SANDY, Utah — It may have happened more than a month ago, but the LA Galaxy's last visit to Rio Tinto Stadium is still fresh in the minds of Real Salt Lake players and staff.
Despite missing a bevy of stars and starters, the Galaxy rolled into Utah on April 27 and beat the Claret and Cobalt 2-0 on a pair of early goals – a tough lesson learned for an ambitious RSL team.
"It doesn’t matter if LA has six or seven injuries and two call-ups, they can still put a team out there that can beat you on any given day," RSL head coach Jason Kreis said following training on Wednesday. "That’s what happened, and I think we took a good lesson from that, and I feel like we’ve performed very well ever since that every single game."
Since that disappointing loss, Real are 4-1-1 in league play and have moved up to second place in the Western Conference, showing Kreis' words are right on the mark.
"I think after losing to them at home, I think we kind of needed a game like that to just kick ourselves in the ass and kind of realize, 'OK maybe we’re not as good as we think we are,' and challenge ourselves more in the following games," said center back Nat Borchers on Wednesday.
"Every week, [the standings] can change, though. You lose a game, you can drop a few points and then you drop a few levels in the standings. Things are so tight right now, it’s really early to sit back and look at the standings and even think about it."
Both teams will have a bit of a different look Saturday night when they meet once more at Rio Tinto Stadium (9:30 pm ET, watch on MLS Live). Gone for LA is Mike Magee, who scored the first goal of the Galaxy's win in April but was recently traded to Chicago, and Omar Gonzalez on national team duty with the United States. Landon Donovan, however, will be available after sitting out last time, and Robbie Rogers, acquired in the Magee deal, could make an impact.
"[Magee's] a great goalscorer and he’s the kind of guy that just shows up in the box," said Borchers. "… Losing him is tough, but you swap him for Robbie Rogers — he’s an out-and-out winger."
RSL, on the other hand, will have Robbie Findley available this time around. The speedy forward is coming off his best game of the season, where he picked up a goal and an assist in a 3-0 win over San Jose.
The home side will, however, have to cope with the absences of defender Chris Schuler, suffering some lingering foot pain, and midfielder Luis Gil, who has been called in for the U-20 World Cup and will be gone until at least the first week of July or longer, depending on the US team's performance in Turkey.
With a few changes in both lineups, RSL are also hoping for a different result.
"We don’t like it when people win on our field, so we’re going to go out and high press and play our game and when we get our opportunities, make sure we put them away like we did this past weekend," said Findley.