CARSON, Calif. – Supporters’ Shield. CONCACAF Champions League. MLS Cup.
Those were the LA Galaxy’s major goals to accomplish before the season began, and after defeating Real Salt Lake 3-1 in Sunday’s Western Conference Championship, the club is now in position to go three-for-three.
The Galaxy will officially host Houston in MLS Cup 2011 on Nov. 20 at the Home Depot Center. And according to the coach, what transpired from March right on through Sunday night is now irrelevant.
“This is a competition that’s four or five games,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “The regular season doesn’t mean anything and we want to be the best team in this four-or-five-game tournament. And we have that opportunity.”
RSL did not go down without a fight though. The MLS Cup 2009 champs entered the match with lingering injury concerns as both Jámison Olave and Nat Borchers were in doubt. Only Olave made the starting lineup, while Chris Schuler filled in for Borchers.
That Olave played the way he did, lasting for 82 minutes and assisting on RSL’s only goal on the night, impressed Arena.
“Olave did well considering he’s playing with an injury,” Arena said. “We all know he wasn’t 100 percent, and for him to gut it out like that was pretty remarkable. He’s an outstanding defender. Unfortunately when playing three games in a week and at the end of a long season, teams are going to have injuries. Players are not 100 percent and unfortunately that was the case for Olave.”
Landon Donovan gave the Galaxy the lead after just 23 minutes as he converted a penalty kick but Álvaro Saborío quickly answered with a header off a corner kick.
Some frenetic play ensued but the Galaxy did not come out ahead until the second half when the match conditions began to favor the hosts.
“I told the guys, ‘When the game slows down it’s going to favor us.’ Some of the passing we had to get behind them and create some chances was terrific,” Arena said. “That was the difference. As the game settled down, slowed down a little bit, it favored us.”
David Beckham continued his masterful play with a picture-perfect cross in the 58th minute that Magee got his head to. While Magee did well to bury the header, Beckham’s cross was of the sort that made him an icon in world soccer.
“I’ve seen that before,” Arena said. “It was terrific and a great finish. David has been remarkable in these playoffs and this year, his experience and his desire have been incredible.”
Robbie Keane scored on a counterattack 10 minutes later and the Galaxy nearly added a few more, but were stymied by a committed RSL defense and their own subpar finishing.
Still, it was enough to see them through, and give them a chance to reach their ultimate goal.
“[The Galaxy] deserve to be in the final,” Arena said. “Now we know that we’ve got to bring it and play our best if we want to hold the trophy on the 20th.”