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LA Galaxy Beat Real Salt Lake 2-1, Extend Western Conference Lead

Jonathan Kendrick |
October 2, 2011 | 2:12 a.m. PDT

Staff Writer

Chad Barrett (left) has six goals on the season for LA Galaxy.
Chad Barrett (left) has six goals on the season for LA Galaxy.

Great teams can win big and they can win close.

At times this season, the Los Angeles Galaxy has simply outclassed its opponents, leading Major League Soccer in wins, points, goal differential and goals allowed.

With the playoffs looming, the Galaxy are now showing they can do it the hard way too. Los Angeles (18-3-10, 64 points) defeated Real Salt Lake (15-10-6, 51 points) 2-1 Saturday night in come-from-behind fashion before a sell-out crowd of 27,000 in Carson, Calif., the team's third-straight one-goal victory.

"We’ve won in all kinds of ways this year and it’s really important," Galaxy midfielder Landon Donovan said. "Come the playoffs, if you go down early, you have to know how to win games. I think it would have been wholly unjust if we didn't get something out of that game."

Real Salt Lake forward Fabian Espindola gave the visitors the lead right before halftime but Los Angeles rallied with goals in the 59th (Chad Barrett) and 72nd minutes (RSL defender Nat Borchers own goal).

The match featured 40 fouls and six yellow cards, as the Galaxy avenged an early season 4-1 road loss to Salt Lake.

"It was always going to be a chippy game," Galaxy midfielder David Beckham said. "There were always going to be moments when [the game] was going to overheat."

With the victory, Los Angeles can now claim the MLS Supporters’ Shield—given to the team with the best record in the regular season—if they defeat New York on Tuesday night.

The Galaxy dominated possession in the early stages of the match, but failed to really test Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando.

Midfielder Paolo Cardozo hit a low scuffling shot right at Rimando in the 8th minute and Donovan put a weak shot on goal in the 11th.

The visitors didn't see much of the ball in open play in the first half but capitalized on their dead ball opportunities. Midfielder Javier Morales put a bending free kick on goal in the 17th minute that forced Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Saunders to make an athletic save.

The match was Morales' second since returning from a broken ankle suffered in a May 7th match against Chivas USA.

"I wanted to play him as long as I thought we could get away with it without hindering him or risking possible injury," Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis said. "I was pleased that he got through as much as he did."

Los Angeles was back on the attack in the 25th minute, when midfielder Juninho cracked a shot from 25 yards out that sailed over the top of the crossbar. Irish forward Robbie Keane wiggled free in front of goal in the 28th minute but RSL captain Nat Borchers interfered with a sliding clearance.

"I thought we started the game pretty well," Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. "We didn't maybe create enough because we were hesitant to pull the trigger. We had a few opportunities outside the penalty area to shoot the ball and we didn't do it.”

Borchers nearly went from hero to goat in the 31st, as he played a poor header back toward his own goal that almost let Keane have an open look on net. Rimando reacted quickly, however, and beat Keane to the ball.

David Beckham's cross to Miguel Lopez led to the lone goal of the match. (Regular Daddy via Creative Commons)
David Beckham's cross to Miguel Lopez led to the lone goal of the match. (Regular Daddy via Creative Commons)

Beckham put more pressure on Rimando in the 35th minute with a free kick into the middle of the box. Los Angeles defender Omar Gonzalez got his head to the ball before Rimando could punch it away, forcing Borchers to swoop in and head the ball out for a corner kick.

The match then turned contentious in the half's final eight minutes. Four yellow cards were given out—one each to Fabian Espindola and Ned Grabavoy of RSL as well as the Galaxy’s Gonzalez and Cardozo.

Beckham whipped a free kick just wide of the near post in the 39th minute—the Galaxy's best chance of the half.

Salt Lake capitalized on the resulting stop and start nature of the match, testing Saunders on several free kicks. Defender Jamison Olave ran free in the six-yard box on a free kick in the 44th minute but Saunders came out quickly to punch the ball away.

Morales sent the ensuing corner kick across the goal mouth, deflected away for another corner only at the last minute by a Galaxy defender.

"Our biggest mistake on the night was giving them some attacking restarts," Arena said. "That's where their chances came."

Salt Lake grabbed the lead in the final minute of the first half, as Espindola charged across the goal mouth and redirected Morales' corner kick inside of the far post on a looping header. Saunders could only watch as the ball floated past him and into the back of the net.

"I think we stretched L.A. tonight to their wits end," Kreis said. "They're the best team in the league and they have the most points for a reason. I think that we gave them a pretty difficult challenge tonight so I'm pleased."

Despite outshooting Real Salt Lake 8-5 in the first half, the Galaxy trailed at the break.

"We knew that we were passing the ball around well and we knew that we would get chances," Beckham said. "It was just about putting them away."

Robbie Keane signed a two-year deal with the Galaxy (Jonathan Kendrick)
Robbie Keane signed a two-year deal with the Galaxy (Jonathan Kendrick)

Los Angeles made the brighter start to the second half. Keane (seen right) and Cardozo had half chances in the first ten minutes of the second period before Salt Lake nearly doubled its advantage.

Forward Alvaro Saborio shook free of his man as Morales pumped in a free kick in the 56th minute but the Costa Rican striker put his header wide of the near post.

The Galaxy leveled the match in the 59th minute, when Beckham sent a long pass down the right touchline. Forward Chad Barrett fought off Olave and the two converged with Rimando at the near post. Barrett raised his left foot and got enough the ball to flick it past Rimando and into the goal. The ball bounced once behind the line, spinning out of the goal without ever touching the net.

"[Beckham] played a nice ball into me and I let it run," Barrett said. "It kind of surprised Olave a little bit but he did well to get his body in front of me. I think it was just miscommunication between him and Rimando and I saw an opportunity. I just put my toe in there."

Beckham earned his league-leading 15th assist on the play.

Los Angeles continued to attack and took the lead in the 72nd minute through a Salt Lake own goal. Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant's back-post header took two deflections before eventually being inadvertently turned into the Real Salt Lake net by Borchers.

"It doesn't matter to me as long as it goes in," Dunivant said. "We responded well in the second half and we came out and we were attacking again and putting them under pressure.

"And when you do that, good things happen."

Arena added about his team's two goals: "They're not going to be in any highlight films this week."

Galaxy forward Adam Cristman came into the match in the 73rd minute and caused problems for the Salt Lake defense, narrowly missing out on finishing crosses by Beckham and Cardozo in the 78th and 85th minutes respectively.

Grabavoy had a good look at goal in between Cristman's chances, but pulled his left-footed shot wide of the far post in the 79th minute.

Los Angeles controlled the midfield for the rest of the match, prohibiting any good looks on goal from RSL.

Juninho nearly ended the match in style in stoppage time when a deflection put him one-on-one with Rimando. The Salt Lake goalkeeper came up with a big sliding save, though, preserving the 2-1 score line.

News and Notes

Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis (Dlifferth/Wikimedia Commons)
Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis (Dlifferth/Wikimedia Commons)
-- Kreis had some stern words for Beckham in his post-match press conference with reporters. When asked about a confrontation between himself and the English star, Kreis said: "Apparently, [Beckham] is the only one that has the right to yell at referees. I was yelling at the referee during the game and he came over and wanted to start yelling at me about it. I don’t know why. I just told him that I didn’t want to talk to him. I don't want to talk to players—that's disrespectful frankly."

-- Juninho kept the Galaxy in contention for a spot in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League with an injury-time winner Wednesday night against Monarcas Morelia of Mexico. The Brazilian midfielder scored in the 91st minute to give the Galaxy a 2-1 victory at the Home Depot Center.

Entering their final group game on October 20th against CD Motagua in Honduras, Los Angeles is tied with Morelia for second place in Group A with nine points. LD Alajuelense lead the group on 12 points while Motagua has lost all five of its matches. The top two teams in the group advance to the quarterfinals, which will be played in March.

-- Up next for the Galaxy is a Tuesday date with the Red Bulls in New York, a game originally scheduled for August 28th that was delayed because of inclement weather caused by Hurricane Irene. The game will be the Galaxy's third in eight days, another test of the team's depth. New York enters the game with 40 points from 31 games and is battling for one of the league's final playoff spots.

-- After the game in New York, the Galaxy will go 11 days without a game until they take on Chivas USA on October 16th at the Home Depot Center. Donovan won't be able to rest though, as he was called up by United States coach Jurgen Klinsmann for the national team’s friendly matches against Honduras and Ecuador next week. The U.S. will face Honduras on Saturday at Sun Life Stadium in Miami and Ecuador on Wednesday at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J.

-- Saunders proved that a real man can wear pink as he donned an alternate goalkeeper jersey in conjunction with the Galaxy's efforts to raise awareness about breast cancer. Several of Saunders' teammates joined in by wearing pink shoelaces on their boots.


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