Sandy • Swirling with hype from the initial release of the 2014 Major League Soccer schedule, Real Salt Lake against the L.A. Galaxy to christen another season at Rio Tinto Stadium held hopes of a typical tense outing between the two rivals.
Except Saturday afternoon inside the jam-packed stadium in Sandy was an outing of two teams searching for ways to break the other down, and in the end the two sides kept ramming into one another, leaving a 1-1 draw in front of 20,466 fans as the final and perhaps fitting result.
Real Salt Lake 1, L.A. Galaxy 1
» Alvaro Saborio scores his first goal of 2014 when he finished a cross from fellow striker Joao Plata in the 18th minute of RSL’s home opener.
» L.A. star Robbie Keane equalizes in the 34th minute, scoring the goal that earns a point for the Galaxy on the road.
» RSL and L.A. combine to commit 33 fouls.
RSL 1, Galaxy 1
Los Angeles 1 0 — 1
Real Salt Lake 1 0 — 1
First half » 1, Real Salt Lake, Saborio 1 (Plata), 19th minute. 2, Los Angeles, Keane 1 (Juninho), 34th.
Second half » None.
Goalies » Los Angeles, Brian Perk Real Salt Lake, Nick Rimando.
Yellow Cards—Ishizaki, Los Angeles, 18th Morales, Real Salt Lake, 55th Saborio, Real Salt Lake, 63rd.
Referee—Ismail Elfath. Assistant Referees—Ian Anderson. James Conlee. 4th Official—Tyler Ploeger.
Attendance » 20,466 (20,008)
Los Angeles—Brian Perk, James Riley (Dan Gargan, 33rd), A.J. DeLaGarza (Leonardo, 72nd), Todd Dunivant, Omar Gonzalez, Juninho, Stefan Ishizaki (Marcelo Sarvas, 70th), Landon Donovan, Baggio Husidic, Rob Friend, Robbie Keane.
Real Salt Lake—Nick Rimando, Tony Beltran, Chris Schuler, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert, Ned Grabavoy (Luke Mulholland, 77th), Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales, Luis Gil, Joao Plata (Olmes Garcia, 36th), Alvaro Saborio.
"I felt like there was two teams out there that just didn’t want to lose," said RSL coach Jeff Cassar following his first home match of his head coaching career.
Outside of the two goals in 15 minutes midway through the first half, the awkwardness of each team’s struggles to create any offensive flow took hold of the match for the final 55-plus minutes of RSL’s season opener. Neither RSL nor the Galaxy found it easy to string together passes and forge dangerous opportunities.
"I think it was a bit sloppy both ways," said midfielder Ned Grabavoy. "Probably not the most entertaining or attractive game to watch from a fan standpoint."
Yet, RSL started with its foot firmly on the gas. In the second minute, Joao Plata nearly put the home side up 90 seconds in the match when he took advantage of a mishap by Galaxy defender and found himself one-on-one with L.A. keeper Brian Perk. But Plata’s shot fired wide.
But in 18th minute, the RSL forward, who eventually left the match with a left hamstring strain, found his fellow striker deep in the box standing all by himself. Plata’s long cross to Alvaro Saborio hit the RSL forward perfectly, and the Costa Rican star even had time to trap the ball cooly before firing it in to give RSL an early 1-0 lead.
L.A. countered with a patented counter-attack off a poor giveaway in the midfield that resulted in captain Robbie Keane in on goal with Chris Schuler tracking the L.A. star. Keane moved into the box, made a quick move to his right to create space from Schuler and scored the equalizer in the 34th minute.
"It just took the air out of us for a little while," Cassar said. "We were playing some good soccer, [the Galaxy] weren’t doing too much against us and then they make us pay for a giveaway. After that, it was a battle."
The two teams combined for 33 fouls, four cautions and some injury substitutions.
"Just kind of an interesting game," said defender Tony Beltran. "There were a lot of stops, couple of injuries that kills the flow out of the game. Overall, probably that result was fair."
The RSL possession-style attack, which typically controls the pace of the match, was out of sync, and as the second half wore on, RSL struggled to piece together combination plays and passes to get a chance at a winner. But after enduring nine shots on goal at L.A. in the season opener two weeks ago, RSL’s defense, held the Galaxy to just one, which proved to be the deciding goal in an otherwise rusty match at Rio Tinto.
"Just seemed like we weren’t sharp enough," said defender Nat Borchers.
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