Archive for August 2013

Real Salt Lake vs. Portland Timbers – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly III – Match Preview

How the West will be won, step one beat the Timbers, for Real Salt Lake it is simple, win and then win some more.  The Western Conference is tight and with all of our remaining MLS matches against teams in the Western Conference, well the easiest way to stay ahead of everyone is to “just win baby”.   As I looked at records (home and away) of the top teams in MLS it looks as if everyone finishes off the season the same way they have played to this point, well RSL should be sitting pretty at the end of it all, but things rarely go the way you would expect.  So if RSL can pick up all 12 points at home, it would go a long way towards securing that top spot.

First up is a foe that now is very familiar to RSL, the Portland Timbers, who like RSL haven’t exactly been cruising to victories the last month or so.  Portland has just two victories in their 8 matches since July 7th, while RSL has 3 wins in their 9 matches since July 3rd, RSL however is building off a comeback 3-3 draw at Portland just 9 days ago and a huge 4-0 win at home over the Crew last weekend.  The Timbers blew a late lead against RSL and then fought bravely but lost 1-0 at Seattle last weekend.

For RSL this year it has been the late goal that has been one of the keys, with 12 goals in the final 15 minutes of the first half of matches, and 19 in the final 15 minutes of the second half, 31 of our 48 goals scored come near the whistle.  Against the Timbers we saw a late RSL goal earn the draw in Portland but the Timbers have only given up 6 goals in the final 30 minutes of matches all season (RSL has given up 14), their most vulnerable time is the start of the second half, where they have given up 11 goals in minutes 46-60.  One thing is for sure I don’t think this one will end without at least a couple of goals being scored, as both sides a hungry for points.

The Good:

Nick Rimando – I think at this point of the season we can all be fairly honest with each other, without Nick both in goal and as a team leader, we probably would be one of those teams fighting to get into a playoff position rather than leading the conference.   It was great for everyone to get to see Nick with the USMNT as it allowed him to showcase what us RSL fans have known for years, he simply is the best keeper week in and week out in MLS.   He is putting up another career year in MLS with a 0.95 GAA, 8 shutouts and 12 wins.  When Nick finally decides to hang up his boots and gloves I believe that he will hold so many goal keeping records in MLS that maybe then people will appreciate him for the qualities he brings to the pitch, I know that fans in Salt Lake and DC already know that Nick is simply clutch.

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Who is going to win the Supporters’ Shield? What the numbers say

So one thing is clear in all sports including MLS, there is no place like home.  In MLS the home team wins most of the matches, no team in the league this year has won more matches on the road than they have at home.  In fact only Toronto FC with 2 road wins and 2 home wins are even close, the top teams in both the East and West all get a result in a majority of their home matches.

 

  • Real Salt Lake – 8-2-3 at home, 5-6-3 on the road
  • Montreal – 9-1-3 at home, 3-6-2 on the road
  • Los Angeles – 8-1-2 at home, 4-8-2 on the road

and on and on, so while one could spend a lot of time trying to analysis in depth the remaining schedules of MLS teams, looking at who they play but to be brutally honest I think that simply looking at how teams have performed at home and on the road so far this year provides a great deal of insight on how they likely will perform for the remainder of the year.  Now it isn’t bullet proof, we have seen teams get hot down the stretch or go cold but averages are fairly good indicators.  So let’s take a look at the how things look like:

Real Salt Lake has average 2.08 points per match at home, and 1.28 points per match on the road thru their 27 matches played earning 45 points.  RSL has 4 remaining home matches so if trends stay the same they would earn 8 more points at home, they have 3 more matches on the road and should get 4 points on the road.  So with 45 points earned and a projected 12 points, RSL will likely end the season with 57 points.

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Real Salt Lake at Portland Timbers – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly match preview

So for Real Salt Lake their match at Portland on Wednesday could be the most important match of the rest of the MLS regular season.  With just 9 league matches remaining, 3 of them will be against the Timbers, so while we saw them in US Open Cup action this will be a chance to set the tone for a third of the remaining regular season.   To be honest given the recent performances of RSL (2-2 draw at Colorado, 1-0 win over Houston, and 4-2 loss at LA) this could represent the best chance to get things back going in a positive direction, a chance to like they did earlier this summer to get on a good run of form (11 matches without a loss).  That could really help them over the longer run, were the 9 remaining MLS league matches are spread over 10 weeks, a far cry from the 10 matches in 7 weeks (June and July) or 7 matches in 27 days which is the August Schedule.

There are no easy matches for RSL the rest of the way, every match is either against a Western Conference opponent and/or a team in the thick of the playoff hunt so every point will be vital if RSL want to keep ahold of the top spot in the West or the overall table.  I am still holding out hope that RSL can find a way to pick up 9 points in their next 5 matches which include 3 at home in addition to the Wednesday match at Portland and a trip to Seattle.  The 50 point tier is a huge one as it would be hard to miss the playoffs with 50 points and it would mark (if RSL can get there before LA) the first time a MLS team has had 4 straight seasons with at least 50 points.  That is perhaps the best testament to the consistency that RSL has built since winning MLS Cup, but clearly the goal isn’t just that mark but to secure some actual silverware.  MLS Cup and the playoffs are a crap shoot where an off night can sink you in a hurry, but with RSL still seriously in the hunt for the Supporter’s Shield and with the US Open Cup final coming in just over a month, both provide real chances to add a trophy to the collection.

The Timbers are a team that simply doesn’t lose often,  just 3 losses in 23 matches and they have shown that they are a team unafraid of physical play but one that prefers to play a more attacking style (more direct than RSL) but at least better than the bunker and long ball of some teams around the league.   It has been interesting to watch how quickly a new coach and a couple of new players have been able to change the very culture of the Timbers, who remind me a lot of the 2009 RSL squad that simply refused to give up, that went “balls to the wall” from whistle to whistle and fought for each other unlike any team I have seen before or since.   It is hard in MLS or any league to face the same team several times a season, even harder to defeat an opponent several times in one season, but for both the Timbers and RSL they will be trying to do just that.  The Timbers players and staff looked gutted after their loss in US Open Cup action just a couple of weeks ago, and now with two league matches against each other in the next two weeks the stakes are just as high as the Timbers look to secure as many points as possible in their attempt to claim their first shot at the MLS playoffs in what is a very tight Western Conference.

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US Open Cup final tickets go on sale Tomorrow (8-15-13)

This one doesn’t need much more than me just posting the press release, you know how big the US Open Cup is, you know that you want to be there to be able to see our team play on our pitch for a trophy, this has only happened once before when we played for the CONCACAF Champions League trophy.  Winning this match will mean a trophy and a chance to once again to compete for that CCL trophy as well.

TICKETS ON SALE THURSDAY FOR
OCT. 1 REAL SALT LAKE–DC UNITED LAMAR HUNT US OPEN CUP FINAL
AT RIO TINTO STADIUM

RSL Season Ticket Holders Have Exclusive Window to Purchase Seats & Unlimited Extras until August 31; General Public On-Sale Tuesday, Sept. 3 at 10 a.m. MT

SANDY, Utah (Wednesday, August 14, 2013) – EXCLUSIVELY for Real Salt Lake season ticket holders, tickets for the Tuesday, October 1 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final Match against D.C. United go on sale at 10:00 a.m. MT TOMORROWThursday, August 15 at the Rio Tinto Stadium box offices (open 10 a.m.-6 p.m.Mon-Fri), at www.RealSaltLake.com or over the phone at 801-727-2700.

While the D.C. United #USOC100 match is NOT included in the Real Salt Lake 2013 season ticket package, RSL “PRIDE” Season Ticket Holders will have an exclusive 2-week window to secure their seat location, and can also purchase unlimited additional seats to the match at preferred pricing.  Visit www.RealSaltLake.com/Tickets for more details regarding the pricing for tickets to the match, which range from $17-$80 each, depending on location. Any remaining seats following the exclusive window for RSL STH will be released to the general public on Tuesday, Sept. 3.

By virtue of last weeks 2-1 victory over the MLS Portland Timbers – before a semifinal stage record crowd of 14,742 – Real Salt Lake will now host the 100th Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final at Rio Tinto Stadium at 7:30 p.m. MT on Tuesday, Oct. 1 against D.C. United.  One win away from a return to CONCACAF Champions League via the Open Cup, Jason Kreis‘ team is the first Utah side to advance to the tourney’s Final in USOC history. Prior to its current four-game Open Cup run, Real Salt Lake had never previously won more than one game in any single #USOC100 tourney, and had won just two games all-time in the tournament proper (excluding MLS play-in games).

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Real Salt Lakes takes on Houston as brutal August continues

Well we are 10 days into August and RSL is facing their third match of the month today as they will play host to the Houston Dynamo.  The Dynamo are a interesting foe, they are the team that has played in back to back MLS Cups only to come up shy each time.  The Dynamo are a very typical MLS team, they try to keep their core of players together while adding the right pieces to replace those who have left, it is a story common to fans of every MLS team and one way to common for RSL fans.

RSL has never had a lot of success against the Dynamo, just 3-9-5 and even at home RSL is more likely to get a draw with Houston with a 3-1-4 record in Utah.  This hasn’t been a good year for RSL against what is often perceived as the weaker Eastern Conference, with just a 2-4-2 record, so Saturday will provide a chance to secure 3 much needed points at home which would allow them to stay on top of both the MLS table and the Western Conference.

The Dynamo are an interesting team, since moving to Houston the Dynamo have seemed to know just when to peak in the MLS season, mid summer to late fall and it has paid off with them winning MLS Cup in 2006 and 2007 their first two teams in their new home town, playing in two more MLS Cups (2011 & 2012) and have missed the playoffs just once (2010) since moving from San Jose.  That is consistency at a very high level, given the fact that they moved cities, have moved conferences and dealt with a revolving door of players but at the helm has been Dominic Kinnear.   The changes have been huge over the last couple of years, Stuart Holden left, Ricardo Clark left (and is now back), Geoff Cameron has left, and while Brain Ching is still with the team he now plays a very limited role (0 starts, 13 appearances, 0 goals, 1 assist).

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Signing Clint Dempsey is great for Seattle, but is it for MLS? (Updated)

You will forget this statement by the time you get to the end of this post, but try to remember it. I am fine with a MLS owner spending their own money/revenue to sign DP players at any salary level they feel is appropriate to help their team get better.

The Sounders have struggled for much of the season, injuries, call ups, and a lot of changes to their roster have left them a bit desperate to make a big move, one that will shake things up both on and off the pitch.  Clint Dempsey fits that bill perfectly, it would be hard to imagine him not making them a much better team on the pitch, and for the fans who have been waiting for something big to get them back on track to win some trophies well they have to be impressed by this level of commitment of the club.

There had been some rumblings on twitter about Dempsey and the Sounders, but most people took it as typical “silly season” type of stuff, then Thursday night a single picture (of Jorge Perea of energy drink Golazo fame with Clint in the San Francisco airport) seemed to have taken it from rumor to story, a the story that I am sure a whole lot of people in Seattle and New York probably wished they could have kept secret until they could hold an official unveiling event, but within 24 hours a rumor became fact and the cat was out of the bag as the Sounders sign Clint Dempsey.

However as a fan of MLS it leaves me scratching my head a little bit, given that we just heard Don Garber talk about how MLS was so proud of their parity and then to sign off on a team paying a 9 million dollar transfer fee (3x the current team salary cap in MLS of $2,950,000) and paying a 8 million dollar a year salary for 4 years (more than David Beckham and Robbie Keane were reported to have made combined last year).  When we have a salary cap that grows at a rate smaller than the CBA mandated raises given to players that forces teams to get rid of players on a regular basis in order to stay within the salary cap, it just seems a bit off.  When we have players that are making $35,125 a year (that would be under $17 an hour if players were paid based on a 40 hour work week), paying a guy almost $22K a day just seems a bit off.

It also leaves a couple of things that MLS just needs to deal with:

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Real Salt Lake faces a brutal August, brutally important

Real Salt Lake has 12 MLS matches left in the regular season, half of those will be in August and 4 of them will be against 3 Western Conference opponents (at Colorado, at LA Galaxy, at Portland, Portland at home), 3 matches at home (Houston, Columbus, and Portland).  With just 6 MLS matches scheduled in September and October(who makes these schedules?) RSL will need a strong August to keep the top spot in MLS locked up heading into the fall.

As if that wasn’t a big enough month you can toss in the US Open Cup semifinal next Wednesday when RSL will host the Portland Timbers, the winner will host the Open Cup final. It has been clear that Jason and the team have made the US Open Cup a priority, not only does allow the most direct path back to CONCACAF Champions League but it also is the quickest way to a trophy (well other than beating the Rapids on Saturday for our 7th straight Rocky Mountain Cup) and that is something this team seems really focused on this year.

The upside for RSL is the return of the rest of our Gold Cup participants, lets be honest there aren’t many teams that if you took away 4 starting players for a month, would have been able to hold on to the top spot in MLS, then add in the injuries and it would be even less likely.  So with Kyle Beckerman, Tony Beltran, and Nick Rimando back the starting lineups should be even more formidable going forward.  There is also the issue at centerback as Carlos Salcedo continues to get healthy, Chris Schuler gets closer to a return, and newcomer Brandon McDonald fights for minutes, hopefully getting all 3 of them might let us get Nat Borchers a little bit of rest over the tail end of the long summer.

Let’s take a look at those August matches a bit more closely:

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Major League Soccer Expansion and you

Dear MLS fans, if you are shocked or amazed that Don Garber would publicly state at halftime of the MLS All Star match that the league isn’t done expanding, well you haven’t been paying enough attention. Last year at the BBVA Compass opening he said the following:

“This expansion project is a 20-year process,” Garber said. “It’s not a two- or three-year process. I can’t imagine that 20 years from now we’re not in markets like Miami or Minneapolis or [Atlanta]. I think we’ll be in most major markets. We have to be. It’s a big country. The question is: How long will that take?”

MLS Soccer

I talked about it then, but that was another blog and we did learn some things yesterday when Don mentioned his plan to add 4 more teams by 2020.  We learned that the 24 number which was one mentioned by several people over the last several years, is the short term goal, and it makes sense from a scheduling standpoint.   It could be different but we have been force feed this unbalanced schedule for a reason, it fits perfectly with the 24 team league.  The structure could be different but likely you will still have an Eastern and Western Conference (maybe with some type of sub-divisions) of 12 teams each.  You play each team in your conference twice each year with a home and away format (22 matches) and each team in the other conference one a year alternating home and away (12 matches) and presto you have 34 matches or the same number we have had the last two seasons.

I know some of the purists out there who believe that MLS should run like the EPL with 20 teams, a balanced schedule and promotion and relegation won’t like it, but the reality is they just need to get over it.  They may not like it, I may not like it but the reality is that trying to compare the US sports market and how soccer is a part of it, is very different than the other parts of the world, and if we want to make Sepp Blatter wrong and create a soccer league that is relevant in the US, we are going to have to do some things different than nations that have leagues that are 100 years old, or where it is the primary sport of a nation.

So I did think it was good to hear from MLS about their plan, and today we got some specifics about what they consider as requirements for expansion.

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