Real Salt Lake coach John Ellinger knows all too well about the talents of Landon Donovan and his knack for being able to change a game. In his second game as a professional coach, he saw what he did while coaching Donovan with the U.S. under-17 national team, as Donovan made a triumphant return to Major League Soccer in leading the Los Angeles Galaxy to a 3-1 victory against RSL.
Real remains winless through its first two matches as Donovan's first-half double in his Los Angeles Galaxy debut paced the home side before a sellout crowd of 27,000 at The Home Depot Center. Jason Kreis scored the club's first-ever goal between Donovan's strikes, who then set up Cobi Jones for a late third.
Donovan opened the match up front with Jovan Kirovski and, not surprisingly, the Galaxy, rich in attacking options but looking for redemption from an embarrassing 3-0 Opening Day defeat at Columbus, dominated the ball in the early stretch.
Real's first goal conceded in franchise history came nine minutes in as Jones' cross outside the right edge of the penalty area was touched off by Kirovski into the path of Donovan two yards inside the top of the area.
Real central defender Nelson Akwari failed to close down Donovan, who settled the ball and took a touch to his left before clinically securing a low, left-footed shot inside the right goalpost, past diving Real goalkeeper D.J. Countess.
Real were hit with a double whammy before the restart as Jamaican attacking midfielder Andy Williams had to be taken off due to a left groin strain. Leighton O'Brien came on to make his RSL debut in central midfield.
Forwards Clint Mathis and Kreis and midfielder Dipsy Selolwane increased their workrate and ball pressure after the opening segment, and after Selolwane's 26th-minute shot required a diving save from Galaxy 'keeper Kevin Hartman, Real equalized with its first ever goal in the 29th minute.
Mathis cut back an incisive pass through the Galaxy defense for Selolwane, whose early shot outside the area was stopped by Hartman's left hand. But with Hartman's momentum carrying him the wrong way, Kreis ran onto the ball and fired a first-time shot under the recovering Hartman from seven yards.
The rest of the half was fairly idle in comparison to the excitement the first 30 minutes brought, but the Galaxy notched a second in the 44th minute.
Ramirez chased down Jones' cross from the right that Kirovski could not latch onto and put back a cross, deflected by Real right back Rusty Pierce, onto the back post where Donovan stepped in front of Matt Behncke to head home from the goalmouth.
The Galaxy outclassed RSL further in the second half, only capitalizing on one of several quality opportunities. Donovan set up Peter Vagenas with an open net in the 50th minute, only for Vagenas to crash a square ball across the top of the 6-yard box off the bar.
Countess produced several fine reaction saves from close range shots to keep Real close. He denied eight-yard shots from Chris Albright and Jones in the 56th and 61st minutes, respectively. Then, off a Donovan corner, Countess made a double save inside the six-yard box from Kirovski and second-half substitute Mubarike Chisoni.
Man of the match Donovan, fittingly, had the hand in putting the match out of RSL's grasp in the 72nd minute. He took a turnover 40 yards out and sprung a Jones run into the right side of the area. Jones fluidly hit a low blast inside the far, left post from eight yards.
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy)
Damian Secore is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.
Real Salt Lake (0-0-1) vs. Los Angeles Galaxy (0-1-0)
April 9, 2005 -- The Home Depot Center
LA -- Landon Donovan 1 (Jovan Kirovski 1) 9
RSL -- Jason Kreis 1 (unassisted) 29
LA -- Landon Donovan 2 (Guillermo Ramirez 1) 44
LA -- Cobi Jones 1 (Landon Donovan 1) 72
Real Salt Lake -- D.J. Countess, Rusty Pierce, Nelson Akwari, Eddie Pope, Matt Behncke (Luke Kreamalmeyer 46), Marlon Rojas, Brian Kamler, Andy Williams (Leighton O'Brien 10), Dipsy Selolwane (Chris Brown 76), Jason Kreis, Clint Mathis.
Substitutes Not Used: Brian Dunseth, Jay Nolly.
TOTAL SHOTS: 8 (Dipsy Selolwane 2); SHOTS ON GOAL: 5 (Dipsy Selolwane 2); FOULS: 15 (Marlon Rojas 3); OFFSIDES: 5 (Jason Kreis 3); CORNER KICKS: 6 (Clint Mathis 5); SAVES: 7 (D.J. Countess 7)
Los Angeles Galaxy -- Kevin Hartman, Chris Albright, Ugo Ihemelu, Tyrone Marshall, Todd Dunivant, Paulo Nagamura (Mubarike Chisoni 46), Peter Vagenas, Landon Donovan, Guillermo Ramirez, Cobi Jones (Joseph Ngwenya 85), Jovan Kirovski (Ednaldo da Conceicao 74).
Substitutes Not Used: Paul Broome, Pablo Chinchilla, Steve Cronin, Michael Enfield, Ned Grabavoy, Michael Umana.
TOTAL SHOTS: 19 (Cobi Jones 3, Guillermo Ramirez 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 10 (3 tied with 2); FOULS: 14 (Tyrone Marshall 3); OFFSIDES: 7 (Landon Donovan 3); CORNER KICKS: 7 (Landon Donovan 6); SAVES: 4 (Kevin Hartman 3)
RSL -- Rusty Pierce (caution; Pushing, Holding) 24
RSL -- Nelson Akwari (caution; Pushing, Holding) 36
LA -- Tyrone Marshall (caution; Pushing, Holding) 38
RSL -- Leighton O'Brien (caution; Reckless Foul) 56
LA -- Todd Dunivant (caution; Pushing, Holding) 82
RSL -- Clint Mathis (caution; Reckless Foul) 87
Referee: Jair Marrufo
Referee's Assistants: -Chris Strickland; David Bragg
4th Official: Ramon Hernandez
All statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial.