The LA Galaxy lost to Real Salt Lake tonight 3-1, in a match that was closer than the scoreline suggests but still featured one quite fatigued team and one team shaking off preseason rust. All the games tonight featured teams still figuring things out to one degree or another. However, the fatigue from players going 90 minutes with just two days rest in between proved too much to overcome. Bruce Arena had this to say after the match:
"We were obviously a tired team tonight, but I though we still could have won this game. I think this game is on me. It's my fault, we should have used fresher bodies. We hit the wall and made mistakes that can be attributed to fatigue. The travel, the two games added up to being a pretty tired team over the last twenty minutes and that cost us the game."
Not only did Arena place the result squarely on his shoulders, but conceded that he would have in hindsight rested half the players that were on the pitch tonight. Arena also said that a different lineup would be necessary for Wednesday. Considering Wednesday is the bigger match, it would have been nice had Arena not gassed the Galaxy's ideal lineup.
Things went into halftime 0-0, which was actually advantage RSL the way the first half had gone. Landon Donovan had a shot hit the woodwork in the 26', as did Marcelo Sarvas in the 44', both from about 25 yards out. Sarvas' shot hit the woodwork and bounced down but didn't go in.
Galaxy accuracy improved in the second half, when Juninho found David Beckham alone on the right flank, and Beckham was able to curl in a perfect cross that Buddle headed in. While that was a cause for celebration, it's worth nothing that (according to optajack) Beckham sent in 11 crosses from open play, but this is the only one that found a teammate. It was not a great night for accuracy.
The 70' goal had Home Depot Center rocking, but that enthusiasm wained just two minutes later. Sean Franklin, in an attempt to get a Ned Grabavoy cross back to Saunders ended up pushing the ball past him. The own goal changed the momentum of the game, but it also highlighted the way the Galaxy were just out of sync.
RSL then went on to get two goals of their own doing. Grabavoy again was the catalyst on the first goal, finding Javier Morales who smashed it under Saunders. On the final goal, Fabian Espindola made a great run to find himself alone in the box where he nudged another past Saunders.
Arena questioned the lineup he put forth, but it's safe to say he also ignored the fatigue on the pitch in making his substitutions. He didn't rotate until the 70', and then one of the players (Sarvas) he took out didn't play on Wednesday and can't play next Wednesday. His final sub was for offensive reasons, taking Tommy Meyer out and putting in Chad Barrett, but it remains that his competitive edge meant using David Beckham, Landon Donovan, and Robbie Keane for 180 minutes in four days. Lineups aren't science, but some medical knowledge should have come into play there.
So now the Galaxy take a day off, and then go back to the drawing board on Monday. Arena will have to find a lineup of strong legs to try and advance out of the CONCACAF Quarterfinals. The team hadn't lost at home since Nov 14, 2010. That streak is over. Now the new era officially begins.