Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando spoiled the night for a sold-out crowd of 25,364 at StubHub Center on Saturday night, blocking a Robbie Keane penalty kick in the 92nd minute to maintain a 1-0 lead that handed the Galaxy a loss in its season opener.
Although Real Salt Lake walked off with the 1-0 victory, the conversation of the game will center on questionable calls made by replacement referees who were calling the game after the league's officiating union could not settle a labor dispute before the start of the season.
Joao Plata's 80th-minute goal, which gave the visitors a one-goal lead that was enough for the win, was questionably ruled onside even though the Real Salt Lake forward seemed to be offside.
Only four minutes before the goal, the linesman had disallowed a goal by Salt Lake's Luke Mulholland, ruling him offside even though he was surrounded by Galaxy defenders.
And replays showed little contact from defender Tony Beltran on Galaxy forward Rob Friend on the play that led to the Galaxy penalty in stoppage time. But Rimando's save in the final minutes of the game spared the league what would have been the source of more conversation had Keane capitalized from the penalty spot in the final minutes of the match.
Keane had another clear opportunity to get on the score sheet in the first half when he found himself inside the 18-yard box but struck the ball to the left goal post of Rimando's box, in what was one of the best scoring opportunities of the half.
The Galaxy's new signing, Brazilian striker Samuel made quite an impression in his regular-season debut with the team as he combined well with the team's other attacking players — Keane, Gyasi Zardes and Landon Donovan — before being subbed off for fellow off-season acquisition, Rob Friend.
The 23-year-old Samuel displayed some of the fancy footwork Brazilian players are known for and drew some of the loudest cheers of the night shortly after the 30-minute mark. He took on a defender outside the 18-yard box and used a ricochet off the heel of his boot to send the ball up in the air and over his body, moving the ball ahead before being taken down outside the box.
Donovan came into the match looking to become the all-time league leader in goals scored during the regular season, but will have to wait until the Galaxy return to Major League Soccer action March 22 against Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium for another chance at the record. He finished last season tied for first place with Jeff Cunningham at 134. He is also the all-time leading scorer for the U.S. Men's national team with 57.
"To be honest, I don't think about it until it's brought up," he said. "Is it important? Yeah, it is. It means something to me. But I'll be glad when it's over, to be honest, so I can just get back to focusing."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun