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.

Kyle Beckerman – It is easy sometimes to overlook Kyle, he is simply a master workman in the midfield and we all know that he will from time to time find a way to score a big goal, or have an assist that leaves you wondering where that came from but for me it is all the things that rarely show up on stat sheets that makes him a special player.   I think back to when Kyle was with the Rapids and while the whole jersey/celebration thing may be what sticks out in the minds of some fans, it was that he was always in the middle of the action on both sides of the balls that sticks out in my mind.  A player who wears his emotions and heart on his sleeve, sometimes to a fault, but one who has become the engine on and often off the pitch that drives RSL and one who has embraced the #RSLFamily concept from early on.  I can’t think of anyone I would rather wear the armband for RSL than Kyle Beckerman.

Olmes Garcia – I know that Jason and the RSL staff had no intention on having Olmes see first team action this quickly, he is a young kid (20 yrs old) from Colombia with a ton of talent and potential.  With RSL turning over their forwards this off season with the lone exception of Alvaro Saborio, it was a huge risk but with Robbie Findley and Joao Plata both bringing MLS experience most people felt good about things.  Those feelings changed quickly as Alvaro Saborio came back from national team duty with a knee injury, then in the opening minutes of the Seattle match Robbie Findley was injured scoring his first goal, and sure enough now Plata is recovering from an injury.  Last week we saw Devon Sandoval get a start and Garcia came on late in the match, well Garcia may get more time on Saturday as injuries continue.  Olmes has shown that he has some exciting skills on the ball, he has speed that is deceptive given his lanky 6’2″ frame.  RSL spent a lot to sign Garcia and purchase his rights, and while nobody was expecting him to pay dividends this year, I think things may have changed and he could provide a late spark against Vancouver.

The Bad:

Nigel Reo-Coker – the latest in European players to head to MLS in recent years and while he may not be a household name, almost all EPL fans would recognize the name.  Unlike most of the other players who have come over to MLS towards the end of the career, Reo-Coker is just 28 years old and while he most recently spent time in the Championship, he has had plenty of first team action for Aston Villa and West Ham United over the years.  It is that type of experience and skill that will allow him to really help the Whitecaps and not just on match days.

Kenny Miller – will he be the Scottish forward that makes a real impact in MLS?  He had 2 goals in 13 matches last year, and has already equaled that mark in the first 3 matches he has played in the 2013 season.  I know my buddy in the UK loves him from his time at Cardiff City in the Championship, but history hasn’t been kind for players like Miller in MLS, be it Kenny Deuchar with RSL or last year’s failed experiment with Kris Boyd in Portland last year.  Still Miller didn’t come from smaller clubs in Scotland, Celtic and Rangers both show up on his resume.  He isn’t a big player at just 5′ 10″ or a very quick player but he is one who knows how to be in the right place at the right time and what to do with the ball when he has it.  He will provide a real test for the RSL defense on Saturday.

Camilo Sanvezzo – No player on the Whitecaps roster has had more success against RSL than Camilo, his 3 goals and 2 assists in just 3 matches are impressive.  Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that two of his goals came in that late season 2011 match that was rescheduled after the Vancouver version of “raingate” or “lack of drainage gate” and RSL was short staffed and on short rest.  The 24 year old Brazilian has shown a lot of promise and while 2012 (5 goals and 7 assists) wasn’t as nice to him as 2011 (12 goals and 3 assists) he is one of the exciting players to watch in MLS, as he seems to always be in the middle of the action.  He has only one start so far this year and has yet to score a goal or get an assist, his past numbers against RSL show that he is a player to keep your eyes on.

The Ugly:

Veterans of Vancouver vs. Youth of Real Salt Lake – It seems strange that a team that has only been in MLS for 3 seasons has such a diverse group of veteran players, not all MLS vets but from around the globe.  Joe Cannon in goal is 38 and has played in MLS for 15 season, their back line includes YP Lee (35 yrs old) who has played around the globe, Andy O’Brien (33 yrs old) who played year in the EPL, Brad Rusin (26 yrs old) who started his career with the Carolina RailHawks before playing overseas for a couple years, and Alain Rochat (30 yrs old) who played in France and Switzerland before coming to MLS,  It keeps going with players like Nigel Reo-Coker, Daigo Kobayashi, Kenny Miller and others.  Now there are also some young players at Vancouver like Gerhon Koffie, Darren Mattocks and others, but much of their play is dictated by this multinational collection of players.

Real Salt Lake comes into this match having had to call a lot on some of their younger players already this season and while guys like Tony Beltran and Chris Schuler may not seem that young to RSL fans, both are just 25 years old.  Then there are the really young guys like Velasquez, Stertzer, Sandoval, Plata, and Luis Gil all of whom are 22 or younger.  RSL has their share of veterans in Rimando, Borchers, Beckerman, Saborio and others but one of the goals of the RSL off season was to get younger and the team has done that.  Injuries have forced a lot of these younger players into minutes earlier than the staff would have liked but so far all of them have stepped up and exceeded most peoples expectations.  On Saturday we will likely need many of them to step up again if RSL is going to be able to grab some points on the road.

My Prediction – There have been very few matches over the years that I have picked RSL to lose, and this one has my head saying there is little, to no way RSL can pick up any points in Vancouver.  History says RSL will be hard pressed, on turf RSL is just 5-14-10, or that we have never won in Canada, and overall on the road RSL is 26-73-31.  Still this is MLS and as we have seen so many times before anything can happen and with a rookie official (Drew Fischer – 9 MLS matches) in charge things could be crazy.  When these two teams meet it is rare for an early goal, no team has scored in the first 30 minutes against each other, and 8 of the 11 combined goals have come in the second half, with 3 in the final 15 minutes of matches.  So what is going to happen Saturday afternoon?  I am going with a 1-1 draw, but if either side makes too many mistakes they could be punished with a loss.

That’s How I See It

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