LA Galaxy Gift Real Salt Lake Three Points in Season Opener
Last season's MLS Cup runners up Real Salt Lake opened up the year by visiting the Los Angeles Galaxy and taking three points from the City of Angels. It was a tight and close match filled with late game drama.
The home side, led by manager Bruce Arena, sent out an attack-happy lineup looking to strike quickly. Up to four forwards were seen in the Galaxy's offense in the opening minutes. They pressured RSL nearly in their own box.
Within five minutes of the start both of Galaxy's central midfielders - Juninho and Marcelo Sarvas - had long distance shots that came close to Nick Rimando's goal. The visiting defense had their hands full with both Robbie Keane and Samuel attacking through the center and Gyasi Zardes and Landon Donovan attacking through the sides; this allowed the central midfielders to come up unmarked and have send those shots.
LA's early pressure did not last, after about 15 minutes the team stopped pressuring Real Salt Lake in their own field and dropped further down. The visitors took control of possession, but it was still Galaxy who had the best scoring chances through their counter attacks.
Both Landon and Gyasi Zardes ended up dropping back a lot and helping out with defensive responsibilities. Donovan ended up covering for James Riley if he pushed a little forward. Even the new Brazilian forward Samuel would drop deep into midfield leaving Robbie Keane as the lone striker when LA did not have the ball.
After surviving the initial 15 minutes of pressure, Real Salt Lake were able to grab a hold of the ball and build up their attacks; said build up was at a rather slow pace and the LA defense were for the most part able to keep the visitors quiet. The Utah side did look dangerous when they got Joao Plata involved on the wings.
In the 24th minute Plata was able to run past Riley, dribble into the box, and have a strong shot on goal. Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo had to come up with the big save to keep the scoreboard in zeros.
Robbie Keane came closest to scoring in the first half when in the 35th minute he took a pass from Landon Donovan following a miscommunication in the RSL backline. Keane was all alone in the box and curled his shot to the far post. The ball ended up hitting the post at the 90 degree angle and bouncing out.
For the second half more of the same was seen from both teams. Galaxy created the most danger through fast breakaways; while Real Salt Lake looked to contain those quick attacks and then slowly build up their own offense.
In the 76th minute, Real Salt Lake was able to put the ball in the back of the net, but second half substitute Luke Mulholland's goal was called of for an offside position. One minute later, Galaxy substitute Stefan Ishizaki had a long distance attempt that required a finger-tip save from RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
In the 80th minute the crowd at the StubHub Center were finally treated to a legitimate goal, but not from their home side. Joao Plata was able to take a cutting Kyle Beckerman pass and slot the ball past Jaime Penedeo.
Looking for a comeback, the Galaxy pushed forward with everything they had in search of the equalizing goal. Second half substitute Rob Friend had a dangerous header that went just wide of the goal as LA piled bodies inside of the box in the late minutes.
Galaxy had a golden opportunity to steal a point when in the 92nd minute. A long ball that was played into the box to Rob Friend who received a push by RSL's Tony Beltran and the center referee signaled for a penalty kick. Robbie Keane stepped up and had his shot from 12 feet out saved by Nick Rimando letting the equalizing goal slip away.
LA Galaxy - Jaime Penedo, A.J. de la Garza, Omar Gonzalez, Leonardo, James Riley, Gyasi Zardes (Stefan Ishizaki min. 69), Juninho (Baggio Husidic min 88), Marcelo Sarvas, Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane, Samuel (Rob Friend min. 77)
Real Salt Lake - Nick Rimando, Tony Beltran, Nat Borchers, Aaron Maund, Chris Wingert, Kyle Beckerman, Luis Gil (Luke Mulholland min. 66), Ned Grabavoy, Javier Morales (Cole Grossman min. 78), Joao Plata (Jordan Allen min 89), Alvaro Saborio
Photo credit: Andrew Fielding/USA Today
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