Saturday, March 10, 2012
GALAXY: First impressions vs. RSL
By Scott French
CARSON -- Three quick thoughts from the Galaxy's 3-1 loss to Real Salt Lake on Saturday night in their Major League Soccer opener at Home Depot Center:
1. GIVING AWAY LEADS Everything was going the Galaxy's way until their dominance paid off in the 71st minute with Edson Buddle's header -- from a glorious David Beckham cross, naturally -- for a 1-0 lead. RSL equalized inside of two minutes, on Sean Franklin's unfortunate own goal, Javier Morales netted the heads-up, go-ahead strike seven minutes later (after Michael Stephens stepped in to prevent Alvaro Saborio from firing home), and Fabian Espindola caught the Galaxy pushed forward for a third goal in the 85th.
Defense is the big if for the Galaxy this year, and the way things fell apart at the end doesn't bode well. Boos sent L.A. from the field when it was over, the 25-game HDC unbeaten streak (in all games) dead.
2. THE CROSSBAR IS NOT YOUR FRIEND The Galaxy had at least a half-dozen impeccable scoring opportunities but were thwarted by so many things: Beckham's early lack of sharpness on set plays (weakly rolling one close-range free kick, putting another into the RSL wall), Robbie Keane's slowness in pulling the trigger (several times, most dramatically after a great Landon Donovan feed to the top of the box in the 62nd), and Nick Rimando's play in the nets.
The crossbar was no help, either. Donovan chipped and volleyed a ball from Buddle off the bar in the 27th minute and Marcelo Sarvas rocketed off the woodwork from 35 yards just before halftime. If either falls, or both, the Galaxy take three points.
3. NOT MUCH ROTATION Beckham played 90 minutes, just three nights after a grueling encounter on that hated fake turf. So did Donovan, Keane, Buddle … in all, nine starters from Wednesday's CONCACAF Champions League draw at Toronto FC were in the Galaxy's XI, not nearly as much rotation as expected with the second leg against the Canadians next week.
Tommy Meyer, the first-round pick out of Indiana, got the start next to A.J. DeLaGarza in central defense, stepping in for Andrew Boyens. The rookie looked rather like a veteran in his official pro debut as the Galaxy's defense did a nice impression of 2011, at least until the own goal. It all went wrong after that.
Even better was Sarvas, making his Galaxy debut, starting in place of Juninho. He was energetic and inventive next to Beckham and nearly had a spectacular goal before departing in the 69th minute for Juni.