By TYLER GRAY
SANDY, Utah — In a top-tier battle of Western conference powers, the Los Angeles Galaxy and Real Salt Lake settled for a 1-1 draw Saturday, with Robbie Keane scoring the equalizer to help the Galaxy earn a road point.
Keane gave the Galaxy the equalizer in the 35th minute, dispossessing RSL defender Chris Wingert in the midfield. Keane ran straight at the goal, turning Schuler inside and out, before slipping a ball past Nick Rimando, leveling the match at 1-1.
Saborio opened scoring in the 19th minute when Javier Morales executed a quick restart, finding Joao Plata. The Ecuadorian got his head up and found a wide open Saborio in the box with a lofted ball. The Costa Rican took his time, settling the ball and letting it bounce twice before placing his shot into the back of the net.
New RSL head coach Jeff Cassar wasn’t ready to concede his team’s mentality changed in the minutes following Keane’s strike, but said RSL lost a little bit of their momentum.
“It didn’t change our mentality, it just took the air out of us for a little awhile,” Cassar said. “We were playing some good soccer and they weren’t doing too much against us. Then they make us pay for a giveaway. After that, it was a battle and we didn’t do the best job of taking care of the ball.”
The injury to Plata just a few minutes before Keane’s strike didn’t help matters much either. The RSL forward pulled up after challenging for a long ball with Galaxy defender A.J. De La Garza. Both players eventually left the match after they were unable to continue.
RSL clearly missed Plata’s creativity and instincts in the second half. Cassar was quick to say that Saborio and Plata have a special chemistry.
Both teams struggled to put anything together in the second half and, despite the game being mostly wide open, there were very few actual opportunities for either side.
“It just felt like the second half we just kind of ran out of gas a little bit,” said RSL defender Nat Borchers. “I think that we just weren’t able to connect that first pass or maybe that second pass to get forward and get that space in behind them. It just seemed like we weren’t sharp enough.”
Ned Grabaovy echoed his teammate’s comments when he spoke about the differences in the team’s play from the first half to the second half.
“I think we started well — we certainly created better chances in and around their box in the first half,” Grabavoy said. “I don’t necessarily know if it was an injury. Towards the end of the game they sent less numbers forward, so I think it’s probably that more than anything.”
“I was saying to Kyle, ‘I can’t really remember them creating a really good chance or even a decent half-chance besides the goal that they scored.’ That’s how it goes with [the Galaxy].”
RSL can take heart from an improved defensive performance against the Galaxy but they’ll have to dig deep if Plata’s hamstring strain keeps him out for an extended period of time.
The early-season schedule for the claret-and-cobalt will not wait for them to figure things out as the new-look Toronto FC come to town next week and will provide and stiff test for RSL’s lauded depth.
As for the Galaxy, they will have a week off before facing Chivas USA on April 6.
Here are the match highlights: