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Galaxy's season ends in 2-0 loss to Real Salt Lake

Chris Schuler scores the winning goal in the first overtime for Real Salt Lake as the Galaxy's bid for a third consecutive MLS Cup ends.

November 08, 2013|By Kevin Baxter

The Galaxy's high-octane offense sputtered to a stop at the worst possible time Thursday, running out of gas just outside Salt Lake City to halt the team's chances for an unprecedented third consecutive Major League Soccer championship.

Outplayed and outworked over 120 minutes by a determined Real Salt Lake, the Galaxy was ultimately outscored as well, dropping a 2-0 decision and losing the two-leg Western Conference semifinal, 2-1, on aggregate goals at a frigid Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.

That sends Salt Lake on to the conference finals with Portland, a 3-2 winner over Seattle on Thursday, while the Galaxy returns home to begin thinking about next season.

The scores came on a bouncing header from Sebastian Velasquez in the 35th minute and on a sliding right-footed shot from Chris Schuler at the far post 12 minutes into overtime. And even with Salt Lake playing the final 10 minutes short-handed after losing Alvaro Saborio to injury, the Galaxy was unable to answer either goal.

Thursday wasn't the first game this season in which the Galaxy missed high-scoring forward Mike Magee, whom the team traded to Chicago for the rights to Robbie Rogers last May. But it may have been the most costly.

Because without Magee, who scored six times in 10 postseason games the last two seasons, Salt Lake's defense was able to focus on Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane, holding them without a shot on goal in the first half and just one in the game.

The Galaxy's best sequence came midway through the second half when Keane slipped a deft pass to Rogers, whose weak shot made for an easy save. Donovan tried to latch on to the rebound, but keeper Nick Rimando smothered the chance.

Three minutes later a left-footed shot from Rogers found only the side of the net.

By then Real Salt Lake was up, 1-0, on Velasquez's first-ever MLS goal. The Colombian midfielder raced unmarked into the six-yard box and got his head on a Chris Wingert cross, redirecting it past Galaxy keeper Jaime Penedo and into the net near the left post.

The goal, Real Salt Lake's first postseason score in two years and 370 minutes, evened the aggregate score at 1-1.

Penedo remained under assault all night, but he wasn't beaten again until overtime, when Schuler got his boot onto a long free kick from Javier Morales at the far post, tapping it in. That left the winded Galaxy needing a score just to get the playoff to a penalty-kick tiebreaker.

And they had two shots at it, but a Jose Villarreal header from the center of the box went over the crossbar and a Juninho shot from distance took an odd hop and struck Rimando in the face.

That save, which came in the 116th minute, was only the second Rimando was forced to make all night.

The Galaxy was fortunate to get the match to overtime, so dominant was Real Salt Lake in the regulation 90 minutes. But some bad luck — two shots bounced off the goal frame in the final 15 minutes and one that did find the back of the net was waved off because of a foul — and some stellar play from Penedo kept the Galaxy in the match.

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

Twitter: @kbaxter11

Baxter reported from Los Angeles.

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