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LA Galaxy Lose To RSL With Conference Seeding On The Line

Real Salt Lake defeat Galaxy at HDC, Espindola brace negates Robbie Keane opener, Galaxy trail Salt Lake by five points.

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Robbie Keane Has Big Impact On LA's Loss To RSL

Scoring the only goal for the Galaxy, it's unsurprising that Robbie Keane led the Galaxy in Match Impact Rating on Saturday. Inside the penalty area he caught a Juninho cross with his left foot, volleying it into the back of the net in the seventeenth minute; his only shot of the day. Keane also won three fouls is the offensive half.

That was good for an Impact Rating of 66.6. His assist partner on that play, Juninho, finished at 30.75. Juninho also took three shots, two of them on target and one which clanked off the top post. While his MIR was half of Robbie Keane's, Bruce Arena praised the midfielder after the match for his effort.

"I think Juninho played quite well for us tonight," said Bruce Arena. "If we had 90 players who played like Juninho tonight I think we would have won the game."

Keane was accurate, and Juninho's motor was going all match; Marcelo Sarvas quietly had another solid match. He finished with a Match Impact of 29.25. Sarvas worked hard, earning three fouls. Mike Magee finished with 28.77, taking three shots and earning two fouls before being taken out for Edson Buddle.

While Magee didn't look good out on the pitch, it's worth questioning if bringing in Edson Buddle was the right move. Arena still sees him as a goal scoring weapon on the bench, and with Keane only getting the one shot one can see the logic that thought a second forward might punch one through.

Landon Donovan finished with a MIR of 10.6, not taking a shot until the seventy-fourth minute and making the Buddle substitution even more clear. Arena needed someone up top willing to take a shot, however that ignored the fact that the Galaxy's real problem was lack of control in the midfield.

Keane and Donovan not getting shots off was a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself. RSL's two goals came because the Galaxy lost the battle of the midfield for almost the entire middle of the match. Sure, the old solution to that problem is dropping Donovan back and bringing Buddle in, but Wilhelmsson to shore up the midfield giving Donovan and Keane more chances is the better move.

We'll have an article up later today analyzing how Buddle has been as a super sub for the Galaxy since coming back.

Match Impact Rating is graciously given to LAG Confidential by the wonderful Patrick Johnson. Please give him a follow on twitter.

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Donovan Injury Puts World Cup, Galaxy In Jeopardy

LA Galaxy captain Landon Donovan went down in the 81 minute of the Galaxy's match against Real Salt Lake, lying face down on the pitch for several minutes before medical staff went out to get him. He was able to leave the pitch without the stretcher, and didn't walk to the locker room until after the final whistle.

Until tests are done he won't know the extent of his injury, but he seemed unable to put pressure on his left knee. It was a scene very similar to the one last Saturday where A.J. DeLaGarza had to be helped off the pitch in Colorado. The only word given after the match was that Donovan didn't feel good.

The good news is that it's not a reaggravation of Donovan's hamstring injury from August, however Jurgen Klinsmann of the United States national team is certainly going to sleep restlessly tonight not knowing is Donovan will be available for the two World Cup Qualifiers over the weekend. The United States play in Kansas City on Friday in a must win match against Quatemala.

Of course, the Galaxy lost their own must win match against Salt Lake. Already down A.J. DeLaGarza, it's going to be very difficult to get points in San Jose is Donovan is out as well. Seattle could be out of reach by the time they come to The Home Depot Center, with not only their match against Portland tomorrow but a match in hand as well.

The Galaxy are guaranteed a playoff spot, but right now the odds suggest the Galaxy will be hosting either Vancouver or FC Dallas for a shot at playing an aggregate series with San Jose. The odds, as they say, aren't exactly in their favor.

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LA Galaxy Lose To Real Salt Lake, Lose Ground

The LA Galaxy lost to Real Salt Lake in front of 27,000 that showed up at The Home Depot Center for the team's fifth sellout of the season. The loss puts the Galaxy in third place for now, with Seattle playing tomorrow with the chance to leapfrog LA. With their second road win over the Galaxy, RSL have put LA in a bad position.

Outside of the playoff seeding, the other worrisome part of this match was Landon Donovan having to leave around the eighty minute mark with an apparent leg injury. He laid on the pitch for some time, but was able to walk to the bench under his own power and didn't leave for the locker room til the final whistle blew. His status will have a large effect on the United States national team match coming up.

The Galaxy opened up scoring in the 17th minute, after an opening 15 minutes that saw the Galaxy pelting RSL with shots. Juninho had already hit the woodwork with a shot in the sixth minute when he whipped in a long cross to Robbie Keane who was inside the penalty area. Keane volleyed the cross past Nick Rimando for the Galaxy's opening goal.

Salt Lake came back fast and furious, scoring with their first two attempts on goal. Fabian Espindola scored both goals for RSL, turning around Omar Gonzalez on the first, then giving a slight nudge to a Javier Morales shot three minutes later. Alvaro Saborio picked up the assists on Espindola's 25 minute shot.

The Galaxy were hurt by their rookie defensive backs in the first half. While the first goal was scored on a veteran, the second goal saw Tommy Meyer and Bryan Gaul just stand still as Espindola and Morales hooked up. No one jumped up with Espindola, no one closed down Morales. Five minutes later, Meyer gave a Rockette kick on a 50/50 challenge that directly lead to a Chris Wingert shot that luckily was right at Josh Saunders.

Also worrisome was Omar Gonzalez' inability to keep up with Espindola on counters, a job that would have been A.J. DeLaGarza's under normal circumstances. In the second half, the Galaxy dropped Tommy Meyer further back, taking some of the pressure off Gonzalez on the counters.

Josh Saunders had to make some fantastic saves to keep the Galaxy in the match toward the end, as things started to get lose and come fast and furious. It took RSL three minutes to win the match, and the Galaxy simply didn't have a good enough look in the second half thanks to some great defense by Real Salt Lake.

LA will now have to go up to San Jose in two weeks, needing a victory to stay in the race for the top three spots. Without a top three finish, the Galaxy will have to play in the play-in game to earn a spot in the MLS Cup quarterfinals.

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Galaxy vs. RSL: The Battle For Second Place

LA Galaxy (15-11-5) vs. Real Salt Lake (16-11-4)
Carson, CALIF
Sixth of October, 2012
Kickoff: 6:20
Weather: Clear

football formations

Galaxy Subs: David Junior Lopes, Bryan Jordan, Christian Wilhelmsson, Edson Buddle, Brian Perk, Michael Stephens, Jose Villarreal

Real Salt Lake: Rimando, Beltran, Olave, Borchers, Wingert, Beckerman, Steele, Gil, Morales, Saborio, Espindola

Real Salt Lake Subs: Reynish, Schuler, Mansally, Alvarez, Velasquez, Braun, Araujo Jr.

Notes: Todd Dunivant was not listed on the injury report although he's been dealing with a hip pointer. As a result his absence is a bit of a shock. Christian Wilhelmsson is back in the selection after his injury, but Mike Magee starts ahead of him.
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David Beckham Recovers, No Longer Questionable

First match of October and the LA Galaxy are only dealing with one injury and no suspensions, which puts the club in fairly good straits. However, that one injury is a fairly big one, which will have the Galaxy scrambling to fill the whole A.J. DeLaGarza left.

David Beckham has come off the injury list, his ankle no longer causing his status to be listed as questionable. Christian Wilhelmsson is still listed on the injury report as questionable with a left calf strain. Still, expect Wilhelmsson to get the start tonight, getting a real time test of his recovery.

Earlier this week it was confirmed that Leonardo is out for the season due to complications in returning from surgery. The man has been out for almost two years now from an injury that led to A.J. DeLaGarza starting next to Omar Gonzalez for most of last season. DeLaGarza will be out for the month of October recovering from his knee injury.

Up front shall be business as usual, but it's that center back position that remains a mystery. When Bruce Arena was asked if Tommy Meyer was the heir apparent to the position, he reminded reporters what assuming can do. We won't know if Arena went with Meyer, Dvid Junior Lopes, or Andrew Boyens until the lineups are announced.

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LA Galaxy's Playoff Run Begins Tonight

Tonight, if LA beat Salt Lake then LA will have 53 points. Fifty-three points would take LA up to second, even if Seattle defeat Portland on Sunday. It's a simple scenario that will see the LA Galaxy in second with Real Salt Lake and Seattle tied at 52 points and then third and fourth would be decided by goals for.

The Galaxy could just as easily finish the weekend in fourth, for if the Galaxy draw against Salt Lake then they'd have 51 points. Should the Seattle Sounders defeat the Portland Timbers they'd jump ahead of the Galaxy with 52 points, just behind Salt Lake with 53. An LA defeat would put the Galaxy even further back.

Of course, it's not a guarantee that Seattle defeat Portland. If Portland can manage the draw then Seattle couldn't leapfrog the Galaxy, even if the Galaxy lost to Salt Lake. Goals for would have LA in third above Seattle. If Portland can pull off the win then the Galaxy would be in even better shape.

Which goes to show just how important victory is today, in that it can mean the difference between second and fourth. With a road trip to San Jose staring the Galaxy in the face after Saturday, these three points on the table are of the utmost importance.

Tonight can mean the difference between second place in the West and fourth. Easily. The MLS playoffs don't start in November, they begin tonight. This is the most important Galaxy match of the season, and each one from here on will have that same exact label.

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Three Questions With RSL Soapbox

Ahead of tomorrow's match between the LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake, we sat down with RSL Soapbox (now under new management!) and had a little chat about what to expect. To see my answers, head over to RSL Soapbox. Here's what to expect from Salt Lake on Saturday:

The Galaxy got dealt a big injury blow last weekend, is RSL missing any key members?

There are no unexpected absences, but Ned Grabavoy is still being thought of as a week away from playing after sustaining a quad injury. The absence of Grabavoy shouldn't be underestimated: As the right-sided central midfielder, he'd normally be tasked with some high-profile marking responsibilities; additionally, he closes down well and would help in preventing the distance shooting.

Who replaces him will significantly affect RSL's strategy: If Luis Gil plays in Grabavoy's spot, expect Kyle Beckerman and Will Johnson to share more of the pitch to close down Beckham and Juninho, but if Jonny Steele plays there, the look should remain the same — although I'd expect a rash tackle and ensuing yellow card if he plays.

Where do you expect any RSL goals to come from on Saturday?

The aerial prowess and knock-down play of Alvaro Saborio is clearly essential to an effective Real Salt Lake attack, but he's hardly the only threat on hand. Midfielder Will Johnson has been getting forward well and has been rewarded for his efforts, Javier Morales seems to have rediscovered his free kick abilities, and Fabian Espindola has hit a rich vein of form.

The easy answer remains Saborio, but in conjunction with those three, the threats are varied.

With San Jose playing as well as they are, what do you consider a realistic finish for RSL this year?

It's hard to say, really, what a realistic finish is. If we're talking regular season, anything from 2nd to 4th in the West seems likely, as the MLS scheduling gods have given us as exciting a finish as we could ask for. If we're talking playoffs, it's not unrealistic to peg RSL as MLS Cup-hopefuls, but San Jose proves a significant stumbling block for any club in their path. As expected, it all depends on these final weeks of the season, playoff seeding, and a bit of luck.

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The LA Galaxy Host RSL With Seeding On The Line

The LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake meet for the third time this season on Saturday, this time with second place in the Western Conference on the line.

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