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Juninho penalty sends Galaxy past RSL

Galaxy RSL 05282015

Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea / USA Today Sports Images


Tonight’s Western Conference showdown between bitter rivals Real Salt Lake and LA Galaxy began much like the last one ended.

With the ball on the penalty spot, RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando stared down Galaxy penalty-taker Juninho. This time the result was different, however, as Rimando guessed wrong, dove to his left, and Juninho buried the penalty kick in the back of the net to eventually give the Galaxy a 1-0 win.

“I’ll be honest, in my mind, I said ‘I’m gonna cross this time” said goal scorer Juninho after the match. “Last time I hit a ball low and to the right side, and he caught it. This time I crossed it and he could not save it.”

Rimando has built his career on his ability to stop penalty kicks, including stonewalling three of seven Galaxy penalty shooters in the 2009 MLS Cup final to hand his club their first MLS Cup trophy. But tonight he guessed wrong, and the Galaxy were able to reclaim some small measure of pride at the foot of their diminutive Brazilian midfielder.

“The guys know how important it was to me to get a goal again,” finished Juninho, “especially against Real Salt Lake.”

As with the penalty call to end the last match between the two sides, Real Salt Lake felt much aggrieved by the call, but this time they were not vindicated by a Rimando save.  Jamison Olave was whistled by referee Baldomero Toledo when his hand contacted a ricocheting ball as he slide-tackled Galaxy winger Ignacio Maganto.

It is unlikely that Real Salt Lake will blame the referee for the final result, however.  They opened the match in sleepy fashion, allowing the Galaxy five shots in the first eight minutes of the match while managing none. The Galaxy pressure culminated in the night’s only tally.

The defending champions spent the rest of the match managing the result with yet another makeshift lineup. In fourteen games so far this season, the Galaxy have sent out fourteen different lineups, and have seen seventeen different players miss at least one game due to injury or suspension.

“This has been a difficult start of the season, with the injuries, the schedule, some untimely suspensions, it’s been patchwork from game 1” said Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena after the match. “It hasn’t been easy. I give our guys a lot of credit.”

Despite the low score, the match was a hotly contested, back and forth affair, and for the final hour of the night RSL gave the Galaxy all they could handle. The visitors won 63 percent of all challenges on the night and nearly matched the Galaxy’s shot total, with ten to the Galaxy’s 12. But ultimately none of them found the target.

“They’re a good team. They did a good job and put us under pressure” Arena said of Real Salt Lake. “It’s the kind of game you gotta hang on and win. The other two games in the league tonight were both also 1-0. Our league right now, with teams so even, and so much pressure on teams, games are looking a lot like this one tonight.”

When Real Salt Lake brought on Javier Morales and Joao Plata in the second half, they had the closest thing to a staring lineup on the pitch they’d seen in a month. Plata was able to make a few threatening runs late in the match, but Morales was largely neutralized in his half hour on the pitch, and as a result, RSL could not break down the Galaxy back line all evening.

The frustration showed when, the the 90th minute, referee Toledo showed Olave a straight red card, sending the center back off for taking a hard jab at Galaxy captain Robbie Keane as a ball went out of play across the touch line.

Despite starting midfielder Baggio Husidic at left back, only his second time playing the position ever in his career, for the Galaxy defense it was perhaps their strongest performance of the year. They have now recorded two consecutive clean sheets.

“Lacking so many bodies, you have to make a lot of changes” said Galaxy center back Omar Gonzalez. “We’re dealing great with it. Everyone here has a great mentality about it, willing to work with each other, and that’s why I think we just keep on rolling.”

The Galaxy will now travel across the country to face 2014 MLS Cup foe New England Revolution on Sunday. RSL travels north to face the struggling Vancouver Whitecaps in Canada on Saturday.



  1. LA’s defense was strong last night. Leonardo continues to improve and, amazingly, he’s been one of our most consistent players this year. Omar put in a classic Omar night. Husidic at left back is a dangerous-yet-necessary experiment, and he had to bailed out at least once by Omar last night, but no harm no foul.

    Zardes, Villarreal, and Nacho all looked decent too. Glad we got the PK and actually made it this time, but I’m hoping we start seeing more goals from the run of play.

    • Omar was a rock in defense. He has been exceptional the last couple of games, not only winning all the headers, but often seeming to come out of nowhere to make last ditch stops on players who have gotten by other defenders. He has looked like a DP should look.


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