Real Salt Lake look to take advantage of Seattle’s struggles – Match Preview

If you think RSL fans have been upset over their slow start to the season, you should see how the fans of defending MLS Cup champs Seattle are reacting. I mean hell it is as if they invented early season disappointment, oh wait that was last year before they made their big summer move and went on to win it all.  If you only looked at the numbers you would think Seattle probably was off to a better start than RSL. I mean Seattle have scored 15 goals in 11 matches to RSL’s 11 in 12. They give up fewer goals just 19 allowed in 11 matches to 23 in 12 matches by RSL.  Yet with just 10 points in 11 matches it is Seattle just below RSL in the table but honestly their 0.91 points per match and RSL’s 0.92 are both pathetic for teams that historically have been some of the best in the West over the last 8 seasons.

So what will happen when “lovable losers” meet off against “under-performing megastars”? Yeah that is a bit harsh but 9 vs 10 is rarely a highlight match in most leagues but the reality is this one could be exciting for a number of reasons.

Keys to the Match:

Scoring – Yup, I will keep beating this drum as long as needed the reality is that when you score an average of less than 1 goals per match and your average of allowing almost 2 goals per match you simply must score more. Now if you watched the midweek match (any chance it will snow in Seattle today, we play better when it snows) you know RSL is giving up a lot of early goals off defensive mistakes.  RSL has allowed 6 goals in the first 15 minutes of matches so far this year and historically in MLS is you give up the first goal you most often lose. RSL is 2-5-0 in matches where they allow the first goal, Seattle is 2-0-1 when scoring first.  So the biggest key to the match, score. Score first, score often but just score.

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Real Salt Lake head to New England looking for something – Match Preview

This match will conclude the first third of the MLS season for RSL and to say that everyone has been left looking for something positive out of the first half would be a safe bet.  Perhaps the only highlight at this point has been the play of some of the young guys, Brooks Lennon, Bofo Saucedo, and Justin Schmidt have all delivered more than anyone could have expected before the season started.  If you include newcomer Albert Rusnak in with that trio then you actually have something to be fairly positive about.  Of course if that is true then you have to be honestly disappointed by the rest of the roster, where perhaps the only bright spot has been Chris Schuler.

If that all seems a bit harsh, well folks welcome to 2-6-2 with a negative nine goal differential in your first ten matches.  Welcome to a team that has probably played one half of actual MLS quality soccer so far this season, OK that might be too harsh but it is close to the truth.  So now with injuries still and issue, Lennon, Saucedo, Glad and Danny Acosta gone for the U20 World Cup, RSL has to find something, someone, anything to get moving back into a positive direction.  Could that be the arrival of Jefferson Savarino, the 20 year old forward was loaned to RSL earlier this week and could be tossed into action very quickly with a team that is desperate for bodies and positives?

The Revolution are a side that RSL has had success against in the past in fact we have a winning 4-3-2 record against them on the road and a 9-5-5 overall record against them in MLS action.  The Revs are 2-4-4 thru their first 10 matches but it has been over a month since they beat Houston 2-0, so their form is far from what they would have hoped for as well.

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It’s a New Day for RSL – match preview

For just the third time in the teams history RSL has let a coach go, and while many saw the writing on the wall this off season when former NYRB head coach Mike Petke was hired to coach the Monarchs, it became official last week.  So on Saturday Petke’s RSL will take the pitch for the first time against Western Conference foes the Vancouver Whitecaps, and for RSL a win is much needed.

RSL is still fighting the injury bug as 7 potential starter are listed as either out or questionable, David Horst is out and Jordan Allen, Justen Glad, Tony Beltran, Aaron Maund and Sunny are all listed as questionable.  So while the backline will be a hodgepodge again, the likely return of Chris Schuler is a welcomed one after what was a debacle last week at Minnesota. The Whitecaps haven’t gotten off to a great start either but their 1-2-1 record at least has a win, they did drop a midweek CCL match that could have put them in the finals so there could be some fatigue and mental letdown but RSL hasn’t shown the mental toughness to punish opponents who may be down yet.

Keys to the Match:

Mental Toughness – For the first time all year RSL got off to a great start against MN last week with a early 1-0 lead but then gave up 4 goals all on plays created by mistakes from RSL players.  That lack of focus, lack of mental toughness is something we noticed creeping in last year and has to be one of the top priorities of Mike Petke. Yes I know the injury to Maund created some chaos for RSL but losing a player should never lead to the kind of meltdown we saw last week.  This is the match were if you wear the Claret and Cobalt you need to step up not only to impress your new boss, but to deliver the kind of play that your fans not only desire but deserve.

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RSL look to find their “kicks” in Minnesota – Match Preview

So this is the match where some folks had marked as their panic mark for RSL, but clearly that came earlier for DLH who dropped Jeff Cassar a couple weeks ago and now with Mike Petke coming in on Monday, so can RSL head into their new era on a up note?  There will be no opponent that RSL will be as heavily favored against this season than MN United (0-3-1 with 18 goals allowed) but for a team that has only scored a single goal in their first four matches, can the RSL offense be the “animals released from their cage” that Mike Petke believes they are?

While it is easy to joke about the Loons (best nickname in MLS) have given up a ton of goals, the reality is they have scored more than most teams as well with 6 goals scored in their first 4 matches, so can the RSL defense which has been their saving grace (if there has been one so far this season) in only allowing 4 goals in their first 4 matches slow down the Loons?  This matchup is really an interesting one as an expansion team will be looking to provide their fans with something more exciting than snowballs at their first ever match taking on a team desperate to regain their glory days that seem further and further removed daily.

Keys to the Match:

Score – this hasn’t changed and won’t change until RSL can actually step up and score some goals and no better chance will come their way than this match against the team that leaks goals at record shattering pace.  Rusnak will be back, Beckerman will be back and it is hard to say which of the injured RSL players may make their return to the bench or starting lineup.  At home a couple weeks ago the offense looked dangerous, on the road last week a lot less so.  If you can’t score against the Loons you may have some real issues to deal with.

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A Revamped RSL head to Jersey – Match Preview

Well we are 4 weeks into the MLS season and the RSL we will see on the pitch and on the bench on Saturday will be very different than what we started with. Injuries, callups and a fired head coach will all impact the lineup that RSL can put out against the New York Red Bulls, the question is can it/will it be enough? 5 potential starters are listed as questionable along with 2 others for RSL (Joao Plata, Jordan Allen, Aaron Maund, Justen Glad, David Horst, Tony Beltran and Chad Barrett), then toss in 2 starters that will be on national team duty (Nick Rimando-US, Albert Rusnak-Slovakia) and 1 starter suspended (Kyle Beckerman), oh and our head coach is gone (Jeff Cassar).

So what will a lineup look like? We will cover that later, the reality is an early afternoon match on the East coast is rarely a easy thing for RSL to deal with, we have had little luck when facing the Red Bulls/MetroStars on the East coast with just 1 win in 9 matches.  Still NYRB will be missing some key pieces as well, Connor Lade is going to make the 18 man roster but I expect he won’t see action, Michael Murillo and Sacha Kljestan are out on national team duty. Can RSL play spoiler and break the current 15 match unbeaten steak of the Red Bulls at home?

Keys to the Match:

Score – RSL has just a single goal this season (last week’s goal from Yura Movsisyan) from 24 shots and 11 shots on goal. It isn’t good enough and yes you are missing some players and have been missing some the past couple weeks but the reality is simply if you can’t score you can’t win.  RSL’s attack last week looked good for about 30 minutes with Lennon, Movsisyan and Saucedo up top, but this week there is no Rusnak pulling the strings so it will be a bit tougher as I expect we will see either Luke Mulholland or Luis Silva in the creative role (probably a bit of both). So can RSL take advantage of the Red Bulls who gave up 3 goals at Seattle last weekend? It won’t be easy but I love the creative play of our 3 forwards last week and expect more of the same.

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Right move, wrong time

So today Real Salt Lake let their head coach Jeff Cassar go after just 3 matches of the 2017 MLS season. I counted myself a silent person among the fan based who questioned bringing him back this year at all, but I wanted to be supportive of one of the nicest guys I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.  Jeff never had a bad word to say about anyone that I can remember, and I will miss him.  He loved this team, the fans and the city and in the age of modern sports he was a rarity, a genuine nice guy.

Now what confuses me is the timing, yes RSL hasn’t won a match yet, yes RSL had only scored one goal in their first 3 matches but if the leash was this short and confidence this low, why in the world did they keep him and not let a new coach come in and make critical choices and have a preseason to build his staff and work on his tactics and roster requests?  Now you are 3 matches in, your roster is pretty much locked up and you now need to find a coach who will likely want to change some if not all of his staff.  This mid contract, mid season type of change is something we rarely see in MLS and with good reason.

I want you to read this statement from RSL’s GM, closely:

“At the conclusion of last season, we felt that while we were disappointed in the end result, Jeff had done enough to earn another shot to lead the team in the 2017 campaign. We have a high sense of urgency for progress this season, and have made many off-season changes towards that endeavor. So, while these decisions are always difficult, we, as an organization, felt that it was necessary to make the change in our head coaching position now,” Waibel said. “The process for a hiring new head coach to lead the club has already begun. We will work quickly and diligently to ensure that we find the right leader that shares our values, passion, commitment and vision.”

we had enough confidence to resign him, but that only lasted 3 matches?  I am sorry this sounds like someone panicked, an owner who has blown the negotiations with Jason and Garth, and now overreacted after ignoring the glaring issues at the end of last season.  I don’t get it.

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After the loss to LA, a lot of RSL fans are pointing fingers

I remember as a kid whenever I would point my finger at someone my mother would remind me that three more were pointing right back at me and I would offer that same thing to the RSL fanbase.

Yes it is easy to point fingers at Sorin, the official that clearly lost the match early on and if you want to carry it to an extreme made the match look a whole lot like a WWE match. Where anytime the good guy does anything close to being against the rules the punishment is swift and harsh, meanwhile the villains can do no wrong, or at least not in the eyes of the official who either seems blind to it or seems to miss it all together.  I thought it was one of the worst officiated matches I have ever seen in MLS, calls were missed, calls were ignored, minor transgressions over punished, yeah it made for a very difficult match to watch.  I am thankful that I watched at home and not from the sidelines taking pictures, where I likely would have been asked to leave before halftime.

Still pointing a finger at the ref leaves us with three fingers pointing right back at us. It was early in a match when two RSL players reacted or overreacted to what should have been a easy yellow card for Jermaine Jones, but instead Luke pushes and Kyle swears at the official and they get the yellows.  If RSL players hadn’t gotten the point by that time of the match and knew that they needed to tread very carefully, but they didn’t seem to get it and the result was a sloppy challenge in the midfield and RSL going down a man.

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Real Salt Lake will look to warm up vs Fire – match preview

So for the first time in Rio Tinto history, RSL opened the MLS season at home and while that first match rust was clearly evident there were also signs of potential.  The highlight was the PK save by Nick Rimando against Giovinco, but other than that the 0-0 draw played out a lot like one would expect a 0-0 draw, not a whole lot of excitement.

The question is heading on the road for week two can RSL find a way to create more chances and score goals?  It has been since August of last year that RSL won a MLS match, so getting things back into the positive column would be good.  If this were a match against the Fire of the last few years one could feel really good even when playing on the road but the reality is that Chicago may be the most improved team in MLS.  The additions of Dax McCarty and Juninho immediately make them better, add in DP forward Nemanja Nikolic and an ever improving David Accam and all of a sudden you have a team that is a lot more dangerous than in the past.

The last time RSL lost to Chicago was back in 2011, and overall these two have beaten the other 6 times with 7 draws, so this is a fairly balanced competition, 2017 should be seasons that both teams look to improve their overall performance.

Keys to the Match:

With RSL the issue will be consistency across 90 minutes, late last year and even on opening day they came out and looked very flat for the first 10-15 minutes if not longer and the reality is you can’t do that against Chicago, as TFC who’s starters gave up 3 early goals to Chicago in the final match of their respective preseasons. So my first key is to simply start solid, this will be the home opener for the Fire who have excited fans when they are a bad team and this year are very excited about their team. Getting past the first 15 minutes without giving up too many chances will be critical, the weather will be iffy so playing in control will be important.

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Let the matches begin RSL vs TFC – match preview

For only the second time in club history and first time at Rio Tinto, RSL will open the season at home as they take on Toronto FC on Saturday afternoon. Facing teams from the East are often fairly easy affairs at home, I mean RSL is 7-1-0 vs TFC in Utah and 7-0-0 at Rio Tinto. RSL holds a +11 goal differential at home vs the defending Eastern Conference Champs, but we have to remember RSL hasn’t won a match in 7 months while TFC is coming off the shortest break in MLS history between MLS Cup and opening day.

This has the potential to be a thrilling match as both clubs showed last year that the traditional score first and win rule in MLS doesn’t apply to them, there is no safe lead against either of these sides.  This TFC side will look very similar to the one that played for MLS Cup in December, but for RSL there will be some very glaring differences from last year.  No Javier Morales, no Burrito Martinez, no Olave and while those players are gone it is likely RSL will also be without some regular starters from last year due to injuries and callups as I expect Kyle Beckerman, Aaron Maund will no start (or likely play) due to injury, Justen Glad will be with the U-20s (along with Sebastian Saucedo, Brooks Lennon and Danilo Acosta).  So it will be interesting to see what the starting XI and bench looks like on Saturday afternoon.

Keys to the Match:

There are a few keys to beating TFC, first of which is make someone other than Sebasitian Giovinco beat you.  You start the match with Luke Mulholland man marking him everywhere, when Luke gets a yellow card, you swap out Sunny on Gio, and if he gets a yellow you bring in Omar Holness to man mark him.  You don’t let him get behind you but you also have to no commit fouls in stupid places and let him beat you on a set piece.  Last year Giovinco accounted for 32 (15 goals, 17 assists) of TFC’s 51 goals, so over 60 percent of their offense comes from one guy. So to stop TFC, stop Gio.

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Real expectations for Real Salt Lake

You see what I did there?  Anyhow we are entering into a season filled with expectations as is every fan of every team, but for RSL we are coming off 3 seasons of disappointment and yes making the playoffs and washing out in the first round is a disappointment.  So for me the expectations are high as always, I expect at least 15 wins and 50 points during the regular season and at least one win & home playoff match for MLS action, and a quarterfinal appearance in the US Open Cup.  Those are minimums for a season to be considered successful in my mind, and last year we failed, the year before we failed and even in 2014 we failed.

This will be the fourth year with Jeff Cassar in charge, and unless we can at least meet those goals I will be honest it probably should be his last. I would give him the full season to reach those goals but one has to wonder if getting Mike Petke into the RSL fold wasn’t a move to have a MLS ready head coach replacement in the wings?  There have been excuses in past years, new coach, new formation, etc but this is payoff time, there are no more excuses it is time to deliver or move on.

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