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May 10, 2024 10:07 pm

Real Salt Lake, Galaxy prepare for battle of West contenders

cristian arango

Real Salt Lake will visit the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday night in Carson, Calif., for a meeting of teams that are proving themselves genuine Western Conference contenders.

Salt Lake (6-2-3, 21 points) has won three in a row and gone unbeaten in seven to climb to the top of the West table.

Striker Cristian Arango has emerged as the most likely challenger to Miami’s Lionel Messi in the MLS MVP conversation, having scored nine goals and assisted seven more.

Behind him is a team that RSL coach Pablo Mastroeni believes is showing a contending mentality, as evidenced by last weekend’s gutsy 1-0 win over visiting Sporting Kansas City.

“You’re not always going to have your best stuff, as we didn’t have tonight,” Mastroeni said postgame. “But … the mindset that the guys came out with in the second half, I thought was fantastic. And when you’re not playing your best, you’ve got to still get points.”

Salt Lake kept its fourth clean sheet and third at home this season. And RSL have continued where they left off last year as the league’s best road team, going 3-1-2 in their first six away fixtures.

The Galaxy (5-2-4, 19 points) are coming off an impressive scoreless draw at the Seattle Sounders that came without several of their regular starters.

Attacking midfielder Riqui Puig served a yellow-card-accumulation suspension, while team scoring leader Dejan Joveljic and midfielder Mark Delgado were out due to health issues.

That trio has all returned to training and should be available this weekend, coach Greg Vanney said. Meanwhile, offseason signee Joseph Paintsil continues to be among the best MLS newcomers, having already contributed four goals and four assists.

Although the Galaxy have gone two matches without a victory to lose their grip on the conference lead, Vanney is pleased with the performance level considering his team has already played seven away matches.

“I think we’ve done a nice job of managing what the schedule has been,” the coach said. “We’ve played in some tough places where we haven’t really picked up results in the past.”

–Field Level Media

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