By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer
CARSON, Calif. (AP) -- When David Beckham put a dazzling pass off
Edson Buddle's forehead and into the net, the Los Angeles Galaxy
appeared to be picking up right where they left off last season
in their dominant run to the MLS title.
About 20 disastrous minutes later, Beckham and his Galaxy
realized nothing will be easy about repeating their championship
Javier Morales scored Real Salt Lake's go-ahead goal in the 80th
minute after a tying own-goal by Los Angeles' Sean Franklin, and
Fabian Espindola added another late score in a 3-1 victory that
spoiled the Galaxy's celebratory season opener Saturday night.
Before the game, fans from the Galaxy's top supporters groups
pulled down two black curtains in the rafters above the south
end of the pitch, unveiling Los Angeles' banners honoring the
club's second straight Supporters' Shield and its third MLS Cup
championship. But the celebration was over after Salt Lake
handed the Galaxy their first home loss in 26 matches since Nov.
Beckham's service on Buddle's 71st-minute goal was the most
impressive moment of the start of the English superstar's sixth
season with the Galaxy, who re-signed him to a two-year
contract. He was greeted with a pregame standing ovation at Home
Depot Center from a crowd holding signs reading "Welcome back
Beckham!" and "L.A. Loves You, David!"
"I saw a few welcome-back signs out there, but I didn't know I'd
gone," said Beckham, who lives in Los Angeles mostly year-round
Buddle's goal put the Galaxy ahead, but they fell apart moments
later, with Franklin's accidental deflection of Sebastian
Velasquez's pass leading to two more Real goals, all in a
Coach Bruce Arena blamed himself for fielding a lineup of tired
players after Los Angeles' difficult CONCACAF Champions League
match in Toronto on Wednesday.
"I think we all felt good going into the game, but the fatigue
of playing a hard game on turf and then traveling back took its
toll," Beckham said. "I thought we had quite a few chances to
win it, but there were a few mistakes. We'll be OK."
Indeed, the Galaxy must take a long-term view to survive a tough
early schedule. They drew with Toronto FC 2-2 three days ago on
the unforgiving artificial turf of Rogers Centre, but only after
overcoming an early 2-0 deficit by playing several key players
all 90 minutes.
Arena said the Galaxy's busy first week amounted to a "very poor
job on behalf of the league in terms of scheduling."
"I should have used fresher bodies," Arena said. "We hit the
wall and just made mistakes attributable to fatigue. At this
time of year, players aren't fit to play that much."
Salt Lake, which lost to Los Angeles last season in the Western
Conference final, took charge after Franklin's own-goal. Morales
capitalized on a miscommunication in Los Angeles' defense to
score the winner, banging a short shot past Josh Saunders in the
box. Espindola got another in the 85th minute on the run,
celebrating in front of Real's small band of traveling
Real Salt Lake also begins the season with high expectations
after falling one game short of the MLS Cup last season, but
they opened without elite defender Nat Borchers, who's still
recovering from offseason surgery. Top goal-scorer Alvaro
Saborio and Morales, who also had surgery, came on as
Buddle immediately scored in his return after a year away in
Germany's second division, while Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane
also played aggressive games for Los Angeles. But the Galaxy's
stars quickly learned that even Home Depot Center isn't
sacrosanct after they didn't lose here all season long in 2011,
capped by their ostensibly neutral-site victory in the MLS Cup.
"To go on a run like that when you're unbeaten at home for that
long, you have to have some things go your way," Donovan said.
"Tonight, some things just went against us. These first few
games are about recovery and getting ready to go. We have to get
whatever rest we can and get ready."
Los Angeles was MLS' best defensive team last year, but has
already yielded five goals in two matches this week. Tommy
Meyer, the Galaxy's rookie first-round pick, took Omar
Gonzalez's spot in the middle of the defense. Gonzalez, the
reigning MLS Defender of the Year, is out indefinitely after
surgery on his left knee.