BY ADAM SERRANO
The Los Angeles Galaxy continued their steady push towards the MLS Cup as they advanced to the league championship with a 3-1 victory over Real Salt Lake at the Home Depot Center on Sunday night.
The victory put the Galaxy in their second final in three years where they will take on the Houston Dynamo on their home field on November 20th. One win away from their ultimate goal, the Supporters Shield winners understand that despite a fine season, there is plenty of work to be done.
"We haven’t achieved what we want yet but we’ve taken all the right steps," said Landon Donovan. "We’re real proud of the effort the guys put in all week. It’s a really tough week and our guys did a great job and I thought we were really excellent."
From the start, the match was a back and forth affair, in large part due to the loss of RSL defender Nat Borchers, who was unable to play in the match due to a quad strain. After a nervy start, the Galaxy struck first in the 22nd minute when Andy Williams fouled Omar Gonzalez in the box, setting up a penalty. It was Donovan, who stepped up to the spot burying the chance that gave Los Angeles the lead in the 23rd minute.
RSL answered back two minutes later, off a corner kick, Jamison Olave was able to keep the ball in, heading the ball to a waiting Alvaro Saborio, who headed into an empty net. As the half wore on, RSL absorbed pressure from the Galaxy, before a flurry of activity of their own that was highlighted by Kyle Beckerman's shot off the post in stoppage time.
In the second half, the Galaxy began to assert control of the game and eventually broke through in the 58th when David Beckham connected with Mike Magee. The Galaxy midfielder found himself lightly marked on the corner kick and was able to head in the chance past Rimando. The goal was the third goal of the playoffs for Magee, each coming through service from Beckham. The back and forth action continued just a minute later when RSL nearly equalized when Fabian Espindola rattled the bar with a chance from close range.
Although RSL had their chances, it was Los Angeles that was able to finish off the game, in the 68th minute when Donovan found the ever dangerous Robbie Keane down the left side. The Irishman was able to cut past Olave and fire a shot into the back of the net for the dagger, assuring the Galaxy their spot in the final.
"In the first half we started pretty well and got ahead and then we conceded straight after so that was disappointing," said Beckham. "We came out in the second half and we walked through the tunnel and we heard some of the Salt Lake players saying that we were tired and we were done, but I think that inspired us a little bit. "
Now the Galaxy will enjoy a two week break while they prepare to face Houston in the Cup Final. However, there will not be rest for every member of the club as Keane and Donovan will head off on international duty.
After a trying season that has seen the club advance in nearly every competition that they've been in, the Galaxy will finally get their moment to exhale before their most important game of the season.
"If any team needs the two weeks off it’s our team," said head coach Bruce Arena. "Hopefully we can get our group ready for the final. It’s not going to be easy. Houston is a very good team, they smacked us around a couple of weeks ago. We know we’re going to have to be at our very best if we hope to win this MLS Cup."