When the LA Galaxy flew to Salt Lake City on Monday for the quarterfinal match in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, they did so with some legends from across the pond. And it wasn’t Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, despite the team flying in on a charter jet emblazoned with the Rolling Stones logo. The Galaxy have long touted Robbie Keane, the volatile forward from Ireland with a CV that includes stops with Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, among others.
But even the three-time MLS Best XI forward and 2014 MLS MVP is overshadowed in this instance by Liverpool lifer Steven Gerrard, who made his LA Galaxy debut in the International Champions Cup on Saturday against Club America and joined the team in its travels to Utah for the Open Cup tilt.
That gives Real Salt Lake another player on a rolling Galaxy team to keep an eye on – and two when possible. Keeping Gerrard at bay will take a full team effort though.
“It’s about making sure we’re organized defensively as a unit, making sure that we don’t give him time and space on the ball to pick out the passes that he wants because he’s an amazing passer of the ball,” RSL Head Coach Jeff Cassar said. “And at the end of the day its awareness, knowing where he Keane are at all times.”
Rio Tinto Stadium has been no stranger to some dynamic players already this season. Sebastian Giovinco visited with Toronto FC. David Villa was in tow with New York City FC in May. And Kaka netted a goal for Orlando City SC earlier this month.
Gerrard brings a different type of dynamic to the game, but is equally impressive to the previous guests.
“He’s world class,” RSL midfielder Javier Morales said. “But I think it’s different than guys like Giovinco, Kaka, Villa. They score goals and make that special play. Gerrard is going to be different. He is going to be the balance of the Galaxy with Juninho. We have to be worried about other things than Gerrard.”
Gerrard totaled 504 Premier League appearances for Liverpool, scoring 120 goals while also winning two FA Cups and UEFA Champions League. After starting in the Liverpool youth program, Gerrard spent his entire soccer career with the club until signing with the Galaxy.
For a player like Luke Mulholland, who grew up in England a Liverpool supporter, the match will provide a strange experience. However, the RSL midfielder knows what is at stake and is focused on the match.
“I grew up idolizing Gerrard. So it will be surreal playing against him,” Mulholland said. “His passing and his awareness is unbelievable … and his ability to shoot from distance. Putting pressure on him at all times throughout the game and not taking one play off. Otherwise, he’s a world class player and he’ll punish us.”
Tuesday night’s match kicks off at 8 p.m. MT and tickets remain available at RealSaltLake.com.