Bruce Arena's footballing troopers known as the Los Angeles Galaxy prepare themselves for a suicide mission when they travel to Sandy, Utah and Rio Tinto Stadium to take on Jason Kreis' Real Salt Lake on Saturday, March 26.
Like the Galaxy, Real Salt Lake scrapped it out in the rain to open their season with a 1-0 victory thanks to the leg of Kyle Beckerman.
While the elements will not be as severe on Saturday, the importance of the Galaxy finishing their chances on goal will be stressed this week.
“On the night, our team played very well,” Arena told LAGalaxy.com. “Obviously conceding a goal in the opening minutes put our backs to the wall and I think our team responded well. We got a goal back and probably had another goal, although the referee doesn’t agree with that. We could have scored a bunch of goals.”
One goal in particular that did not go in coincidentally came from the same culprit who equalized for LA: Juninho, who currently has two goals in as many games.
“The one that [New England Revolution goalkeeper Matt] Reis dropped, that’s not a foul,” said Landon Donovan to LAGalaxy.com. “I don’t think anybody in here could claim that was a foul, including Reis. When you see his reaction, it’s pretty obvious.”
“You can’t reward the goalkeeper for dropping the ball,” Arena added. “I don’t understand that at all. Perhaps the other ones were offside. You can’t argue that. We created a number of chances but didn’t get the second goal, whether legitimate or not. We didn’t get it, so we don’t get the three points.”
The importance of staying onside will be key, because this is a Real Salt Lake team that can capitalize on the blown chances committed by its opponents.
Last season, Alvario Saborio led the team in goals with 12 while Fabian Espindola and Javier Morales added six. Morales was also the club's leading provider with seven goals.
Goalkeeper Nick Rimando was stellar last Saturday against the San Jose Earthquakes, making five saves. His stopping ability will be a focal point of the Galaxy's attack.
One of the biggest monkeys on the Galaxy's back is the inability to win at Rio Tinto Stadium. Los Angeles has never won a single match at Rio Tinto since April 2006 and is 1-3-4 on the road against RSL all-time. Compounding matters even further, RSL have been undefeated in their last 35 games at Rio Tinto in all competitions.
So if the Los Angeles Galaxy cannot connect on their passes and their chances, they will find it very difficult to get clicking.
However, there is reason to believe that if someone other than Juninho is able to bury at least one goal in the back of the net, the Galaxy could escape with a win.
That person could be David Beckham. It could be Landon Donovan. Heck, it could even be Juan Pablo Angel.
Regardless of whoever steps up, the Galaxy cannot expect the young Brazilian to bail them out every night. LA will win this game because the veterans are finally waking up and the defense is rising up to the challenge posed by Saborio, Morales and Espindola. But it won't be easy.
Kickoff is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. PT/9:00 p.m. ET and will be televised locally on tape delay by Fox Sports Prime Ticket.