CARSON, Calif. – Real Salt Lake dropped the first leg of its Western Conference Semifinal series with the LA Galaxy on Sunday night, conceding early in the second half to fall 1-0 to the defending MLS Cup champions in front of a sold-out StubHub Center.
DF Sean Franklin scored the game’s lone goal in the 47th minute, running onto a loose ball in the middle of RSL’s third and blasting a gorgeous first-time effort into the back of the net from 35 yards out.
RSL now must win the series’ decisive second leg on Thursday at Rio Tinto Stadium in order to have a shot at advancing to the Western Conference Final. If the teams are tied on aggregate at the end of regulation in Thursday’s second leg, there will be a pair of 15-minute extra time periods. If the teams remain tied following extra time, the series will be decided by a penalty kick shootout.
Real Salt Lake began the match in a 4-5-1 formation, departing from its usual diamond shape in an effort to stymie the potent Galaxy attack. LA took advantage of RSL’s defensive posture, controlling most of the first half and collecting the better chances throughout the 90 minutes.
LA had the first clear opportunity of the game in the 12th minute. MF Gyasi Zardes collected a ball on the left flank and slipped FW Landon Donovan behind the RSL defense with a long through ball. Donovan collected in the left side of the area, taking a touch before rolling a 10-yarder inches wide of RSL GK Nick Rimando’s far post.
The Galaxy had another big opportunity in the 19th minute. Donovan collected a loose ball in the middle of RSL’s half and caught the Claret-and-Cobalt in transition, slipping FW Robbie Keane behind for a 1-v-1 with Rimando. As he has so many times this season, the veteran ‘keeper came up big for the Claret-and-Cobalt, getting low to hold Keane’s 12-yarder.
RSL hit back with an opportunity of its own in the 26th. MF’s Luis Gil and Ned Grabavoy combined nicely on the counter, with Grabavoy eventually releasing Gil at the top of the box for an 18-yard half-volley that flashed just wide of the right upright.
Franklin had a decent chance in the 28th minute, collecting a short corner kick at the top-left corner of the 18 before flashing a right-footed shot just over the bar.
RSL MF Javier Morales tried one from distance in the 36th, forcing Galaxy GK Jaime Penedo into a diving stop at the left post with a low effort from 30 yards.
Claret-and-Cobalt DF Chris Schuler saved a sure LA goal in the 42nd minute. Donovan and Keane again combined to create the chance, with Donovan starting the move by playing Keane through into the left side of the area. The Irish international carried the ball to the end line, eventually squaring it across the face of goal, past Rimando and toward Donovan at the back post. It looked like a sure tap-in for Donovan, but Schuler came in with a huge clearance, using every inch of his 6-foot-4 frame to make a miraculous sliding clearance out for a corner.
The Galaxy had another opportunity in the 43rd. MF Juninho played a corner to MF Robbie Rogers at the top-right corner of the six, allowing Rogers to flick a looping header just wide of the far post.
RSL fell behind in the 47th minute, when Franklin scored a wonder goal to put LA on the board. Keane started the play, collecting a ball on the left edge of the area and playing a deflected pass through the top of the box and back to Franklin in the center of RSL’s third. The Galaxy left back took it from there, running onto the ball 30 yards from goal and absolutely smashing a right-footer that dipped to the right and slammed home just inside the right post.
RSL Head Coach Jason Kreis made a pair of attacking substitutions in 57th and 61st minutes, bringing FW Robbie Findley on for MF Yordany Alvarez before inserting MF Sebastian Velasquez for Grabavoy. The changes gave a boost to RSL, which quickly registered a pair of chances. FW Alvaro Saborio had the first look in the 65th minute, collecting a bouncing ball at the top of the 18 before turning and rifling a left-footed side volley just wide. Velasquez had the second opportunity in the 67th, getting on the end of a DF Tony Beltran cross in the left side of the area before hitting an eight-yard half volley off of a closing Galaxy defender.
Real Salt Lake had two more looks in the 73rd and 78th minutes, with MF Kyle Beckerman curling a 20-yard left-footer on frame that Penedo pawed out for a corner kick and Gil driving a 20-yard effort over the bar from the right side.
RSL’s best chance came in the 80th minute. DF Chris Wingert started the play, floating a ball into the box from the left flank. An unmarked Gil got on the end of the cross at the right edge of the six-yard box, chipping the ball past the onrushing Penedo and across the face of goal. Substitute FW Devon Sandoval looked poised to head home from close range, but the rookie striker couldn’t get on the end of it, going down under contact from Galaxy DF Todd Dunivant before he could finish the chance.
Keane could’ve made it 2-0 in the 85th minute. A pressing RSL side got caught out on the counter, with Keane collecting a flicked header on the right flank and running in behind the Claret-and-Cobalt defense. The Designated Player dribbled unimpeded into the box and fired a low right-footer that curled wide of the far post from 12 yards out.
Real Salt Lake had one final half chance in second half stoppage time. Beckerman clipped a cross into the right side of the area, with Gil rising and laying a header back to Findley just outside the box. The speedy striker volleyed a shot into the area, with Sandoval deflecting the bouncing effort wide of the right post.
RSL will host the second leg of the Western Conference Semifinal series at 7:00 p.m. MT on Thursday at Rio Tinto Stadium. Tickets to the decisive second leg are on sale and can be purchased at the Rio Tinto Stadium box office, online at www.RealSaltLake.com/Tickets or over the phone at 801-727-2700.
Real Salt Lake Match Notes – RSL 0-1 LA
- Sunday’s match was RSL’s third-ever playoff match against LA. The Claret-and-Cobalt beat the Galaxy in penalties in MLS Cup 2009 in Seattle and lost 3-1 to LA in the 2011 Western Conference Final in Carson.
- RSL now must win the series’ decisive second leg on Thursday at Rio Tinto Stadium in order to have a shot at advancing to the Western Conference Final. If the teams are tied on aggregate at the end of regulation in Thursday’s second leg, there will be a pair of 15-minute extra time periods. If the teams remain tied following extra time, the series will be decided by a penalty kick shootout.
- Real Salt Lake MF Ned Grabavoy left Sunday’s match in the 61st minute for MF Sebastian Velasquez due to a left hamstring injury. The substitution marked just the third time in Grabavoy’s 30 MLS starts this year that he did not play the full 90 minutes.
- RSL FW Joao Plata and DF Lovel Palmer were both unavailable on Sunday night due to injuries suffered in the Claret-and-Cobalt’s Oct .23 regular season finale against Chivas USA. Both players are dealing with left hamstring strains; RSL is hoping to have both back for Thursday’s second leg at Rio Tinto Stadium.
- Sunday’s match marked the fourth time this season that Real Salt Lake did not start a match in its usual diamond formation. The Claret-and-Cobalt were 3-0-0 in the previous three times they departed from the diamond setup, beating Toronto FC 1-0 at BMO Field on June 29, topping FC Dallas 3-0 at Toyota Stadium on July 13 and beating the Houston Dynamo 1-0 at Rio Tinto Stadium on Aug. 10.
REAL SALT LAKE 0–1 LA GALAXY
SUNDAY, NOV. 3, 2013
Goals by Period 1 2 F
Real Salt Lake 0 0 0
LA Galaxy 0 1 1
LA – Sean Franklin (Robbie Keane) – 47’
RSL – Kyle Beckerman (Yellow Card; Foul) – 23’
LA – Juninho (Yellow Card; Foul) – 25’
LA – Rafael Garcia (Yellow Card; Foul) – 83’
Real Salt Lake (4-2-3-1): Nick Rimando; Chris Wingert, Chris Schuler, Nat Borchers, Tony Beltran; Yordany Alvarez (Robbie Findley, 57’), Kyle Beckerman (C), Luis Gil, Javier Morales, Ned Grabavoy (Sebastian Velasquez, 61’); Alvaro Saborio (Devon Sandoval, 79’)
Substitutes not used: Jeff Attinella, Abdoulie Mansally, Carlos Salcedo, Cole Grossman, Devon Sandoval
LA Galaxy (4-4-2): Jamie Penedo; Sean Franklin, Omar Gonzalez, Kofi Opare, Todd Dunivant; Robbie Rogers (Hector Jimenez, 61’), Juninho (A.J. DeLaGarza, 90’+1’), Marcelo Sarvas (Rafael Garcia, 83’), Gyasi Zardes; Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane (C)
Substitutes not used: Brian Rowe, Leonardo, A.J. DeLaGarza, Laurent Courtois, Jose Villarreal
Referee: Kevin Stott
Assistant Referees: Kermit Quisenberry, Fabio Tovar
4th Official: Juan Guzman
Weather: Clear and 64 degrees