Asked by a reporter Thursday if he considered Real Salt Lake a rival, Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Landon Donovan paused.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I guess, yeah. Every team’s a rival.”
“But nothing special beyond ...” a reporter said.
“We’ve had some really good games with them over the years,” Donovan replied. “I guess you create rivalries by playing important games against teams that mean something. And we’ve had a lot of that over the last few years. All that says to me is that we’re two teams that are consistently very good. And that comes down to the stability of the organization, the stability of the coaches, and having good players, good leaders on the field, which I think both of our teams have.”
But if Donovan was lukewarm, a few of his teammates were quick to say yes when asked if their Western Conference opponent was a rival.
“I think this is my fifth year here and every time you get that feeling that if you wan to win a cup or a shield you’re going to have to play Salt Lake,” Mike Magee said. “It’s obviously good to try to get in their heads early and try to win one at their place.”
Defender A.J. DeLaGarza pointed to RSL’s 2009 MLS Cup championship.
“The last few years, there have been some pretty good games between us,” he said. “Obviously losing the MLS Cup finals was a bitter taste. That’s why it makes it a rivalry for me at least.”
‘A bigger test’
After beating Sporting Kansas City in L.A. last weekend, Magee said facing RSL on the road would be “definitely a bigger test.”
“We’ve gotten to the point now where we should win every game at home no matter who we’re playing,” he said. “But to go to Salt Lake, it’s an extremely hard place to get a result. We’ll kind of find out even more where we are at after this game.”
Donovan and Keane are both dealing with injuries.
Keane has a lingering ankle injury that he’s been dealing with for some time. Donovan said he strained his right leg when he sprinted and reached for a ball against Sporting Kansas City.
“We’re definitely going to be [cautious], but, as always, hopeful I’ll be ready Saturday,” Donovan said. “But we’ll see.”
LA striker Jose Villareal is training with the U-20 national team in California, but is available for travel if he’s called upon.
— Aaron Falk