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07 November 1:23 pm

LA Galaxy trends toward a less creative midfield, and even from the flanks this is largely the case. This provides a platform for three or four attacking players to showcase their abilities in tonight's Western Conference Semifinal second leg, and when your primary attacking pair is Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane, there's plenty of that. But with the opponent in a more defensive midfield, RSL will have an opportunity to utilize their creative midfield to attempt a breakthrough.

Midfield creativity

Javier Morales will look toward finding the gaps between the midfield and the defense, which inevitably pushes back the LA Galaxy midfield a bit too as they attempt to cover his movement. This opens up space in other places, which proves vital. He'll also be important for set pieces, but our reluctancy to capitalize on set pieces won't help us there. He may instead look to go directly at goal with free kicks, and who could blame him? He's scored some screamers.

Sebastian Velasquez is likely to step into Ned Grabavoy's spot on the left, and this will give him room to make diagonal runs to and away from the flanks. He'll need to capitalize in spaces vacated by Morales as he embarks on runs with and without the ball.

Luis Gil will be tasked with a bit more defensive work than usual in Grabavoy's absence, but he too will need to embark on runs. With Tony Beltran to his right, he'll be involved in plenty of interchanges with the fullback as they look to move the ball forward from the right.

Balanced play

Kyle Beckerman will need to be as aware as ever but eminently willing to capitalize on opportunities to break forward. His passing is never in question, and that'll be vital tonight.

Tony Beltran, as above, will need to work with Luis Gil on the right flank to move the ball forward, but he'll also need to make those overlapping runs on the right side to be effective. But beyond that, he'll have to be ready to burst back in defense. He showed incredibly well against Landon Donovan last weekend, and he'll almost surely have to do so again.

Chris Schuler will, with any luck, not be forced into so many last-ditch tackles and clearances. Instead, we'll be hoping for some balance from Schuler as he steps forward to make an interception before splaying the ball to a full back.

Attacking options

Alvaro Saborio pushes the side forward in important ways, but his biggest role will be in helping the midfield transition into the attack. It's a role that is masked by his goalscoring contributions (which are equally important and follow as a result of this play) — his distributive properties may not lead to high-percentage passing, but he is a chance creator.

His mystery partner remains in question. Robbie Findley offers speed, which is an obviously important factor, but he also offers a willingness to track back and at pace. Joao Plata, on the other hand, offers more finesse in attack but less counterattacking opportunity. In most factors, they end up at about sixes. Olmes Garcia offers a more mysterious option, but it's hard to see him starting, as he hasn't made the bench for the last few matches. 

regular contributor to RealSaltLake.com, Matt Montgomery runs the SB Nation blog RSL Soapbox. Follow Matt on Twitter @TheCrossbarRSL

07 November 11:17 am

Seriously, no one wants another LA-Houston MLS Cup. 

RSL can nip that potential matchup in the bud by advancing past the Galaxy in Thursday's Western Conference Semifinal second leg. Get out to Rio Tinto Stadium early, wear red and be loud. 

#MLS4RSL #Believe

06 November 2:31 pm

Real Salt Lake will be without one of its most prominent players in Thursday's Western Conference Semifinal second leg, as midfielder Ned Grabavoy will miss the match due to a left hamstring strain picked up in Sunday's 1-0 first leg loss at LA. 

RSL Head Coach Jason Kreis told media on Wednesday that Grabavoy will not play due to the injury. The veteran midfielder left Sunday's match in the 61st minute after picking up the knock earlier in the match. 

Grabavoy had a career year in the 2013 regular season, scoring five goals and tallying five assists in 32 appearances - 29 of which were starts - for the Claret-and-Cobalt. Look for Sebastian Velasquez to be a candidate to replace Grabavoy in the starting lineup on Thursday. 

05 November 5:46 pm

This is likely old hat for most of you, but - just in case - we wanted to outline the scenarios that will see RSL advance past the second leg of the Western Conference Semifinals at Rio Tinto Stadium on Thursday. 

Here we go. RSL will advance past LA and into the Western Conference Final against either Portland or Seattle with: 

  • A win by two or more goals after 90 minutes on Thursday night 
  • A win by one goal in regulation on Thursday, followed by:

    • Winning outright after completion of the two, 15-minute extra time periods
    • Winning a penalty kick shootout, should extra time end with the sides still tied

The Claret-and-Cobalt's season will end on Thursday with any other outcome. 

The winner of the RSL-LA Western Conference Semifinal will advance to the Western Conference Final against the winner of the Portland-Seattle semi. The Timbers lead the Sounders 2-1 after last Saturday's first leg; Portland will host Seattle in the decisive second leg at 9:00 p.m. MT on Thursday. The two-legged Western Conference Final series will begin this Sunday, Nov. 10, with the lower remaining seed hosting the first leg. 

05 November 10:13 am

Another awesome video from our man Brian Dunseth and the folks at ABC 4, with Dunny taking on RSL defender Chris Schuler in another Crossbar Challenge segment. 

Give the piece a watch above. Definitely worth your time. 

04 November 3:00 pm

 

Real Salt Lake dropped the first leg of its Western Conference Semifinal series with the LA Galaxy on Sunday night, losing 1-0 at StubHub Center.

Here are a few interesting numbers from the match:

3

Real Salt Lake and LA Galaxy have now met in the playoffs three times, posting a 1-2-0 record against the California side in the postseason. Before Sunday’s loss, the Claret-and-Cobalt beat the Galaxy in penalties in MLS Cup 2009 in Seattle and lost 3-1 to LA in the 2011 Western Conference Final in Carson.

0-1-0

With Real Salt Lake’s 1-0 loss to LA Galaxy, the Claret-and-Cobalt must win the series’ decisive second leg on Thursday at Rio Tinto Stadium in order to have a shot at advancing to the Western Conference Final. If the teams are tied on aggregate at the end of regulation in Thursday’s second leg, there will be a pair of 15-minute extra time periods. If the teams remain tied following extra time, the series will be decided by a penalty kick shootout.

4

Sunday’s match marked the fourth time this season that Real Salt Lake did not start a match in its usual diamond formation. The Claret-and-Cobalt were 3-0-0 in the previous three times they departed from the diamond setup, beating Toronto FC 1-0 at BMO Field on June 29, topping FC Dallas 3-0 at Toyota Stadium on July 13 and beating the Houston Dynamo 1-0 at Rio Tinto Stadium on Aug. 10.

5-9-1

Real Salt Lake now posts a 5-9-1 road at LA Galaxy in all competitions. Before Real Salt Lake’s 4-2 loss to LA Galaxy at StubHub Center on Aug. 17, the Claret-and-Cobalt had won five straight games at the StubHub Center (formerly known as the Home Depot Center). RSL had gone 5-0-0 (2-0-0 against LA; 3-0-0 against Chivas USA) at the Carson facility since the start of the 2012 MLS season.

45

Real Salt Lake and LA Galaxy have now scored the exact number of goals – 45 – against each other across all MLS competition.

5-3-4

Real Salt Lake has recorded a 5-3-4 record at home against LA Galaxy and will host the defending MLS Cup champions this Thursday at Rio Tinto Stadium.

03 November 4:30 pm

Real Salt Lake fans: You, your songs, your celebrations and your passion make RSL what it is. 

Share the moments that make being a fan of the Claret-and-Cobalt unique on Twitter, Instagram and Vine with #WatchThis and you could win a trip to MLS Cup. 

Should you win, you'll get behind-the-scenes access to MLS Cup, and you'll be invited to share it all on your social media accounts. What's more, the best #WatchThis moments will be featured on MLSsoccer.com throughout the MLS Cup Playoffs. One video and one photo submission will be selected as winners on or before Sunday, Nov. 24. Read the official rules here

Make sure you tune-in to RSL's MLS Cup Playoffs opener at LA Galaxy at 7:00 p.m. MT on ESPN on Sunday night. 

02 November 4:12 pm

Real Salt Lake trained on Saturday for the final time ahead of Sunday’s Western Conference Semifinal first leg at LA, putting in a light – but spirited – training session at a StubHub Center practice field ahead of Sunday’s 7:00 p.m. MT kick against the Galaxy.

Nothing major to report from training, though there was a light-hearted shooting contest that took place at the end of the session.

Check out the video above to see some footage from today’s practice and be sure to tune-in to the first leg on ESPN on Sunday night at 7:00 p.m. MT. 

02 November 11:48 am

MLSsoccer.com's Matt Doyle and Dan Haiek put out another fine edition of The Scouting Report ahead of Sunday's Western Conference Semifinal series first leg between Real Salt Lake and LA Galaxy at StubHub Center. Their keys? Chris Schuler and Nat Borchers v. Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan and Javier Morales v. Juninho. 

Check out the video above. Well worth a watch. 

01 November 2:00 pm

Stopping LA Galaxy — Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan are the chief targets, but others remain dangerous — is not a simple task. But that's exactly the task Real Salt Lake will be tasked with on Sunday when they launch their playoff campaign.

Pressure

It's of real importance that the opposition midfielders be allowed minimal time on the ball. The more time Galaxy midfielders (and forwards dropping into deep positions) are given to find a killer pass, the greater the likelihood that we'll concede a goal. This doesn't necessitate the high pressure one might expect from other sides in MLS — instead, we can keep the same pressuring tactics we normally deploy, with our pressure increasing as the opponent nears our half. By approaching it in this way, we can avoid problems stemming from late overcommitment.

Transition

Following from that, we must also avoid getting hit in transition phases: We're facing a side that finds great joy in those moments. As a relevant example, three of their four goals they scored in a 4-2 win against us came with few of their players even in our half, let alone involved in the attack. It's a style that's afforded to them by the great individual skill of a few players and the willingness by others to remain in defensive positions during those moments. When your counterattack runs essentially three or four on six opposition players and ends in a goal scored, you're likely to find greater success.

Chances

Because of the threat offered by LA Galaxy on set pieces, RSL will need to be slightly more cautious when playing in the opposition half than they'd prefer to be. Creativity is a must, but an awareness of danger and willingness to sprint back to recover — from all players and not just those with more defensive roles — is necessary. As such, we must be willing to exercise patience in the opposition half, and in the final third we must take our chances quickly. Anything else presents too much risk for an unlikely reward.

regular contributor to RealSaltLake.com, Matt Montgomery runs the SB Nation blog RSL Soapbox. Follow Matt on Twitter @TheCrossbarRSL