Sandy, UT – Real Salt Lake draws tonight against the LA Galaxy in the first leg of the semifinals series of the 2014 MLS Playoffs. On a blustery night at Rio Tinto Stadium the weather did not temper the action on the pitch for either club.
This is the fifth time these two clubs have met in the post-season, but just the second time at Rio Tinto Stadium. In the three meetings during the regular season they ended up 1-1-1, with the only loss at the StubHub Center for LA being handed to them by RSL in the season opener.
RSL finished the season strong on a three game winning streak before finishing up third in the Western Conference to set up this first leg of the semifinals. The Galaxy wrapped up their regular season with a draw and a loss against the Seattle Sounders to fall into second place in the West, and to secure the Supporters Shield for the Sounders. Although the Galaxy had a slow start to the season, they really started to hit their stride after MLS play resumed following the World Cup.
Both teams got off to a very spirited start that did not let up for the entire match. With Real Salt Lake back to close to full strength including the return of Chris Schuler after breaking his nose, and several other bones in his face, complete with a stylish face mask.
The shots started early for RSL as Luis Gil had his first shot in the 11th minute from distance, but it sailed just over the crossbar after Jaime Penedo got his finger tips on the ball. The corner that followed was by a beautiful cross by Javier Morales to Alvaro Saborio who couldn’t get his header on frame.
Luke Mulholland was the next to get too much air under the ball as he takes a shot off of a set piece and can’t keep the ball down in the 21st minute. Alvaro Sabario got the next look in the 37th minute but it gets saved in the center of the goal. The last good shot of the first half at the goal came in the 43rd minute when Javier Morales again sailed one over the net on an assist from Alvaro Sabario.
The second half started with no substitutions for either side and picked up right where it left off, perhaps getting a little more chippy as the match continued. Joao Plata made his first effort of the second half in just the 46th minute after Luis Gil sent the ball in and Plata sent the ball directly into the hands of Penedo.
RSL continued to play to a high tempo as Luke Mulholland first on frame in the 51st minute, Kyle Beckerman fired in the 54th, 73rd, and 90th minutes, Joao Plata again in the 69th minute. Javier Morales had a great night with multiple shots on goal tonight and had his share of set pieces to try an capitalize on, but with the outstanding night that Jaime Penedo had it was just too hard to get anything past him.
At the end of the day, RSL took 16 attempts on the goal, with 6 shots on target, to the Galaxy just making 3 and only one of those on target. Real Salt Lake also won the possession battle controlling the ball for just over 53% of the time.
The match was not without it’s share of drama as the home crowd had plenty of cause to question the quality of officiating. There were several calls that seemed a bit iffy, including a glaring penalty on Joao Plata when he got leveled in the penalty box. To further illustrate the point, although both clubs each got 2 yellow cards, LA committed 24 fouls while RSL only committed only 11. It certainly felt like the referee was playing catch up the entire second half of the match.
With the draw, RSL has to win in LA to continue this years playoff run. With the new away goal rule it will make for an exciting match at StubHub next week.
RSL draws in the first leg of the MLS semifinal series against the LA Galaxy – Quotes from Real Salt Lake:
– Head Coach Jeff Cassar
On the 0-0 draw
“We created an abundance of chances tonight and ran across a goal keeper that played great”
“We created the chances, and that is the most important thing”
“When you play a home game the goal isn’t just a shutout, it’s to play aggressive, and we did that”
On Penedo’s goalkeeping
“He was very, very good tonight.”
On the next leg of the series
“We are in a fantastic position”
– Tony Beltran
On RSL’s position
“We’re in a very good position. … credit to the entire team for keeping the shutout.”
On the goalkeepers
“Nick’s incredible. He’s the best goal keeper in the league hands down, but Penedo tonight, credit to him. He stepped up big.”
– Kyle Beckerman
On going to LA with a 0-0 draw…
“It’s just halftime as we all know, so we still have a chance. It’s still going to take everything we got, but it’s still out there for us to get.”
On the way both teams played
“I think they’re a similar team like ourselves that no matter if you’re a home or away, you like to try and play your type of soccer, and so I’m sure that is what will happen again when we’re in LA.”
On RSL’s play
“It was extremely tough, but I thought that our energy and intensity was really good tonight. We put a lot of pressure on them.”
“Credit to their keeper, and credit to their defense. We got a series on our hands.”
Real Salt Lake: Nick Rimando; Tony Beltran; Chris Schuler; Nat Borchers; Chris Wingert; Luke Mulholland; Kyle Beckerman; Javier Morales; Luis Gil; Alvaro Saborio; Joao Plata
LA Galaxy: Jaime Penedo; A.J. DeLaGarza; Omar Gonzalez; Robbie Rogers; Juninho; Landon Donovan; Marcelo Sarvas; Baggio Husidic (Alan Gordon, 87′); Gyasi Zardes; Robbie Keane
Up Next for Real Salt Lake:
Real Salt Lake travels to the StubHub Center on Saturday, November 9th for the second leg of the MLS Semifinal series against the LA Galaxy.