Real Salt Lake: RSL out to change history against the Galaxy
Sandy • Every possible avenue has been exhausted.
Those familiar with Real Salt Lake and Major League Soccer are acquainted with the demons the Utah club has dealt with in recent years, being in prime position to hoist hardware, to shock the world, and coming up short at home.
That narrative continues Thursday night at Rio Tinto Stadium when RSL faces the rival L.A. Galaxy in the second leg of the Western Conference semifinal down a goal following the 1-0 loss Sunday night in Carson, Calif.
Another decisive match, one that carries the weight of a season and possibly beyond in front of a raucous and frenzied fan base, coupled with the task of a coach, a team and a franchise scouring for ways to approach yet another massive moment.
"I've tried every angle," RSL coach Jason Kreis said. "For me, it's just time to stop talking about it, for the players, at least. I know everybody else wants to talk about it and that's fine, but inside the locker room, we just need to be focused on the details of what it takes to be successful against this Galaxy team."
Talk of how to handle the fast-break Galaxy has occurred. RSL has to do its best to hedge L.A.'s tendencies of counterattacking and putting the defense on its heels.
Captain Kyle Beckerman said the series is there for the taking, a victory that definitely would help ease the pain of the previous large-scale home losses.
"I think maybe a focus will be on some patience," he said. "I think sometimes we get into the games and we're all wanting to go get that win right away Â maybe a little too anxious. We have 90 minutes to do it."
And finding the goal to equalize is the first step.
For Kreis, as he mentioned often during the regular-season stretch run, he needs a player to step up, take a risk and provide a surprise. Galaxy defender Sean Franklin did it in the first leg with his 31-yard strike. It's not necessarily about the right pass or the last pass, Kreis said. It's about having someone take it upon himself to light a spark.
"I think that this game, unfortunately, plays out to the Galaxy's strength," Kreis said. "It's what they do well; they defend very well, they counter very well. And so with a one-goal lead, we understand that we're in a dangerous position â¦ but so what?"
RSL's season, which kicked off 10 months ago with the opening of training camp, suddenly is 90 minutes or more from ending.
"You have to put it into perspective," defender Tony Beltran said. "You work the entire year, since mid-January, for this point, for these kinds of series, for this playoff win, so you have to give it all you've got and not let the moment slip by you."
L.A. Galaxy at Real Salt Lake
P At Rio Tinto Stadium (Sandy)
Kickoff • Thursday, 7 p.m.
TV • ESPN2
Radio • 700 AM
Last meeting • L.A., 1-0 (Sunday)
About RSL • RSL returns home in an elimination match following its 1-0 loss to the Galaxy in the first leg of the Western Conference semifinals Sunday night in Carson, Calif. â¦ RSL must win the second leg Thursday to have a shot at advancing to the Western Conference final. If the two sides are tied on aggregate at the end of regulation Thursday, there will be two 15-minute extra time periods, followed by a penalty shootout should the score remained tied. â¦ Midfielder Ned Grabavoy was ruled out of Thursday's match by coach Jason Kreis after suffering a left hamstring injury Sunday. â¦ Forward Joao Plata and defender Lovel Palmer are healthy after missing the first leg and are under consideration to start. â¦ RSL is 10-12-6 all-time against the Galaxy in MLS regular-season and playoff action, posting a 5-3-4 all-time home record.
About L.A. • The No. 3 seed in the Western Conference is paced by stars Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan, a pair that has combined for 26 goals and 20 assists this season. â¦ Defender Sean Franklin's first-leg blast was the deciding factor Sunday, a match in which the Galaxy had several chances to add to their tally, but failed to capitalize. â¦ The last time the Galaxy played at Rio Tinto Stadium was a 3-1 RSL victory, but L.A. topped RSL 2-0 in Sandy on April 27. â¦ Midfielders Marcelo Sarvas (four goals, six assists) and Gyasi Zardes (four goals, four assists) help the Galaxy in their patented counterattacking style of play. â¦ U.S. men's national team defender Omar Gonzalez once again will take on RSL striker Alvaro Saborio in one of the most important matchups.