• Real Salt Lake defeat LA Galaxy at Home Depot Center
• Espindola brace cancels out great Robbie Keane opener
• RSL open up five point gap on their Galaxy rivals
A big victory for Real Salt Lake, who go five points clear of the side they've beaten twice on their own ground this season - the only side to ever achieve such a feat against the Galaxy in their history. At the last, it actually looked like Salt Lake were about to increase their lead, but Saunders performed heroics in the LA net. You'll be seeing Keane's goal a lot this week, but it's Espindola who'll capture the headlines with a killer brace to give Salt Lake the points in an enthralling game that could have gone either way. Both sides will be waiting to see if the knocks Morales and Donovan picked up were serious. Big blows if wither of them are. They'll also be monitoring events in Seattle tomorrow night with a keen interest - the Galaxy rather more keenly than the suddenly in form Salt Lake side.
Thanks for all your tweets and emails. Sorry I didn't get to use them all. I'll be back on Monday with Joe for Five Things. Enjoy the rest of the weekend's soccer and goodnight.
Final thoughts in a moment.
90 mins +4: How have Salt Lake not made it three? Saunders throwing himself all over his goal to thwart two close range Salt Lake chances.
90 mins +3: An error in the Galaxy midfield sets Espindola clear on goal, but he's thwarted twice by a desperate lunge from Saunders and then a block by Gonzalez. Still a minute for the Galaxy to find something.
90 mins +2: Morales comes off for Paulo Jr. Morales dawdling off as might be expected. He's being booed as might be expected. LA running out of time now.
90 mins: Real break down the right and eventually they work the ball free for a shot from Gil from outside the box, but it loops harmlessly over. Real trying to just hold up play now and they do so well. As we move into 4 minutes stoppage time with the score LA 1 RSL 2
88 mins: Rare loose positioning from Beckerman gives Wilhelmsson a look at a cross, but the RSL captain recovers to concede the corner. It's worked short and Juninho fires a hard low shot that Rimando does well to get down to save.
86 mins: Wilhelmsson and Villareal come on for Meyer and Donovan with Arena's last throw of the dice. Wilhelmsson's first touch is a ball sent too long for a Real throw deep in the visitors' half. Now he's at the heart of some wild tackles going in before the calming Beckerman picks up the ball and pushes RSL forward.
84 mins: The corner is finally taken, but Real force the ball out and the Galaxy back. Schuler waiting to enter the game for RSL. He now comes in to replace Beltran. Looks like Donovan is coming off too.
82 mins: Another corner for the Galaxy, but of more immediate concern will be the prostrate Donovan, who looked like he was caught between Olave and the turf, as he sent in the cross that led to the corner. He's moved very little since the incident and now the stretcher has come on, which may be bad news for the Galaxy and possibly the US next week. He's on his feet but stepping gingerly to the sideline.
80 mins: Olave has to step across sharply to take the ball of Buddle's toes and gets a kick for his troubles as well as conceding a corner when earning a foul looked the fairer option. Rimando claims the corner easily to keep karma in order though and it's still LA 1 RSL 2
78 mins: Steele off. Alvarez on as RSL make their first change. Salt Lake hover round the edge of the Galaxy box, but LA intercept and instantly the tempo ups a couple of notches as they try to inject some urgency in pursuit of the game. Real Salt Lake get organized well behind the ball though.
76 mins:Beltran gets forward down the right and earns a croner off his blocked cross. Salt Lake in rush to take the set piece, to the obvious displeasure of the crowd. Morales chips the corner in and Saunders claims without difficulty and tries to set Beckham underway.
Real turn it over though and suddenly Beckham is able to take a long shot that is always headed just wide, but Saunders dives at it anyway.
74 mins: Gil gets a glimpse of goal from distance and lets fly with a shot that flies over.
At the other end Donovan gets to a header he had no right reaching from a high looping cross, but he can only direct his header over under pressure from Beltran.
72 mins: Beltran picks up a yellow for tugging Sarvas' shirt. Dangerous inswinger from the resulting free kick, but Beckham's kick is punched clear by Rimando and now Salt Lake come forward again. Fascinating game - as the best ones between these two sides always are.
70 mins: Space opens up for keane on the right of the box as Keane swerves from side to side as he runs at the last man, but he can't get a clean shot off and looks frustrated. Morales looks ok as he plays his part in the next move - an RSL attack that breaks down on the edge of the Galaxy box. Then it's a half chance for Keane again as a long ball is intercepted by Rimando, as the game starts to go end to end. Still LA 1 RSL 2
68 mins: An opinion on the introduction of Buddle:
@kidweil Arena going by the book at the sixty minute mark but Buddle isn't a game changing striker. What Galaxy needed was more MF presence— LAGConfidential (@LAGConfidential) October 7, 2012
Or alternatively less RSL midfield (cf Morales...).
66 mins: Salt Lake working some patient build up play in the LA half. The crowd seem somewhat subdued at the moment. They're soon back on their feet as Buddle and Keane try to force a break, but the final ball ends up back with Rimando.
Bad news for RSL though. Problems for Javier Morales, after Donovan lands on the outside of his troublesome ankle. He's limping off now.
64 mins:Real definitely pushing a little higher up the field to try to pressure the Galaxy now.
Gil is down after apparently getting stamped on by Gaul, who belatedly picks up a yellow card after his lunge is spotted by the fourth official. Game getting scrappy for the moment, which will suit the visitors.
62 mins: Fragmentary thoughts: Buddle comes on for Magee, which will move Donovan out wide to try and find space. Gil gets a talking to for a foul by the way. Incidentally my feed is cutting out intermittently giving the impression that this game has hiccups.
60 mins: Beltran in a foray forward to try to meet a long ball but it's too long and play switches back to the Salt Lake half again. Still LA 1 RSL 2 as the hour comes up. A brief flurry of build up play from RSL ends when Beckerman lofts a through ball too long and out for a goal kick. RSL trying to edge back into the flow of the game now.
58 mins: For all the LA make a lot of chances, the brute effectiveness of RSL's two successful finishes had a lot to admire about them. They've not had a sniff at goal for a while now though. Now Rimando slips as he kicks clear and LA pounce. Donovan cuts the ball back to tee up a vicious strike from Juninho that Olave clears instinctively.. RSL living dangerously.
56 mins: Keane and Franklin combine down the right but Franklin's attempt at a cross is intercepted and LA have a throw deep down the right. Real get it clear, but they're being pinned back in their own half a lot at the moment and struggling to get it clear.
54 mins: Keane fouled by Olave in the Real half, then Sarvas meets a clipped in ball from Beckham to slip a little touch just inside to where Franklin is lurking. Borchers forces the ball out for a corner, just as Frankling was poised to hammer home. Decent chance there. Good vision by Beckham in the build up.
52 mins: Overlap from Franklin down the right leads to a cross that sits up invitingly for Robbie Keane, who earns a corner as his header is deflected. It'c cleared and knocked back in by Beckham, only for Rimando to claim the ball eventually.
50 mins: Espindola crowded out as he battles for the ball on the edge of the LA box and now LA can transition and Beckham pops a dangerous looking cross over that Olave has to be alert to to head clear. Still LA 1 RSL 2.
49 mins: Keane hobbling and blowing hard. or that might be the ghost o christmas future.
First chance of the half as LA suddenly pick up the pressure on the edge of the Salt Lake box, sending in a couple of probing low crosses as they press for each loose ball.
47 mins: Franklin tries an inventive through ball that's frankly avant-garde. LA need better supply than that this half.
IF Real could hold onto this lead they'd have a five point lead over LA back in third.
PEEP: Immediately LA are trying to press and force the issue, but they only force a goal kick for RSL.
More "Peep" coming your way any second...
A Vancouver fan writes from the heart:
@kidweil My cable is down. That's the entirety of my thoughts, other than hating Landycakes.— Brenton Walters (@CapsOffside) October 7, 2012
Not long to go in Houston where the Dynamo are at 1-1 with Montreal Impact. Meanwhile the Earthquakes are trampling all over Colorado. 3-0 in that one in the second half - including another two goals for Wondolowski.
Have to agree. I'm enjoying this immensely, despite the jetlag that is beginning to kick in now.
Well that was fun... Neither defense has looked particularly solid. Galaxy looks to have the more inventive midfield as we might have expected from the pre-game lineups, and they've menaced the Salt Lake goal continuously, wit a lot of bodies being thrown in front of the ball last minute to thwart them. There was no thwarting Keane's opener though, or Espindola's two well-placed finishes. Terrible marking on the second Real goal, and it could and should have been three if Saborio had taken the chance Meyer presented him with. There will be chances in the second half. Who can make the most of them?
Half time thoughts in a moment.
45 mins +1: Two minutes to be added on. LA 1 RSL 2. LA have a free kick inside the Salt Lake half for perhaps the last chance of the half. Beckham sends a dangerous looking ball into the box, but it's a Salt Lake head that gets to it first. Sarvas is able to get to the rebound and his dangerous cross is eventually forced out by Olave. Rimando tips the corner over at the second attempt.
44 mins: Real have a free kick on the left hand side level with the edge of the box. Morales over it. He swings it in and Saunders gets up to punch it clear under pressure. Now the Galaxy spring forward, but Keane has to hold it up to wait for reinforcements. Eventually Beckham is penalized during the attempted build up, and Salt Lake will have a free kick to slow things down.
42 mins: Espindola roves into the left of the Galaxy box again, but pulls his shot across goal. Jason Kreis must be delighted he's hit form at this stage of the season. Now he has half a chance again on a through ball, but Saunders just gets there first... Problems for LA when Real counter.
40 mins: Beckham has another corner that RSL are angrily convinced was a goal kick. RSL scramble and scramble and just about get it away but the ball is coming back at them fairly constantly at the moment as the Galaxy are first to loose balls. Real will want to get to half time with the score still at LA 1 RSL 2
37 mins: Beckham has a free kick midway inside the RSL half, that he sends deep forcing a flapping Rimando to knock it for a corner...
..which Beckham pings off the woodwork! Or perhaps it's a palm away from Rimando
35 mins: LA have a couple more half chances, but RSL, who look vulnerable at the back, are getting more joy progressing from midfield as the half goes on and the ball is at the end they want it at now.
Now Donovan switches play at the edge of the box and finds Keane out wide, but his shot is just about charged down.
33 mins: Out of nothing Saborio gets turned through on goal but his shot is smothered by Saunders. On the replay Meyer is clearly at fault as he swung and missed in the build up to that chance. Saborio should have made it 3-1.
32 mins: ...a lot of battling. Keane, Wingert, Borchers and Franklin have a frank exchange of views before the corner. Rimando claims the corner, but a minute later Magee has a shot that Rimando has to parry down before collecting. There'll be a lot more chances in this game.
30 mins: The next big chance goes to LA as Franklin finds a little space in the 18 yard box, only to sidefoot a very tame shot straight at the keeper. This game is simmering to a boil very nicely. Don't go away. LA 1 RSL 2 as half an hour comes up. LA have a corner though, after some battling from Keane...
28 mins: WOW! LA try to swing straight back after Real's counter-punch, but now RSL have momentum and suddenly Espindola rises to meet a cross from Morales with a sharp glancing header across Saunders and into the corner of the net!
25 mins: We said not to score first. Espindola meets a flick on from (who else?) Saborio and lashes a shot past Saunders.
24 mins: Dunivant's injury apparently an "oblique" one picked up this week, which is very tempting news for the pun-inclined.
Steele picks the ball up in a little space on the left, but he's instantly closed down, and his attempted cross is deflected tamely back to the goalkeeper.
22 mins: LA looking very confident on the ball - truly unrecognizable from the tentative mess they were earlier this year.
@kidweil he's worth every penny!!— Stephen Piggott (@irish_steve) October 7, 2012
Stephen perhaps alluding to the MLS salary figures released this week, that confirmed that Robbie Keane is being paid nice and handsomely by his LA overlords.
20 mins: LA asking a lot of questions as they threaten to overrun this second string Real midfield. Now some great sharp movement by keane off the ball almost leads to a series of interchanges ending up in the RSL net, but a least minute block sees the ball squirm to Rimando, who's busy right now. LA 1 RSL 0 after 20 minutes.
18 mins: Of course, on previous form this year, it could be argued that taking the lead is a poor tactical decision for two teams who've beaten each other in come-from-behind wins.
17 mins: Juninho lofts a high cross diagonally across the box that's met first time by a fabulous volley by Keane across the keeper's body and into the corner!
16 mins: LA try some build up round the RSL box but Beckham's ambitious final ball is too much for any white shirt to get onto. Salt Lake clear it but only at the expense of conceding possession again as LA try to begin to squeeze their visitors.
Franklin chases a lost cause down to the corner and he and Donovan eventually create the space for a dangerous cross from Donovan that whips across the six yard box without a finishing touch. Good build up.
14 mins: Kreis screaming at Wingert to get in closer on Keane, who's drifting wide looking for space. Just as I type that Beckham almost finds Keane down that right hand side, but the move ends in a goal kick. Now RSL hunting in packs in the LA half and they earn a throw in the Galaxy half. Cagey start from two sides that regard each other with wary respect.
12 mins: Beckerman battling forward and looking for the through ball or to force some space from midfield, but he's forced into a pass out of play. He'll be crucial tonight though.
11 mins: Still LA 0 RSL 0 by the way. LA stroking the ball round the back as Salt Lake's forwards try to close them down and not let them settle.
9 mins: Looking very compressed in midfield in the opening stages. Espindola trying to play on the shoulder of the LA back line on the off chance of a break. Obviously Keane will be trying to do the same at the other end. Now Keane does indeed get a break down the right and at the second attempt at meeting his cross Juninho hammers one from distance off the bar!
Sorry for slight delay in update there by the way. Circumstances beyond my control...
4 mins: First glimpse of goal as Espindola springs the offside trap down his familiar left channel, but his cross is cleared. LA transition suddenly and Kean finds Donovan in the box, and he cuts back and shoots, forcing a desperate block at the expense of a corner. Good chance for LA. Donovan should maybe have done better.
2 mins: LA try a couple of little flicks to move the ball forward but RSL get their blocks in well and try to move forward themselves. Not much by way of openings early then Saunders does a decent kick out under pressure.
Peep! And we're off! LA get us under way. Arena looking impassive. Kreis looking uncharacteristically nervous.
Let's do this...
Oh hang on, just time for a couple more adverts...
Still, next word you read will be "Peep"
Cars, decongestants, and don't forget to vote. Here endeth the message.
OK we're back with the countdown to kickoff. Teams coming out of the tunnel now, holding the mascots' hands. Beckham looks to be setting a fair old pace for his young charge, whose short legs are scurrying to keep up. Not often you see DB beat someone for pace these days...
Brian Dunseth going over the threats from both teams on the NBC coverage. Crudely put, cutbacks to meet smart runs for LA, Espindola and Saborio for RSL.
Will Johnson is out for RSL as he's spending time with his newborn daughter.
That last update contained a lot of tweets and looked rather messy. I promise to be more sparing as the evening goes on. That said, do keep sending your tweets and emails.
Counting down towards kick off now...
LA Galaxy: Saunders, Franklin, Meyer, Gonzalez, Gaul; Sarvas, Magee, Juninho, Beckham; Donovan, Keane
Real Salt Lake: Rimando, Beltran, Olave, Borchers, Wingert; Beckerman (c), Gil, Steele, Morales; Saborio, Espindola
LA looking solid throughout, with perhaps a question mark or two in defense, but RSL perhaps looking a little light in the midfield department. Ulsterman Johnny Steele has been in and out of their side all season, without quite fully convincing - big night for him. Right on time Matt Montgomery swings by to tweet:
@kidweil Two big absences in midfield for Real Salt Lake? Seems like last time RSL played LA at the Home Depot Center... How'd that end?— Matt Montgomery (@TheCrossbarRSL) October 7, 2012
Not to be outdone, a couple of Galaxy regulars drop by to fret:
@kidweil Todd Dunivant out with a hip pointer injury. Makes two pieces to the galaxy back line that are missing tonight.— Josh Guesman (@jguesman) October 7, 2012
@kidweil Dunivant not listed on the injured list, but doesn't appear in the 18. Who does Bruce Arena think he is…Don Revie?— LAGConfidential (@LAGConfidential) October 7, 2012
Extra points to our friends at LAG Confidential for a Don Revie reference (sheepskin jackets are big in California).
So we’ve already had one 2nd v 3rd battle this afternoon, with New York Red Bulls, being made to once again look like flat track bullies at home by Chicago Fire, as they were beaten on two Sherjill Macdonald goals scored behind a ponderous looking defense. The East looks like it’s going to go all the way to the wire. New York have a tricky home game next against a Sporting KC side who outplayed them in New York a couple of weeks ago, followed by a nasty trip to Philadelphia. Chicago’s season will finish up with a game against fellow playoff contenders DC United that should be unmissable. Will Chicago’s exploits inspire today’s visitors?
Ironically enough, it’s fair to say that the game that started the Galaxy’s revival was the 3-2 come-from-behind win against RSL in late June.
After that game, Real won only one of their next five games, including two losses to San Jose (one of them a 5-0 rout). They would win a solitary point in August, as the goals dried up, and they would watch in alarm as the Galaxy and Seattle approached in the rear view mirror. But Jason Kreis has steadied his team just in time to win three of the last four, and secure that play-off place, as well as giving themselves a fighting chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals of the CCL.
Saborio’s record-breaking 17 goals this season have helped a lot, and the fact that three of them came last time out, must be slight cause for alarm for LA. It’s also worth remembering that while LA’s mid-season recovery may have been precipitated by that 3-2 win over Real in June, their initial slide was hardly helped by their opening day defeat to RSL, where they lost a lead of their own. Both these sides have a little bit of previous form this year, when it comes to getting in each others way.
Do you remember how young and full of certainties we all were in March? A new MLS season was upon us, and LA were going to sweep all before them, once again. They’d stacked an already successful squad, were poised to take the next step for MLS sides in CCL competition (with just a formality of a clash against Toronto in their way), and nothing could spoil it all.
Do you remember how young and full of certainties we were at the end of May? LA were, in the words of a league official I overheard at a Home Depot Center loss, “stinking the place up”. Their vaunted attack was misfiring, their Omar-Gonzalez-deprived defense was leaking goals, and games they’d been winning 1-0 last season, they...well they weren’t winning. Toronto had bundled them out of the Champions League, they had lost to their Home Depot room mates Chivas USA and were rooted near the bottom of the Western Conference with key players about to absent themselves for Euros, Olympics, World Cup Qualifying campaigns and other activities infinitely more fun and glamorous than grinding back into play-off contention.
So now we are older and wiser and nobody’s going to commit to anything before tonight’s game, other than to say that since that low point, senior players began to step up and assume more accountability and the results began to pick up. For once other sides were grabbing the headlines and going on eye-catching streaks, but in the meantime the Galaxy, with Gonzalez returning to the defense, quietly went on a streak that saw them only lose one game since the 4th July (though it was a pretty emphatic 4-0 loss to the Sounders), and now they find themselves coming into tonight’s game with a play-off spot confirmed and the chance to put the pressure on fourth placed Seattle, by putting some distance between themselves and the wild card game for 4th and 5th placed finishers, with a win tonight.
Some things never change. This time last year, a clash between Los Angeles and Real Salt Lake meant a clash between two of the most formidably consistent sides in the league. Indeed, as technical clashes go, my favourite game of last season was the Western Conference final between these two sides, where the Galaxy prevailed en route to winning MLS Cup. And if you just looked at the standings and recent stats, other than a raised eyebrow at the Earthquakes at the top of the West, you’d probably a) look at the fact that the Galaxy are in relentless form, and that RSL have qualified for their fifth consecutive play-off spot b) note that it’s clash between 2nd and 3rd in the West and c) think that this season had been pretty much business as usual.
More on why that hasn’t quite been the case shortly, but whatever circuitous route both sides have taken to get to this stage of the season, both sides are sitting pretty going into tonight’s game. The Galaxy have secured a play-off spot with games to spare, in a season that threatened to implode around them, while RSL have rediscovered their scoring touch at just the right moment, with the last two games seeing Fabian Espindola ending his personal goal drought and then Alvaro Saborio scoring his second career hat trick last time out against Chivas.
Despite both sides having assured their play-off positions, both will be looking to press their case for second place and the chance at home field advantage that comes with it. A win for the Galaxy tonight would really put the pressure on Seattle before tomorrow night’s difficult Cascadia Cup clash with Portland, while a Real victory would pretty much put them over the line for second place, especially with the Galaxy still to face San Jose and Seattle in a tough run-in.
I’ll be back with more build up and team news shortly - in the meantime get your pithy tweets coming in to @KidWeil or relax and enjoy the extended rant potential of a good email (ideally with attached spreadsheets showing possible playoff scenarios) dispatched to firstname.lastname@example.org. And I’ll be back in a bit, after you’ve watched the appetizer of last year’s Western Conference final.