Carson, CA -- Heading into their matchup with Real Salt Lake, the Galaxy trailed their opponents by two points for the second spot in the Western Conference. Playoff positioning has been more important than ever this year in MLS because the fourth place team in each conference must play a do-or-die game against the fifth place team for the right to advance to the quarterfinals.
So the Galaxy were well aware of the game's importance and they played like it early in the first half. In the first minutes of the game, Robbie Keane crossed the ball into the box to Landon Donovan for a scoring chance, but Donovan's shot was blocked, and Juninho's follow-up attempt hit the crossbar.
But Los Angeles would score in the 17th minute when Juninho switched and crossed the ball across the field to Keane. Keane wasted no time as he one-timed the ball with a shot off his left foot to the far post, scoring past Nick Rimando to give the Galaxy a 1-0 lead.
However, the lead would not last very long, as RSL scored in the 25th minute. Alvaro Saborio and Fabian Espindola played a quick passing game between Galaxy defenders Omar Gonzalez and Tommy Meyer, and Saborio's pass found Espindola for an emphatic left-footed shot past Josh Saunders to tie the game.
Lightning struck twice in the 28th minute when Javier Morales crossed the ball into the box and Espindola, who was unmarked, headed the ball into goal at the far post past Saunders for a 2-1 RSL lead.
Throughout the game, the tension in both the crowd and the teams was apparent. LA and RSL battled the rest of the first half with the score staying at 2-1 in favor of RSL.
As the second half began, fans expected to see the Galaxy muster up a second goal to tie the game. In the 58th minute, David Beckham passed the ball out wide to Donovan who delivered a ground cross to Juninho. Juninho's shot looked like a sure score past Rimand, but a RSL defender was able to stop the shot in time.
Josh Saunders stepped up to make some great saves to give LA a chance at tying the game, but the Galaxy offense was not able to generate the same quality chances as they had in the first half.
The win ultimately would go to RSL, 2-1, in the typical fashion of a LA/RSL showdown filled with competitive and tough play. In addition to the loss, Donovan was hurt near the end of the game and had to be substituted out. His status is questionable as the Galaxy get ready for their last two critical games of the regular season versus San Jose and Seattle.
By Brian Kowalski
Staff Editor for The Daily Sports Herald