:Headline: Preview: Los Angeles Galaxy vs. Real Salt Lake - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Sunday's Major League Soccer clash between Los Angeles Galaxy and Real Salt Lake, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
The Los Angeles Galaxy can extend their MLS unbeaten run at Dignity Health Sports Park to nine matches when they host Real Salt Lake on Saturday.
A 5-2 loss at Minnesota United last weekend officially eliminated the Galaxy from playoff contention, while Real Salt Lake snapped a two-game winning run, losing 3-2 versus Sporting Kansas City.
For the third time in their past four campaigns, the Galaxy will miss the post-season, losing three of their final four domestic road fixtures, as they currently sit second from the bottom in the Western Conference with 35 points.
They made a valiant effort to get back into playoff contention, losing just two of their 16 domestic encounters from the beginning of June until the end of September, but in the end, they could not overcome a disappointing start to the year, going winless in their opening seven MLS affairs.
While the frequent 4-3-3 formation put forward by Greg Vanney allowed them to be ball-dominant and have some good rhythm in possession this season, that setup did not seem to favour them defensively, as they were often burned out wide, while the Galaxy fullbacks appeared to be better suited as wing-backs.
That was just one of the many faults for this Galaxy team on the back end, as they have conceded a league-high 61 goals after 32 matches, including three or more on 11 occasions in this competition.
LA have been especially poor defensively late in matches, losing six points when leading in the second half this season while squandering another three after scoring first.
One thing the Galaxy can take solace in is the fact that if they win or draw this encounter, it would stretch their unbeaten run at home in this competition to nine matches, equalling their longest streak without an MLS defeat in Carson since 2018, and if they capture their final two contests it would be the first time since 2016 that they had not lost in 10 successive league fixtures at Dignity Health Sports Park.
Real Salt were second-best for much of their encounter versus SKC but nearly salvaged something nonetheless, scoring twice in the final 10 minutes and narrowly losing despite being a man down for much of the match.
Incurring the second-fastest expulsion in MLS history (37 seconds) was not the ideal start for Pablo Mastroeni's men, who were down by two goals before the 30-minute mark, winning just two regular season encounters all year when conceding the opener (both times versus the Vancouver Whitecaps by a 2-1 score) as they end the campaign with just six home victories, the fewest-ever for this club over a 34-game regular season.
Combine that with the fact that they have already set a franchise record for away wins in a 34-game season (seven), leading the Western Conference in that department, it would make one wonder if beginning the playoffs on the road would be such a bad thing for this club.
They have already guaranteed themselves a spot in the post-season for a third successive campaign, and if they can capture their final two fixtures of the regular-season, Claret and Cobalt would begin the playoffs at home for the first time since 2019.
That was the last year that this team reached the 50-point plateau in the regular season, something they will attain in 2023 with a win and draw from their final two league fixtures, while two victories would mark the fourth time since 2013 that they end a regular season with at least 15 wins.
RSL are winless in their last nine visits to Dignity Health Sports Park in league play, with their previous victory there against the Galaxy occurring in 2017 (6-2).
Los Angeles Galaxy Major League Soccer form:
Real Salt Lake Major League Soccer form:
Los Angeles have been bitten by the injury bug late in the season, with Riqui Puig (ankle) and Mark Delgado (head) both questionable for Saturday, Chris Mavinga (groin), Jalen Neal (sports hernia surgery), Martin Caceres (avulsion fracture) and Lucas Calegari (knee) are all doubtful with knocks, while Gaston Brugman (torn meniscus) and Chicharito (torn ACL) will not be back this year.
Kelvin Leerdam will not be available for the Galaxy this weekend as he is on international duty with Suriname at the CONCACAF Nations League.
Douglas Costa saw his two-match scoring run end in Minnesota on a night where Tyler Boyd moved into a tie with Puig for the team lead in MLS goals this year (seven), with Dejan Joveljic netting for the first time since September 24.
Justen Glad will be suspended for RSL on Saturday following his early red card against Sporting, Jasper Loffelsend is dealing with a sore ankle, Pablo Ruiz has an issue in his knee, Chicho Arango was taken off last weekend with a knock and Erik Holt will be doubtful because of a shoulder injury.
RSL will have to soldier on without Jefferson Savarino (Venezuela), Rubio Rubin (Guatemala), Braian Ojeda (Paraguay) and Kevon Lambert (Jamaica) as they were all called up to their respective national teams.
Maikel Chang collected his 100th MLS cap when he replaced Bryan Oviedo just beyond the hour mark last Saturday, Danny Musovski was a late scratch because of a minor knock, while Savarino and Brayan Vera netted in their defeat to SKC.
Los Angeles Galaxy possible starting lineup:
Bond; Cuevas, Yoshida, Mavinga, Edwards; Cerrillo, Aguirre; Boyd, Costa, Fagundez; Sharp
Real Salt Lake possible starting lineup:
MacMath; Brody, Silva, Vera, Oviedo; Chang, Ojeda, Kreilach, Luna; C. Gomez, Hidalgo
Both teams are missing some key attacking figures, but the Galaxy backline are like a wounded animal right now, and we believe RSL, who have been sharp away from home all year, will be able to pounce on the opportunities presented to them.
You can watch Los Angeles Galaxy vs. Real Salt Lake and every MLS match this season live on Apple TV. Click here for more details on how to subscribe.
For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.
Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 2.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Over 2.5:data
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