Real Salt Lake managed to barely stay above the red line on Decision Day to book their spot in the playoffs. RSL has the Vancouver Whitecaps to thank after they eliminated their Cascadian rival Portland Timbers.
Real now go into the postseason on a seven match winless run and will look to break it Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Galaxy. The two sides have met four times in the past seven years, LA advanced in 2011 and 2014 whereas RSL advanced in 2009 and 2013. A big positive the Claret-and-Cobalt can take from this fixture is the fact they have advanced to the MLS Cup final when knocking out the Galaxy.
Galaxy starting goalkeeper Brian Rowe has had an up and down year. Rowe led the league during the MLS year for save percentage at 76.4% and had an impressive goals against average with 1.10. However, last time the sides met Rowe had a sub-par performance and ultimately helped assist Real Salt Lake earn a stoppage time equalizer. Rowe will come out looking to give out no more favors for Real and knows he faces the possibility of losing his job for next season without a solid postseason performance.
The Galaxy have a defense that is composed of lots of experience. Jelle van Damme has enjoyed a successful first season in MLS after spending 15 season in European leagues. van Damme has filled the Omar Gonzalez sized void in the Galaxy defense and will look to replicate some of Gonzalez’s MLS success. Alongside van Damme will be one of Gonzalez’s best friends from college A.J. DeLaGarza. DeLaGarza has been a part of the Galaxy squad since 2009 coming out of college and has gone on to win three MLS Cups with Los Angeles. Three time English Premier League winner Ashley Cole will join the starters at left back while Robbie Rogers takes the right side. Daniel Steres is an alternative to DeLaGarza in the middle if Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena decides to start with more height against Real.
Giovani dos Santos will be given a free role in the middle of a five-man-midfield. dos Santos’ resurgent form in MLS has gotten him back in favor with his country for the Mexico national team after a recent call-up. dos Santos tallied 14 goals and 12 assists during the MLS campaign, good for first on his team in both categories. Steven Gerrard is battling a hamstring injury and will be questionable to start this one. The Galaxy will probably favor a Sebastian Lletget and Jeff Larentowicz holding midfield pair if Gerrard is unable to go. Arena has a multitude of options to choose from at the wings as Gyasi Zardes has returned to some light training along with the addition of Landon Donovan returning to match fitness after a brief retirement period. Mike Magee and Emmanuel Boateng are also viable options. Donovan and Boateng would have to be considered the most likely starters at the wings due to Donovan’s experience and Boateng’s impact against Real in earlier fixtures this season. Whatever Arena decides, he knows he has great depth in his squad.
Galaxy captain and 2014 MLS MVP Robbie Keane is in a late fitness battle with an undisclosed injury. Despite being brief teammates at Tottenham Hotspur before the Galaxy, Keane and dos Santos have yet to find great chemistry together due to lack of game-time and will hope to find it soon. Keane is still a very big part of the Galaxy attack and will be doing anything possible to be able to lead the line for his team. Alan Gordon and Gyasi Zardes are alternative options for LA if the match comes to soon for Keane.