By MARK EDWARD HORNISH
CARSON, Calif. – If Saturday was a preview of what to expect in the second half of the Major League Soccer season, the fall looks promising for the LA Galaxy. Perennial Western Conference powers Real Salt Lake and the Galaxy squared off under the full moon at the Stub Hub Center on Saturday night, with the Galaxy eking out a 1-0 victory before a raucous crowd of 19,882.
Gyasi Zardes delivered the only goal of the evening in the 20th minute when Landon Donovan dummied a Marcelo Sarvas cross and left Zardes alone with the ball just inside the 18 yard box. Zardes beat Rimando wide and low, but was almost denied. The ball clanged off both posts before spinning into the netting.
Joao Plata was a constant threat for the claret and cobalt, and forced a special save from Jaime Penedo in the 62nd minute when a Tony Beltran cross found his foot on a darting foray into the goal area.
The Galaxy have struggled at times to hold leads and endured a grueling final half hour as Real Salt Lake pressed the attack. RSL managed 13 shots on goal on the evening, forcing six saves out of Penedo, and enjoyed twelve set pieces in the Galaxy half of the field.
But in the end the Galaxy put together a gritty defensive performance, their second 1-0 win in three games, and drew within four points of RSL in the standings. With Omar Gonzalez back in LA, but wearing street clothes and a large walking boot, Tommy Meyer earned the start alongside AJ De la Garza, and turned in a strong performance in helping to preserve the clean sheet. Robbie Rogers turned in another excellent performance and seems rejuvenated in his new job at left back.
The Galaxy finally regained control of the match in a lively extra time, which featured two breakaway runs in on the RSL goal. Rimando first stuffed Donovan on a controversial slide tackle, but couldn’t get away with it twice. On the second breakaway, Rimando took out Sarvas, and this time, referee Silviu Petrescu awarded the penalty. Surprisingly, Sarvas took the penalty kick and was rejected by Rimando in the last kick of the game.
After the third and final regular season match between the sides, both teams leave with a win, a loss, and a draw. In three games, both teams managed exactly two goals against one another.
Next Saturday, Real Salt Lake welcomes the Vancouver Whitecaps at Rio Tinto. Meanwhile the Galaxy, who have held three matches in hand on the rest of the Western Conference since May, play two games this week, hosting the New England Revolution at home on Wednesday, before heading to Sporting Park to take on Eastern Conference leaders Sporting KC on Saturday.
Watch the match highlights below: