in a way. They probably did enough to win that game. [This is] a big one for us.”
Head coach Bruce Arena puts little stock into LA's performance in the opener.
“It's a funny game,” he said. “Who cares if we played well and lost? We're in this business to win games. Our objective is to go there and win.”
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There could be changes coming.
On Tuesday, Dunivant stepped in for James Riley, who was struggling against Tijuana's right-leaning attack, and impressed while playing farther forward than he normally does. Target forward Rob Friend, also on at halftime, was a huge boost to the attack.
Leonardo struggled in central defense and, although Kofi Opare, his chief competition for the job, has been hurt, A.J. DeLaGarza could move into the middle with Dan Gargan debuting on the right. Swedish midfielder Stefan Ishizaki also figures to see increased playing time.
Arena has lots of options and provides no clues, but DeLaGarza hinted at alterations.
“I'm not sure what's going to happen just yet. Sure you'll find out pretty soon, on Saturday,” he said. “I mean, a couple of us know what's going on, so get everyone on the same page defense- and attack-wise.”