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(Kim Raff | The Salt Lake Tribune) (left) Vancouver Whitecaps FC midfielder Russell Teibert (31) and (right) Real Salt Lake defender Chris Wingert (17) compete for a ball in the air during a match at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on May 4, 2013. Real Salt Lake went on to win the game 2-0.
Real Salt Lake: RSL envisions motivated Galaxy team in opener
Soccer » One of MLS’s best rivalries resumes Saturday when team visits the L.A. Galaxy.
First Published Mar 04 2014 05:10 pm • Last Updated Mar 04 2014 10:48 pm

Sandy • The last time Real Salt Lake saw their nemesis from Southern California was on a cold late November night in Sandy. That 120-minute outing, the second leg of the 2013 Western Conference semifinal between RSL and the L.A. Galaxy, was at the time a defining moment for RSL.

It dominated the Galaxy with its back to the wall — at home no less — briefly ridding the perception that RSL struggled to respond in big games at home. Down 1-0 after struggling mightily in the first leg in LA, RSL won 2-0 to advance.

At a glance

MLS season opener RSL at L.A. Galaxy

Saturday, 8:30 p.m.

TV » Ch. 4

MLS to start season without regular refs

Major League Soccer is prepared to start its season this weekend even if there isn’t a labor deal with its referees and other on-field officials. The Professional Soccer Referee Association (PSRA) was certified in May to represent referees, assistant referees and fourth officials working MLS games. It has not reached an agreement with the Professional Referee Organization (PRO), which was created by the U.S. Soccer Federation and MLS in 2012 to manage officials. The PSRA has filed charges of unfair labor practices, accusing the PRO of bad-faith bargaining and making threats against PSRA members.

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In three of the last five MLS Cup playoffs, RSL and L.A. have taken turns eliminating each other.

As fate would have it, the two clubs are set to square off in the 2014 Major League Soccer season opener at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.

"That’s why we play the game … to play in big matches, and L.A. will certainly be a big one for us," defender Chris Wingert said. "Hopefully we’ll get out on the right foot."

The Galaxy still have star attackers Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan, who are coming off stellar seasons. And, in order to add more versatility to its goals-scored output, L.A. signed two forwards this off-season in 6-foot-5 Canadian striker Rob Friend and 23-year-old Brazilian striker Samuel — on loan from Brazilian club Fluminense.

"No bigger test, for sure, than to play against the L.A. Galaxy," said center back Nat Borchers. "We’ve had some great battles with them in the past five or six years, and last year especially. We’ve definitely gotten really familiar with each other."

RSL and L.A. are uncomfortably familiar with one another.

Yet, a slight divergence from the fluidity of the rivalry is first-year RSL coach Jeff Cassar. Jason Kreis and Bruce Arena cultivated a healthy coaching rivalry during Kreis’ time in Utah. Now, it’s Cassar’s turn to figure out how to stay ahead of the Galaxy — and it starts in L.A.

"I’m anticipating a really hungry team," Cassar said. "It’s their home opener and they’re already in an ultra-competitive mindset getting ready for Champions League. That team is going to come out very aggressive, but we’ll be ready for them."

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The Galaxy will host Club Tijuana in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League series on March 12. RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando knows the Galaxy and how they play, opening things up with their outstanding counter-attacking ability. But RSL, after being torched at the StubHub Center by Keane early last season, held the Galaxy to one goal in the playoff series, a 35-yard strike by former defender Sean Franklin.

But Keane and Donovan have some new help in their attack, which leaves Rimando’s command of the back line even more crucial.

"There’s always curveballs thrown at you," Rimando said, "but if you’re organized and your defense is up to the task, I think we’ll be OK."

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