CARSON, Calif. – It’s the big statistic that keeps getting pointed out: The LA Galaxy do not lose at the Home Depot Center.
In 2011, they went 17 regular-season games unbeaten here, didn’t lose in three CONCACAF Champions League games and kept that streak going in Thursday’s second leg of the Western Conference Semifinals.
But if anyone is confident of busting that streak, it’s their visitors for Sunday’s Western Conference Championship (9 pm ET, ESPN, ESPN Deportes, TSN2, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).
Real Salt Lake’s greatest success on the road has come at the HDC vs. both its tenants, the Galaxy and Chivas USA. They boast a 6-13-2 all-time record here – twice as many wins than they have at any other MLS venue – with one victory in each of their pas six seasons.
“I think the pitch suits us in terms of how big it is, because we like to play,” explained defender Nat Borchers. “It’s grass, unlike [Seattle’s] CenturyLink Field, where its turf and the ball is skipping out of bounds. This is the kind of field we like to play on. We’re very confident here.”
In addition, facing the Galaxy also may provide some comfort – and familiarity. This squad is nearly the same one that RSL faced, and beat, in MLS Cup 2009. Salt Lake have been as successful against the two-time Supporters’ Shield winners as perhaps any team in the league.
They beat them solidly 4-1 at Rio Tinto Stadium back in March, and only lost at the Home Depot Center 2-1 last month due to an own-goal and a cheeky play by Chad Barrett, who managed to get a foot around a defender and strike the ball just before it crossed the end line somehow also sending it past Nick Rimando.
But getting a result on the road in big games is nothing new for this squad. Through Champions League play this spring they were able to accomplish their objectives in important matches at Saprissa and at Monterrey.
And in 2009, they made it to MLS Cup only by achieving victory in big road matches at Columbus and Chicago.
“I think what gives us confidence is we had to do this in 2009,” said midfielder Kyle Beckerman. “We had to go to an away ground and we had to win to get into the finals. There shouldn’t be anything holding us back from playing the best we can.”