25th anniversary of Hillsborough tragedy

(http://www.liverpoolfc.com)

So if you listened to Soccer Morning on the 11th you heard Jason interview Daniel Gordon who is the director of the ESPN 30 for 30 piece called Hillsborough that will air on April 15th 2014, the 25th anniversary of the tragedy.

What does this matter you might ask? For me it is part of the reason I am a Liverpool fan, and on April 15th 1989 was the first time I really became aware of LFC as the events of Hillsborough came to light.  I had been to soccer matches (MN Kicks of old NASL, Eintracht Frankfurt while stationed in Germany) in the past but wouldn’t consider myself a fan and it would be a good number of years before I would come to follow the sport more closely.  The events of Hillsborough however stuck with me, and while news wasn’t nearly as easy to find out as it is in the age of the internet, I tried to follow this story for a couple reasons.  First, the simply tragedy of people attending a sporting event and paying for it with their lives had a mesmerizing effect on me, I was a huge sports fan and something like this just seemed alien to me. Second was the fact that clearly the story was being managed by the media and others, and it sure seemed like there was a lot more to the story than what was being let on.  Whenever there is a tragic event people point fingers (you only need to watch the news on any given night to see this), but this was a bit odd that those in charge of the match were pointing fingers at the victims and that just didn’t sit well with me.

As time went on I became more of a soccer fan, thanks to the 1994 World Cup and the launch of MLS (the old days at the Horseshoe, or Cotton Bowl) and slowly as the internet and cable/satellite TV provided coverage of soccer from England and Europe I found myself drawn to follow Liverpool, in part due to the passion, grit and refusal of their fans to allow the injustices of Hillsborough to sit.  If you don’t know much about what happened, well here is a short video Sky Sports did on the 20th anniversary:

It was about 6 years ago that I started writing about Hillsborough, and while those first couple of blogs posts have been lost to history.  Here are the links to the last 4 years:

2010, 2011, 2012, 2013

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Real Salt Lake look to remain undefeated against Philadelphia Union – match preview

RSLvsPHI

So there are two meanings to that title, first is that RSL in 6 meetings has never lost to the Union, and of course RSL will look to remain undefeated in week 6 of the 2014 MLS regular season.  Since joining MLS, the Union are 0-2-4 with 5 goals scored and 9 goals allowed against RSL.  Of course they have never lost to RSL at PPL Park, a pair of 1-1 draws and a 0-0 draw in the most current match in Chester.  Last year the Union came close to beating RSL at Rio Tinto Stadium but a short handed stoppage time goal equaled the score at 2-2 and crushed the hopes of the Union fans for that first victory over RSL.

This year the Union have made some improvements to their roster, they picked up Maurice Edu, Vincent Nogueira, Fred, Austin Berry and most recently Andrew Wenger and with the first 2 have started all five of the Union’s matches and has helped their midifield lift it’s level of play. The Union will likely be without Danny Cruz and Sheanon Williams both of who are recovering from injuries, of course that is a mighty short list compared to the 11 players on the RSL list (some of who are possible or probable).  RSL will be without Joao Plata, Nick Rimando, Luis Gil and most likely both Tony Beltran and Chris Wingert, but as has been the case since the start of the season there are guys who are stepping up to fill those spots, we saw both Rich Balchan, Abdoulie Mansally and Jeff Attinella all get their first starts of the season last week in a match where they played major roles in helping RSL keep a clean sheet in their 0-0 draw with Sporting KC.

So can RSL find a way to keep their streaks alive?

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A Philly perspective on the upcoming RSL match

large_brotherlygame.com.full

It is always fun to find out what is on the mind of the fans and those who cover the other side of MLS matches, and this week I am lucky to bring you some thoughts from Eugene Rupinski (@GolazodelGringo) who runs the show at Brotherly Game, the SB Nation blog that covers all things Philadelphia Union.

Remember last year’s Philadelphia Union? The team that came to Rio Tinto and led for all but 14 minutes of the match, only to see an equalizer scored by a 10 man RSL side in the seventh (!) minute of stoppage time? Union fans certainly do. We look back at that match as two points that could have put us into the playoffs. We spent and entire offseason looking back at that match (and the home match just four days prior against FC Dallas where they gave up an equalizer to a 10 man side in the seventh minute of stoppage time) and grinding our teeth. Most fans were incensed when the club made no moves in the beginning of the offseason. But things changed. The Union signed Maurice Edu on loan from Stoke. They signed Vincent Noguiera from Sochaux and Cristian Maidana from Rangers (the one in Argentina, not the one in Scotland) and just like that the midfield was overhauled and these issues of dropping points late to 10 man sides were a thing of the past.

Or not.

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Real Salt Lake dismantle Toronto FC 3-0

Hail Cassar

So in my match preview post, I pointed out how the passing and possession style of RSL would cause issues for TFC who often look to force a mistake or counter and attack, on Saturday night RSL had 434 passes completed at a 80% rate, while TFC had just 265 and a completion rate of 73%.  That resulted in RSL dominating the possession by a 60.5% to 39.5%, and RSL was much more effective with their possession.

I thought the absence of Jonathan Osorio would be huge as he was the main link for TFC between their defense and Michael Bradley, the result was the Bradley often found himself having to come further back to get the ball and that limited his effectiveness as a playmaker and provider.  The TFC midfield simply couldn’t match up with RSL’s on Saturday, despite the play of Bradley, only 7 passes found their way to Jermain Defoe who only got 2 shots off and neither was on target.  Gilberto took 5 shots with a couple forcing saves by Nick Rimando but on the night the RSL defense was very solid and despite some good attempts by TFC, they simply never were able to find the back of the net.

I will say that I got mighty lucky with my preview picks on the scoring Saturday night, I predicted a 3-1 RSL win with Sabo getting the brace (check), and Luis Gil getting one (check), I did pick Bradley to get a goal for TFC and he came within a couple of inches with a shot from distance that froze Rimando but bounced off the frame.  Not a bad round of predictions.

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Real Salt Lake vs Toronto FC – Match Preview

RSLvsTFC

So within a couple weeks of RSL coming up short in MLS Cup, all the attention around MLS shifted north of the border as Toronto FC started spending money like a rapper in a strip club, the MLS version of making it rain.  Gilberto was signed as a DP, but he was the appetizer for their fans, as the team would announce both Michael Bradley and Jermain Defoe would be joining them heading into the 2014 MLS season.  Now Toronto wasn’t the first team to spend big buck on Mega DP’s, but they were the first to do so on this scale of both transfer fees and salaries.

As a RSL fan, I have seen a club built a very different way, a way that has seen a consistency over the last 5 plus seasons that have kept them at the top levels of MLS. During that time we saw LA push and lead the league in creating the DP rule, then the two DP rule and eventually the league settled on 3 DP’s per team.  We have seen big names come before Toronto made their moves, we had Beckham, Henry, Marquez, Blanco, Keane, and others come and go with varying levels of success.  Clubs have most often found themselves in one of two quickly diverging paths, spending huge amounts of money on a select few and hoping to fill in pieces around them (LA, NY, SEA), or spreading their money around more players building deep rosters and selectively using the DP rule when needed (RSL, SKC, HOU, POR).  Both types of teams have found success in both the regular and post seasons of MLS over the last few years.

Now Toronto wants to join in on the fun, the second method didn’t work for them so they are trying to spend their way to success, and while it may not be the way I think teams should be built, I don’t blame them.  Since joining the league in 2007, they have yet to make it to the post season, in fact if their had been relegation in place TFC wouldn’t be in MLS.  Making that worse is the fact that TFC has had amazing fan support from day one, so do I blame their ownership for making a huge shift in spending?  Nope not at all.

On Saturday night TFC will play their 3rd match of this new era for their club, and let’t be honest none of us know what to expect.  Do we see the team that quickly put up two on Seattle and then held on for a 2-1 win, or the club that struggled to a 1-0 win at home against DC United?  Of course there are also some questions about RSL, after a 1-0 opening day win over the LA Galaxy, RSL lost a 3-1 lead at San Jose and settled for a 3-3 draw, and then last weekend after getting a 1-0 lead over LA in RSL’s home opener the team again had to settle for a draw, this time 1-1.  So what will we see on Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium?

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RSL recovers from LA match and prepares for Toronto FC

RSL logo for blog

It is kinda funny that in 3 of the first 4 weeks of the MLS season RSL is facing a team built by Tim Leiweke, if you don’t know who Tim is well then you haven’t paid very close attention to MLS for the last 10 years or so.  We will talk about Tim in a bit.  So last Saturday RSL kicked off the home portion of their 2014 season, and while it didn’t go the way RSL players or fans wanted, the 1-1 draw was probably a fair result on a night that saw both sides suffer some big losses due to injuries.  We can relive the many bad calls that were made or not made but in the end there isn’t anything that can be done about that.

The loss of Joao Plata to a hamstring injury clearly impacted the rhythm and style that RSL wanted to play in the match, but in the end it may have been the elevation that drained both teams and turned the match into something resembling the Hobbit – The Desolation of Smaug.  You know spots of excitement, but lots of “meh” to get to those spots. I will say this, Sabo’s goal was a great one but the highlight of the night had to be the capacity crowd that was loud, dedicated and rocking the entire match.  TIFOs, banners, signs, and flags were all around the stadium, enough so that Brian Dunseth reports several national soccer folks reached out to him to compliment the RSL faithful for their outpouring of team pride.

So with the Galaxy in the rear view mirror, sights are now set on Toronto FC that are coming to town, but this isn’t the same TFC as in years past, as I said RSL will be facing a Tim team for the 3rd time in their first 4 weeks of the season.  So I guess I should explain who this Tim guy is to those of you who may not know about him.

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Real Salt Lake to host LA Galaxy in home opener – match preview

RSLvsLAG 3-21-14

It seems almost amazing that Real Salt Lake already has two matches under their belts and now as spring has sprung they will start the home portion of their season by taking on the LA Galaxy again.  The first time around it was the Galaxy home opener and RSL was able to rain on their parade thanks to a Joao Plata goal and some amazing stops by Nick Rimando.  It was an exciting match as both side showed a little bit of rust but both showed that they can be very dangerous, it was lucky that Robbie Keane didn’t get a goal and unlucky that the officials got the call wrong on Luke Mulholland’s goal.  In the end it was a 1-0 win for RSL who notched their 5th straight opening day win, and now RSL will look to extend their undefeated home opening streak.  Oh I know that someone will think I am going to jinx them, but RSL has never lost a home opener, they may not have won all of them but never a loss.

For RSL it will be a real test as the injuries are piling up early on in the season, Findley, Sandoval, Velasquez, Morales, Allen, Maund, Schuler and Watson-Siriboe all have some type of injury issues they are dealing with. The upside is that newcomer Luke Mulholland has been a great surprise and Plata has started off the season as well as anyone in MLS. So with the home crowd behind them on a rare afternoon start, it should be a perfect chance to catch the two best teams in MLS over the last 5 seasons.

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Cancelled-Do you want to see the new Captain America movie early, and help the RCB?

Winter soldier

Well events like this require hundreds of people to commit and that simply didn’t happen in time to secure the theater and the movie, so unfortunately it has been cancelled.

OK, so it isn’t cheap doing all the things the supporter groups do, so when you can make a donation ($20) and get to also see Captain America: The Winter Soldier a day early, plus get popcorn and a soda, well that seems like a no-brainer to me. So the RCB is doing a screening at 7pm on April 3rd at the Gateway Megaplex and there are still tickets available.

So how can you get tickets? Well you can email Cidne Christensen (rcbleaders@gmail.com) or give her a call at 801-388-6775 for details.  Profits from the event will go to cover costs of Tifo, Drums, Supplies and other expenses.

Have you seen the trailer for this movie?

I hope to see you there.

 

 

Real Salt Lake look to spoil the Quakes 2014 home opener – match preview

RSL logo for blog

Heading to San Jose for an early season match is nothing new for RSL, this will be the 3rd time in the last 4 seasons that we have played at Buck Shaw in March.  In 2011 we kicked off the season there and picked up a 1-0 win, then last year it was a 2-0 win over the Quakes on opening day.  So while we kicked off our season last weekend with the win in LA, this will be the first MLS match for San Jose and while RSL’s roster remained largely the same as last year, that is far from true for the Quakes who missed the playoffs last year despite breaking the 50 point plateau (51 points).

Sixteen players on the out side of the transaction list for San Jose, thirteen on the in side of that list:
San Jose Transfers

For me this means two things, despite all the changes they are really the same basic team, there are no huge moves, no mega DP’s for San Jose they will still rely on the same guys up top (Wondolowski, Gordon, and Lenhart) and they hope that Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi their big off season pick up from France can provide them some type of creativity in the midfield, something they lacked last year.

While San Jose missed the playoffs last year they were the hottest team down the stretch with just 2 losses in their last 14 matches, to go along with 3 draws and 9 wins but it was goals scored that kept them out as they lost that tiebreaker to Colorado (45 to 35). Their 35 goals scored last year was less than half of their 2012 total, but nobody really thought that they would get another record year from Chris Wondolowski, or that their last minute antics of that season could really be repeated on a regular basis over a full season.

The season got off to a great start for Real Salt Lake, after everyone urged caution in getting expectations too high, the exciting result in LA has a lot of people buzzing.

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Real Salt Lake finds victory in contentious match against Galaxy

RSLvsLA

If you watched the RSL victory over the LA Galaxy last fall in the 2nd leg of their playoff series, then little during Saturdays 1-0 win  in LA was probably surprising to you.  Just like the fall match, RSL was victimized by some strange calls including a clear goal being called back on a mystery call but instead of letting it get them down, they powered on and managed to still pick up the victory.

The highlight of the match, or highlights had to be the extraordinary effort in goal of Nick Rimando who made several key stops but none more important than the stoppage time PK stop of Robbie Keane to keep both the clean sheet but also to ensure the RSL victory. Several times mistakes forced Nick to clean up opportunities that the Galaxy had, some required his normal saves and others will likely get him nominated for save of the week. Nick in true RSL fashion was quick to point out that it was a collective team effort that secured the victory:

It’s tough to get a result, let alone a shutout here, and they came at us like we knew they would and I thought the defense played great, and by defense I mean the whole team.

Nick Rimando

Nick is right, work by everyone on both sides of ball is always a key to how RSL plays and we saw a lot of that, and while not every thing was perfect the mistakes were either quickly covered by a teammate or the Galaxy failed to capitalize.  It was good to hear that Nat Borchers mentioned that the team pushed for Aaron Maund to get the start and that confidence in him was rewarded by a solid effort against some of the most dangerous offensive players in MLS.

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