By MARK EDWARD HORNISH
CARSON, Calif.–If the LA Galaxy hope to chase away the ghosts of their disappointing 2013 campaign, it appears that a retooled lineup will not alone solve that problem.
The inability to finish, and the willingness to surrender late goals, haunted them once again, as Kyle Beckerman sprung Joao Plata for a winning goal in the 81st minute to give RSL a hard fought 1-0 road victory at packed Stub Hub Center on a balmy Saturday night.
For RSL, the victory was hard earned and well deserved. They withstood enormous pressure in the first half, as the Galaxy fired off 14 shots in the first half to RSL’s four. Nick Rimando pressed his case for a ticket to Brazil with six saves in the first half alone. But it was the keeper’s best friend, the goal post, that kept RSL on even terms heading into the locker room for halftime, when Robbie Keane’s curling shot from twelve yards beat the keeper only to clang off the far post, rolling dangerously behind Rimando before Nat Borchers could clear.
The second half saw a far more even match. RSL began pressing the Galaxy higher, and Jaoa Plata proved a difficult challenge for AJ De La Garza, opening up the Galaxy back line on numerous occasions. Both teams had opportunities, but it was Real Salt Lake who gained the advantage midway through the second half.
A Luke Mulholland header was called back for offside in the 76th minute. It appeared the center back was hard done by the call; no matter, as minutes later, Kyle Beckerman pulled down a deflected ball in the semi – circle and found Plata again, this time lurking in what appeared to be an offside position. Plata enjoyed a straight run at a helpless Jaime Penedo and tucked the ball home to give RSL the late advantage.
The substitute referees factored into the game again, when Tony Beltran was called for a foul in the penalty area defending a leaping Rob Friend. The penalty was awarded at the death, and it appeared the Galaxy might escape with point.
It was Rimando to the rescue once again, however, as he dove, legs splayed, to his right and saved Keane’s meager stutter-step attempt.
One minute later it was full time, and it was an exuberant claret and cobalt racing onto the pitch, while the Bruce Arena’s side was left looking for the same answers they sought at the conclusion of last season’s campaign.