And Donovan, typically guarded as closely as the Crown Jewels, put on an exhibition worth its weight in gold, shaking free to lead the Galaxy to a 3-2 victory at Rio Tinto Stadium.
RSL had moments when it didn't look much like a team at the top of the Western Conference.
Donovan and Mike Magee took advantage of gaping cracks in RSL's defense. This allowed Donovan to use his greatest asset speed.
As usual, the showdown lived up to its hype. Whenever Real Salt Lake and Los Angeles Galaxy tangle, the result is entertaining soccer.
Wednesday was no different as 20,382 hyped up spectators shook Rio Tinto with each sway of momentum and a host of RSL scoring chances in the second half that went begging.
The stars for each side also did their part in creating a fascinating ebb and flow to a midseason clash that had the feel of a playoff game.
It featured world-class goals from RSL's Alvaro Saborio and, of course, Donovan. There was also a fortunate stroke of luck for hustling Kyle Beckerman, who found himself with the ball at his feet in front of a yawning goal mouth.
Fabian Espindola, a two-goal scorer in RSL's 3-0 victory at Chivas USA, turned into a playmaker with a pair of assists in the opening 45 minutes.
In the ninth minute, the RSL striker chased down a long pass at the end line and flipped a cross through the middle of the 18-yard box.
Ned Grabavoy, back to goal, took a swipe at the ball, but, fortunately for RSL, missed. Beckerman didn't, tapping the ball into the open net for his fourth goal of the season.
RSL increased its advantage 15 minutes later. This time Espindola found Saborio, who barely touched the ball. He had enough, however, to leave Saunders and the rest of the Galaxy watching in what had to be slow motion for them as the ball bounced casually into the back of the net for his seventh goal.
Although the Galaxy had shown flashes of danger, especially on crosses from Beckham, it took a Real mistake to put Los Angeles on the scoreboard.
Donovan intercepted Tony Beltran's backpass, then proceeded to give those watching a lesson in finishing. The L.A. forward faked out a sprawling Rimando and scored from a left angle to close the gap to 2-1 in the 29th minute.
Magee tied the game in the 50th minute as Los Angeles took advantage of another RSL defensive breakdown.