Archive for April 2013

Real Salt Lake goes to the Wookiees

Yeah I know that headline is a bit hairy.  In order to ensure a proper celebration of the next RSL home match on May 4th against the Vancouver Whitecaps, the team like a couple others around MLS are embracing “Star Wars” as the theme for the match.  You get it right – “May the Fourth”, I know it is a bit silly but it should make for a fun night at Rio Tinto Stadium as I am sure many fans will take advantage to break out their best costumes.  Here are the details of the night:

REAL SALT LAKE TO HOST STAR WARS DAY AT RIO TINTO STADIUM

Club to Participate in “May the 4th be with you” for May 4 match vs. Vancouver

SANDY, Utah (Monday, April 29, 2013) – Real Salt Lake announced on Monday that the club will host Star Wars Day during its May 4 match against Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Rio Tinto Stadium. The 7:00 p.m. MT kickoff will feature interactive games, costumed characters and promotions inspired by George Lucas’ iconic film series.

Read more

Real Salt Lake gets snake bit early against the LA Galaxy

Last year it was RSL that scored a couple of early goals against the LA Galaxy at Rio Tinto, but were unable to hold on, this  year it was the Galaxy who were able to get two early goals but despite an onslaught they were able to hold on.  The first 20 minutes of the match reminded me a lot of the match against the MN Stars last year, when several players appeared to think that they could get by with something less than 100% readiness and sharpness.  It is easy to understand at one level, you are a top level athlete and you see the starting lineup for your opposition and missing are the biggest names, and in their place are several guys getting their first ever MLS start, and several others have played a bit but aren’t guys that you know much about.

The first goal LA scored was a textbook set piece play for them, they looked beyond their big targets and found a hard charging, wait for it, wait, Mike Magee who was able to get over Tony Beltran and in front of Nat Borchers to head the ball past Nick Rimando.   RSL tried to answer back but it was, Charlie Rugg who would get the next goal, and less than 15 minutes into the match RSL was down 2-0.  That score would hold as the LA Galaxy simply changed to a deny tactic, they would occasionally make a run on a counter attack but they simply sat back and clogged the passing lanes.  LA also got some great saves from Brian Rowe, who made a couple of fingertip saves and got the benefit of the crossbar and post to help out on some saves.

Read more

Real Salt Lake and now we have Real Salt Lake Women SC too

So Real Salt Lake has been making waves, talk about a USL Pro team and this week big news on the women’s soccer front.  Here is the press releases from the team:

SALT LAKE UNITED WOMEN’S TEAM TO BECOME REAL SALT LAKE WOMEN SC

WPSL Side to Play Three Games at Rio Tinto Stadium in 2013

SANDY, Utah (Wednesday, April 24, 2013) – Real Salt Lake announced on Wednesday that Salt Lake United Soccer Club will carry the RSL banner in women’s soccer as Real Salt Lake Women SC. The RSL Women will play in the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL), the second division of women’s soccer in the United States.

The RSL Women will play three games this year at Rio Tinto Stadium, with all three matches being played on the same day as a Real Salt Lake MLS regular season home match. The RSL Women will play at Rio Tinto Stadium on May 25 at 1 p.m., on June 8 at 1:00 p.m. and on July 3 at 1:00 p.m. ahead of RSL MLS matches against the Chicago Fire, LA Galaxy and Philadelphia Union. All other RSL Women home games will be played at Jordan High School in Sandy, Utah.

RSL Women will hold tryouts for current college players on Friday, May 10 at Jordan High School. More information can be found on the team’s website at www.RealSaltLakeWomen.com.

Read more

Real Salt Lake vs. LA Galaxy – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly Match Preview

Since joining the league in 2005, there is no team that I think has provided more exciting moments for RSL fans than the LA Galaxy.  First came the addition of David Beckham, then the drama of the MLS Cup in Seattle, the 2011 Western Conference finals, and every match in between.  For 8 years it has been how do you top the last thing, last year RSL had taken it to the Galaxy in the first match of the season by beating them 3-1 at the Home Depot Center.  The second match saw RSL take off to an early 2-0 lead at Rio Tinto Stadium, but then mistakes allowed a hungry Landon Donovan and Mike Magee to get 3 unanswered goals to pull off the 3-2 upset.  RSL would get a bit of revenge late in the season as they came back from an early LA goal to get two Fabian Espindola goals and a sweep of the Galaxy at the Home Depot Center.  22 regular season meetings, 9 RSL wins, 8 LA Galaxy wins, and 5 draws,  38 goals for RSL and 33 for the Galaxy.  Two meetings in the playoffs, 2009 when RSL beat them on PK’s to lift the MLS Cup, and 2011 when LA came from behind to win the Western Conference final on their way to winning the MLS Cup.

Oh Bruce Arena may not want to call RSL a rival, why would he, why would anyone from LA want to add fuel to the fire?  Yes LA is the premier team in MLS, yes they have the top payroll in MLS (or will have when they add their 3rd DP to replace Beckham), yes they are featured almost weekly on national TV, beyond that they are just a great team.  While RSL feels slighted on about every front as the small market team running on a tight budget, fighting for everything they can get.  I just know that when the players from each side take the pitch, they know they are in for a battle, and they know that every play is a statement that will last all season.  Only 3 teams in the post shoot-out era of MLS have ever had 3 straight seasons where they earned 50 points or more, and on Saturday the two teams that have done that the last 3 seasons will face off for the first time this season.  I don’t know about you, but that sure sounds like a rivalry to me.

The Good:

Robbie Findley – Back to full fitness after the injury suffered on scoring his first goal of the season, could Robbie get revenge on his former team?  His unique combination of speed and skill has resulted in 2 goals in his previous matches against the Galaxy.  While Olmes Garcia has gotten a lot of attention in recent weeks, I thought in his action late in the Chivas match that Robbie changed the match and allowed RSL to be much more dominating late in the match.  So either as a starter or off the bench, I think Robbie Findley could be one of the keys to a RSL victory on Saturday.

Read more

Real Salt Lake 1st quarter report card

So 8 matches in the book and that represents just under ¼ of the MLS season, so how exactly has RSL done?  I keep having to remind myself of what RSL GM Garth Lagerwey said before the start of the season “We will be better in June than we are in March, and we will be better in September than we will be in June” and if that is the case we should all be very happy, RSL currently is one of 4 teams with 11 points and only 4 teams have more than 11 points.  That means that 11 teams are currently behind RSL in the standings, and just 4 are in front of us and for a team that has had to deal with losing 3 All Star level players and a bevy of injuries early in the season, it isn’t as bad as some might think.  So let’s take a bit deeper look at things.

First the record of 3-3-2 is how we got to our 11 points, now 5 of those matches have been away from home where RSL is 1-3-1 and that simply isn’t good enough.  Losses at Colorado, Dallas and DC United all hurt, but only in the Dallas match was RSL really outplayed, and that match also saw RSL missing an additional 5 players due to various national team call ups in addition to injured players.  Still our road performance has to improve; I firmly believe that RSL will need to at least duplicate their 6 road wins if not improve as they have done the last few seasons (4 wins in 2010, 5 wins in 2011, 6 in 2012).  Last year the team also had a fairly impressive (compared to the past) -1 goal differential on the road with 19 goals scored and 20 goals allowed, after a -6 the year before, currently the team is at a -2.  I expect that for RSL to finish in the top 3 in the West (avoiding the wildcard) that they will need to pull an average of 1.20 points per road match (based on their recent finishes), currently the team has 4 points from 15 possible an average of just 0.80 per match.

Read more

Time to catch up a bit on my RSL thoughts

So I have been AWOL for a couple of weeks, this is what can happen when life and work collide with passion and hobby.  Anyhow a lot of thoughts about the last couple of weeks, but all of that will be covered and more, to get started I thought I would offer my thoughts on the last 3 matches during which RSL has looked good at moments but too often mistakes have left us without the desired and often deserved result.

Starting with the 1-0 loss at the Rapids to kick off April, a match in which a simple failure to clear a ball out of the area allowed it to ping pong around and past Nick Rimando, and a failed PK attempt by Alvaro Saborio were the key plays in a match where RSL otherwise was the superior side.   It isn’t often on the road in MLS where you see a side dominate possession by a 60% to 40% edge over the home side, or where the visiting team has 130 more passes than the home team, but those are the facts of what happened.  The match reminds us that soccer can be a cruel mistress and it leaves RSL in a hole heading into the final match of the Rocky Mountain Cup later this summer.  Perhaps the only good things to come out of the match were the performances by Devon Sandoval (his first MLS start) and Olmes Garcia, both of whom did very well for first year players and have forced themselves into a real dogfight for minutes at the top of the RSL formation.

Read more

What a difference a year can make in the fight for the Truth and Justice for the Hillsborough 96

For 23 years since the tragic events of Hillsborough that cost 96 Liverpool fans their lives, have been hidden from the light, the truth was hidden by those trying to cover for their own mistakes and late last year when the Hillsborough Independent Panel report was made public it allowed the truth that the 96 were truly victims of a very tragic event.  It doesn’t matter if you are a Liverpool fan, a fan of soccer/football, when the truth is hidden from people, when lies are told about the victims of a crime it impacts everyone.

Now 24 years later, the truth is known about the events of April, 15th 1989 and while it cannot bring back those who lost their lives, it can provide a bit of closure, a little easing of the pain they have suffered for decades, now the fight can truly be for justice for those who lost their lives and for their families.  It is amazing to see how a city, which is most days divided by football, comes together on this issue to provide support to the families, on this day red or blue matters not, but on this day the people of Liverpool are one united in the search for Justice for the 96.

For me I remember watching the news coverage of the tragedy here in the States and wondering how such a tragic event could happen.  I had been to sporting events a various venues both in the US and in Europe, and at no time have I ever felt unsafe.  Yet the changes that came about as a result of the Hillsborough tragedy at venues around the globe have probably saved many lives, one is still left wondering how things could have gone so wrong on that day.  I was already a soccer fan, and while it would be almost a decade before Major League Soccer would kick off, and 5 years before the US hosted the World Cup, the events of that day and the reaction of the Liverpool families and fans in their fight for justice and the truth, are a large part of what has made me a Liverpool fan.   I remember last summer as I made a trip to see Liverpool play in Baltimore, how proud I was of US based fans to pay homage to the 96 in sign and song:

JFT96

 

It reminds me that often football goes far beyond just being fans, and as so many of us know here in Salt Lake, you club becomes a part of your family.

If you care to know more about what happened, or how the families and fans continue to fight for justice for those lost, check out the Liverpool site.

That’s How I See It

Real Salt Lake vs. Vancouver Whitecaps – The Good, The Bad and the Ugly Match Preview

So Real will play their 5th road match of the season on Saturday at BC Place against the Whitecaps, the biggest upside is that they will only have 12 road matches left this season.  RSL have never won a match at BC Place, in fact RSL has never won a match in Canada.  While I would love to hold out a for a road win, if I look at our list of injured players,  it is hard to have much faith in even picking up a draw, here is the list:

  • MF Sebastian Velasquez (R fractured metacarpal) and MF Cole Grossman (concussion) are both out for the match
  • FW Robbie Findley (L adductor strain), FW Alvaro Saborio (R knee swelling), FW Joao Plata (R hamstring strain), MF Javier Morales (R knee menisectomy), MF David Viana (R quad strain), MF Khari Stephenson (L knee sprain), DF Chris Wingert (R foot fracture), DF Rich Balchan (L groin strain) and DF Carlos Salcedo (concussion) are all questionable for the game.

Yes that is almost a full roster of players missing for RSL, just shy an injured keeper and even with a full 30 man roster, RSL’s depth will be tested yet again this season.   Then you add in the lovely fake grass surface in Vancouver and you can understand why Jason Kreis may hold back a number of those questionable players to rest in front of the upcoming 3 match home stand for RSL.   Still one can always hold out hope, it isn’t as if Vancouver is burning up the league either, they are 2-2-1 in their first 5 matches with a +/- 0 goal differential on 6 goals scored and 6 allowed.  RSL have a -1 after last week’s loss in Colorado with 5 goals scored and 6 allowed in their 6 matches, so how does the matchup look?

The Good:

Nick Rimando – Nick has a 0.80 GAA so far this season and if we honest a couple of the goals he has given up were instances where he was left out to dry by bad plays in front of him.  Perhaps one of the most consistent keepers in MLS history, Nick brings skills both in net and as a leader on the pitch that make him a constant game changer.  Either this year or next Nick will set a new mark in MLS clean sheets, he hit the 100 mark this year at San Jose and now needs just a dozen more for the record.   Nick has also established himself as a regular part of the USMNT over the last couple of seasons, and while I still would love to see him get more action at that level, I expect having him on the bench gives Jurgen a measure of comfort in case something would go wrong in a match.

Read more

Six down & Twenty Eight to go for Real Salt Lake

So perhaps no loss hits RSL fans harder than a loss to the Rapids, and when it is on a sloppy goal by a former RSL player it gets even worse.  I am not sure where the team that came out with tons of energy and aggressive play against Seattle went, but I sure did miss them last Saturday.  I get that playing on the road is tough, and while they might say 15K fans were there, if you saw the match you know that number was closer to 11-12 at best.  It wasn’t as if RSL didn’t have their chances, they controlled most of the possession, 59.6% actually, they had their shots 10, heck we even had a PK attempt, but on the night nothing went RSL’s way and the result was a 1-0 loss.

Sure it let the Rapids get their first win of the season, it gives the Rapids an edge in the Rocky Mountain Cup, but we all know that in the end that cup will be ours. Still the loss was a rough one that was compounded by RSL’s injury issues as clearly neither Alvaro Saborio or Javier Morales are fully fit to the level of RSL fan expectations, combined with Robbie Findley and Joao Plata being unavailable for that match, RSL’s offensive options were limited and while it was good see Devon Sandoval and Olmes Garcia in first team action, it simply wasn’t enough.  I know it is easy to be critical of the efforts all around after such a great match against Seattle, but remember that it was rather clear by some of the calls in the first 15-20 minutes of the match that the Rapids were playing a very physical, brutish style.  It is a bit of a shame that the officials stopped calling the match tightly, as I thought it broke things down to rather ugly soccer for both sides as it became a foul fest, and while Atiba Harris can celebrate his goal, I am left amazed that he didn’t get a yellow card for any of the 4 fouls called against him, or the half dozen others that weren’t called at all.

Read more

Real Salt Lake vs. Colorado Rapid, The Good, The Bad & The Ugly II Match Preview

We can all face facts, first these two teams don’t like each other much, their fans don’t like each other, and well Colorado is a desperate team.  They have no wins so far this year, they haven’t held the Rocky Mountain Cup in 6 seasons, and well they are the Rapids.  The fact that these two teams are meeting for the second time in the first 5 weeks of the season seems a bit  nuts to me as I would think they would spread rivalry matches over the course of the season, and maybe feature them on holidays or other big weekends.  We know how big this series is to each team, and the series is as even as they come with each side having 9 wins, and their being 8 ties between the two sides.  RSL has scored 27 goals and the Rapids 24 goals, the Rapids do hold and edge when the match is played in Colorado, they have 6 wins to RSL’s 2 with 4 draws.  The Rapids have won just 2 matches against RSL in the last 4 seasons, but RSL haven’t won at Dick’s since 2007, if RSL want to keep the Rocky Mountain Cup, they most likely will need to figure out a way to get a win in Colorado this year.  So let’s take a look at the match:

The Good:

Javier Morales – for RSL there is no denying the fact that a healthy Javier Morales makes them a better team, when he is 100 percent he is one of the best creative players in MLS.  He marked his first minutes of 2013 coming on for the final 28 minutes against Seattle last week, he got a huge standing ovation from the crowd at Rio Tinto Stadium from the fans who appreciate what he means to the team.  While I have no doubt that he will see action against Colorado, could this be the time he gets his first goal against them?  I think expecting anything special from him while he is working his way back to full fitness is unrealistic but with Javi you just never know.

Read more