Galaxy-Real Salt Lake Preview
Real Salt Lake has already defeated the Los Angeles Galaxy this season.
Doing it again would make rookie Jeff Cassar the first RSL coach to accomplish the feat in back-to-back meetings in a single season.
Salt Lake attempts to keep Cassar unbeaten through his first three games Saturday when it hosts the Galaxy in the continuation of a grueling opening schedule.
RSL (1-0-1) began the season with a 1-0 win at Los Angeles on March 8 as Nick Rimando saved a penalty kick by Robbie Keane in stoppage time. The team then squandered a two-goal lead in the final 15 minutes last Saturday to settle for a 3-all draw at San Jose.
"Four points in two road games – super pleased with that," Cassar said. "It feels like a loss, but at the end of the day, it’s a point on the road against a very difficult team."
The schedule doesn’t get any easier for Real and Cassar, who replaced Jason Kreis on the bench after he was hired by expansion New York City FC.
After facing the Galaxy (0-1-0) again, RSL hosts revamped Toronto FC next weekend before visiting Kansas City on April 5 in a rematch of the 2013 MLS Cup final, which Salt Lake dropped on penalties.
A healthy Rimando, who started ahead of Cassar when they were teammates on Miami in 2001, could play a vital role in helping Real start a season unbeaten in three games for the first time since winning the first four of 2011.
Rimando hurt his back against the Earthquakes, but he finished with seven saves after making nine versus Los Angeles.
"Never had a feeling like that with my back," Rimando told the team’s official website. "With some treatment, the back loosened up. No problems at all. I feel 100 percent."
Joao Plata is also off to a strong start as he seems to be taking on a greater role under Cassar. The 5-foot-2 forward has scored in both games, and he added an assist on Kyle Beckerman’s goal against the Earthquakes.
Plata has scored in back-to-back meetings with the Galaxy.
Los Angeles has been idle in league play since the season opener against RSL, but it posted a 1-0 win over Club Tijuana in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League on March 12 before being eliminated with a 4-2 defeat Tuesday in the return leg in Mexico.
"We didn’t win a tackle, our back line was very poor," coach Bruce Arena said. "Let’s be fair, we weren’t good. How good they were I don’t know. They were certainly better than we were."
Todd Dunivant’s return from a hamstring injury could provide a lift. The defender made his season debut off the bench Tuesday, and he’s aiming to be in the lineup Saturday.
"I felt good," Dunivant told the team’s official website. "I played a little bit more on the attacking end, almost like a midfielder."
Keane is looking to build on his two goals from Tuesday, and he has four in five career regular-season meetings with RSL.