Real Salt Lake, LA Galaxy settle for scoreless draw to open Western Conference semifinal

BY Kyle McCarthy • November 1, 2014

LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake will enter the second leg of their Western Conference semifinal on level footing after settling for a 0-0 draw at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday night.

RSL enjoyed the better of the play in front of the sold-out crowd in Sandy, but the home side could not figure out a way to beat Jaime Penedo and secure a lead to take back to StubHub Center next Sunday. Penedo produced six saves on the night -- including an important stop on Joao Plata early in the second half and a late stop on a Javier Morales clip -- to give the Galaxy a precious result.

The outcome will largely suit both sides with the Galaxy confident of securing a victory at home and RSL reinforced by the fact that a scoring draw will send them through to the Western Conference final to face either FC Dallas or Seattle.

Both teams started solidly enough by using their considerable knowledge of the opposition to set out their stalls appropriately. The visitors once again relied on their work in possession to carry them through in the first half, while RSL leaned on Kyle Beckerman to break up the play and start the quick transition toward Plata and Alvaro Saborio.

Saborio perhaps found himself with the best chance of the opening stanza inside the first 15 minutes. Javier Morales located the shoddily marked Costa Rican with his corner kick. Saborio nodded the ball down well, but the effort bounced just wide of the far post to give the Galaxy a rather narrow escape.

The assistant referee also aided the cause when he raised his flag on Plata as he raced behind the Galaxy line. Replays did not vinidicate the decision or the subsequent choice at the other end to rule a later goal by Gyasi Zardes out for a similar infraction.

There were other routes to goal, though. RSL found room in the wide areas from time to time and tried to pull apart the Galaxy rearguard with runs behind fullbacks Dan Gargan and Robbie Rogers. Luis Gil produced a decent opportunity with his clever bit of skill to elude Gargan on the left, but the Galaxy cut out his resulting cross toward Saborio before RSL could inflict any harm.

RSL entered the break as the happier of the two sides and started the second half brightly as well. Plata forced a fine save from Penedo in the early stages of the second stanza to establish the tone of the proceedings. The visitors looked for the counter early and often as RSL improved markedly in possession during the second half (62 percent, per Opta statistics) and started to assert more control over the proceedings.

Those efforts forced Penedo to rescue his side from time to time. Morales and Saborio combined to provide Plata with an opportunity on the hour, but Penedo rushed out to block. Morales then tried to curl home from a corner kick only to see the Panama number one recover in time to parry the effort away.

The home side continued its pressure in the waning stages to no avail. Penedo made a straightforward stop on Saborio, but he saved his best to deny Morales on two attempts in the final moments to ensure his side returned to Carson on level pegging.

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