By OMAR SHAMOUT
The weather was dreary on Friday at the Home Depot Center and so was the soccer. Real Salt Lake defeated the LA Galaxy, 1-0, in the first preseason game for Bruce Arena’s team against MLS opposition.
One of the game’s few bright spots was the spectacular goal by RSL’s Ned Grabavoy. The midfielder tore into the penalty area from the middle of the pitch and blasted the ball past Carlo Cudicini’s near post after receiving a great pass from winger Kenny Mansally.
Arena summed up the otherwise flat affair with a similarly flat, yet truthful response.
“[It] wasn’t real pleasant to watch today, but that’s life,” Arena said. “All part of moving forward in the preseason.”
He started the game with a back four of Sean Franklin, Tommy Meyer, A.J. DeLaGarza and Dunivant. In midfield were Colin Clark, Rafael Garcia, Marcelo Sarvas and Hector Jimenez. Mike Magee and Robbie Keane played up front.
RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando saved shots by Garcia and Magee in the final minutes of the first half.
Juninho and Michael Stephens made their preseason debuts in midfield during the second 45 minutes. Midfielders Greg Cochrane and Andy Riemer also came on, along with Bryan Gaul, Kofi Opare, Oscar Sorto at the back and Brian Perk in goal. Jack McBean and Under-18 player Paul Arriola were paired together for most of the second half.
It was was a livelier affair after halftime for LA, though the Galaxy failed to create any grade “A” scoring chances. Apart from the goal, the defense played pretty well throughout the match.
Cudicini summed up the Galaxy’s deficiencies in the first half.
“They were keeping the ball and we were running all over the place without actually getting the ball, so that was probably the most difficult thing for us.”
DEBUTS FOR JUNINHO AND STEPHENS
Though the Galaxy’s overall performance lacked a consistent spark, the game allowed Juninho and Michael Stephens their first run outs of the preseason. Juninho returned from Brazil last week after sorting out his visa, and Stephens is back following a minor ankle injury.
Juninho said he’s not in tip-top shape yet after his 27 minutes of play on Friday.
“Still 80 or 70 percent. I hope I’m starting next game.”
Stephens played the whole second half, and said his ankle felt great after the match.
COCHRANE IMPRESSES AGAIN
Greg Cochrane had another strong performance on the left wing, providing constant energy and showing strong offensive instincts. He said he’s pleased with his contributions so far.
“I feel like I’ve done well,” Cochrane said. “I still think there’s a lot more left in me that I can showcase both attacking wise and defending. But as of right now, I’ll say that I am happy.”
Arena also complimented Cochrane after the game.
“He’s an intelligent player,” Arena said. “I think he’s making progress. He’s done well throughout the preseason.”
LANDON DONOVAN UPDATE
Arena confirmed that Landon Donovan is in Los Angeles, and that the two spoke on Friday morning. Arena couldn’t pinpoint a return date. He said it might take a few more months, but then again, it might not.
“It’s possible, yes,” Arena said. “We haven’t finalized anything yet.”