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MLS Playoffs: LA Galaxy a dangerous opponent for visiting Real Salt Lake

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

Real Salt Lake kicks off its playoff campaign today with a potentially dangerous match against LA Galaxy on the road.

Lingering concerns about the health of Javier Morales appear to have been dismissed, particularly after last week's win over Chivas USA in which he looked one of the best players on the pitch in the second half. But Lovel Palmer is out through a hamstring strain, and Joao Plata may be out with the same issue. Olmes Garcia, though, was deemed healthy, and that could well be a boost for the visitors.

The lineup should be very much as one would expect, with Chris Schuler and Nat Borchers mopping up defensively and Robbie Findley partnering Alvaro Saborio up top. Schuler and Borchers particularly will have their work cut out for them; Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan have found much success as an attacking pair.

A 4-2 loss to the Galaxy during the regular season stands out as featuring some bumpy points, particularly when Keane showed Carlos Salcedo a thing or two about defending, and Omar Gonzalez repeatedly beat Nat Borchers in the air, once for a goal and several other times without the same scoreline impact.

This Galaxy side - the one that won the last two MLS Cups - is one we have seen plenty of success against, and plenty of failure against. The match should play out in an interesting way: Galaxy will accept not having most possession, facing off against us when we reach their half; we'll be slightly more adventurous with our pressing but not significantly so. But where we are not particularly dangerous until we reach the final third or even a little further, the Galaxy can easily spring a player into the attack from just beyond the midfield line with a long pass.

Defending Galaxy in those attacking areas when they are in possession sets us up for success on the counter: Robbie Findley will be key to this as we look to break through in transition, as his top speed is invariably a factor in goalscoring exploits. Javier Morales, Ned Grabavoy, and Luis Gil will need to exploit those opportunities, too, getting forward with aplomb but having the awareness to retreat quickly and immediately when we lose possession.

Our playoff campaign begins today, and with some attentive defending and hard work, it can continue past this stage.