The LA Galaxy played Real Salt Lake to a standstill over 180 minutes, with both clubs getting a 1-0 victory in regular time, but once things went into overtime Salt Lake took control and sent LA out of the playoffs. The loss keeps LA out of the Western Conference final for the first time since 2008, while RSL's goal broke a playoff scoreless streak that dates back to 2011.
Salt Lake forced LA to play tight, and this limited the types of scoring opportunities LA could manage. When LA did get shots off they poorly struck and off the mark. The Galaxy barely challenged Nick Rimando, with the RSL defenders doing a good job limiting the looks LA was able to get on goal.
"We didn’t play well tonight," said Bruce Arena. "We really had our opportunities on Sunday to have a cushion coming in here and didn’t do it. Tonight we failed on defensive set pieces. The wind made the game terrible with the field conditions and all of that, so it was a real sloppy game – a scrappy game. They were more opportunistic in their set pieces than we were, and that was the difference in the game."
LA not getting those cushion goals certainly hurt, but once the match kicked off in Sandy that was no longer an excuse. The wind in Salt Lake affected all balls in the air, from Jaime Penedo's goal kicks into the wind to RSL's disallowed goal which was carried over the wall by the wind. However, LA didn't give up a free kick goal until the 102nd minute. It was ultimately the difference in the game, but there were plenty of things that went wrong before that point.
If this series is a microcosm for the 2013 Galaxy season then this is a team which knew how to get goals from Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane, but struggled to find other ideas when they were contained. It's a team that relied at various times on a rookie in Gyasi Zardes, a player trying to find his form again in Robbie Rogers, a rookie center back in Kofi Opare.
Several players who got the most minutes at their position this season for the Galaxy were non-factors. Carlo Cudicini had the most appearances at goalkeeper and hasn't factored since the summer. Hector Jimenez wasn't involved despite getting the most minutes at the right midfielder position. This season for the Galaxy was two faced, and they looked like a team confused about its identity last night.
At some point in the season the questions about how the Galaxy were going to move on from David Beckham stopped, but it came up again last night in the ESPN broadcast. It may not have been simply a case of needing his skill, but a case of lacking a post-Beckham identity.
The rest of the core from those glory days has been retained, but LA needs to find a team this offseason that plays to their strengths. The Galaxy need to shed the weight of failed outside midfielders like Colin Clark, and find a way to get Robbie Rogers in to form again.
It's not yet time to rebuild, but it is time to rethink the plan.