It would be easy to write off Real Salt Lake’s 3-1 win over the LA Galaxy on Saturday night as a result between two as-yet unpolished teams.
Maybe. Those two teams, however, have been fiercely competitive since the Claret-and-Cobalt’s penalty shootout-victory in MLS Cup 2009 against the Galaxy. Saturday night was an attempt by both clubs to assert their dominance over the other, and RSL might just have done just that.
“I felt like we were the team that was really controlling the tempo of the match,” head coach Jason Kreis said. “I know that LA had some fantastic chances to score – they hit the bar and then they did score – but really I felt like we were the team that was controlling the tempo, so I am very pleased with everybody’s contribution, not just the guys that came on in the last 30 to win the game for us.”
Fabian Espindola, who put away RSL’s third goal in the 85th minute to ice the game, also put to rest the idea that either team was rusty.
“I think it was a game that had some great soccer like always when we play against the Galaxy,” he said through a translator. “We started the game trying to control the ball and them trying to get us on the counterattack and playing long balls, which is how they got their goal. We tied with an unfortunate play, but I think we played better throughout the course of the game.”
Unsurprisingly, the Galaxy beg to differ. LA hit Nick Rimando’s crossbar twice in the first half of the match before going up 1-0 on a 71st-minute header from Edson Buddle. Just two minutes later, RSL’s Sebastian Velasquez whipped in a cross that the Galaxy’s Sean Franklin deflected into his own net.
“It’s a little strange,” LA midfielder Landon Donovan said after the game. “There wasn’t a whole lot in the game. I thought they maybe had a little better of the ball, but we had some great chances. I thought we deservedly were up a goal and next thing I knew it was 3-1.
"It was a little bit of a fluky game. We weren’t great in certain parts, but realistically we could have scored six or seven goals tonight.”
Whether lack of sharpness was a factor or not, RSL’s victory also snapped an 18-game home unbeaten streak for the Galaxy dating back to October 16, 2010.
“To go on the run that we were on, that many games unbeaten at home, you have to have some things go your way and tonight it seemed like everything went against us,” Donovan said.
Donovan and Co. will have a chance to prove Saturday’s match was a one-off on June 20 at Rio Tinto Stadium, with a potential tiebreaker coming on October 6 in Carson. The war of words will surely rage on, and if game one of this regular season series was any indication, the battle on the field will be just as hard-fought.