Galaxy-Real Salt Lake Preview
While the defending champion Los Angeles Galaxy picked up a much-needed win out of the break, they still have their work cut out if they're going to climb into the Western Conference playoff race.
A visit to face MLS-leading Real Salt Lake could hurt their cause.
Seeking back-to-back victories for just the second time this season, the Galaxy try to snap a six-match winless streak at Real Salt Lake when these clubs meet Wednesday night.
Los Angeles (4-8-2) entered the international break in the midst of a seven-game winless funk but may have turned a corner with Sunday's 1-0 win over Portland. David Beckham assisted on defender Todd Dunivant's first goal of the season while Josh Saunders made four key saves in his first game back since missing the previous seven after entering the league's substance abuse and behavior health program.
"We just have to build on it, simple as that," Beckham said. "Last season we played a lot of games like this where we won 1-nil and we kept the other teams in shutouts. We need more performances like this and were capable of it, so hopefully this will be our springboard."
Having Saunders back could help Los Angeles do just that. He's won three consecutive starts overall and has allowed just two goals in going 4-1-0 in his last five road games dating to last season.
"Consistent, good goalkeeping is a huge plus and a huge reason why you get shutouts," Dunivant said. "For a lot of reasons, we haven't got shutouts this year, but having him back and having him play at the level he did (Sunday) was a big reason we got the zero."
Though the Galaxy were pleased with last weekend's result, furthering that play may prove difficult. Los Angeles is 1-4-4 all-time on the road in this series and has allowed a combined 12 goals during an 0-3-3 slide at RSL (10-3-2) - including a 4-1 defeat March 26, 2011.
Leading the league with 32 points and riding a five-match home winning streak, RSL is coming off its fifth win in six matches Saturday, 3-0 at Chivas USA. Forward Fabian Espindola posted his fifth and team best-tying sixth goals of the season before Will Johnson scored in second half stoppage-time, helping extend the club's league unbeaten streak to seven (5-0-2).
"(Espindola is) something else. He's able to finish a lot of chances that some other forwards can't. We hope he can continue that for the rest of the season," midfielder Kyle Beckerman said.
"It's a great start to a three game week, but it's a quick turnaround. We have to put this in the past quickly and get ready for Wednesday."
Nick Rimando made three saves Saturday to post his second straight shutout and fifth of the season. He's conceded three goals in winning four consecutive starts.
RSL hasn't gone unbeaten in eight consecutive matches since a 14-game stretch July 24-Oct. 23, 2010.