CARSON, Calif. -- Their shape was in disarray almost from the start, their discipline basically faded and, by the time Real Salt Lake head coach Jeff Cassar could draw up some answers, the season was over.
Two goals by the LA Galaxy in the first 20 minutes were a big indicator, and Real Salt Lake only plummeted further, suffering their worst loss of the year Sunday in a 5-0 result at StubHub Center in the Western Conference semifinals of the MLS Cup Playoffs, presented by AT&T.
“We got stretched out and ran across a team that was fantastic,” Cassar told reporters. “We could never regain control of the ball.
“There was just too much time and space for LA, and our possession just wasn’t there. We were giving the ball away too often and too early, and it was just setting them off. Against LA, if you’re not good with the ball, they’re going to make you pay. We paid a lot.”
RSL had not allowed a goal for 413 consecutive minutes until Landon Donovan scored his first of three on the night. Ten minutes later, Donovan fed Robbie Keane, for another, and all the hard work Real had put in the first leg at their place was squandered.
The poor showing certainly caught Cassar off guard.
“Obviously, last weekend was fantastic,” Cassar said of the team’s scoreless draw that opened the series last week. “Our preparation was really good, but [the Galaxy] came out flying, you know. They came out on a level that we wanted to come out at. They were all over us from the very beginning.”
The Galaxy smothered Real Salt Lake in the second half, too. Nick Rimando, who was coming off his 13th career postseason shutout, was blitzed after making just one save in the previous matchup.
“This year I’ve seen the Galaxy do that numerous times, not against our team but to a lot of the teams in this league,” Rimando said. “You have those three guys up front and, with the way they pressure the ball and the way they play at home, they’re a good group. It’s going to take a special team to beat them.”
Real Salt Lake didn’t turn out to be that team. A round that began with such promise ended in disappointment in a flash.
“In this league when you give up two goals, it’s going to be difficult to get back,” defender Nat Borchers said. “It was kind of the worst of both worlds for us -- we weren’t sharp with the ball, and they were very sharp and active. Landon, Robbie and [Gyasi] Zardes were very good with their movement, and they occupied us in the back with their spacing. We weren’t very good. In a playoff game of this magnitude, you can’t play like that and expect to get a result.”