Wednesday night Real Salt Lake will take on the LA Galaxy for the first time since their unceremonious 5-0 drubbing from then-LA striker Landon Donovan and company in last year’s Western Conference playoff semi-final.
While RSL (and LA for that matter) has undergone some serious roster renovations since then, those who remain from that dreadful night in Carson, California certainly remember how much it hurt to get booted out of the playoffs in such convincing fashion.
The Real Salt Lake vs. LA Galaxy Rivalry Rages On
“That definitely hurt our pride, the end of last season,” RSL midfielder Luke Mulholland told the Salt Lake Tribune. “That’ll definitely be in the back of my head.”
RSL head coach Jeff Cassar also told the Salt Lake Tribune that he thinks about that loss frequently, “all the time” in fact.
“It’s something that did not sit with myself or the team, but you’ve got to move on from that,” Cassar said.
When RSL defender Tony Beltran was asked about the game and how the team will feel playing against the Galaxy again, he noted that it’s not about a single result, rather where the team finishes in the Western Conference standings.
“It won’t be about redeeming ourselves,” Beltran said. “It will be about where we’re at and the fact that we need three points against a Western Conference opponent.”
That being said, Beltran acknowledged that this is still an important game for his squad during a rough stretch of the regular season.
“It is a big game, for a number of reasons,” Beltran told the Deseret News. “It’s a home game, so obviously you want to get three points, that’s the priority. We need to get a good result to get back on track. This is a big Western Conference rival and if we’re going to be in the postseason we’re going to see them in the postseason, so we’ve got to set the tone now and take it to these opponents and get some points.”
RSL are certainly in need of some points against their western rivals as the Claret and Cobalt have gone win-less over the past month with losses against Vancouver and New England as well as draws with Kansas City and San Jose. Their lone goal scored during that stretch came last weekend against San Jose via a Victor Bernardez own goal.
LA, on the other hand, are undefeated over the past month with victories over Seattle and Kansas City as well as draws with New York and Colorado. The Galaxy have scored in every game of that stretch (five goals total) despite missing striker Robbie Keane to a groin injury.
Both teams will most likely be missing their key offensive catalysts with Keane listed as doubtful for the Galaxy and Javier Morales ruled out for RSL with a concussion suffered in the first half against San Jose.
For RSL that means that M/F Luis Gil will slide down from his spot in the forward back to his traditional number 10 role in the midfield. Gil will be in charge of organizing and leading the RSL attack, finding wingers and wing-forwards in space in order to get good service opportunities into the box that RSL has desperately missed in games that do not feature Morales in the middle.
While Gil has struggled thus far this season to create scoring opportunities for himself or his teammates, Cassar has said all season that he believes his young midfielder is making strides and will figure it out sooner rather than later.
“I’d like to see him really grab ahold of the game—really dictate it,” Cassar told ESPN 700 radio. “And then once he does that, to really continue to strive to make that final ball a perfect ball for our forwards and for our wingers … and just to be seen throughout the 90 minutes of the game.”
RSL will definitely need Gil to have a worthwhile performance if the club has any chance to end their 400 plus minute goal-less drought Wednesday night.
RSL and LA will kickoff at 7:30 pm MST from Rio Tinto Stadium.
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