LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake meet again in the reverse leg of their Western Conference playoff semi-final at the StubHub Center on Sunday.
This second leg is so delicately poised after a hard-fought goalless draw in the blustery wind at the Rio Tinto Stadium last weekend, much to the credit of the Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo who kept them in it.
The onus will very much be on LA Galaxy to produce after they’ve now gone four games without a win if you include the three games at the end of the regular season and have hit a stale run of form at the worst possible time.
The Galaxy have drawn two and lost two of the last four and it equals their worst run of form since the turn of April in to May when they went on a four game winless streak, also recording two draws and two defeats.
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[Jaime Penedo kept his side in it last time out]
LA will be looking to their strong home form and desperately hoping that it’s going to come up trumps for them once again.
With just one home defeat in the entire regular season, they will take some confidence from that, but they need to win this game or they risk being eliminated on away goals.
LA Galaxy’s home form: Played 17 – Won 12 – Drawn 4 – Lost 1
Real Salt Lake will come away from the first-leg with mixed emotions after they spurned the opportunity to take a lead with them to LA.
They dominated the majority of their home game but couldn’t capitalise on it and it may come back to haunt them.
However, a 0-0 draw at home is never a bad result in the first-leg as they know that a score draw sees them through on the away goal rule.
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[Main man: Joao Plata has had a great season for RSL]
They haven’t won on the road for six games since a 1-0 win in Colorado at the beginning of August, so they’ll be thankful that a draw could be enough to see them home.
Real Salt Lake’s away form: Played 17 – Won 4 – Drawn 6 – Lost 7
With the game on such a knife edge, it promises excitement and drama, especially as the newly introduced away goals rule may well play a crucial role in the final outcome.
Many will be expecting another tightly contested game and it could take a moment of magic or a moment of madness from someone to turn the tide in favour of either side.
Extra-time and penalties are looming if we see a repeat result of last weekend’s game, so can either side take the initiative?
Key Player: Landon Donovan – he will be desperate to ensure that this isn’t his last ever game for LA Galaxy and there isn’t a better moment for him to shine.
Key Stat: These two sides have only produced four goals in their last four meetings so we expect another cagey affair.
LA Galaxy’s last five: W/L/D/L/D
Real Salt Lake’s last five: L/W/D/W/D
Prediction: LA Galaxy 1 – 1 Real Salt Lake – The Galaxy to suffer the pain of an away goals defeat for the first time in Major League Soccer.