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Sandy • Nick Rimando and Jamison Olave proved they're healthy, Javier Morales enjoyed a monster night and Paulo Junior helped make dizzying history in his first start in Major League Soccer.
Put 'em all together, and the Los Angeles Galaxy didn't stand a chance.
Even with both teams playing without several top players because of injuries and international absences, RSL blasted probably its top rival for the league title 4-1 in front of a record sellout crowd of 20,507 fans at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday night.
The victory extended RSL's home unbeaten streak to 36 games in all competitions and improved its league unbeaten streak to 16 regular-season games the second longest in league history.
"It's special for us," Morales said, "because we know that they are one of the best teams in this league."
Yet RSL all but assured it will be viewed as the championship favorite, at least for now, with its withering display against the team it defeated for the 2009 MLS Cup.
Morales scored twice once on a penalty and the relentless Paulo added his first goal of the season after setting up the second-fastest strike in team history just 84 seconds into the game.
His cross from the left side skipped under teammate Fabian Espindola, but found Andy Williams in perfect position to knock it home and commence the deluge. Minutes later, Paulo set up the Morales penalty by forcing goalkeeper Josh Saunders to take him down in the box. The first half comprised "probably the best soccer I've seen in this stadium from this team," RSL coach Jason Kreis said. "It was just a sheer delight to watch that."
While the Galaxy eventually pulled one back when Juan Pablo Angel struck off a David Beckham free kick in the 80th minute, they probably wondered what hit them.
Sure, they were playing without Landon Donovan and injured goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, but RSL was without Alvaro Saborio, Will Johnson and Arturo Alvarez all away on international duty, as was Donovan.
The Galaxy hadn't allowed four goals since a 6-3 home loss to FC Dallas on Sept. 12, 2009.
"We know we're better than that," Angel said. "But we have to prove it on the field. … We put ourselves in a very difficult position right from the beginning."
Things might have been different had Beckham's free kick just moments after the opening goal found the net instead of the post.
But RSL took the Galaxy by the throat with a torrid pace and built a 3-0 lead by halftime.
Morales scored in the 10th and 41st minutes before Paulo struck off a perfect cross from Espindola in the 68th minute. Espindola had settled perfectly under a long ball from Rimando that bounded between two Galaxy defenders even though Rimando had worried that an ankle injury would prevent him from taking such kicks.
After passing pregame fitness tests, though, both he and Olave were back in the starting lineup Olave missed the league opener at San Jose last weekend with a strained hamstring and watching a savage display by their teammates.
"That's how we play," Rimando said. "We're aggressive at home, and even when we go on the road. That's the only way we know how to play. … When we're at home, we want to attack. We have the players to do that, and obviously, we got some goals tonight from that."
R IN SHORT • RSL crushes the L.A. Galaxy 4-1 in its sold-out MLS home opener.
KEY STAT • RSL is unbeaten in 36 straight home games.
KEY MOMENT • Andy Williams scores just 84 seconds into the game, the second-fastest goal in RSL history.