Real Salt Lake-Galaxy Preview
There's been plenty of respect given by both teams in advance of the Western Conference championship between the Los Angeles Galaxy and Real Salt Lake - publicly at least.
If the teams' last meeting between is any indication, however, there may be some bad blood lingering.
The Galaxy and Real Salt Lake meet Sunday at The Home Depot Center, with the winner advancing to next weekend's MLS Cup.
Los Angeles has won nine straight games at The Home Depot Center, which will stage MLS Cup 2011 next Sunday. Within that streak was a 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake on Oct. 1.
The Galaxy rallied from a one-goal deficit, but the match was memorable for an incident during the post-game handshakes when Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis clashed with Los Angeles superstar David Beckham.
With a conference title on the line, the tone has been decidedly different leading up to this game.
"The games (against LA) have always been respectfully played," Kreis told Real Salt Lake's official website. "Very competitive, but a lot of really good soccer. And fun to watch games, and fun to be a part of."
Beckham echoed that sentiment.
"I think they're a good unit, I think they play the game the right way, in the right manner and they're an exciting team," Beckham said. "So we know we're up against it on Sunday but we gotta be ready for them."
Kreis has not revealed whether central defenders Jamison Olave and Nat Borchers will be available. Neither played in Real Salt Lake's second-leg semifinal game at Seattle on Wednesday.
Olave has a right quad strain and Borchers a knee problem. Both are listed as questionable.
"I'll be honest with you - I'm expecting them to play," coach Bruce Arena told the Galaxy's official website. "We're planning on them playing."
Olave and Borchers were big reasons why Real Salt Lake finished tied for the league's second-best defense, allowing 36 goals. Only the Galaxy allowed fewer with 28.
The last time these teams met in the postseason was in the 2009 MLS Cup, as RSL won on penalty kicks for its lone title.
"It's a good rivalry," RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando said. "I think it all started from MLS Cup. The last four years we've been consistent with our play, and got to where the Galaxy have always been. We're their competition, I think."
The Galaxy suffered one of their five losses, 4-1 at RSL on March 26, although midfielder Landon Donovan did not play and forward Robbie Keane had yet to join the team. Los Angeles still has long memories of that defeat.
"It was bitter cold and we can throw out a bunch of excuses but on that day they kicked our butts," forward Chad Barrett said.
Los Angeles eliminated New York 3-1 on aggregate in its semifinal series, and midfielder Juninho is eligible to return after being suspended for the second leg. RSL held on to beat Seattle 3-2 in its semifinal.
"It's going to be a tough game but they know how we play, we know how they play," Donovan said. "Whoever makes the plays that make a difference on Sunday is likely the one who's going to advance to the final."