(October 25, 2016) – The LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake will clash in the wild card round of the MLS Cup Playoffs tonight at StubHub Center. Neither team comes in on great form, but RSL have some critical injury concerns and the Galaxy are at home. Let’s break everything down.
MLS Cup Playoffs Preview: LA Galaxy vs. Real Salt Lake, Galaxy Have Upper Hand
The Galaxy are 1-2-2 in their last five games. RSL are 0-3-2 over the same stretch. The two haven’t played each other since the first week of September when they played to an exciting (yet poorly executed) 3-3 draw. Los Angeles will be well rested for the match tonight, having played a reserve squad in the previous game.
RSL however had not qualified for the playoffs coming into Decision Day 2016. They played mostly a first choice Starting XI at Seattle Sounders, but lost the match 2-1. They still managed to qualify for the playoffs, but as the sixth seed.
RSL Injury And Offensive Concerns:
Salt Lake comes into this match with several issues in their attack. Their three leading scorers for the season are Joao Plata, Yura Movsisyan, and Juan ‘Burrito’ Martinez. The three-headed-monster have a combined two goals since the start of September. Movsisyan has also had limited playing time due to a bone bruise. He did not start last Sunday’s match.
Considering that RSL will be on the road, they will probably look to defend and counter attack the Galaxy. Movsisyan could have limited mobility. This will force their wide players to have to pick up more of the slack to get the offense jump started. Javier Morales will need to distribute the ball well to players in space. Plata’s speed has burned the Galaxy in the past, but on the whole, this Salt Lake team seems to be lacking venom at the moment.
Their best chance make be to counter and hope for extra time. Penalties might not be the ideal scenario, but everyone knows what Nick Rimando can do in a PK shootout. Just ask the 2009 LA Galaxy.
Galaxy Are Rested And At Home:
Salt Lake have just four road wins the entire season and none since August. The Galaxy have just one home loss on the season. Considering that and the fact that the Galaxy are rested, they clearly have the upper hand in this match. Road wild card teams have won just two of twelve matches in MLS Cup Playoff history.
The Galaxy are also on the mend. Jelle Van Damme got some action during the weekend after returning from suspension. Landon Donovan went the full 90 minutes for the first time since coming out of retirement. Van Damme should be loose and fit for the match. Donovan could very well start and go 90 minutes again. Robbie Keane is still out injured, but could be available on the bench for the match.
LA will look to possess the ball against RSL and come at them in waves. With a rested Giovani dos Santos, they’ll look to move through the space given by RSL’s 4-3-3. Salt Lake could be vulnerable at the back with a young center back in Justin Glad starting. The Galaxy might still be vulnerable on the counter. Their full backs will need to be aware of the situation and Van Damme cannot miss on stepping up to challenge opponents on the ball.
I’ve got to go with the Galaxy in this one. They’re home. They’re rested. I think they’ll win the possession and shots battle with relative ease. RSL needs to survive the opening 15 minutes unscathed. A 0-0 half time score would be a huge accomplishment for them. I think it will be relatively even at half time (LA won’t be up by more than a goal).
The second half will be competitive, but I think the Galaxy win it. It won’t require extra time. They’ll advance to the conference semifinals to play the Colorado Rapids.