Carson City, California- The StubHub! Center, March 8, 2014 (Photos: Samuel Coronado)
This season was going to be a season of redemption for the LA Galaxy. Last season was not a good season overall for the LA Galaxy. It was not a good season for them because they had set high standards for themselves and they weren’t able to reach them. They didn’t win the MLS Cup, the Supporters Shield, the CONCACAF Champions League, nor the US Open Cup. The highlights of last year’s season was signing both Landon Donovan and Omar Gonzalez for a long term deal, signing Jaime Penedo, and Donovan tying the regular season scoring record. This season, the standards were set just as high, but the Galaxy thought they were ready.
The season started at home against their hated rivals, Real Salt Lake. RSL not only won the Western League Conference Title, they were the team that eliminated the Galaxy from the playoffs. The season began in front of a sell-out crowd at the StubHub! Center. Even before he players walked onto the field, the atmosphere was electric. All three of the Galaxy’s supporters groups were ready to cheer for their team. A plethora of Real Salt Lake fans went to the game and were cheering loudly for the team. As the teams came onto the field, the fans erupted in jubilation excited for the start of this game, the start of a new season.
The Galaxy was ready for the start of the season. The Galaxy came out running on all cylinders, attacking from all angles and with different players. It didn’t look as if Donovan’s record breaking goal was going to be a distraction for the Galaxy because the midfielders were not giving Donovan unnecessary passes. Galaxy started their newly acquired forward, Samuel, and he was playing well. Marcelo Sarvas and Juninho were finding Samuel in open spaces and Samuel would make great passes to Robbie Keane. Galaxy kept attacking throughout the first half but Real Salt Lake’s goalkeeper, Nick Rimando, stood tall in his crease. He made a very important save half way through the first half. Keane found Donovan cutting into the box and passed him the ball. Donovan got there before the defender and he tried chipping it over a diving Rimando. Rimando stuck out his hand and saved the shot. Donovan knew he missed a perfect opportunity to break the record. Galaxy’s other scoring opportunities either hit the posts, missed the net by inches, or were blocked by Rimando. The only real opportunity that Real Salt Lake was able to muster was blocked by a diving Penedo.
The second half was a carbon copy of the first half. Galaxy was attacking from every direction but Rimando was coming up just as big. Just as Galaxy seemed to get ready to score and take the lead, Real Salt Lake scores a goal. The stadium was about to get quite but the referee started waving his arms waving off the goal. The crowd erupted and Galaxy put the ball in play before Real Salt Lake could protest. Real Salt Lake had a reason to protest because looking at the replay, there wasn’t any reason for the goal to be waived off. Four minutes later, it didn’t matter because Real Salt Lake scored the game winning goal. Kyle Beckerman had the ball and he saw Joao Plata running into the box. He gave him a through ball down the middle of the field. Alvaro Sabario put a pick on Omar Gonzalez and that allowed the ball to get to Plata. A.J. DelaGarza tried to reach Plata before he shot the ball but it was too late. Penedo was left alone and he couldn’t block the shot.
The game ended with a controversial play. In a desperation play, Gonzalez crossed the ball from the middle of the field to the opposing box, where Rob Friend jumped up to try to head the ball. He seemed to jump up awkwardly into the Real Salt Lake defenders. The referee pointed directly at the spot and even though all of Real Salt Lake was protesting. Keane set up the ball and did his signature kick. He ran up towards the ball, hesitated a little and shot low and to the left. Rimando waited till the last moment and dove correctly and made the game winning save. The game ended shortly after controversial play.