MLS

LA Galaxy v Real Salt Lake: Vanney encouraged ahead of top-of-the-table tussle

By Sports Desk May 09, 2024

Greg Vanney believes the LA Galaxy are in a good spot both physically and mentally ahead of Saturday's clash with fellow Western Conference high-fliers Real Salt Lake.

The Galaxy sit third in the West through 11 matches of the season, though they have failed to win back-to-back road games against Austin FC (0-2) and the Seattle Sounders (0-0).

They are, however, unbeaten in all four of their home league games this term (two wins, two draws), and Vanney is looking forward to returning to Dignity Health Sports Park next time out.

"Physically, first and foremost, we're in a pretty good spot. We have a few guys coming back from issues that were pretty minor," Vanney said.

"It's good. We've been able to stay in that space for a while and now we're going into a busy part of the schedule we can make some choices about how we want to attack the week.

"Where are we mentally? We're good. It's nice to be home, it's a challenge to play a lot of games on the road early doors.

"We like the spot we're in and we want to keep building, but we've got to get through this tough stretch of games."

Real Salt Lake are top of the Western standings with 21 points, only losing twice in 11 league games this year.

However, they were dumped out of the U.S. Open Cup by New Mexico United on Wednesday, Pablo Mastroeni shuffling his pack for a 4-2 road loss.

"We completely tuned out," Mastroeni said after watching his team go 2-0 down within 20 minutes.

"The emotion is like, 'poor me,' and when you operate from that space, you can never think reasonably."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

LA Galaxy – Gabriel Pec

The Galaxy (12 shots) and Seattle (19) combined for 31 shots in their scoreless draw last time out.

Pec – who has two goals in 10 league appearances since joining the Galaxy in the offseason – recorded six of his team's attempts, but only hit the target once. He will be targeting an improvement here.

Real Salt Lake – Cristian Arango 

Arango is the first Real Salt Lake player to contribute to at least one goal in five straight regular-season away matches, recording four goals and five assists during his streak.

He is just the second player since the start of last season to record a goal contribution in five straight MLS away matches, after the Columbus Crew's Cucho Hernandez.

MATCH PREDICTION – LA GALAXY WIN

The Galaxy have lost only one of their last 13 home matches against Real Salt Lake (nine wins, three draws) including going unbeaten through the last seven in a row. 

The last two meetings in Carson have both ended level, though, after the Galaxy won nine of the previous 11 (one draw, one defeat).

However, Vanney's team have only lost one of their last 14 regular-season home matches dating back to last June, winning six and drawing six while averaging 2.2 goals per game throughout this run.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

LA Galaxy – 44.8%

Real Salt Lake – 27.8%

Draw – 27.4%

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    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Portland Timbers – Jonathan Rodriguez

    While Evanilson is a constant threat for Portland (and their joint-top scorer of the season with eight goals), Rodriguez is close to equalling his tally.

    He scored the winner against San Jose on Wednesday, netting his seventh goal of the campaign.

    Vancouver Whitecaps – Ryan Gauld

    Gauld was a bright spark for Vancouver in their disappointing defeat to New England last weekend, scoring both goals.

    He was clinical; despite amassing an xG of just 0.09, he had the joint-most shots (three), scoring with both of his attempts on target and also creating three chances.

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    The Whitecaps are unbeaten in their last five Cascadia rivalry matches against Portland and the Seattle Sounders (three wins, two draws), their longest such run since a seven-match streak between 2013 and 2014.

    They have also won their last two games against the Timbers, recording 3-2 victories both home and away in August 2023 and March 2024.

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    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Portland Timbers – 43.6%

    Draw – 23.8%

    Vancouver Whitecaps – 29.6%

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