Steve Carrillo

LA Galaxy Fall to Real Salt Lake. Playoff Chances take a hit.

The LA Galaxy started better than they have all season. But a goal from Jonathan dos Santos inside of the first 40 seconds of the match wasn’t anywhere close to decisive as they fell to Real Salt Lake by an embarrassing 6-2 scoreline on Saturday night in Sandy, Utah.

The Galaxy (10-10-8) started the game with injuries still affecting the starting lineup with Galaxy ironman Chris Pontius apparently picking up a knock in training. And with several ailing superstars on the bench – Giovani dos Santos, Romain Alessandrini, and Sebastian Lletget – the Galaxy moved Michael Ciani into the center of defense and returned Jonathan dos Santos to the field for the first time since picking up an injury 34 minutes into a 2-2 tie with Colorado on August 14.

The move backfired dramatically for Galaxy head coach Sigi Schmid as Ciani cost the Galaxy at least three goals before being subbed off in the 62-minute of the match for Alessandrini.

Real Salt Lake (13-10-5) got goals from Albert Rusnák (14′, 68′), Damir Kreilach (45’+3′, 61′, 71′), and Jefferson Savarino (48′) on the night. That makes 12 goals in the last two games for RSL, only their 6-0 win over Colorado Rapids last weekend came at the expense of two red cards to the Rapids. The Galaxy didn’t have that excuse as they finished the match with all 11 players.

For the Galaxy, however, it was a night of being somewhat unfortunate while also being very bad.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic had a header go off the post in the first minute of stoppage time in the first half. Only to see RSL go down to the other end of the field and score.

The Galaxy will also feel they were hard-done-by officiating in the match with the assistant referee calling Ola Kamara offside when the replay showed he was onside. The whistle, negating a chance for VAR to review a possible goal if the AR would have let the game play out, kept Kamara from scoring as he was in alone on Rimando with the pass.

But nothing can truly be blamed on being unlucky in a game that saw the defense allow six goals.

Dave Romney, Jorgen Skjelvik, Rolf Feltscher, Michael Ciani and Ashley Cole were continually victimized by quicker, forward-thinking plays from RSL. And this is from a defense that was starting to pull itself together after a 1-1 draw with LAFC last week.

Ciani, all by himself, was responsible for the first three RSL goals. Rusnák was able to spin him at the top of the box for the first, Kreilach was able to score his first of night when a lofted ball from Brooks Lennon was able to go over his head, and then he saw a Savarino shot get deflected near the top of the box only to see it bounce over Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham’s head.

But to put anything solely on one defender wouldn’t explain the ineptness of the entire Galaxy backline or the defensive midfield. Perry Kitchen, Servando Carrasco, and Jonathan dos Santos were completely disconnected from the defense and the offense. They lost possession too easily and continually ceded possession to RSL giving the Galaxy no chance of putting together a decent run at goal.

In a small break from the everpresent RSL pressure, the Galaxy’s second goal of the game came in the 63-minute shortly after Alessandrini was subbed on. It was his first real touch of the ball as he received a switching pass from Jonathan dos Santos and quickly went to work on RSL defender Aaron Herrera. His cut inside, and his subsequent shot, deflected off of a sliding RSL player and went past Nick Rimando.

The Galaxy’s effort was wasted on the night. They now sit in seventh place in the Western Conference – just three points behind the Portland Timbers who occupy the sixth and final playoff spot – and just two points behind the Vancouver Whitecaps.

But both the Timbers and Whitecaps have at least one game in hand over the Galaxy, and that will make keeping up with them difficult. In fact, outside of RSL, the entire conference has at least one game in hand on the Galaxy.

The loss far from eliminates the Galaxy from contention. And a win against Toronto FC on September 15, and wins at home during their last six games could certainly vault them back into the race.

The bottom line, however, remains the same. The Galaxy are winless in their last six games, have conceded 11 goals in their last two road games, and look anything but a playoff team. Even Ibrahimovic seems a shell of himself in his recent games.

The Galaxy will have 14 days between matches as they observe an International break that will see Jonathan dos Santos and Feltscher depart the club for their respective teams (Mexico and Venezuela).

Whatever team makes it back onto the field in Toronto will need to come with a plan in place as to how they’re going to stop allowing easy goals. Because on this particular night, the only thing that could stop RSL from scoring goals was the referee’s final whistle.