CARSON, Calif. – Shortly after giving up a season-worst five goals, including three to departing LA Galaxy star Landon Donovan, the Real Salt Lake locker room was a somber, yet reflective, place.
When asked about Donovan’s first career postseason hat trick, defender Tony Beltran shook his head in a daze of sorts.
“He battered me,” Beltran told reporters. “He was on another level. He’s an incredible player, and he’s got so much desire. He’s going to finish his chances and punish you. That’s what he did.”
Real Salt Lake were unable to establish any tempo Sunday in their season-ending 5-0 loss at StubHub Center, and that was mostly due to their inability to keep Donovan from making calculated runs.
A squad that had limited the Galaxy to only one on-target shot in the first leg of their Western Conference semifinal of the MLS Cup Playoffs, presented by AT&T, had no answers in the second leg.
“He was showing up in so many places on the field,” head coach Jeff Cassar said of Donovan. “They have so much quality that, in the open field when they turn and come at you, it’s a problem. When we were at home, we were up against them and not letting them turn. For some reason, we didn’t do it [Sunday].”
A couple of former US national team members also noticed a determined Donovan who didn't want to see his career end Sunday.
“He’s got some fire in his belly, for sure,” goalkeeper Nick Rimando told reporters. “He’s a player that has been special for quite some time. You could see he wants it bad.”
- Get the latest RSL news at RealSaltLake.com
Said midfielder Kyle Beckerman: “Well, I guess he’s not done playing. He didn’t want [Sunday] to be the end. He’s dangerous and, playing at his top level, is really hard to stop.”
Donovan also assisted on Robbie Keane’s goal and had various other opportunities at goal, proving to be a headache for the Real backline that always appeared to be guessing what he would do next.
“He’s been the best player on the teams he’s been on,” Beckerman said. “He’s made a lot of guys better and makes those around him better. Not only is he a great player who is going to get his goals and get his assists, but he’s a team player first. That’s very important and a big thing coming from a guy like him. He could be all about himself, but he’s a team player and an unbelievable one at that.”