The Los Angeles Galaxy came into Saturday's game against Real Salt Lake unbeaten in seven straight MLS matches. LA came off a disappointing 1-1 draw against the Colorado Rapids, while RSL was dominant in a 4-0 shutout of Chivas USA.
As the playoffs near, this game was of utmost importance as it featured the second- and third-place teams in the Western Conference. RSL was only ahead of LA by two points in the standings, and both teams wanted to capture points in order to stay as far away as possible from dropping to fourth place.
Avoiding the play-in match between the fourth- and fifth-place teams in the playoffs will provide rest and an automatic berth to the conference semifinals.
The Galaxy's defense took a big hit last week when center back AJ DeLaGarza injured his knee, likely sidelining him for the remainder of the regular season.
In addition, right before kickoff, it was reported that left back Todd Dunivant was out with a hip pointer injury. Losing half of their championship backline against a potent RSL attack did not bode well for LA.
Replacing the two injured defenders were rookies Bryan Gaul and Tommy Meyer. Both turned in decent performances, but Meyer did make a few mistakes that almost led to goals.
Los Angeles opened up the scoring with a beautiful volley by Robbie Keane (watch it here) in the 17th minute. RSL's Fabian Espindola responded with two quick goals, separated by just three minutes.
Overall, the Galaxy defense did well, but all it took were a couple mental lapses to give RSL the three points that were up for grabs. LA had plenty of great scoring chances, but they were just unable to finish.
To add to the bad night that the Galaxy had, Landon Donovan picked up a knee injury and had to be subbed out of the game. This is also bad news for the US Men's National Team, since their World Cup Qualifying against Antigua & Barbuda and Guatemala are in about a week.
Both matches are crucial in determining playoff seeding for the Western Conference, and winning them could provide a lot of positive momentum heading into the playoffs.