CARSON, Calif. — Four months later, Real Salt Lake got its revenge on the Galaxy.
In a rematch of last year's thrilling Western Conference final, RSL scored a whopping three goals in the final 17 minutes at the Home Depot Center on Saturday night to spoil the season-opener for the defending MLS champs with an impressive — and at times dominant — 3-1 victory .
"Good start to the season. It showed a lot of character, it's good to see what we're made off right off the bat," said RSL captain Kyle Beckerman.
The victory was Real Salt Lake's third straight season-opening victory, with the previous two coming against the San Jose Earthquakes.
After going down a goal in the 71st minute, the trifecta of an own goal, a Javier Morales goal and another by Fabian Espindola delivered the Galaxy their first home loss since 2010.
"I thought we dominated the game, possession-wise we kept the ball. And we're missing some big guns, some new kids showed up tonight and really responded and played great for us. We're happy for the win," said RSL keeper Nick Rimando.
The big guns RSL was missing from its starting lineup were Nat Borchers, Will Johnson, Javier Morales and Alvaro Saborio. The latter two ended up entering the match as subs in the 66th minute, and their insertion into the match raised the level even more for a team that dominated much of the match.
"Really, really pleased. Feel like the guys got what we deserved. I felt that we controlled the tempo for the majority of the match, and we were playing a team that was very focused on counter-attacking against us," said RSL coach Jason Kreis.
Despite being the better team for long stretches, in the 71st minute it was Los Angeles that finally broke the stalemate on wonderful service by David Beckham and an even better finish from Edson Buddle, who found just enough space between RSL's center backs to head it home for the 1-0 lead.
The Galaxy scored again two minutes later — but in the wrong net.
L.A. defender Sean Franklin redirected a Sebastian Velasquez cross into the back of his own net in the 73rd minute, leveling the score at 1-1.
Velasquez was the first RSL rookie since Mehdi Ballouchy in 2006 to start a season-opener. The humble junior college player was poised throughout the night, and was rewarded for it by contributing to the tying goal.
L.A. coach Bruce Arena blamed himself and fatigue on his team's defensive breakdowns in the final 17 minutes. The Galaxy played a Champions League match in Toronto on Wednesday, and nine of the 11 starters who started that match also started Saturday's home-opener.
"I think this game is on me. We should've used fresher bodies," said Arena.
It may not have mattered with the momentum from the own goal. With the match level at 1-1, Morales delivered what proved to be the game winner in the 80th minute by burying a close-range shot in traffic off the arm of L.A. keeper Josh Saunders.
In the 86th minute, Espindola provided the dagger by hammering a breakaway shot past Saunders.
Despite controlling the proceedings for most of the first half, RSL got stretched on several occasions and on another night the Galaxy probably would've punished them for it.
Landon Donovan hit the crossbar in the 27th minute, and after the defense failed to clear the ball out of danger, RSL assassin Mike Magee forced Rimando into a diving save with a bicycle kick from the spot.
Shortly before halftime, the woodwork came to the rescue again for Real Salt Lake as Marcelo Sarvas' shot from 35 yards banged off the crossbar, redirecting straight down but not over the line.
Sarvas and defender Tommy Meyer were the only two Galaxy starters on Saturday who weren't part of the starting 11 in Toronto on Wednesday.
Real Salt Lake's best scoring chance of the first half was set up by a dandy back heel from Ned Grabavoy in the 31st minute. His cheeky move sprung Paulo Jr. into the box, but Saunders came up big by blocking the powerful shot. The rebound fell right to the feet of RSL rookie Sebastian Velasquez, but he sprayed his shot wide.
RSL injected some fresh legs into the match in the 67th minute, with Alvaro Saborio and Javier Morales replacing Paulo Jr. and Luis Gil. Neither were fit enough to start as they continue to work their way back from offseason surgeries, but they provided a big spark off the bench.
"Pleased with the contributing that (Morales) and Sabo made off the bench," said Kreis.
Real Salt Lake returns to action next Saturday when it hosts the New York Red Bulls.
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