The two teams with the most undefeated games of the 2016 season to date faced off under a cool spring evening at the StubHub Center for what turned out to be a goal-fest for the home team, as Real Salt Lake fell 5-2 in front of a crowd of 25,867 with goals from Zardes, Magee, Boateng, Dos Santos and Gerrard to answer Martinez’s and Morales’. Let’s just say it was not the day for Nick Rimando who was playing his 4000th MLS game had been hoping for. In the second half alone, he made 6 recoveries.
Although the injury list for LA Galaxy continues to grow – earlier this week Sebastian Lletget and Alan Gordon were both added to the list of absences for LA today after minor injuries sustained during training – the depth of LA’s roster was on display with the emergence of a working partnership between Boateng, Zardes and Magee as their key attacking players. LA’s defensive line held fast after an error by A.J. DeLaGarza that led to RSL’s first goal. Ashley Cole, Jelle Van Damme and A.J. DeLaGarza’s performances in the first half were exemplary.
— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) April 24, 2016
Real Salt Lake were missing their 2016 golden son, so there were no chimes of Platita ringing across the airwaves as he couldn’t add to his 4 goal, 4 assist season tally. “Burrito” Martinez also was subbed off at halftime, leaving RSL lacking in finishers. Beyond that RSL’s head coach intimated that they hadn’t prepared for LA’s secret weapon, Emmanuel Boateng.
“I think we just didn’t get enough pressure to Van Damme, mainly. His direct play, whether it was a diagonal or directly over the top, it was causing us a lot of problems. We had been preparing all week to Lletget up there as well, but Boateng throws a different look to their play and we found out obviously today that he wasn’t playing and he was a difference in the way they played. LA was good tonight. Very good. They were firing on all cylinders,” head coach Jeff Cassar admitted
Baggio Husidic and Steven Gerrard once again paired up in the midfield while Giovani dos Santos played a withdrawn center forward. Real Salt Lake opened up the scoring in the 16th minute with a Martinez header that bested A.J. DeLaGarza in the air. Within minutes, LA responded with a stunning golazo by Gyasi Zardes in the 19th minute that Nick Rimando didn’t have time to respond to as it curled into the back of the net. Seven minutes later, almost from the same spot as Zardes’ earlier shot, Boateng crossed the ball over to Mike Magee who tapped it in for the go-ahead goal.
— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy_Es) April 24, 2016
From then on it was a thrilling first half for LA’s fans, watching newcomer Emmanuel Boateng get his own goal in the 41st minute and Giovani dos Santos chip one in in the final minute of the first half, bringing the score to 4-1 at the half.
“I think we had a great first half; the team showed character in the first 45 minutes. We were able to come back in the first half and I think the second half was just part of the process.” – Giovani dos Santos
Much of the steam from the first half was lost in the second, with the play getting uglier, and the penalties stacking up. A series of two PKs taken by Morales gave some hope to the visitors in the 70th minute when one finally made it past Rowe. Steven Gerrard outplayed Rimando after trying all evening, grabbing his own goal in stoppage time, sealing the deal for LA, 5-2. Real Salt Lake, hindered by a breakdown in their attacking lineup, escaped a bit scarred.
“I needed it to make up for the penalty. But credit to their keeper it was a good save. I’d done everything right, but the keeper gambled and went the right way. The performance was good. The last two performances I was really pleased with and it was nice to get the goal at the end to make up for the penalty miss. But the team was sensational today and there’s a lot of positives to take from this one.” – Steven Gerrard.