SANDY — Don't anoint Real Salt Lake the Western Conference champs just yet, and for that matter don't discount the defending champion L.A. Galaxy either.
In what was another wild match at Rio Tinto Stadium, RSL shockingly blew a two-goal lead as the visiting Galaxy stunned the sell-out crowd with three straight goals on their way to the 3-2 victory.
"It's pretty bewildering to be up 2-0 and lose a game 3-2," said defender Nat Borchers. "We made some mistakes. We all know we made some bad mistakes in terms of our possession, and they made us pay. Let's give them some credit. They were definitely ice-cold when it came to finishing those chances and they deserve that win."
To say that Real Salt Lake gave the game away would be an understatement.
RSL looked poised to extend its unbeaten straight to eight straight after building a 2-0 lead in the opening 25 minutes. It proceeded, however, to gift the Galaxy a pair of goals on a couple of bad defensive miscues and never recovered as Landon Donovan and Co. showed life for perhaps the first time this season.
Real Salt Lake came into the match with a five-point cushion over San Jose atop the Western Conference standings, and an 18-point lead over the seventh-place Galaxy.
With San Jose winning on Wednesday, suddenly the Western Conference race got a lot more interesting as the Galaxy avenged a season-opening loss to RSL.
It definitely didn't look that way early.
Kyle Beckerman, who was playing in his first match at Rio Tinto Stadium since May 5, opened the scoring just nine minutes into the match as he banged home a Fabian Espindola cross 8 yards out.
The bright start continued for Real Salt Lake 15 minutes later when Alvaro Saborio flicked a driven ball into the box from Espindola up and over L.A. keeper Josh Saunders for the 2-0 lead.
"I thought we approached the game the right way. I thought we were really aggressive with our spirit, aggressive with the ball, got the ball in their half of the field, strung some nice passes together and created chances to score and took them," said Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis.
With RSL poised to run away from the defending MLS Cup champions, a terrible give away by Tony Beltran in the 29th minute changed all that.
His back pass to Nick Rimando wasn't hit with nearly enough pace, with Donovan easily intercepting it near the top of the box. Donovan took one touch around Rimando and slotted it into the open net, whittling the score to 2-1.
Re-energized by the freebie, the Galaxy began to give RSL's defense some real problems.
"The momentum just shifted completely and that's unlike our team. I felt like we would recover from that mistake pretty quickly and then have a positive ending to the first half that would put us in a good place going into the locker room, but it wasn't really there," said Kreis.
Another RSL giveaway, this one in the 50th minute by Jamison Olave, enabled the visitors to level the match at 2-2.
A heavy first touch by Olave allowed Mike Magee to steal the ball about 35 yards from goal. Magee and Donovan worked a quick give-and-go that Magee finished off with a shot off the right post.
"I'd like to make L.A. make their own goals not necessarily give them to them," he said.
With 40 minutes still to play, Real Salt Lake aggressively threw numbers into the attack like it was down a goal instead of tied. Los Angeles gladly waited for counter-attacking opportunities and ultimately made RSL pay in the 68th minute as Donovan got behind Borchers to a Magee through ball and easily buried it past Rimando, who came charging off his line.
"We gave up that second goal, and I think we tried to really push for the win, 'cause that's what we do at home, we are always going to try to win. They punished us after we left a lot of space open," said Borchers.
RSL jumps back into action this Saturday at home against San Jose at 7 p.m.
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