LA Galaxy vs Real Salt Lake on 8/11/13 at 7:30PM, StubHub! Center. TWCS.
Featured Photo: USA Today Sports – Other Photos: Heroa, Goal.com; Robert Mora/LA Galaxy
Last season, a match up with Real Salt Lake marked the turning point in the LA Galaxy’s previously dismal season. LA fought from two goals down to win on the road against first-place Real Salt Lake, then pushed up from 7th place to repeat as MLS Cup Champions. LA and RSL collide Saturday at StubHub! Center with identical 2-2-1 (W-L-D) league records over the last five games. But the Galaxy once again meet a Salt Lake team that’s at the top of the MLS standings. RSL have a seven-point lead on 5th-place LA. Real Salt Lake also have the slightest edge in the all-time record, with 11 wins to 10 for the Galaxy. LA look to show Real Salt Lake what champions are made of in their final regular season match up. The teams split the previous two games in Utah, where each time LA fielded an under-strength side. LA come into Saturday’s game with just about its full roster available, with no injuries (save Brian Perk with a concussion), suspensions, or National Team call-ups.
The big news on the squad is the new Designated Player contract for Omar Gonzalez. Many fans were hoping to keep Omar AND reel-in a big foreign star. Keeping Omar at less than a DP salary was unrealistic, given Gonzalez’ growth in prominence both for LA and the US. Bruce Arena and the Galaxy organization have decided to lock Omar into the future of the club rather than risk him leaving a gaping hole via a free transfer at the end of this season. After all, since Omar’s rookie season, the Galaxy have collected 63% of available points when he starts. The MLS rookie-of-the-year, MLS defender-of-the-year, and MLS Cup 2012 MVP signed a three year Designated Player deal that’s the first ever for a US defender, and only second for a defender since Rafa Marquez.
Last week, the LA Galaxy played in a thrilling, and ultimately disappointing 3-3 tie against Dallas. Even a Landon Donovan hat-trick could not stand up against three Dallas set plays and an extremely generous AR. Carlo Cudiccini had another shaky performance where he failed to take command of the box several times. Jaime Penedo may make his MLS debut Saturday against RSL, although the coaches are still talking like Carlo’s their number one. Leonardo was also less than convincing at center-back while Sean Franklin was ineffective until he moved from midfield to right back in the second half. Gyasi Zardes got the start at left-mid over Robbie Rogers, but it wasn’t an obvious upgrade. Expect Leonardo to return to the bench and Rogers and Jimenez to return to the starting lineup.