Real Salt Lake advances to the MLS Western Conference Finals thanks to a 2-0 win over the L.A. Galaxy at Rio Tinto Stadium in overtime on Thursday night. This comes after going down 1-0 to the Galaxy at the StubHub Center, which makes RSL's 2-1 aggregate win even more impressive.
RSL played a solid overall game by keeping Landon Donovan and the L.A. offense in check. It looked like a whole different team as RSL wisely went back to the familiar 4-4-2 diamond formation. Also, Sebastain Velasquez stepped up in a big way in his first playoff start as he scored his first professional goal in the 35th minute.
Here's the grades for RSL's 2-0 win over the L.A. Galaxy.
Lafe Peavler is a sportswriter intern at the Deseret News.
Nick Rimando played an inspired game against the Galaxy. He made an incredible double save in the 65th minute that would have put L.A. back on top of the aggregate score. He played solid all night long, and he can be proud that he kept one of MLS's most dangerous teams off the scoreboard.
Robbie Findley was instrumental in setting up Sebastian Velasquez's goal at the 35th minute. He drew a Galaxy defender off that gave Velasquez a clear shot.
Findley and Saborio had one shot each, and Olmes Garcia added three shots of his own. So, while the forwards didn't do anything flashy, they did their job to set up their teammates for scoring opportunities.
The move back to the reliable 4-4-2 worked wonders. Credit RSL head coach Jason Kreis for recognizing he made a mistake in RSL's 1-0 loss to the Galaxy and made the proper adjustment.
It was like night and day.
Sebastian Velasquez made the most of his first playoff start as he played for the injured Ned Grabavoy. He scored his first goal of his professional career at the 35th minute to put RSL up 1-0. This goal completely changed the dynamics of the game and put the Galaxy on its heels.
Javier Morales assisted Chris Schuler on the winning goal and should have had a goal of his own in the 85th minute. That goal was waved off by the referees after a phantom holding call on Schuler.
Captain Kyle Beckerman had another solid performance and forced several Galaxy turnovers.
While it wasn't quite a perfect game, the midfield came up big for RSL.
Real Salt Lake knew that even one goal could spell disaster as the Galaxy held that 1-0 aggregate lead heading into this game. The defense did its job and pitched a shutout.
While there were some scary moments for RSL in the first half, the defense held its own. Furthermore, Chris Wingert had an assist, and Chris Schuler scored the winning goal in the 102nd minute.
Even when they were down to 10 men in the second overtime period, the RSL defense held the normally explosive Galaxy at bay.
The referees had a good game going up until that controversial foul in the 85th minute that called back an RSL goal that likely would have won the game in regulation. If anything, the Galaxy can't claim that there was home cooking by the men in yellow.
There were also some interesting no-calls in overtime that benefited the Galaxy. Really, the referees should be glad that RSL won because that canceled goal would have been all over the sports world if the Galaxy had taken the victory.
The Galaxy played conservatively on offense, particularly early in the game while they held a 1-0 advantage. Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane both had quiet nights. While L.A. had some good looks early in the game, it struggled to put anything together from the beginning of the second half on.
Furthermore, the Galaxy midfield struggled against RSL for control of the ball.
Even with RSL playing with just 10 players for much of the second period of overtime, the Galaxy just couldn't capitalize. L.A. had only two shots on goal, which is a big reason it lost.
All the Galaxy needed to do was keep RSL off the scoreboard and they would have advanced thanks to their 1-0 win. They just couldn't cope with RSL's aggressive play.
L.A. is fortunate this game wasn't a complete blowout. It benefited from a controversial foul that waved off a Javier Morales goal in the 85th minute, and several RSL shots went off of the post and crossbar. This game should have been 3-0, and it could well have been 5-0 if some of those shots had been just a little more accurate.
While there were a few empty seats, the crowd did its part to defend Rio Tinto Stadium. The official attendance at the game was 19,042. Massive amounts of confetti and streamers found their way onto the field throughout the game, which was more the fault of the wind than it was of the crowd.
That said, the folks in the south stands were rocking all night long, and the crowd made sure to make its presence known on a windy November night. It was particularly loud late in the game, which is exactly what Real Salt Lake wants in a close playoff game.