Everything seemed to be going well for the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday night.
Opening up the 2012 MLS season as defending champions against a heated foe, the Galaxy came out firing throughout and finally breaking through with a second half goal by Edson Buddle.
But just as quickly and so suddenly, it all fell apart in one 12-minute span. An own goal to tie the match was then followed by two more unanswered goals and just like that, the Galaxy suffered its first loss at home in just over two years, falling to Real Salt Lake 3-1 on Saturday night.
“We hit a wall and made mistakes that were attributed to fatigue,” Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said.
That fatigue Arena was referring to was the long travel to and back from Toronto following Wednesday’s CONCACAF Champions’ League match against Toronto FC. All 11 players who played on Wednesday, including David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane among others, went the full 90 minutes and Arena only made two changes to the lineup for Saturday’s MLS opener. Replacing midfielder Juninho with Marcelo Sarvas and center back Andrew Boyens with Tommy Meyer.
“We were a tired team tonight,” Arena said.
Nevertheless, RSL’s win on Saturday avenges last year’s loss to the Galaxy in the Western Conference Final on the same pitch and makes them the first team to defeat LA at the Home Depot Center since FC Dallas’ 3-0 win over Los Angeles in the 2010 Western Conference Final.
After a wild first half, the Galaxy finally found the back net in the 71st minute. David Beckham’s cross found Edson Buddle in the penalty area and the striker did the rest, heading the ball past a diving Nick Rimando near post to stake LA to the 1-0 lead. However, the Galaxy literally let RSL back into the match, it started in the 73rd minute when Sebastian Velasquez crossed a ball off his left foot into the box, Galaxy right back Sean Franklin attempted to cut it off, only to have the ball go off his right foot, past keeper Josh Saunders and into the inside left netting for an unexpected equalizer.
“I saw Espindola coming in and I tried to beat him to the ball and I just happened to catch the wrong side of the ball,” Franklin said.
That own goal was only the beginning. Seven minutes later, Ned Grabavoy crossed a ball from the left side into the penalty area. Alvaro Saborio was the recipient of that cross, but a last minute challenge from behind by Michael Stephens prevented any shot attempt. The ball however remained in the box and Javier Morales got a shot off just before AJ DeLaGarza could mop up and Morales’ attempt deflected off Saunders and across the goal line to put RSL in the lead. RSL’s third goal game in the 85th minute when Saborio flicked a ball forward, Fabian Espindola sprinted for the ball, then sprinted for goal. Espindola went unchallenged into the penalty area from the left, shot low and succeeded, beating Saunders far post to put the match out of reach.
The first half was full of chances for the Galaxy, but bad luck combined with the play of RSL keeper Nick Rimando prevented Los Angeles from breaking through. LA’s best shots came from Landon Donovan and Marcelo Sarvas, but both attempts were foiled by the crossbar. Mike Magee had a chance himself with a bicycle kick in the 27th minute, but that was denied by Rimando.
“We could’ve put the game away early,” Galaxy defender AJ DeLaGarza said. “They got an unlucky own goal and we kinda unraveled after that.”
The only good news for the Galaxy is that they will get a chance to immediately put this match behind them, as they quickly turn their focus to Wednesday’s CONCACAF Champions League matchup against Toronto FC, also at the Home Depot Center.