By ADAM SERRANO
CARSON, Calif.– An own goal proved decisive as the Los Angeles Galaxy continued their pursuit of the Supporters Shield by overcoming their first halftime deficit of the season in a 2-1 victory over Real Salt Lake.
RSL was able to put the Galaxy on their heels in the 45th minute when Fabian Espindola opened the scoring, but a goal by Chad Barrett and an own goal by RSL's Nat Borchers gave the Galaxy the victory.
With their win, Los Angeles needs a victory against the New York Red Bulls on October 4th to clinch the league's best record. After finding a new way to earn a victory, the Galaxy are keenly aware that this match could serve them well with key games on the horizon.
"We’ve won in all kinds of ways this year and it’s really important. Come the last game against Motagua or the playoffs, if you go down a goal you need to know how to win games," said Landon Donovan. "It would have been wholly unjust if we didn’t get something out of that game. Credit to our guys for persevering and getting a great result."
The Galaxy started the match strong by controlling most of the possession as they attempted to pressure RSL early. As the match wore on, RSL weathered the pressure and began to assert themselves with physical play that caused problems for the Galaxy. In the 45th minute, RSL was rewarded for their work as Javier Morales fired in a free kick that found an unmarked Espindola. The Argentine was able to smash the header into the corner and give the Galaxy the lead.
RSL's lead quickly evaporated in the 59th minute as a looping ball from Beckham found Barrett in a sprint alongside RSL defender Jamison Olave. The Galaxy forward out muscled Olave and was able find his way to the ball and poke a shot past RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando for his sixth goal of the season.
Los Angeles completed the comeback in the 72nd minute when Beckham fired in an overhead ball that found defender Todd Dunivant. The Galaxy left back sent the ball into the box Although RSL was unable earn the victory, the return of Morales, who went 80 minutes while earning one assist provided a silver lining to the match.
"He's pretty close [to full match fitness], the plan tonight was to play him no more than 60 minutes, but he was feeling pretty good," said RSL head coach Jason Kreis. "I thought that he was an important piece for us to help us achieve a result so I wanted to play him as long as we could get away with, without hindering him or risking possible injury and I was pleased that he got through as much as he did."
RSL will try to solidify their playoff spot in their next match on October 6th against the Vancouver Whitecaps at B.C. Place. Meanwhile, Los Angeles face a quick turnaround traveling east to take on the Red Bulls on Tuesday.
With the match against New York serving as their final game before a week and a half break, the Galaxy are likely to play a reserve-laden lineup at Red Bull Arena. With the team relying on their grit rather than their star power, it may not make a difference.
"This is what you have in the playoffs, it comes down to grinding out wins," said Barrett "It may not be pretty, but who cares, as long as you get the three points, Supporters Shield and MLS Cup. That's all we care about."