Carson, CA – Two top-tier Western Conference rivals will clash on Saturday as league-leaders Real Salt Lake travel to StubHub center to take on the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Real Salt Lake enters the contest aiming to extend their unbeaten run to four consecutive matches, while Los Angeles will hope to strengthen their playoff position following a 3-3 draw with FC Dallas last week as the clubs meet for the third and final time this season.
Last time out, Real Salt Lake snuck away from Rio Tinto Stadium with a 1-0 win over the Houston Dynamo courtesy of a penalty kick by Alvaro Saborio in the 37th minute.
The result ensured that RSL remained on top of the Supporters Shield race with 41 points from 24 matches.
Salt Lake forward Olmes Garcia set the eventual winning play in motion when he went up for an aerial ball with Houston's Adam Moffat and was knocked to the ground in the penalty area. Referee Juan Carlos Rivero immediately pointed to the spot, indicated a penalty kick for the hosts.
Saborio stepped up and calmly fired it home to put the hosts in front.
Houston upped the pressure in the second half, but was ultimately unable to find an equalizer as RSL held on to claim all three points.
"I think so, I think so," RSL head coach Jason Kreis said when asked if his team has been getting better as the season wears on. "But again this kind of goes back to saying that sometimes it's important to win other ways because tonight, for me, was not great Real Salt Lake soccer. This was grinding soccer and we defended with our hearts and our souls.
"We defended dead balls really, really well, which was critical. But we just weren't very good with the ball. So for me, every game kind of brings different things and I think we just continue on with the focus we need to improve. So that the next match we'll need to improve what we're doing with the ball and still give the same effort all over the field on the other side of the ball. I think that's just -- you walk into the locker room and they're already talking about being better next week. What can we do in training this week to be better next week, that's pretty cool."
Los Angeles will be looking to claim an important three points as the two-time defending champs come into the match following a disappointing 3-3 draw with FC Dallas.
Matt Hedges opened the scoring 15 minutes in for FCD, but Landon Donovan netted his first of three goals on the night on the stroke of halftime to send the sides into the break level.
Blas Perez put Dallas ahead early in the second half, but two more goals from Donovan gave the Galaxy a 3-2 lead with eight minutes remaining. But Perez had the last laugh as his goal four minutes from time made it a 3-3 game and the clubs were forced to settle for a draw.
Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena felt his side deserved three points and took exception to some of the refereeing decisions after the match.
"Terrible officiating, no question about it," Arena said. "However, we're still in position to win the game. What more can you say? What more can you say? It's a shame we can't get better officiating in these games."