With the MLS season winding down to its few final weeks, teams in the Western Conference joust for the 2nd place spot in the West. Only three points separate Real Salt Lake, the LA Galaxy, and the Seattle Sounders for that 2nd place seed. Real Salt Lake will battle head to head with perhaps their most loathed Western Conference foe, the LA Galaxy on Saturday as both teams look to better the other for playoff seeding.
If RSL is to increase their current two-point advantage on the Galaxy, they will have to do it on the road at LA’s Home Depot Center. While the HDC has been kind to ReAL this season, having taken a win from LA and 2 wins from Chivas there, it is sure to be a fiercely contested event. Mix in LA’s star-studded prima donna super egos, the likes of David Beckham and his supporting cast of goons with the fight for Western Conference supremacy and we are sure to see plenty of emotions and drama on the pitch during this match. I would not be surprised to see a red card or two; I just hope they are not in ReAL’s contra.
True to form we are sure to see Beckham spend most of the match whining to the officials without consequence for his abhorrent actions. This will likely incite the RSL side to exhibit their frustrations, who pay for them in the form of disciplinary action if they are not careful.
To start the 2012 MLS season RSL dealt LA a humiliating 3 – 1 lose at home. LA most certainly will be looking for retribution for the way that the Claret-and-Cobalt set the tone to their abysmal start to the season. Unfortunately for RSL, the Galaxy has climbed out of the hole they dug early on in the season and has been rounding into fine form. It will be no easy task for RSL to ward off assaults from the DP laden attacking squad, but they have shown they are capable of besting the California side.
To emerge triumphant with a much needed three points RSL must be sound defensively. Defensive errors were the cause to LA’s come back 3 – 2 win over RSL at home in June. The return of the speedy and physically imposing defensive stalwart Jamison Olave is sure to play a critically positive role in the match outcome for RSL as LA seeks to exploit our back line.
RSL has plenty of tricks up their sleeve as well and are sure to put up an entertaining fight. ReAL has seen a recent resurgence in offensive potency, shot creation and goal scoring; coming from midfielders and outside backs contributing to the attack in and around the 18-yard box. RSL has returned to their roots of success in past seasons by committing numbers forward to the attack as Coach Jason Kreis has asked of the squad.
Riding the coattails of a 4 – 0 rout of Chivas USA at the HDC last Saturday lead by an impressive hat trick by forward Alvaro Saborio and a trio of equally impressive assists from Argentine forward Fabian Espindola, the royal side should feel plenty of confidence in their ability to get a result at the HDC. Of course the Galaxy presents a much different challenge than the lowly Chivas at this point in the season.
Coach Kreis and his squad often express that the team seems to play their best football when their backs are against the wall and generally we see that expression ring true. RSL must play this match as a do or die situation in the playoffs to be successful, with the right mentality and work rate they are certainly capable of leaving the HDC with a result.
LA will play the match without injured (left knee injury) center back AJ DeLaGarza, who despite his small stature has proven to be a fairly solid central defender. Many sources have expressed that the absence of DeLaGarza is likely to be catastrophic for LA in the final stages of the regular season. While I think his influence will be missed and the LA defense will suffer I do not think his absence will prove to be as critical as was the absence of Omar Gonzalez for LA. However, this is a weakness that RSL should absolutely seek to exploit to their advantage to get behind the back line and inside the box as they look for goal scoring opportunities.
A victory at the HDC would give RSL a comfortable but not insurmountable lead against LA for the second place seed in the West. A draw would simply keep us at a two-point lead over LA. A loss would allow LA to jump ahead of RSL to the 2nd seed by one point. Of course a three point victory is the best possible outcome and is sure to be ReAL’s main objective.
Seattle, who has a game in hand on RSL, faces the struggling Portland Timbers on Sunday and are likely to come away from that match with three points which will keep them in contention for the 2nd seed.
With some hard work and skillful attacking I believe we will see RSL take 3 points from the match with a 2 – 1 victory over LA.
Make sure you tune into the action on Saturday at 7:00PM on NBC Sport to support our boys. As always “believe”!
To stay up to date with the inside scoop on RSL action follow us on Twitter, Like us on Facebook and hang with us on Google+ with the icons to the far left.
Share your opinions and comments about the match below.