Real Salt Lake and the Los Angeles Galaxy met at the Home Depot Center on Sunday afternoon, both clubs aiming to halt winless streaks that have pushed them down in the Western Conference. Both clubs missed the playoffs in 2006 and it was starting to look like the same result for 2007.
The last time Los Angeles earned three points in league play was back on April 28th, beating rivals Chivas USA 3-1. Five games later, the Galaxy were still looking to find another ‘W’. Two new players – Edson Buddle and Abel Xavier - debuted in the starting lineup, hoping to change the Galaxy’s fortunes.
Real Salt Lake has also been forced to deal with changes, not the least of which was seeing their leading scorer retire to become head coach. Despite several trades aiming to bolster their chances of making the playoffs, RSL had zero wins to show for their troubles going into Sunday’s game.
The Galaxy struck first, when RSL defender Daniel Torres pushed a lazy pass back to Nick Rimando in the third minute, unaware of Nate Jaqua on his heels. Jaqua pounced and blasted a shot through Rimando that had to be cleared off the line. Torres’ clearing attempt ricocheted off the post and back to Jaqua, who buried the second shot for his first goal of the season, giving the Galaxy an early lead. “It wasn’t the prettiest goal, but it hit the back of the net and that’s all that matters,” Jaqua said after the game.
The lead would be quickly erased just two minutes later. Chris Brown split three Galaxy players and put the ball to Joe Cannon’s left, tying the game, 1-1.
In the 24th minute, both of the new additions to the Galaxy lineup combined to get a goal. Abel Xavier lobbed the ball over the Real Salt Lake defense and Edson Buddle did the rest, racing in on goal and beating Nick Rimando to give the Galaxy the lead once more.
It was Buddle’s first goal of the season in his first game with the Galaxy. He had played ten games without scoring a goal with Toronto FC before being traded for Tyrone Marshall earlier this week.
In the second half, the Galaxy almost extended their lead. In the 64th minute, Cobi Jones’ pass in the box was deflected by Chris Klein, as the ball nailed the RSL crossbar before being cleared away to safety.
Seconds later, Cobi would not be denied. Kyle Martino made a run into the box down the left flank and crossed the ball to the wide-open Jones. Cobi’s shot beat Rimando at the far post and staked the Galaxy to a 3-1 lead.
In the 73rd minute, Salt Lake would answer back. Chris Brown beat rookie defender Ty Harden on a corner kick, heading the ball just inside the post for his second goal of the match.
Despite pushing for the equalizer in the final minutes, the Los Angeles Galaxy would hold back RSL, securing a badly-needed three points to nudge them out of the Western conference cellar. Head coach Frank Yallop was optimistic following the win, but remained honest about the work ahead for the team.
Said Yallop: “Obviously it was great to get the win and that’s really the only thing that’s important for us at this point. We have a lot of work to do in certain areas. I’m happy all around but now we need to regroup and get ready for our game next Saturday. It’s nice to have a smile on my face for a change.”