CARSON, Calif. – In soccer, it’s often not just the goals you score that you remember: It’s also the ones you don’t. The losing team invariably rues missed chances, and that was the case in Sunday 3-1 loss that Real Salt Lake suffered at the hands of the LA Galaxy in the Western Conference Championship.
Both teams created opportunities throughout the match. In fact, each reached double digits in shots (14 for LA, 10 for RSL), and each ended up putting four of those shots on frame. But three of them found the back of the net for LA, and the Claret-and-Cobalt could only convert once.
“It seemed like right from the get-go there were chances,” said RSL captain Kyle Beckerman. “We were both creating chances, but they finished more than we did.”
In first-half stoppage time, Beckerman had a chance from the top of the area. He struck the ball well, but it went solidly off of the right post before being cleared away.
The near-misses weren’t just limited to Beckerman. Striker Fabián Espíndola had a couple of gilded opportunities in the second half – he struck the woodwork once and had a late breakaway opportunity shut down by keeper Josh Saunders.
Some of the air seemed to go out of Espíndola when his 60th-minute shot hit the crossbar. He made a clever spinning touch on the play, dancing around defender A.J. DeLaGarza, struck the ball squarely as he spun, and seemed destined to equalize just two minutes after LA had taken the lead.
“I was trying to control it,” said Espíndola. “[The grass] was chippy, and it was bouncing. I tried to hit it right and I didn’t. I was saying, ‘Go in, go in. Please go in.’ It just hit the post.”
Despite his frustration, Espíndola congratulated the Galaxy on converting their chances.
“They had a great night,” he said. “It was even in the first half. They had their chances. They scored, we did not. Good for them.”
Early in the first half, defender Robbie Russell had a shot off of a rebound on a set piece. Russell connected well from close range, but the shot went directly into the chest of Saunders. Then late in the game, Saunders was again tested – going down quickly to his right to stop Javier Morales, then to his left to deny Luis Gil.
It was the story of the night for RSL.
“I think we missed a breakaway somewhere [in the 80th minute], and I knew it was not our night,” said Beckerman. “It just wasn’t our night.”