“Yeah, that’s my strong feeling that those two goals came so easily that the guys thought this was going to be a cake walk, and because of that, really let their foot off the gas and took a long time to recover from that," said RSL head coach Jason Kreis.
A pair of defensive gaffes and a terrific individual performance by Landon Donovan – who had a brace and an assist – negated a terrific start for the Western Conference leaders.
RSL began as well as any team could hope. In just the ninth minute, Chris Wingert fed Fabián Espíndola on the right flank, and the Argentine beat Todd Dunivant to the endline and sent it across the middle for Kyle Beckerman, who tapped home for the opener.
Then in the 24th minute, Espíndola played creator again, sending another ball to the middle to Álvaro Saborío. The Costa Rican just a piece of the cross, sending it bouncing up in the air a couple or times and to the lower-left corner of the net.
Then the tables turned. RSL defender Tony Beltran, deep in his own third, tried to send a pass back to ‘keeper Nick Rimando six minutes later. Donovan, however, saw the pass coming and rushed to intercept the ball and deposited it unopposed after beating Rimando.
It was only a sign of things to come. Real's giving mood continued just five minutes into the second half, with Jámison Olave giving the ball away to Donovan about 30 yards from goal. The Galaxy captain hit a perfect through-ball to Mike Magee, who took a touch and hit a brilliant, left-foot strike to the right corner that caromed off the inside of the post.
RSL looked to press and regain their lead, but LA caught them with too much space in the back in the 68th. Magee sent a ball from the left over the top toward Donovan, who beat an onrushing Rimando to ball, took one touch past and calmly booted it into the open net for the 3-2 lead.
“You go into the locker room 2-1 up at halftime and we think that we’re still in control, we are still in the driver’s seat, but we gave up that second goal," said RSL defender Nat Borchers. "Then we tried to push to go for the win, because that’s what we do when we’re at home, we’re always going to try to win.”
Real threw everything it had for the remaining time, but the Galaxy defense and keeper Josh Saunders came up huge time and time again, holding on to the final whistle and grabbing the road win.
"I’m really, really pleased with how we started the match and then not pleased with a lot of things from there," said Kreis. "However, I will say that I’m pleased the guys never gave up. They were going after the win until the 95th minute, so there was no quit in them tonight.”
The Galaxy improve to 5-8-2 after winning their second straight and return home to host Vancouver on Saturday.
RSL, meanwhile, fall to 10-4-2 and saw their lead on second-place San Jose reduced to just two points ahead of Saturday’s home clash with the Earthquakes.