Real Salt Lake isn't expecting any surprises when they face the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday in Carson, Calif.
“We've played them plenty of times,” RSL midfielder Ned Grabavoy told reporters. “We know what to expect.”
The two teams meet for the third and final time in the 2014 regular season on Saturday. RSL holds a 1-0-1 edge in the first two matches, having outscored the Galaxy by the narrowest of margins — 2-1 total.
If there was been anything unexpected in the first two matches, it was LA forward Robbie Keane's failure to convert a 93rd-minute penalty kick that would have given the Galaxy a tie in the March 8 season opener. But even that wasn't altogether a surprise, because RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando has saved nearly a third of the PKs he's faced in his long MLS career.
“They match up well against us,” RSL defender Nat Borchers told reporters. “We match up well against them. It's always a good game.”
Since joining MLS in 2005, Real Salt Lake has had surprising success against the Galaxy. The Utah team leads the regular-season series 11-10-6; the two are tied 12-12-7 when you throw in MLS playoff matches and the 2009 MLS Cup final, which Salt Lake won in a penalty-kick shootout.
Most of the matchups between LA and RSL have been close: seven ties; 13 one-goal games; and eight two-goal games. Only two have gotten out of hand — three-goal wins by RSL in 2006 and 2011.
RSL Coach Jeff Cassar isn't expecting any surprises from the Galaxy at the StubHub Center on Saturday night.
“They're playing back to their regular formation of 4-4-2,” he told reporters, “so they're really not playing a diamond in the midfield anymore. They're capable of going to that if they wanted to. So I think they're playing familiar soccer.
“And having [Marcelo] Sarvas and Juninho back in the midfield, they're playing good soccer.”
The Galaxy are unbeaten in their last six MLS matches (3-0-3); their only home loss in MLS play this season was to RSL in that season-opener.
And, perhaps, part of the reason the Claret-and-Cobalt have done as well as they have against the Galaxy is that they never take LA lightly. The Galaxy have “great individual players that can really punish you if you're not careful with things,” Grabavoy said. “And so, realistically, when we play against them, moreso than other teams, they just have such good guys in and around the 18. So you just can't give them any chances.”
Although the 1-1 tie the two teams played on March 22nd devolved into an extraordinarily uninteresting matchup in the second half, that's the exception to the rule.
““It's always fun to play against them because they want to attack like us,” said RSL midfielder Javier Morales.