This is a game I’ve gone back and forth with all week. Two western conference squads meeting in the league final is going to be interesting. Not many had picked both the LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake to make it this far back at the start of the season. I know some had RSL going far in the playoffs but not the Galaxy. Then again I knew some who had an idea that LA could be good this year as well.
But a RSL-LA matchup was not expected yet I do think the league is welcoming it a bit. It’s not quite a David vs. Goliath type of match but its close to some degree. But these two squads weren’t separated by much in the points column this season. Just eight points was the difference between the top seed in the west from the bottom seed in the east (or eighth seed in this year’s case).
I do see this game going either way though here. In one regard LA looks like they should easily win it but you can’t count out Jason Kreis’ club right now with the way they’ve been playing lately. Both are hot going into this game which should yield a good match.
I have a few points in my preview to go over then I will give you all my score prediction for the final time this season. Hard to believe that this season has blown by so quickly here.
Ignore All Previous Matches: Just ignore the two results between these squads from earlier. I know ESPN will probably shove it down our throats to start the broadcast on Sunday night but let’s say a lot has changed since they last met in June when RSL beat LA 2-0 at the Home Depot Center. And things are certainly different since that 2-2 draw back in May at Rio Tinto Stadium.
How to beat LA: The few clubs that have seen success against the Galaxy this year either got lucky that Landon Donovan was not on the roster due to an international callup or because they had the speed to get by LA’s defense. Believe me Robbie Findley, Yura Movsisyan and Fabian Espindola present a big challenge to Gregg Berhalter and Omar Gonzalez. I’d say they will do their best to keep Findley in check as he presents the most problems but don’t sleep on the big man Movsisyan to sneak in and score a goal if they let up on him. Remember when Conor Casey torched the Galaxy for a hat trick earlier in the year, it was because they somehow overlooked him and his speed. Movsisyan could do the same damage if given the right space and time.
How to beat RSL: For getting by RSL’s defense a lot of it has to do with going directly at Jamison Olave and Nat Borchers. Both find themselves in foul trouble more than they should and we saw against Columbus that when you really go at Olave you can force him into some bad turnovers that could cost. No doubt Landon Donovan will need to go after Olave around the Galaxy’s offensive third of the field.
Things LA need to do: They obviously need to funnel things through David Beckham and Donovan. Getting both of them involved early and as often as possible will really help go a long way in winning this one. Also getting the pressure up early and out of the gate will certainly help. If they can catch RSL off guard early in the match it could get RSL in an early hole.
Things RSL need to do: Use the entire field and pressure the hell out of the Galaxy defense. Going after Beckham wouldn’t be a bad idea either as he has a hurt right foot. RSL cannot afford to come out slow either though as the Galaxy are an excellent counter attacking team. Using the width of the field and smart passes through the midfield with Kyle Beckerman and Javier Morales to control the game will be key.
Why RSL could win: They have the underdog effect on them and most in Seattle will probably be riding along with them I would imagine. You gotta like Findley and the way he attacks the goal with his speed plus on set pieces I may take Olave and Borchers over the Galaxy defense. Then you have Nick Rimando in goal if things do come down to penalties. He has a big advantage not just on experience but on momentum as well going into this game.
Why LA could win: Its hard to count out a team with the league MVP. Donovan is looking for yet another title to go along with the few he has already won in his career. Throw in the Beckham factor and his desire to get a MLS title while he is here could help as well. Bruce Arena knows how to coach in these big games while we are still figuring out is Kreis can do the same.
RSL X-Factor: Will Johnson. He needs a big game along with Beckerman to slow down Beckham for the Galaxy. If Johnson can get space on the wings like he is known to do it could go a long way for RSL.
LA X-Factor: Edson Buddle. Not many are talking of Buddle in this game but while RSL will be gunning to slow down Beckham and Donovan they may forget about another guy that is known to score a goal or two in Buddle.
Final thought: This one will be tight throughout but I think it will go the Galaxy’s way in the end. Some thing it will go to extra time, some thing RSL will win it in regular time or in PKs but I just see the Galaxy thanks to Donovan and company getting the job done. No doubt RSL will make this a solid match and they could very well shock the Galaxy. I just think experience pays off more in these kinds of games and the Galaxy just have more of it in key places.
WVH Prediction: LA 2, RSL 1