Jul 12, 2014; Carson, CA, USA; Los Angeles Galaxy forward Gyasi Zardes (11) and Real Salt lake defender Nat Borchers (6) battle for the ball at StubHub Center. The Galaxy defeated Real Salt Lake 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
With the Knockout Round over in the MLS Cup Playoffs, we now turn our attention to the conference semifinals match-ups and preview the battle between Western Conference heavyweights Real Salt Lake and Los Angeles Galaxy.
The first leg of the two-legged matchup will be at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday at 8 PM EST. Here are three thoughts to think about before the two begin their two-legged clash.
The battle between goalkeepers
Sep 19, 2014; Sandy, UT, USA; Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando (18) controls the ball against the Colorado Rapids at Rio Tinto Stadium. Real Salt Lake won the match 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Real Salt Lake have arguably the best ever goalie every to play in the MLS with Nick Rimando. Nick Rimando has had a superb season in which he also claimed the all-time MLS clean sheet record. Nick Rimando is a player to watch in this series because of the fact that he is a huge difference maker in blocking shots and putting the team on his back when called upon. For example on a spot kick, Rimando was excellent in saves and has 71 saves this season. Rimando is also the heart and soul of the Real Salt Lake defense. How he does in this game is again very crucial to Real Salt Lake’s playoff run if they hope to take LA out of the playoffs.
Oct 12, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Los Angeles Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo (18) dives for a shot on goal in the first half against FC Dallas at Toyota Stadium. FC Dallas beat Los Angeles 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
On the other side for the Los Angeles Galaxy is Panamanian goalie Jaime Penedo. Since coming to the league last year, Penedo has made his stake as one of the best goalies MLS has seen this season. This year alone he has 81 saves and has been difference maker for the Galaxy’s season. He will make sure Real Salt Lake will not score and keep the game close. Yes, he makes mistakes from time to time, but in the end he makes up for it.
This game is going to be about goalies. Both of these goalies will need to dominate the game with saves to ensure that the other team doesn’t score. The question of the game is what attack will strike fast, dominate, and score first to help their team win the game.
Both RSL and LA both have a great striker they can both rely on to open the scoring early on.
RSL have Alvaro Saborio, who just came back from a leg injury. He is fresh and does not have the wear and tear on his legs. Saborio had just only played 16 games this year, but despite that Alvaro can score and he has a presence for the goal. Recall last year’s MLS Cup Final where Saborio scored RSL’s lone goal in the game. While being out most the year, Saborio should not be underestimated by Los Angeles and can score at will.
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On the other hand, the LA Galaxy have Robbie Keane. He missed the Galaxy’s last game due to injury. Keane is a potential MVP candidate and has been one of the stars for this LA team. He can finish, pass, and helps move the ball around for LA. The only problem with Keane is that he is LA’s penalty kick taker. If you recall from the first game of the season when these teams fast off, Robbie Keane missed a crucial penalty. Since then, he has struggled throughout the season as well from the penalty strike. Despite this, Keane is a force to reckon with especially in the run of play.
The last thing to be noted is that Real Salt Lake and the Los Angeles Galaxy are rivals. Recently, these matches have been physical and must-watch soccer. This two-legged affair will be no different.
This rivalry is one of the best in MLS. Expect a contest in which that will be physical and very defensive. This series could be the series of the playoffs.