Real Salt Lake and LA Galaxy will meet in a Western Conference heavyweight clash at the Rio Tinto Stadium in their playoff semi-final first leg on Saturday night.
Both sides share a vast experience of competing in the MLS Cup, so they’re certainly no strangers to the responsibility and pressure that comes with playoff matches.
Real Salt Lake were runners-up in the final last year following a penalty shootout defeat to Sporting Kansas City after they had tied the game 1-1 and have qualified for the MLS Cup playoffs every season since 2008.
They won the competition in 2009 when they beat LA Galaxy on penalties – their only MLS Cup title to date.
Real Salt Lake will look to their home advantage to try and get themselves ahead in this tie as their form at the Rio Tinto Stadium has been excellent this year, with 11 wins and just the one defeat.
Real Salt Lake’s home form: Played 17 – Won 11 – Drawn 5 – Lost 1
LA Galaxy are the joint most successful team in the history of the MLS Cup alongside DC United with both sides having won four titles.
However, the Galaxy were dumped out of the competition at this stage last year by the same opponents, losing 2-1 on aggregate, so they will be looking to avoid a repeat performance.
They will also have to recover from their Supporters’ Shield disappointment after their 2-0 defeat against Seattle Sounders in the last game of the season saw them finish in second place, while the Sounders lifted the title.
They’ve struggled for consistency away from home and their last win on the road was a 3-0 win at Chivas USA on September 1, so the key will be to keep it tight on Saturday night.
LA Galaxy’s away form: Played 17 – Won 5 – Drawn 6 – Lost 6
It’s crucial to still be alive in the tie when the second leg comes around, so neither side will want to hand the initiative to the opposition, so this should make for a tense but entertaining affair.
Key Player: Alvaro Saborio – Real Salt Lake’s Costa-Rican forward has been in fine form this season, having scored 8 goals from just 13 starts. He boasts the best goals-per-game ratio for the home side and if he plays a part, he could make the difference.
Key Stat: LA Galaxy have faced Real Salt Lake twice before in the MLS Cup and have been on the losing end both times:
- 2013 – Western Conference semi-final – Real Salt Lake 2-1 LA Galaxy (aggregate score)
- 2009 – MLS Cup Final – Real Salt Lake 1-1 LA Galaxy (Real Salt Lake won 5-4 on penalties)
Real Salt Lake’s last five: L/L/W/D/W
LA Galaxy’s last five: W/W/L/D/L
Prediction: Real Salt Lake 1 – 1 LA Galaxy