Why oh why don’t they get it in Las Vegas?

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So for the last decade I have watched with keen interest as several attempts to bring a Major League Soccer team to Las Vegas have come and gone, rarely have they gotten as far or been as serious as the latest efforts.  Still I feel that when the city council votes on Wednesday they will kill the dream, it has been interesting watching this latest round of circumstances in Vegas as for the first time they actually had a chance to make it work.

I guess I should start with this, I would love to see MLS have a team in Las Vegas, I may not live in Las Vegas but I love that city for so many reasons.  There are few places on earth where people can go and be able to do so many things no matter the date on the calendar or time on the clock.  In the last 30 years I have moved to Las Vegas twice, and each time I end up with a job that after a couple years moves me away from the city.  I make several trips a year down to Vegas since settling in Salt Lake City, sometimes for conventions, sometimes for work, but most often just to get away and relax.  Few cities can offer the world class rooms, food, entertainment, and shopping that Vegas can, adding MLS to that mix would make it even more attractive to me.

So I have had a lot of people ask me over the years why I am so passionate about a MLS team going to Las Vegas, and while some of it is clearly selfish (an easy away match for a RSL fan like me to attend) the bigger part of it is that over the years I have seen what a MLS team has done to Salt Lake City and I believe it would do even more in Las Vegas.

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Rimando snub angers RSL fans – some numbers

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So today Major League Soccer announced the winner of Keeper of the Year, the vote went in favor of DC United’s Bill Hamid:

2014 Allstate Goalkeeper of the Year: Bill Hamid – D.C. United

Bill Hamid had a breakthrough season between the pipes for D.C. United in 2014, his fifth season with the club. Hamid was one of the key components of D.C.’s amazing comeback in which the team claimed the top spot in the Eastern Conference after setting a league-worst record in 2013. This year, Hamid recorded the most minutes of his career for D.C. United with 2,700, and set regular season career highs with 10 shutouts and 110 saves. The Virginia native finished second in league shutouts, three behind Vancouver’s David Ousted, and recorded the second-best goals against average with a 1.13 average among goalkeepers that played more than 2000 minutes. Hamid’s success did not go unnoticed, as he went on to earn his second-ever cap for the U.S. men’s national team, playing a full 90 minutes in the Americans’ 4-1 loss to Republic of Ireland on Nov. 18.

The Allstate Goalkeeper of the Year award was voted on by media, MLS players and MLS club management based on regular season performance. The other two finalists were Real Salt Lake’s Nick Rimando and Columbus Crew SC’s Steve Clark. Below is a breakdown of the voting for the top four candidates:

nick

So I get that things like this in part are a popularity contest, there is also the fact that Salt Lake is a small market and yes that often plays a role in votes like this.

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The MLS expansion draft looms large for Real Salt Lake

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So with two team entering MLS in 2015 it is time again for one of the most stressful times for fans, players and staffs of MLS teams, it is no different for Real Salt Lake.  In fact with former coach Jason Kreis in charge of one of the expansion sides NYCFC, maybe it is a bit more stressful, this time around as most of the players on our roster are guys that he knows well and many of them are guys he brought to RSL.  It should come as no surprise that he has already signed former RSL backup keeper Josh Saunders and former RSL defender Kwame Watson-Siriboe and I expect he will be looking to add more.

One other major fact in the stress levels heading into this expansion draft are the many unknowns of that the roster rules and salary cap might look like next season, with the CBA between the players and league expiring a couple weeks after the expansion draft. There is one thing that should reduce the stress level of RSL fans, the reality is that we can only lose two players via the expansion draft, I guess that is an upside.

So the current RSL roster has 29 players on it, according to the MLS website, but I believe the reality is that Sebastian Saucedo’s HGP deal doesn’t actually kick in until 2015. So if the rules are same as the last couple of expansion drafts, HGP (Home Grown Players) are exempt, so for RSL that would mean the following players are automatically protected:

  • Jordan Allen
  • Lalo Fernandez
  • Justen Glad
  • Benjamin Lopez
  • Sebastian Saucedo

So either way that leaves 24 players that would be eligible for the expansion draft pool. Current Generation Adidas players are also automatically protected, Luis Gil used to be on the Generation Adidas roster, but I believe he graduated the program a couple years ago.

In the past teams have been allowed to protect 11 players, and when a player is taken a team gets to add another player to their protected list.  If a designated player has a no-trade clause that player has to be protected (at least according to the last rules).  There are some other additional rules, such as players who are out of contract still have to be protected if you want to keep them but just protecting them doesn’t mean you have to re-sign them. At a high level that is what we know about what will likely be the rules for the expansion draft.

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After a stunning defeat, RSL is left with some very tough questions to face.

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So I started writing this blog post on Sunday night, but I wasn’t sure why I was writing it, until today. I posted that I was pulling for New England to win MLS Cup, there are several reasons but the top one is I think they have an incredible team and I love the style of soccer they have been playing since Jermaine Jones was signed and how it has in large part freed up Lee Nguyen to become the player he is capable of being.

Of course having an opinion on twitter can be dangerous as people started to criticize me because if New England wins MLS Cup Real Salt Lake won’t end up with a Champions League spot.  They are right, RSL only gets into the tournament if LA or Seattle win, and we will get their 2nd spot by default since both have already qualified.  I went on to say that I didn’t want RSL to be in Champions League next year, because I don’t believe we can win it.  The reality is everything that follows is why I don’t want us in that tournament, and in part why I don’t think we can win it.  Simply we aren’t good enough, and while the 5-0 loss on Sunday was an anomaly where we played perhaps our worst match of the season and LA played one of their best, the reality is that we simply weren’t good enough to beat them and I don’t think continuing to do what we have in large part done for the last 5 years is the way we get good enough to beat them, to beat anyone who gets in our way of the trophies we should all be passionate about getting.

None of this means I don’t love RSL, or our players but sports is not a place where blind devotion should replace logic or common sense, it shouldn’t be a place where passion replaces intelligence.  Being critical actually is a way to show how much you care, because you want, and expect more, you know that better is within reach.  You may not agree with me, hell I don’t blame you if you don’t but my opinion is just as valid as those of fans who have for years hated on Saborio, Findley or any other RSL player who doesn’t live up to their expectations.  I have so much respect for the guys who play for RSL, because they in large part define what RSL is about, they have lived “The Team is the Star” and they have embraced the idea of the RSL Family.  Still we are left with some hard facts and some hard choices, is being consistently good, good enough?

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Real Salt Lake look to end Landon Donovan’s career on Sunday

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There is little doubt that Landon Donovan is the best player in MLS history, he probably is the best American soccer player to date, and while many fans are torn about him, cheering him in the red, white and blue of the USMNT, while booing him when he is in the various colors of the LA Galaxy, the reality is that love or hate him, everyone respects him.  On Sunday Real Salt Lake will look to end his MLS career, and given the history between these two teams over the years both in the regular season and post season it could go either way.  In regular season action RSL is 6-8-1 in matches played in LA, a 0-1 loss at StubHub Center in July was the balance for a 1-0 win by RSL there on opening weekend of the 2014 season.

All time these two teams are tied at 11-11-7, after the 0-0 draw last weekend at Rio Tinto Stadium.  These two are frequent opponents in the post season, in 2009 it was a PK shootout win for RSL at MLS Cup, in 2011 LA beat RSL in the Western Conference Finals on their way to a MLS Cup win, and last year it was RSL with 2-1 aggregate win in the Conference semifinals on their way to another MLS Cup appearance.  So Sunday will be two teams so very familiar with each other than winning or losing is often a matter of inches, shots off the framework or of the fingers of diving keepers are the norm, and it could likely come down to who can punish the other team’s mistakes.  RSL have a bit of momentum despite the draw at home, they finished the regular season with two wins and a draw, while the Galaxy finished it with a draw and two losses.  RSL gave up just a single goal in their 4 matches in October, while the Galaxy gave up 6, which was very unusual for the Galaxy who ended the regular season with an insane +32 goal differential as the league’s top scoring team with 69 goals scored, and tied for the league’s best defense with just 37 goals allowed.  The Galaxy were mighty good at home with a 12-1-4 record, their only loss was opening day to RSL, the amassed 44 goals at home while only giving up 14 goals for a +30 home goal differential.

So what will Real Salt Lake need to do in order to get past the Galaxy and on to the Western Conference Finals for the 5th time in the last seven years (08 ,09, 11, 13)?

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Can Real Salt Lake get to 15 wins? A lot on the line vs C-USA.

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Yes I do realize it has been over 4 months since I last finished a blog post, part of the reason is a general “MEH” towards MLS and part of it has been the “MEH” that has been RSL the last 4 months.  Yeah I still love our team and our guys, but there has been little to be excited about the last few months. We are 8-7-4 since that last blog post, and heck 4 of those wins even came against playoff bound teams, but this year we sit with a 14-8-11 record, yeah after that 6-1-7 start we have been rather “MEH” and sure we can explain a bunch of it.  Injuries, call-ups, and so forth, but reality is that standard is higher and for me that is the 15 win and 50 point mark for the regular season.  We could get there Wednesday if we can find a way to beat Chivas USA, something we haven’t done yet this year, but even that might not be enough to get us out of the “wildcard” playoff game.  Yikes, who would have thought after a 6-0-6 start, that we would end up here, not me.

So yeah, I have avoided saying much online the last couple of months, but I thought I would put forth some thoughts about our match against Chivas USA, what ends up being a huge match with lots of possible implications (most of which are out of our hands).  A win would jump us back to 3rd place in the West and depending on what happens in FCD vs POR this weekend could help us avoid the “wildcard” and a short turnaround to the actual playoffs.  If we end up in 4th we will face either Portland or Vancouver, and neither of those are sure things or anything close to it this year.  We are 1-1-1 against Portland with a 1-0 win at home, a 3-1 loss (yeah the last match I wrote about) and just last week a 0-0 draw in Portland, none of which are confidence building results.  Then there is Vancouver, 0-1-2 with both home matches ending in draws for RSL (2-2 & 1-1) and a 2-1 loss in Vancouver a couple of week ago, again my confidence level doesn’t really go up with the prospect of facing them either in a one and done match.

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Real Salt Lake will be tired and shorthanded when they face Portland

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Last Saturday RSL lost their first match of the season a 4-0 thumping at Seattle, a second straight match where the team looked out of sorts as they tried to adjust to their many missing stars and what would be their first 3 matches in a week stretch of the season.  On Wednesday they held on in Columbus to get a 1-1 draw despite a short bench and a starting XI that included many changes from the previous match.  Now heading into their “World Cup Break” which means no MLS matches for a couple weeks but doesn’t account for what will hopefully be more than 1 US Open Cup match, the team will face a familiar foe as the Portland Timbers come to town Saturday evening.

The team will once again be shorthanded and given the extensive travel and two matches in the last week we will likely see another lineup with several changes and some signs of fatigue as the match wears on.  Both RSL and Portland have 3 wins, 2 draws and a loss in their last 6 matches of the MLS season, so current form is fairly even between the sides. Of course given the way last year went one can expect that the Timbers will be green around the gills as they look for some revenge against RSL who knocked them out of the US Open Cup, the MLS Playoffs and whom the Timbers have only beaten once since joining MLS (RSL holds a 5-1-3 regular season record, a 2-0-0 playoff record, and a 1-0-0 record against Portland in US Open Cup action). Still one has to believe that the Timbers have looked at RSL’s roster (depleted via injuries and World Cup call ups) and busy schedule and think that this might be their best chance to steal a win at Rio Tinto Stadium.

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Real Salt Lake look to make history at Seattle – Match Preview

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A couple years ago Real Salt Lake went on an amazing unbeaten streak at Rio Tinto Stadium, that streak was ended by Seattle, now RSL will be looking to set a new record for most matches without a loss to start a MLS season with a win or a draw at Seattle.  The record would be nice but for me it is about a team that has overcome so much already this season proving that together they are capable of amazing things.

With a completely new coaching staff entering into the 2014 season, including a rookie head coach in Jeff Cassar, expectations were tempered and when you factor in a rather brutal schedule (or what looked like on when it was released) I can assure you that nobody was talking about setting a record for most matches without a loss to start the season.  Then came the actual matches, the injuries, the call ups, more injuries, and some ugly matches, and here we sit heading into the 13th match of the season with a 6-0-6 record.  There are so many places that one has to give credit, the breakout season that Joao Plata is having with 6 goals and 3 assists, the surprise off season signing of Luke Muholland who has added 3 goals and 2 assists while playing in every RSL match so far this season, the dominance of Jeff Attinella when filling in for Nick Rimando with a 0.75 GAA, 2 clean sheets and a MLS save of the week.

Of course we also have the things that don’t surprise us, Kyle Beckerman’s commanding presence at the back of the diamond, which over the last two years have seen him claw his way back into the USMNT and onto the World Cup roster.  I am so very proud of the heart and passion that Kyle has brought to RSL over the years, nobody deserves a trip to the World Cup more than the most consistent player in MLS.  We have another MVP type season coming from Javier Morales, with 4 goals and 5 assists he continues to put his stamp on RSL and MLS as one of the best creative players the league has had.  The consistency of the RSL defenders, Chris Wingert, Nat Borchers, Tony Beltran, Chris Schuler, along with some great work from Aaron Maund as well.

That just scratches the surface of things that have lead RSL to where they are, when you think about Seattle, you have to think Clint Dempsey (8 goals, 3 assists) and Obafemi Martins (5 goals, 6 assists) two guys who struggled to make an impact at the end of the 2013 season but who have lifted the Sounders to the top of the MLS table early in 2014.  The Sounders have also gotten a real boost from some new players this season as Chad Marshall came over from the Crew and has looked like a younger and better version of himself in Rave Green while leading the Seattle backline, in the midfield Gonzalo Pineda and Marco Pappa have fit in nicely working with Osvaldo Alonso, and a mix of Lamar Neagle, Brad Evans and others.  At 8-3-2 the Sounders have done something that most MLS teams can rarely pull off, they have given up the first goal in 6 of their matches and found a way to come back and claim wins in 4 of them, that is impressive.

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A new anthem for the USMNT – We Stand United by Branden Steineckert

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So I am by no stretch of the imagination a huge music fan, but I have a huge respect for talented people who can make music that entertains.  Branden Steineckert (@801PUNX) is one of those guys, he was with The Used, he is with Rancid, but he is more than just a guy in a band, he is able to take his love and passion for soccer and use it to do amazing things.

First it was “Believe” his anthem for Real Salt Lake, which still gives fans like me chills every time I hear it live or watch the video for it, which has been viewed almost 1/4 of a million times. Branden is also a huge US Men’s National Team fan, and just like he applied his talent and passion for RSL to “Believe” we now have “We Stand United”, his anthem for the USMNT.

His ability to create chants that are easy to remember, have a catchy rhythm and still express his (our) passion for our teams is simply amazing.  I am proud to know Branden and far beyond his talent is a guy who is simply a great guy, always willing to say hi to fans, always willing to pose for a picture and whenever he is in Salt Lake City, I know where to find him when RSL is playing a home match, right in the front row of section 35 at Rio Tinto Stadium.

My advice to you is to watch the video, learn these lyrics:

HERE WE STAND UNITED
WE’LL NEVER BE DIVIDED
FIGHT AND SING FOR VICTORY
FOR EVERY GENERATION
WHO REPRESENT OUR NATION
AND BATTLE FOR THE USA

HERE WE ARE, WE ARE
UNITED STATES
AND WE ALL, WE ALL
CAN CELEBRATE
THAT WE ARE, WE ARE
UNITED STATES
AND PROUD TO BE THE USA

because I expect they will be heard from now on in every stadium where the USMNT plays, at least if we as fans have any sense about us.

Oh and if you want to buy the song from itunes you can.

Thanks Branden for all that you do to support RSL, the USMNT, and the beautiful game in general.

That’s How I See It

Another chance for the RSL family to do some good

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Hey folks, every time there has been a need the #RSLFamily steps up to do amazing things for the people in need in our community, and this is another great chance to do just that.

I got the following information from Deb Donoviel Harper, who has helped on so many projects for so many people I am constantly amazed by her huge heard and passion for helping others.

Click here to view flyer

“I want to thank everyone for all their help and support on The Glad’s home. I am now moving from a VERY happy story, to a story that isn’t so happy, BUT CAN BE WITH OUR HELP. “WE” have been asked by Nat Borchers, Coach Cassar, along with other team members to step up and help one of our own, RSL Family member, Team Manager Salvador Perez.

Here is Nat’s personal note about Claudia and her disorder:

“Sal needs our help. His niece, Claudia Perez, has a rare genetic disease called Marfan Syndrome. Marfan Syndrome causes connective tissue degeneration. Connective tissue is what holds all of the body’s cells, tissues, and organs together. Because connective tissue is found all over the body, Marfan Syndrome can affect many areas of the body. For many people this disease is life-threatening. In the case of Claudia, the disease has affected her heart. Claudia needs multiple surgeries to stop the disease from shutting down her heart.

For her to survive, she will need prosthetic implants to help her heart to continue to function properly. These surgeries are highly complex. During these surgeries doctors will implant 3 different prostheses. Claudia is literally fighting for her life. The surgeries and the prosthetics are very expensive. Claudia needs to raise at least $30,000 just to pay for the deposit for these surgeries and prosthetics. The Perez Family is looking for donations for both the cost of these surgeries and for the cost of the prosthesis.”

No donation is too small. Thanks for you help!
Nat Borchers

So, we are putting together fundraisers (On the team’s personal time) to do just that, HELP. Until these events you can make ANY DONATION no matter how small at Childrenandtheearth.com and MAKE SURE you list TEAM RSL FAMILY in the comments.
They are a 501(C)3.

Also with Children and the Earth we have entered a team in Ride the Brainwave TEAM RSL FAMILY where you can register to either run the 5K, or join the Motorycycle Poker Ride. (PREREGISTRATION IS VERY IMPORTANT)

Any one who knows me knows it is “GO BIG OR GO HOME” so I want our team to be the biggest there! Come on RSL FAMILY, SUPPORTER’S CLUBS and anyone else, LET’S DO THIS. The event is great. There are bands throughout the day and the headline band this year in the evening will be Great White (Included with your registration)There is also a beer garden. So please join with me and let’s get Claudia the surgery she needs! I will have fliers at the tailgate lot tomorrow.”

No matter the cause I know that if Deb is behind it that it is not only is worthwhile but that it will change lives.  We can all do a little, which can go a very long way.

That’s How I See It