By KEVIN KOCZWARA
A Robbie Keane hat-trick helped the Los Angeles Galaxy battle back from a goal down to beat Real Salt Lake, 4-2, at the Stub Hub center on Saturday night.
With the Galaxy (11-9-4, 37pts.) enjoying the majority of possession in the first-half of the game, it looked like only a matter of time before Los Angeles was able to find a way through Salt Lake’s defense. But the Royals (12-8-5, 41 pts.) were first to open the scoring with a nice combination play through the middle and a Joao Plata strike that went between Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo’s legs.
Plata found space just outside the Galaxy penalty area in the 53rd minute after Ned Grabavoy flicked a Nat Borchers pass to the quick forward. The RSL forward took a touch and then latched onto a shot found a way through Penedo’s legs, giving Salt Lake the lead against the run of play.
Los Angeles quickly responded, though, and leveled the score just three minutes later when Keane was able to curl a shot just past Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando. The Galaxy never looked back from that point on, putting three more goals behind one of Major League Soccer’s top-goalkeepers.
Keane added his second goal of the night in the 67th minute when he was able to turn an early cross from Sean Franklin, who came on in the second half, past Rimando. Keane was able to get the tap-in as the veteran strike knew to run to the near-post and got on the wrong side of the Real defense so he could latch onto Franklin’s early ball into the box.
LA’s newest Designated Player, Omar Gonzalaez, added the game-winning goal in the 75th minute and Keane put the game out of reach for Salt Lake in 86th minute with his third and final goal of the night.
RSL forward Robbie Findley came on in the second half and added a late consolation goal in the fifth minute of stoppage time, but time had run out on Salt Lake and the MLS’s top-team dropped three valuable road points to a close competitor in the Western Conference.
The win for the Galaxy put them four points behind RSL with a game in hand. It also gave the Galaxy some breathing in the Western Conference with the Vancouver Whitecaps and Seattle Sounders breathing down their necks fighting for a playoff spot.