For the much-hyped “rematch” with the LA Galaxy, Real Salt Lake were without stellar playmaker Javier Morales, out with an abductor strain. Although they had creative veteran midfielder Andy Williams filling in for Morales, they were clearly missing the Argentine’s presence in this one.
Watch: FULL MATCH HIGHLIGHTS
However, defender Nat Borchers felt that they held their own for most of the match anyway.
“I think the midfield did a pretty good job without two of the normal starters,” he said. “And I thought that Andy did very well for us.”
RSL were also without defender Chris Wingert and Ned Grabavoy, both out with injuries. Tony Beltran filled in for Wingert, while Nelson Gonzalez started well before fading and being replaced in the second half by debutant Collen Warner.
Warner wasn’t surprised by the call after getting the start in the midweek Open Cup match at San Jose.
“I knew,” the rookie told MLSsoccer.com. “I had spoken with Jason before the game. I was expecting to play somewhat of a part.”
The real story, however, was the difficulty dealing with LA’s Edson Buddle. The usually hot-and-cold striker is right now in the middle of the hottest of hot streaks. He punished Real Salt Lake throughout this match, and his two goals were the difference, leaving him with seven goals over the first four matches on the season.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a player in our league be this on fire,” RSL coach Jason Kreis told Fox Soccer Channel after the match.
Buddle frustrated RSL beyond the goals, as evidenced by the second-half dustup with usual stoic Nat Borchers. The two went face-to-face, actually rubbing foreheads threateningly with neither willing to back down. Just moments later, Buddle scored the match winner.
“It’s what happens when you get two guys that are extremely competitive and want to win,” Borchers said. “I know Edson off the field, and we’ve got no hard feelings off the field. Unfortunately he got the best of us this game. But we’ve got another crack at them later in the season.”
This loss, of course, comes just three days after an exhausting Open Cup match victory in San Jose. The game, which went to penalty kicks, appeared to take a lot out of the reigning champs, and that, as much as Buddle’s form, may have made the difference.
“I knew it was going to be a factor,” Kreis said, “and I think tonight it was the ultimate factor.”