The LA Galaxy were better for 90 minutes. They created almost all of the chances and, time and time again, they put the ball at the feet of Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan right in front of goal. All of this while Jaime Penedo only had to make to saves. So how did they only beat Real Salt Lake 1-0 in the first leg of their Western Conference semifinal?
Most of the credit belongs to Nat Borchers and Chris Schuler, both of whom had a handful of tremendous last ditch tackles to keep LA from adding to their lead, while Keane also deserves a pat on the bench of wasting a half-dozen chances in his worst match of the year. As a result, LA heads to Salt Lake with a mere one-goal advantage and, without the away goals rule, RSL has to feel as good as the Galaxy ahead of the second leg.
1. Will Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan find it again? Keane was the headliner in the Galaxy's struggles to add a second goal on Sunday, but Donovan wasn't much better. He also blew chances at goal and to top it all off, the two couldn't connect all night as they misread each other runs and missed on passes. For arguably the league's best one-two punch, it was shocking. Without David Beckham and Mike Magee, the Galaxy are extremely dependent on Keane and Donovan so the two better find their form by Thursday.
2. Can RSL slow the LA counterattack? Jason Kreis opted to start Yordany Alvarez in the first leg, largely to slow down the Galaxy counterattack and, for the most part, it worked. The LA counter didn't get going until after the double pivot of Alvarez and Kyle Beckerman was broken up by substitutions, but back at home, Kreis is likely to revert to RSL's more normal diamond midfield. Without the two-man shield for the back line, able to break up the Galaxy counter before it gets going, will Salt Lake still be able to keep LA from hitting them on the break?
3. Will the Galaxy defense hold up away? There are questions about the LA defense, and rightfully so, but the concerns are much more pronounced away from home than they are at the StubHub Center. The Galaxy defense allowed 30 goals away, more than triple what they did at home, and while LA may have done well at the back on Sunday, it will be a completely different test at Rio Tinto Stadium. That's especially true for whoever partners Omar Gonzalez because Kofi Opare is short on experience and A.J. DeLaGarza's fitness remains a concern.
4. Can RSL get Alvaro Saborio chances? It's tough to say that Saborio played poorly in LA because he never really got a chance to do much. The Galaxy defense took away Saborio's service, largely by silencing Javier Morales, and the best look Saborio got was a spinning shot from 20 yards. That's not to say that Saborio doesn't need to do better than he did on Sunday, but he is one of MLS's best strikers. For him, it comes down to getting service more than anything.
5. Will LA get anything from the flanks? The Galaxy have struggled to get production from the wings all season and while Gyasi Zardes has helped out in the last couple months on the left, his dangerous play hasn't turned into chances in weeks. Meanwhile, Robbie Rogers has been completely ineffective on the other side and Hector Jimenez hasn't been much better. RSL's diamond midfield can be undone when they are stretched, but the Galaxy will need to get good wing play to do it.