CARSON, Calif.-- Jason Kreis and Real Salt Lake lost a game on Sunday night, but they have to know things could have been much, much worse. Their plan to defend and absorb the Los Angeles Galaxy’s deadly attack should have blown up in their face, but instead of being crushed, RSL heads into Thursday’s second leg feeling good about its chances.
And the main culprit for the Galaxy on Sunday? None other than Robbie Keane; LA’s MVP, and normally its most reliable goal scorer.
The Irishman quite simply didn’t have his shooting boots on and seemed to unload a season’s worth of missed chances after a 2013 campaign that saw him miss very few.
“I wasn’t connecting with the ball properly,” Keane said after the match. “I’ve had many nights like this, where you don’t hit the target. I’m not going to lose sleep over it.”
Keane came close to finding the net on multiple occasions, but the player who finished the regular season with 16 goals and 11 assists couldn’t score on any of the quality opportunities that came his way.
“(We let them off the hook) a little bit, yeah,” Donovan said after the match. “Especially at the end, they pushed forward and we did a good job of defending. Robbie and I need to do a better job with our counterattacks. Usually we’re better about that.”
“Landon I thought was exceptional tonight, and Robbie just didn’t have his touch in and around the penalty area, but he was pretty good as well,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena told Goal. “I hope he turns it around on Thursday.”
“It’s still good to go to Salt Lake with a one-goal cushion,” Arena added. “Last year we went into San Jose down a goal. Tonight was a night where we maybe could have had a two or three goal cushion but it wasn’t to be. Now we’ve got to be ready for a hard game, as does everybody. Every series is still up for grabs.”
The Galaxy-RSL series is very much still in play despite the Galaxy’s dominance and plethora of scoring chances created against a RSL side that seemed content to sit back before Sean Franklin’s goal just three minutes after halftime.
That goal forced RSL to make some attacking substitutions and go after an equalizer, which only served to open up more space for the Galaxy on the counter. That space led to more looks at goal, but none of the chances produced a goal.
“We let them off the hook a little bit, but if anything, now we know we’ve got a game and we can’t take it easy on Thursday,” Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez told Goal. “Last year we went to Seattle up 3-0 and they took it to us. This time, we have a one-goal cushion and we know it’s a series and they’re going to have to come looking for the goal so we have to be ready.”
“Before we got the goal, they were holding the play. The goalkeeper was taking his time,” Keane said. “That’s to be expected, you can’t fault them for that. I’m sure on Thursday night it’ll be a different outcome. They’ll have to come out and obviously score. The roles will reverse.”
RSL isn’t likely to be defensive minded at home on Thursday. Jason Kreis will surely trot out a more attack-minded squad to test the Galaxy defense. That should lead to a wide-open game, and more chances for the Galaxy attack to finish. The question is whether Keane will be able to shake off Sunday’s forgettable showing and play like the MVP candidate he has been for the Galaxy all season.
Donovan, for one, sounded confident in the Galaxy being able to shake off Sunday’s missed chances, and take those same chances more effectively if they come on Thursday at Rio Tinto Stadium. For his part, the U.S. national team star sees that happening.
“My guess is we’ll have a lot more chances on Thursday as they push numbers into the attack,” Donovan said. “That absolutely plays into our hands so we welcome that.”
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