Real Salt Lake came out on fire Wednesday night, going up 2 goals and seemingly taking the wind out of LA's sails. But games cannot be won on 30 minutes of excellent play, it takes a full 90+ and Real didn't give it. “Yeah, that’s my strong feeling that those two goals came so easily that the guys thought this was going to be a cake walk," said RSL coach Jason Kreis. "And because of that, really let their foot off the gas and took a long time to recover from that.” The game was lost on errant back line play with a poor back pass from Tony Beltran setting up a Landon Donovan goal and Jamison Olave's poor trap giving Mike McGee a tough, but obviously makable chance at goal. Donovan scored a second goal (3rd for LA) in the 68th minute to put LA up for good and even though Bruce Arena packed his 18-yard box with defenders the rest of the night, RSL still found room to work with but couldn't muster one of their patented final minute home goals, blowing a 2-goal lead for the first time in franchise history and giving LA the 3-2 victory.
Real Salt Lake | Los Angeles Galaxy
13 Attempts on Goal 10
5 Shots on Target 3
6 Shots off Target 7
2 Blocked Shots 0
4 Corner Kicks 0
8 Fouls 10
18 Open Play Crosses 8
1 Offsides 1
3 Yellow Cards 1
0 Red Cards 0
32 Duels Won 37
46% Duels Won % 52%
495 Total Pass 341
80% Passing Accuracy % 71%
59.6% Possession 40.4%
Nick looked hungry and eager to be back on the pitch Wednesday night. His first touch belied a little too much hunger as he found himself way outside the 18 and hard pressed by Landon Donovan to maintain possession. But once he settled in, he was solid, when his defensive live wasn't giving up the ball right in front of the goal. He allowed Donovan's first goal off a Tony Beltran errant back pass and a McGee goal off a poorly played Olave trap. Nick is too good not to learn from his early mistake against Donovan but his decision to charge Donovan in the 68th minute pushed the play outside of the box where he couldn't use his hands, and with that he allowed Donovan to dictate the shot, which is never a good idea for one of MLS' finest attacking players. Outside of his mistake against Donovan he was solid, stopping a handful of close calls and his greatest strength was his distribution, putting ball after ball right at the feet of his midfielders and forwards all along the midfield stripe, showing what a difference a goalie can make to an attack minded offense.
Tony gave Landon Donovan the perfect opportunity to score LA's first goal in the 29th minute with a terrible back pass to Nick Rimando. And Donovan isn't one to give up a gift-goal, easily slotting the errant pass home beyond the outstretched hands of Nick Rimando, who'd done all he could to play big and leave Donovan a narrow shooting lane which he had no trouble finding. Beltran had a handful of positive offensive moments and while his defense was better, he didn't do enough to make up for the moment that turned the tide for the entire game.
Nat was nothing fancy Wednesday night. As usual. But his early probing passes out of the backfield helped Real break down LA's packed midfield. His positioning was great all night until he found himself a step behind Landon Donovan in the 68th minute and with Donovan's speed and skill, all the LA striker needed was half a yard to send his second goal past Nick Rimando to put LA up 3-2.
Jamison found himself in a bit of a dog fight with the diminutive Landon Donovan, which he was winning, until the 35th minute when Donovan bit back, taking him down at the midfield stripe in almost Olaveesque manner. The two settled down to a pretty even match the rest of the game, with Olave coming out slightly ahead through a handful of very good challenges in the air and speed and size that Landon did his best to match but was never able to break through. But it didn't take Donovan to break down the big Colombian, it was his striking counterpart, Mike McGee, who capitalized off a very bad touch by Olave in the 50th minute just outside the 18 yard box to give him a tough, but makable shot on goal with an angle too sharp for either Olave to recover against or Nick Rimando to pounce on - leveling the score at 2 all.
Chris earned the elusive, but deserved second assist in the 9th minute when he floated a perfect 40 yard cross right to the feet of a waiting Fabian Espindola who sent a cross into the six yard box to a perfectly placed Kyle Beckerman for the goal. His defense the rest of the game was very strong but his distribution out of the backfield in the final stretch was not good enough, especially when Real needed those balls LA was punching back out of their third to be played back into dangerous places more rapidly and regularly.
Kyle seems to have come back from US Men's National Team duty sharper. His positioning has always been solid, but it seemed especially good Wednesday night. And it paid off in the 9th minute when he found the back of the net off by simply being in the right place at the right time when he connected off a beautifully won Espindola cross. Beckerman was eager not to earn a yellow card and find himself ejected for RSL's next game so some typical Beckerman challenges went unmade, but he was still Real's impact player in the midfield, playing solid defense and some of Real's best offense.
Ned started at the offensive center midfield role usually played by Javier Morales for the second time in as many games. And he was good. Not just adequate, but very good. His defense was active and his offensive runs and passing in the final third gave Real a number of dangerous chances all game long, even after he'd been moved out wide to make way for Javier Morales.
Will was solid both at Left mid and at left defense. He wasn't flashy but he wasn't overly eager either, a critical development for Will, who can often overextend himself when the game gets heated. His defensive play in the 81st minute kept a hot LA forward line from finding their way into the box at a time when Real seemed gassed. And his accidental trip in the waning minutes of the game was the only thing that kept him from possibly the best shot opportunity of the night.
Jonny was off his game Wednesday night. Errant passes and a lower work rate than usual had many fans wondering where the player they fell in love with as a substitute might not have what it takes to start, at least not yet. Steele's best moment came in the 68th minute, moments before being subbed out for Javier Morales, when he brought a tall ball out of the sky, flicked it over his defender and sent a pass straight ahead to Alvaro Saborio who sent a shot into the side netting.
Fabian started the game where he left off the Chivas win, red hot. Starting with an assist in the 9th minute when he received a perfectly floated cross-field ball from Chris Wingert just outside the right corner of the 18 yard box, beat a man and rushed to the touchline where he sent a low cross into an alarmingly (for LA) free Kyle Beckerman who only had to redirect the cross toward goal to put Real up 1 nil. His earned a second assist in the 23rd minute off a perfectly placed pass to the outside leg of a waiting Alvaro Saborio who flicked it with a back heel into the goal. Fabian continued to pester LA's defensive line but once the Galaxy packed the 18-yard box with defenders to hold onto their 3-2 lead, not even the red-hot Espindola could break through.
Man of the Match. Grade: A
Alvaro had a goal somewhat reminiscent of Danny Welbeck's back-heel goal in England's Euro 2012 game against Sweden. Once again, Fabian Espindola sent a perfect cross into the 6 yard box in the 23rd minute, but this time finding Saborio's outside foot which he used to flick the ball on goal, past a close marked LA defender and a befuddled Josh Saunders in goal. Saborio had a spell of about 20 minutes in the second half, when LA had tied up the score, when he had three or four dangerous balls played into the box for him that he was not able to control. Donovan's go ahead goal seemed to wake him up for the final 25 minutes, but while dangerous, he was stymied by LAs packed-in defense.
Danny Wellbeck's back-heel goal against Sweden, Euro 2012
Javier was extremely dangerous from the moment he entered the game. His ball movement from east to west before the 18-yard box was reminiscent of earlier days and the few opportunities he had to put a shot on goal didn't miss by much, like his near-hero-making 92nd minute shot that just missed the crossbar in RSL's final chance at evening the score. But Javier wasn't enough to keep LA from winning a game gifted to them by an errant RSL back line.
Jason Kreis made a decidedly offensive minded move when he subbed Luis on in the 64th minute for Jamison Olave and was moved to left midfielder in place of Will Johnson who pushed back to left back. Luis got a bit lost in the packed midfield and defensive line and while he did nothing egregious he never found a groove that allowed him to put any degree of real pressure on LA.
Paulo was subbed on in the 80th minute for Jonny Steel in an effort to push scorers forward and while Paulo was adequate, and while it was his pass back to Javier Morales that nearly turned into the equalizer, he didn't offer Jason Kreis any silver bullets to break through a packed LA defensive line hanging onto their 3-2 lead with both hands.