This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Seattle • It has been nearly two years since, Real Salt Lake players shuffled out of the visitor's locker room inside the StubHub Center in a daze. One-by-one, each player left dismayed, but also stunned by being on the wrong side of the worst postseason loss in club history.
As much as RSL might try to erase the memory of the 5-0 loss in the second leg of the 2014 Western Conference semifinal to the eventual MLS champions L.A. Galaxy, it is the most-recent chapter in this evolving postseason rivalry. And for the seventh time, RSL and L.A. meet Wednesday night for a shot at playing into November, and possibly beyond.
"It doesn't matter what happened two years, three years ago, four years ago - anything," RSL coach Jeff Cassar said following RSL's 2-1 loss in Seattle Sunday. "[The Galaxy] have different players, we have different players. They have some key players missing. This is a totally new game. We're not going to take anything from history into this game, and that's the way it should be."
RSL is 2-3-1 all-time against the Galaxy in the MLS playoffs, including the 2009 MLS Cup final victory over L.A. at CenturyLink Field, which was decided by a penalty-kick shootout.
As noted by Cassar, the Galaxy are different from the 2014 edition. L.A. never really hit the next gear this season that they so often have in the past. The Galaxy finished third in the Western Conference behind FC Dallas and Colorado.
Much of that is due to the injuries of the team's aging stars.
Forward Robbie Keane, L.A.'s 36-year-old superstar, started only 16 regular-season matches in 2016, but still managed to score 10 goals. Since late August, Keane has missed six matches. Midfielder Steven Gerrard started 18 of a possible 34 regular-season outings and missed six of L.A.'s last eight matches. The Galaxy's budding young star forward Gyasi Zardes is working his way back from a fractured fifth metatarsal suffered the last week of August.
"Everyone is hitting their strides and difficulties at different times in the year, so it's irrelevant right now to how the last 34 games have panned out," RSL midfielder Luke Mulholland said. "We're in the playoffs, we'll play L.A. this week, and we leave everything on the field."
While the Galaxy haven't been able to trot out their top-flight lineup on a weekly basis, L.A. has benefitted from Mexican midfielder Giovani dos Santos having a breakout season in MLS. The 27-year-old has 14 goals and 12 assists in 2016 and promises to be a focal point of RSL's game plan Wednesday night in Carson, Calif. In L.A.'s 3-3 draw at Rio Tinto Stadium on Sept. 7, Dos Santos had two goals and an assist. L.A.'s potent attack might get the headlines, but the Galaxy defense has propelled the team during long stretches. L.A. conceded just 39 goals in 34 regular-season games in 2016 second only to Colorado, which conceded a league-low 32.
There aren't many secrets between these two clubs that will have run into one another now five times in the last eight MLS postseasons.
"We know them a lot," RSL captain Kyle Beckerman said, "and I I think they know us, as well."
RSL at L.A. Galaxy
P Wednesday, 8:30 p.m.
TV • KMYU, UniMas