CARSON, CA (October 26, 2016) – Behind a Emmanuel Boateng brace, the LA Galaxy defeated Real Salt Lake 3-1 in the wild card round of the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs on Wednesday night. Joao Plata scored on a first half PK for RSL and Gordon added a goal for the home side.
Emmanuel Boateng Brace Leads LA Galaxy Past RSL In Wild Card Match
Galaxy manager Bruce Arena had almost a full squad available for the match. Giovani dos Santos and Landon Donovan started in the attacking midfield in a 4-2-3-1. Baggio Husidic and Sebastian Lletget started in a holding role. Jelle Van Damme and Ashley Cole anchored the back line with Brian Rowe in goal.
Robbie Keane was available on the bench. Steven Gerrard was not in the 18 for the match.
RSL head coach Jeff Cassar was unable to start center forward Yura Movsisyan due to a bone bruise. He was available on the bench. Joao Plata and Juan ‘Burrito’ Martinez highlighted the attack. Kyle Beckerman and Javier Morales features in the midfield in a 4-3-3. Chris Schuler and Justen Glad started at center back. Nick Rimando of course, started in goal.
The Galaxy were the better team from the start in the first half. Their wide players were very active, overlapping in the attack with regularity. With numbers in the box, LA looked to feed Alan Gordon for shooting opportunities and Dos Santos to create scoring chances. They also had several set piece chances in the first half. Donovan and Dos Santos looked for Gordon and Van Damme in the air.
Their hard work drew first blood in the 14th minute. Robbie Rogers started a counter attack down the flank, unleashing Donovan with a pass. Donovan chipped the ball into the box towards Dos Santos, who headed it far post. With defenders trailing the play, Gordon was wide open to tap the ball into a wide open net.
Morales stalled the home side’s momentum just minutes later, drawing a soft penalty from just inside the box on Emmanuel Boateng. Plata stepped up to take the PK, and blasted it top corner past Rowe.
Boateng responded with a brace, beginning in the 26th minute. The Galaxy had an excellent build up into the box. The ball fell to Gordon at the top of the box, who tapped it to Boateng. The 22-year-old dribbled through several RSL defenders to create a shot, the fired the ball past Rimando.
RSL began to push back after going down 2-1. That opened them up to the counter, and Boateng burned them on it in the 34th minute. He picked the ball up from midfield, sprinted past Demar Phillips, and placed the ball perfectly inside the far bottom corner.
The half ended 3-1 with Phillips and Chris Wingert on yellow card cautions.
RSL started the half with more possession, but had trouble breaking the Galaxy down in the final third. Both sides made changes before the hour mark. Keane checked in for Gordon, who appeared to have a slight limp. Down two goals, Cassar brough Movsisyan on for Martinez.
Alan Gordon turned out to have a hip injury, but it might not be a big deal.
The sides played evenly throughout the first half. RSL controlled the play, but had trouble getting shots to the net. The Galaxy had fewer chances, but continued to be dangerous on the counter. In the 59th minute, Beckerman had a great scoring opportunity from the top of the box but fired it wide. Wingert got a similar chance in the 71st minute. Rowe made a great sprawling save and the rebound was cleared away from goal.
Los Angeles continued to play tight defensively and give RSL nothing to work with. Husidic and Donovan closed down on Plata regularly, preventing him from picking up speed in space. Donovan’s defensive work rate was phenomenal all night long. RSL didn’t have much of an aerial threat during the match, but Van Damme was very active in the air inside the box.
RSL showed life in the 85th minute. Beckerman fired a shot off the cross bar off a Sunny cross. The rebound fell to Movsisyan who tried a bicycle kick, but it was blocked and cleared.
Salt Lake could not muster a comeback and the match ended 3-1.
This was a comprehensive victory for the Galaxy. They controlled the match for the majority. Other than the PK, they were near perfect. Donovan and Dos Santos looked good. Boateng was phenomenal. Rogers was really the only player to not have a good game at least. The Galaxy also didn’t have to expend a lot of energy in this match (no extra time). They should be relatively fresh for the first leg of the conference semifinals this weekend.
RSL just didn’t have anything going for them in this match. Their aging core might be on their last leg. The injury to Movsisyan didn’t help their cause. Still, Beckerman and Morales have clearly lost a step. They might need a shake up during the off season to be competitive in 2017. It will be very interesting to see how they navigate the 2016 MLS Expansion Draft.
The LA Galaxy take on the Colorado Rapids in the first leg of the conference semifinals on Sunday.