No team in Major League Soccer had ever beaten Los Angeles Galaxy twice, at home, in a single season. No team—until Real Salt Lake this season. ---
In their first match of the 2012 campaign, against the defending MLS champions, Real found themselves down a goal early. But they roared back to win, three to one. The second time Real faced Galaxy at the Home Depot Center, it wasn’t going to be so easy. Oct. 6 was a date on the calendar both teams had circled, with inevitable playoff seeding on the line.
The game did not disappoint.
As if they were locked in an outlaw shootout from the Old West, these bitter conference rivals battled each other well into the night. The opportunities came fast. It seemed that the referee had only just blown his whistle for the beginning of play when, in the sixth minute, Los Angeles’ Brazilian midfielder Juninho sent a ball screaming off the woodwork.
It didn’t take long for the true fireworks to begin, though. In the 17th minute, Galaxy’s star forward, Robbie Keane, found himself in the box and sent a graceful, heartbreaking ball across goal. It was in the back of the net before RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando could even get a finger on it.
But the visitors didn’t lose heart. They had been here before, down one-nil at the Home Depot Center.
In the 25th minute, Real forward Alvaro Saborio, the hat-trick hero from Real’s last game on Sept. 29, gifted the ball to fellow striker Fabian Espindola behind L.A.’s backline for the easy score.
It only took three more minutes for Real to take the lead. A wonderful ball from RSL’s midfielder Javier Morales was headed in for Espindola’s second goal of the night. Surrounded by three motionless Galaxy defenders, he made it look easy.
But L.A. wasn’t going down without a fight.
In the 37th minute, veteran Galaxy midfielder David Beckham bent one of his trademark corners towards Nick Rimando. The RSL goalkeeper’s hand was the only thing that kept the ball from going into the goal.
In the second half, the home side didn’t let up. They tested Real’s defense with a deluge of balls shot from every conceivable angle. Real midfielder Kyle Beckerman saved one such assault in the 58th minute after Rimando lost his footing.
Then in the 80th minute, after Galaxy forward Edson Buddle and Real defender Jamison Olave collided near RSL’s box and L.A. was mysteriously awarded a corner, Beckham kicked another dangerous ball in, which was scooped out of the air by Rimando. In traffic. Again.
L.A. balls kept flying near Real’s goal, but the defense did its job—with a little help from the goalposts.
As the game neared its conclusion, Espindola almost got a hat trick. But L.A.’s own trusty goalkeeper, Josh Saunders, was able to come off his line and kick away what would have been a definitive nail in the coffin. Even with all that grit and perseverance, though, Real proved too much for the Galaxy.
Perhaps the most telling moment in the game came in the 81st minute, when Olave collided with another L.A. player. This time it was midfielder Landon Donovan, whose other job is to captain the U.S. men’s national team. Right after the collision, Donovan lay face down on the pitch, motionless. Eventually, he would gingerly get to his feet and start walking again, but his night was over.
And so was L.A. Galaxy’s.
On a historic night for Real Salt Lake, all Donovan could do was watch helplessly from the sidelines and plot playoff revenge.
Real fans welcome him to try.
It had never been done before.