If we scored the middle of the park like a prize fight, this was a KO for Real Salt Lake pair Kyle Beckerman and Javier Morales.
The LA Galaxy’s talented central pairing, Juninho and Marcelo Sarvas, never got a good foothold on Thursday’s big game at Rio Tinto Stadium. But the Beckerman-Morales duo were in control, as the home team claimed most of the possession and kept their opposition parts in check.
All four members of RSL’s midfield were relentless in their pressure and the resolve not to let L.A. develop any rhthym. (Not that the game had much of it; as windy conditions limited much of the pretty stuff from either side.)
Morales did something else, too: The veteran playmaker made the difference in the moments that mattered. It was Morales who swung a ball over to Chris Wingert in the first half, a sequence that eventually turned into the critical, aggregate goals equalizer.
But Morales’ bigger mark on the game came on two second half restarts, both from similar positioning along the left side.
His perfectly delivered 85th-minute free kick bounded directly into goal – only to be nullified when referee Baldomero Toledo called a foul or perhaps offside. It was never exactly clear. Either way, that was the right ball given the swirling wind inside Rio Tinto, which was giving player on both sides trouble and adding so much adventure to every restart.
Never mind the controversy, which won’t be quite such the talker now. Because Morales had another free kick special just like it. Chris Schuler lost his marker with a big, looping run around to the far post and stuck out his long right leg to get on the end of Morales’ sharp delivery. That was the series winner.
According to Opta, Morales created eight chances for Real Salt Lake — double what any other player on the field created.