Forget about the playoff implications of Wednesday's night Real Salt Lake-Los Angeles showdown. They're aren't any and never were any, save for the mathematical madness of possible points accrued minus potential points squandered by bubble teams multiplied by variance in the number of games to be played. Playing for pride and next year's contracts, and a nice and noisy crowd of 24,633 given fair and sufficient warning of David Beckham's absence, the Gals and Real swapped penalty kicks and golazos to end up tied, 2-2.
Neither team played especially well, not surprising given their combined records of 8-26-12 coming into the match and the ball skittering across perhaps the most artificial of the artificial MLS surfaces, that of Rice-Eccles Stadium.
In many ways, this game epitomized the nature of MLS matches expressed by Chivas USA coach Preki during his playing days; he described the typical league match along the lines of "everyone runs around at 100 miles an hour until somebody makes a mistake."
Mistakes aplenty there certainly were, but both teams conjured up chances in the first half through some sharp play.
Alecko Eskandarian held a ball in traffic before firing a shot that keeper Joe Cannon turned away, and in the 10th minute Edson Buddle ducked inside Ritchie Kotschau to hit a low drive Nick Rimando stretched to deflect off the base of the post.
Then Cannon saved smartly from Yura Movsisyan, playing his first game for Real since being traded by Kansas City. Then RSL midfielder Kyle Beckerman (also a recent trade acquisition, is there a trend here?) smashed a shot off the crossbar.
Good stuff at both ends, two shots off the woodwork, but no goals, and so onto the second half, and cue the miscues.
Cannon flubs a very catch-able chip and, while sprawled on the ground reaching for the loose ball, trips Movsisyan. Carey Talley puts away the penalty. 1-0 Real.
Jean-Martial Kipre lets Mike Randolph get inside him and in this tussle of young outside backs comes up second best when he yanks Randolph down by the jersey. Landon Donovan hits the PK high over Rimando. 1-1.
With just five minutes left Donovan does what he does best: accelerate through midfield and lay a perfect ball into the path of substitute Gavin Glinton, who rifles it past Rimando. Galaxy, 2-1.
Galaxy coach Frank Yallop breaks into a beaming smile for the first time, at least in public, since Memorial Day.
But slightly more than a minute later, a foul outside the penalty sets the stage for another sub, Javier Morales, to curl a free kick over the wall and inside the post for his first MLS goal. Real, 2-2. Yallop resumes his tortured countenance. Justifiably.
Twice more the Galaxy defense evaporated, but Kyle Brown's header went right to Cannon and in the final seconds Chris Brown's header cleared the keeper but was guided gently to safety from underneath the crossbar by the chest of midfielder Kelly Gray. Cool Kelly Gray saves the day! And a point.
And that's your unballyhooed battle of the bottom-feeders, folks. Hope you enjoyed it.
Sept. 19 in Salt Lake City
Real Salt Lake 2 Los Angeles 2.
Goals: Talley pen. 56, Morales 86; Donovan pen. 79, Glinton (Donovan) 85.
Real Salt Lake - Rimando, Kipre (Morales, 84), Kotschau, Pope, Wingert, Beckerman, Talley, Williams, Eskandarian (Brown, 75), Findley, Movsisyan (Brown, 67).
Los Angeles -Cannon, Klein, Harden, Roberts, Randolph, Donovan, Gray, Tudela, Martino (Kirk, 68), Buddle (Glinton, 46), Pavon.
Yellow Cards: Real Salt Lake - Kotschau 19, Eskandarian 58.