If we counted out the L.A. Galaxy in this 2012 season, shame on us.
Shame on all of us. In what could end up being the defining moment this season, the Galaxy stormed back from a 2-0 first half deficit against Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium to defeat the top team in Major League Soccer 3-2. The RIOT, as the RSL supporters affectionately call their home stadium, turned to the QUIET thanks to Landon Donovan's brace and an L.A. Galaxy squad eager to take advantage of RSL mistakes. Tonight we saw the heart of a champion and the never say die approach that propelled this squad to the Supporter's Shield and MLS Cup title a year ago.
The match started off as a nightmare for the Galaxy. The team bus was stuck in traffic for an hour coming from the team hotel. The Galaxy arrived late, only 45 minutes before the match. It took RSL only until the ninth minute to put points on the board as Espindola sent a ball in front of goal that Kyle Beckerman drilled home. In the 24th minute Saborio found the back of the net to put RSL up 2-0 and as the Galaxy back line put their hands up in disgust, it appeared that an RSL blowout victory was on the horizon.
After the inspiring 1-0 victory over the Timbers on Sunday, a blowout loss would have been major setback. Instead the Galaxy began clawing back.
In the 30th minute, RSL defender Beltran sent a ball back to RSL keeper Nick Rimando. The only problem was it was more of a love tap than a pass, and Landon Donovan intercepted the ball, went left around Rimando and buried the ball into the back of the net. The score was 1-2 RSL. After the half in the 50th minute, Donovan accepted a Jamison Olave giveaway and connected with Mike Magee who scored off the right post. The score was 2-2 and RSL started to become mentally unglued. In the 68th Mike Magee sent a long ball to Donovan who again went around Rimando to put LA on top for good.
Frustration erupted at the RIOT on the field, on the sidelines, and in the stands. In the 77th minute, Galaxy defender David Junior Lopes came off to get looked at by the Galaxy training staff after taking a knock to the head and RSL strength and conditioning coach Dan Barlow decided to come over and mix it up on the sidelines with the Galaxy staff attending to Lopes. I don't think I have ever seen a trainer attempt to fight a trainer of another team in any sport, but I suppose it happens.....I guess. Espindola followed with a cheap push on De La Garza that resulted in a yellow card, Josh Saunders made a huge save in the 87th minute, and fans threw garbage on the field as time expired.
In the end, the RIOT became the QUIET courtesy of a valiant effort by the L.A. Galaxy. These two teams do not like each other. The two fan bases do not like each other. The strength and conditioning coaches do not like each other........ All of these factors make for a superb rivalry which is great for Major League Soccer.
MY THREE TAKEAWAYS
1. Landon Donovan is an incredible player but he needs to be in position to make plays. His attacking skills are some of the best this country and league have ever seen. He was a force tonight and the best player on the field. Hats off and scarves up to the Galaxy captain.
2. Bruce Arena's coaching this week has been superb. His lineups and adjustments were spot on. As much flack as he has received this year, he deserves a ton of credit for the last two games.
3. The 2009 MLS Cup Final and the aftermath has created a fantastic MLS rivalry. The matches between these two teams are must see. What a show.