RSL knocked out reigning MLS Cup Champions LA GAlaxy at home (2-0 in 2nd leg, 2-1 aggregate) and progressed to Western Conference Finals. Sebastian Velasquez scored in the first half to level the aggregate score, followed by Chris Schuler’s winner in extra-time.
The host did have a formidable task at hand from the get-go, looking to overturn a Sean Franklin goal that they conceded in the first leg. They were also hoping to address the psychological block of not scoring a single goal in the last 335 minutes in MLS playoffs.
RSL were missing key midfielder Ned Gravaboy due to a hamstring injury, but were welcoming back Joao Plata on the bench. Galaxy fielded a strong XI, with the forward duo of Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane sharing an impressive 28 goals between them.
RSL started the game with a high tempo, going direct to forward Alvaro Saborio and trying to beat the Galaxy midfield to the second ball. However, it was the away team with the first chance of the match in the 4th minute, as Galaxy winger Gyasi Zardes broke free from Tony Beltran to set up Landon Donovan. The forward’s curler from the edge of the box went over the bar.
RSL found themselves with a great opportunity to take the lead in the 15th minute, when Kyle Beckerman found Saborio in the box, but the Costa Rican headed wide from close range. Galaxy were breaking with pace down the flanks with winger Robbie Rogers producing a fine ball from the byline. However, there was no white shirt in the box to slot it home.
Robbie Rogers again found himself in the box in the 28th minute following a Galaxy corner. The winger’s scuffed effort went wide.
RSL took the lead in the 36th minute when full-back Chris Wingert’s cross found Sebastian Velasquez in the box. The young RSL midfielder made no mistake from close range to pull RSL level on the aggregate. The goal was really well-engineered by Javier Morales, whose excellent vision switched play to the left, with Wingert in plenty of space.
Galaxy was quick to shift gears and pressed forward after going a goal down, winning a flurry of corners before the first-half ended. The home team, however, was able to hold till the whistle.
The LA outfit continued where they left off, but it was RSL had the first clear-cut chance. A Morales set-piece in the 53rd minute beat the traffic in the box and forced Jaime Penedo to make the first real save of the game.
A frantic one-minute period at the 65th minute saw Rogers’ low cross spilled by Rimando, following which a desperate RSL defense was barely able to keep away Donovan’s left-footer from fairly close range. Following a Chris Schuler clearance, Saborio was able to hurry the Galaxy defense into conceding a corner within a space of a few seconds.
As the game progressed, RSL began to get a stronger hold of the game. In the 75th minute, Chris Schuler headed into the crossbar following a Morales free-kick. Luck again denied RSL as Saborio hit the crossbar again from the edge of the box in the 78th minute after good hold-up play from substitute Olmes Garcia.
RSL would finally find the back of the net in the 83rd minute when a Morales free-kick went untouched in the box and found the Galaxy net. However, the referee controversially disallowed the goal, supposedly for some infringement in the box. RSL would consider themselves unlucky, as the goal appeared legit in the replays.
The 90th minute saw another scrap near the LA goal following a Luis Gil Cross. Garcia seemed to have the final touch, but Penedo was able to hold on to the ball.
RSL carried on with their momentum into extra-time and took a long overdue two-goal lead in the 12th minute of extra-time when another Morales set-piece found Schuler at the far post. The veteran defender slotted in home from close range.
The Galaxy keeper and defense have dealt with Morales’ set-pieces poorly throughout the game and it seemed inevitable that the Argentine would eventually make them pay.
More controversy followed as a Donovan goal was ruled offside due to what appeared to be a foul on Nat Borchers. RSL had even more disconcerting matters to attend to, as Alvaro Saborio went off injured after coach RSL coach Jason Kreis used up all of his substitutions. The home team were forced to defend their narrow lead with only 10 men in the last 10 minutes.
The last few minutes saw desperate goal-mouth action in RSL box substitute Jose Villareal, Gyasi Zardes and Sean Franklin all had chances to level the tie. However, the men in claret-and-cobalt were able to see out the nervy final minutes.
The final whistle sent a raucous home crowd into jubilation, as their side take on Portland Timbers in the Western Conference Final.