Carson, Calif. » Good thing no trophy was at stake, this time.
In a rematch of the dramatic MLS Cup championship five months ago, injury-riddled Real Salt Lake had a hard time dealing with an unbeaten and motivated Los Angeles Galaxy team just three days after playing a marathon U.S. Open Cup game, losing 2-1 at the Home Depot Center on Saturday night.
"We all knew the circumstances coming into this game," coach Jason Kreis said.
Predictably, it showed.
While RSL played without three injured starters -- midfielders Javier Morales and Ned Grabavoy were out, along with defender Chris Wingert -- the Galaxy's Edson Buddle continued his scintillating start by scoring both goals to give him seven for the season already and help make amends for the missed penalty kick in last season's title game that helped deliver RSL the trophy.
That allowed the Galaxy to snap a seven-game winless streak against RSL, and win their fourth straight game to start the season. Meanwhile, RSL fell to 1-2-1 with another tough road game at Columbus remaining in its unforgiving early-season schedule.
Yet RSL almost emerged with a draw that would have felt like a victory, given its injury problems, fatigue, and the way the Galaxy controlled the play for most of the game.
"I was really pleased, to be honest," Kreis said. "The effort tonight was outstanding. ... Difficult, difficult situation for us."
Buddle scored a brilliant header off a corner kick from teammate Landon Donovan in the 12th minute, but midfielder Kyle Beckerman had equalized for RSL just before halftime on a low line drive that bounced just in front of goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts. It was the first goal the Galaxy had allowed all season, and RSL went deep into the second half repelling wave after wave of Galaxy attacks.
Goalkeeper Nick Rimando made two huge diving saves in the 59th minute to keep the score even, and substitutes Robbie Findley and Collen Warner injected some much-needed life into RSL just minutes later.
Findley even hit the post.
But in the 76th minute, Buddle took a pass between two RSL defenders at the top of the box and fired past Rimando to break the league record for consecutive goals to start the season.
"I can't remember ever seeing a guy who's this on fire," Kreis said. "The goals he's scoring, it's uncanny."
The coach said he the team would "keep our fingers crossed" that Morales and Wingert will be available against the Crew next weekend -- Grabovoy is out probably another month -- after having been forced into a tight spot against the Galaxy by their absences and the fatigue that other players felt after playing 120 minutes against San Jose in the U.S. Open Cup game.
Veteran Andy Williams started in place of Morales, while Nelson Gonzalez played in Grabavoy's spot and Tony Beltran joined the back line for the first time this season.
"There's a whole host of reasons, I think -- I wouldn't say excuses -- there's a whole host of reasons why we couldn't get a result in that game," Kreis said. "But again, credit to our guys. They really played hard."
IN SHORT » RSL watches its seven-game unbeaten streak against the Galaxy end with a 2-1 loss.
KEY STAT » The Galaxy squeeze off 17 shots, nearly double RSL's nine.
KEY MOMENT » Edson Buddle fires the winner past goalkeeper Nick Rimando in the 76th minute, giving him seven goals this season.