LA Galaxy 5, Real Salt Lake 0 | MLS Cup Playoffs Match Recap
Landon Donovan isn't ready to call it a career just yet. Far from it.
Donovan served up his latest virtuoso postseason performance on Sunday night, scoring his first career playoff hat trick to lead the LA Galaxy to a comprehensive 5-0 win over Real Salt Lake that books them a spot in the Western Conference Championship in the MLS Cup Playoffs, presented by AT&T.
Donovan's trio of strikes makes him the first player with five multi-goal playoff games, pushing past goal kings Roy Lassiter and Carlos Ruiz, who have four apiece. He's also the third player in MLS history to record a playoff hat trick, joining Raul Diaz Arce (1996) and Stern John (1999).
The Galaxy now await the winner of the other Western Conference semifinal series between the Seattle Sounder and FC Dallas, which will conclude on Monday night in Seattle.
The loss was the most lopsided in the postseason history of Real Salt Lake, who saw their season end against the Galaxy for the second time in the past four years. It was also the first time in franchise history they allowed four goals in a postseason game.
Both sides tweaked their lineups for leg 2, as Ned Grabavoy returned to the RSL midfield in place of Luis Gil, while LA brought on Stefan Ishizaki for Baggio Husidic, moved AJ DeLaGarza out to right back in place of Dan Gargan and inserted Leonardo at center back.
A cagey opening was sparked into life after 10 minutes by Donovan, who popped up at the back post to nod home a dipping cross from DeLaGarza after a snappy Galaxy passing sequence carved open the RSL back line, highlighted by a lovely chip from Marcelo Sarvas.
LA drew more blood from their guests 10 minutes later, doubling their lead with Donovan again at the heart of the play. After a poor Luke Mulholland pass handed the Galaxy possession in the Salt Lake half, Juninho laid a pass into the path of Donovan's scampering run down the left channel.
Robbie Keane, who was offside at the beginning of the play, scrambled to get himself back on right in front of Nick Rimando's goal and Donovan found him for an easy finish from close range, RSL's back line raising their hands but finding no relief from the assistant referee.
RSL looked woozy from the early one-two punch and struggled to assert their usual possession wizardry, though the Galaxy did suffer a minor setback when Leonardo came up limping after a slide and had to be replaced by Tommy Meyer in the 37th minute.
RSL tried to rally after the break but suffered another hammer blow 10 minutes in as Keane and Donovan combined again to devastating effect. This time they swapped roles, as Keane laid a measured through ball into space behind the RSL back line as LA counterattacked, Donovan outracing Tony Beltran and slaloming around Rimando to finish calmly into an empty net to push the score to 3-0.
The visitors tried to haul themselves back into contention as Kyle Beckerman directed a header on target three minutes later, only to be denied by a nimble save by Jaime Penedo, in the Panamanian's first action of the night.
But Sarvas dashed any flickering hopes of an RSL comeback in the 63rd, ranging forward to combine with Keane and outmuscle Grabavoy before stroking a low finish past Rimando to push LA's game and aggregate lead to 4-0.
And the Galaxy weren't done. In the 72nd minute Salt Lake allowed Keane to turn towards goal with the ball at his feet just outside the penalty box and the Irishman punished them, scooping a delightful chip over Chris Schuler into the path of Donovan's late run.
LA's No. 10 sidefooted past a helpless Rimando to complete his hat trick and put another exclamation point on a stunning destruction of last year's Western Conference champions.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Landon Donovan||What more can be said? The highlights do the talking. No one in MLS history can dominate in the postseason like LD.|
|2||Robbie Keane||First player to record three assists in a playoff game since Guillermo Barros Schelotto in the 2008 MLS Cup. 'Nuff said.|
|3||Marcelo Sarvas||He'll be happy with a rare appearance on the scoresheet, but Bruce Arena will be happier with his imperious dominance of central midfield.|