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GALAXY: Marquee matchup marred by the missing

Landon Donovan is gone. So is Alvaro Saborio. You call this a marquee match?

It's hardly the ideal circumstances for a start-of-the-season showdown between Major League Soccer's two best teams, but the Galaxy isn't worrying that their captain and most influential player is missing for Saturday night's game at Real Salt Lake.

“If you're worried about missing players, then we shouldn't have played the first two games,” said head coach Bruce Arena, who was without four starters for last week's season-opening win at Seattle and without three for the draw with New England that followed. “Nothing changes. You just go along with your business.”

Donovan is off with the U.S. national team, which has CONCACAF Gold Cup preps Saturday against Argentina in East Rutherford, N.J., and Tuesday vs. Paraguay in Nashville, Tenn. Saborio, Real Salt Lake's primary goal-getter, also is on national-team duty, with Costa Rica.

Most leagues take off during FIFA's international fixture dates, when national team matches are scheduled, but MLS hasn't been able to match its calendar to FIFA's.

“It's wrong. There's no two ways about it,” David Beckham, who will serve as captain in Donovan's absence, said following practice Thursday. “You shouldn't have international games while league games are going on, it's simple as that. But it happens, unfortunately, and you have to accommodate that. …

“I think we've got players in the squad that will come in and do a great job and do a job that Landon would be proud of, as well. I think it's important that we don't worry about the players that we're missing (but rather) concentrate on the players that will be playing and starting.”

The Galaxy (1-0-1, 4 points) likely will shift Uruguayan rookie Paolo Cardozo into Donovan's slot, on the left side of midfield. Second-year midfielder Michael Stephens also is a possibility.

RSL (1-0-0, 3), which carries a 25-game home unbeaten streak, since May 2009, also is missing midfielders Will Johnson (Canada) and Arturo Alvarez (El Salvador).

INJURY LIST: Forward Adam Cristman is on the disabled list, out for at least the first six games, after undergoing arthroscopic surgery, a debridement, on his left knee. Also out are center back Gregg Berhalter (sprained knee), who's actually listed as questionable, and rookie midfielder Dan Keat (fractured heel), who looks like he's close to being available. No. 1 goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, questionable with a hamstring strain, almost certainly sits out again.

Central defender Omar Gonzalez (sprained shoulder) is listed as probable, but we'll see. He looked fine in practice before Sunday's game but wasn't on the 18-man roster, and he declined interview requests this week.

ALSO MISSING: Only Donovan.

THE OPPONENT

REAL SALT LAKE

Head coach

  • A top MLS forward who never found a place with the U.S. national team, Jason Kreis was the first 100-goal man in the league, retiring to take charge of RSL in 2007 with a then-record 108 strikes, now the No. 4 title. He's an intense and demanding coach who has built RSL into MLS Cup champ (in 2009) and has the club on the verge of the CONCACAF Champions League final.

Three key players

  • Argentine midfielder Javier Morales is MLS's best pure playmaker, has 14 goals and 30 assists in league play since the 2008 season started.

  • Captain Kyle Beckerman is RSL's emotional leader and its rock at holding midfielder

  • Defender Nat Borchers might be an MLS Best XI selection, but he's also one of the league's more underrated center backs -- his technical defending and strength in the air provides the defensive foundation that allows MLS Defender of the Year Jamison Olave to take the chances that help define his game.

Current form/prospects

  • Real Salt Lake is almost universally acknowledged as MLS's best club, a nod not only to its success on the field but the style and commitment with which it plays the game. The Utahns pulled out their opener last week, winning, 1-0, at San Jose as goalkeeper Nick Rimando made eight saves, some of them big ones, in a driving rainstorm. They've also played three Champions League matches, toppling Columbus in the quarterfinals and beating Costa Rican powerhouse Saprissa, 2-0, in the first leg of the semifinals.

Local connections

  • Rimando (Montclair), one of MLS's best, is the pride of Montclair High School and UCLA. Right back Tony Beltran is a neighbor -- he's from Claremont (Claremont HS) and also played at UCLA. … Teen playmaker Luis Gil emerged from Santiago High School in Garden Grove. … No. 2 goalkeeper Kyle Reynish, from Valencia, played at Hart High School and UC Santa Barbara. … Midfielder Ned Grabavoy was with the Galaxy in 2004-05.

Missing

  • Saborio, Johnson and Alvarez are away on international duty. Rimando (bone spur in his right ankle) and Olave (hamstring strain) are listed as questionable.

THE GAME

At Rio Tinto Stadium (Sandy, Utah), 6 p.m. PT

TV: Prime Ticket, 10:30 p.m.

Radio: K-Talk (KTLK/1150) and ESPN Deportes (KWKW/1330, Spanish), 6 p.m.

Referee: Jair Marrufo