BY ADAM SERRANO
CARSON, Calif. – After a stellar victory over the Portland Timbers, the Los Angeles Galaxy are looking to build some momentum and will have to do so against the strongest team in MLS.
On Wednesday, the Galaxy will have a quick turn around from Sunday's game as they take on high-flying Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium with hopes of building a winning streak. Against the Timbers, Los Angeles appeared like the Galaxy of old, with steady defense and a timely goal that led to their first shutout of the season. Although the team showed great progress last week as they snapped a seven-game winless streak, the Galaxy understand that they are in for a much more difficult test against RSL.
"If we want to get back to where we were last year, then these are the challenges that we need to overcome," said Landon Donovan. "Last year, we didn't make any excuses about anything, we just went about our business and we want to get back to that."
Standing in their way of a return to 2011 form is a powerful RSL side that is coming off a 3-0 drubbing of Chivas USA last Saturday. Possessing the league's finest possession game, RSL midfielders Kyle Beckerman and Ned Grabavoy were instrumental throughout their victory over Chivas sending darting passes that sliced through the Rojiblancos defense.
For the Galaxy to avoid the same fate as their cross-hall neighbors, Donovan believes that Los Angeles must pressure RSL from the start.
"The more pressure that we put on them the better. We know that there are going to be stretches of the game where they have some of the ball and we have to deal with that," said Donovan. "We have to be smart and figure out a way to make it difficult on them and when we get a chance also keep the ball and be dangerous going the other way."
SARVAS SHINES AGAINST PORTLAND
One player who will look to play a key role against RSL will be Brazilian midfielder Marcelo Sarvas, who enjoyed his best game of the season against the Timbers.
After struggling to see consistent playing time for much of the season with just eight appearances, Sarvas was a key cog in midfield against Portland.
Playing at the top of the Galaxy's midfield triangle, Sarvas combined effectively with Juninho and Beckham to create several scoring opportunities, including a header that nearly led to a goal in the second minute of play. Apart from his shot, Sarvas was dominant in the center of the park as he carved up Portland for 42 successful passes with just seven going unsuccessful.
For a team that has struggled through injuries and inconsistent play throughout the season, the Galaxy hope that Sarvas' performance on Sunday is a sign of things to come.
"I thought he had a good game [against Portland]. He played well, contributing on both sides of the ball, was good going forward, some good passes, some good timely runs," said head coach Bruce Arena on Sunday. "At times we had some good combination play with Beckham, Sarvas and Juninho that sprung us into the attack. It was good to see."
ARENA: KEANE COULD PLAY ON SATURDAY
Adding to their momentum, the Galaxy may have Robbie Keane available for selection on Saturday when Los Angeles hosts the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Keane is expected to return to Los Angeles this week after making three starts for Ireland during the nation's Euro 2012 campaign. The Galaxy striker did not score for the Irish, but saw considerable time as the nation finished at the bottom of Group D with zero points in three defeats.
With the Galaxy dealing with a number of injuries and short rest, the Galaxy head coach admitted that his prized striker may return against Vancouver.
"Yes, there's a a chance," Arena said of Keane's status for Saturday. "We'll just see how he feels."
Playing on short rest after returning from international duty would be nothing new for Keane. The Irishman was in a similar situation last November when he helped Ireland qualify for the Euros with a qualification playoff victory over Estonia and then proceeded to travel to Los Angeles to help the Galaxy win the 2011 MLS Cup just days later.