I get that it might lack the prestige to some of Seattle vs Portland, or New York vs New York, but for my money there simply is no better rivalry in MLS than RSL vs LA. It is as much about how things are done within the organizations as it is the battles on the pitch for me.
You have LA, the team that probably writes most of the MLS roster rules over the year, and given the investment AEG has made in MLS over the years it almost is understandable. The DP rule was created to allow the Galaxy to sign David Beckham, he wasn’t the first player the league discussed changing the rules for but he was the one that made it happen. Their current roster are mega DP’s like Steven Gerrard, Gio dos Santos and the best DP in MLS history Robbie Keane, with that they have European imports Nigel de Jong, Ashley Cole, Jelle Van Damme. They also picked up MLS stars Jeff Larentowicz and Mike Magee, which compliments guys like Robbie Rogers, AJ DeLaGarza, Gyasi Zardes, Jose Villareal, Baggio Husidic and Sebastian Lletget. I am always amazed how they keep this type of roster within the cap, but that is the magic of allocation money.
On the other hand, RSL have brought in players but never break the bank guys, the biggest signings in the club’s history have come in recent months with the arrival of Juan Manuel “Burrito” Martinez late last year and the return of Yura Movsisyan this year. The core of the team are the guys who were brought in almost a decade ago, Nick Rimando, Javier Morales, Kyle Beckerman, and Tony Beltran even returning guys like Chris Wingert and Yura. Then toss in some of the young players, like Glad, Plata, Allen, and guys who have yet to make an impact like Kavita, Holnes, Acosta, Attinella, and others. RSL has pushed the salary cap not with the huge signings but by raising the salaries of their veteran core, which probably takes as much work as the mega DP route that LA takes.
So on Saturday these teams will meet for the 32nd time in MLS action and if you want to know how amazing this rivalry is, both teams have won 12 matches and there have been 7 draws. RSL has scored 48 goals, while LA has scored 43, fairly close for 32 matches. RSL has had no fear in LA, where they have picked up 6 wins, lost 9 times and a single road draw vs the Galaxy. Last year the teams were 1-1-1 against each other, again showing how good this rivalry is on the pitch.
So what will Real Salt Lake need to do in order to get a result on Saturday in LA?
- Start strong and steady – Last weekend Vancouver put RSL on their heels early and created a number of quality chances in the first 20 minutes off a few RSL defensive mistakes. You can’t make those kinds of mistakes or Gio will make you pay, he is simply too good to let many chances go by without capitalizing. So a very smart start on the road will be a key, remain calm, create some possession and don’t let LA take advantage of you.
- Find another source of goals – Joao Plata is out injured, so the guy who has played a role in 8 of RSL’s 10 goals won’t be there. If there is any upside it sounds like Javier Morales will be ready to go on Saturday, while he may not start he will at least be ready if needed. I am not real worried about goals, as Burrito and Yura both have looked very dangerous this season and with a few more chances I expect they will step up to the task. Add to that we are likely to see Jordan Allen either up top or in the midfield, and if you have watched him this season you have seen him show up in dangerous places and this could be where he opens his MLS goal account for 2016. For me the question isn’t if someone will step up, only a matter of who.
- Deal with Gerrard – Since arriving in MLS almost everyone has been a cynic about the impact of Steven Gerrard, and they were right, unimpressive would be a compliment. Then LA went to Houston last Friday night and people got to see the guy who used to pull the strings for LFC for years. Smart passes, precision locations on those passes and while the stats only show him with 1 assist, he was the engine that made things go for LA in that match. Keeping him from having a major impact will fall on the big shoulders of Kyle Beckerman, and I expect he is up to the task.
This Galaxy team is a bit neurotic so far this year, in 3 of their 6 matches they have scored 3 or 4 goals and in 3 they have scored 1 or been held without a goal. It really makes you wonder which team may show up for them, but in the two matches before last week when they had scored 3 or more goals, they followed it up by not scoring at all.
Can RSL get a third straight clean sheet, it will require a bit of luck and a very concentrated defense to shut down LA, but after holding the Whitecaps without a goal last weekend it is something that we know they can do. Just a small note to boost RSL’s fans confidence heading into the match, Yura Movsisyan has faced the Galaxy 8 times, with 3 starts and has 3 goals in those matches, while Javier Morales has faced the Galaxy 19 times and has 6 goals and 9 assists, so RSL has found plenty of offense vs LA in the past.
I think this one likely ends up a 2-1 RSL win, but coming out of this one we should really know a lot more about both sides.
That’s How I See It