It was like old times for the LA Galaxy at Rio Tinto Stadium on Wednesday night.
At first, it appeared those times were the ones from March through May, when the Galaxy couldn't stop any opponent from scoring.
Turns out, though, the defending MLS Cup champions dipped back into their 2011 form.
LA overcame a two-goal deficit and beat Real Salt Lake 3-2 to claim their second victory in four days and will head into Sunday’s match against Vancouver with a chance to piece together their longest winning streak of the season.
“Even though they scored those two goals, we didn’t feel bad about how we were playing,” said Landon Donovan, who scored two of the Galaxy’s three goals. “The energy was still good, the commitment was still there and then, obviously, you have to get that first goal to get back in the game. It was a little bit of gift, but you’ve got to take advantage of them.”
RSL nailed the Galaxy twice in the jaw early on but the champs didn't fold. This outing, in fact, turned out better than the last time they were at Rio Tinto, when the hosts turned a 2-0 lead into a 4-1 rout.
“We hung in there, we were a little unlucky to be behind 2-0 and that had all the makings of a disaster," said Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena. "To get that goal before halftime was big.”
Donovan sparked the Galaxy to life when he plucked a back pass Tony Beltran tried to get to Nick Rimando. Donovan instead latched onto the ball, took one touch to evade Rimando and easily knocked the ball into the back of the net. The LA captain had a hand in the second goal and scored the match-winner after getting past Nat Borchers and taking a pass from Mike Magee to beat Rimando once more.
“The second goal early in the second half gave us a chance to get a point and, obviously, the third goal was huge,” Arena said. “Getting three points is fabulous.”
After a relatively mistake-free 1-0 win over Portland last Sunday, Donovan said the challenge was much tougher heading into Wednesday’s match, and the captain responded with his first multi-goal game of the season.
“That’s the kind of player that Landon is, he is certainly capable of doing that,” Arena said. “Obviously, the first goal was a mistake by Beltran and he had a great pass on Magee’s goal for the second goal and Magee gave him a great pass to push Landon behind for the third goal. It was a great performance by Landon and by the whole team.”
While it may not have seemed like much to last year’s team, the Galaxy’s victory was nonetheless a confidence-booster. They not only claimed their first-ever win at Rio Tinto but also notched another first – RSL had never before blown a two-goal lead, home or away.
“They are a great team,” Donovan said. “For probably the last four or five years, the road to the championship goes through them and vice versa for us. It's chippy, but there is a lot of respect both ways. We play hard and after the game we shake hands.”
Despite the Galaxy’s about-face, things are not quite yet back to how the club wanted them to be at this point of the season. They continued their climb out of the Western Conference cellar but they're still in seventh place, one point behind Chivas USA and two back of Colorado.
“When we were walking back in the locker room we had a ton of confidence and then somebody showed us a picture of the standings,” Magee said. “We’re still in last place or third-to-last, so we got brought back down to earth real quick.”
HIGHLIGHTS: RSL 2, LA Galaxy 3