Archive for March 2014

Real Salt Lake dismantle Toronto FC 3-0

So in my match preview post, I pointed out how the passing and possession style of RSL would cause issues for TFC who often look to force a mistake or counter and attack, on Saturday night RSL had 434 passes completed at a 80% rate, while TFC had just 265 and a completion rate of 73%.  That resulted in RSL dominating the possession by a 60.5% to 39.5%, and RSL was much more effective with their possession.

I thought the absence of Jonathan Osorio would be huge as he was the main link for TFC between their defense and Michael Bradley, the result was the Bradley often found himself having to come further back to get the ball and that limited his effectiveness as a playmaker and provider.  The TFC midfield simply couldn’t match up with RSL’s on Saturday, despite the play of Bradley, only 7 passes found their way to Jermain Defoe who only got 2 shots off and neither was on target.  Gilberto took 5 shots with a couple forcing saves by Nick Rimando but on the night the RSL defense was very solid and despite some good attempts by TFC, they simply never were able to find the back of the net.

I will say that I got mighty lucky with my preview picks on the scoring Saturday night, I predicted a 3-1 RSL win with Sabo getting the brace (check), and Luis Gil getting one (check), I did pick Bradley to get a goal for TFC and he came within a couple of inches with a shot from distance that froze Rimando but bounced off the frame.  Not a bad round of predictions.

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Real Salt Lake vs Toronto FC – Match Preview

So within a couple weeks of RSL coming up short in MLS Cup, all the attention around MLS shifted north of the border as Toronto FC started spending money like a rapper in a strip club, the MLS version of making it rain.  Gilberto was signed as a DP, but he was the appetizer for their fans, as the team would announce both Michael Bradley and Jermain Defoe would be joining them heading into the 2014 MLS season.  Now Toronto wasn’t the first team to spend big buck on Mega DP’s, but they were the first to do so on this scale of both transfer fees and salaries.

As a RSL fan, I have seen a club built a very different way, a way that has seen a consistency over the last 5 plus seasons that have kept them at the top levels of MLS. During that time we saw LA push and lead the league in creating the DP rule, then the two DP rule and eventually the league settled on 3 DP’s per team.  We have seen big names come before Toronto made their moves, we had Beckham, Henry, Marquez, Blanco, Keane, and others come and go with varying levels of success.  Clubs have most often found themselves in one of two quickly diverging paths, spending huge amounts of money on a select few and hoping to fill in pieces around them (LA, NY, SEA), or spreading their money around more players building deep rosters and selectively using the DP rule when needed (RSL, SKC, HOU, POR).  Both types of teams have found success in both the regular and post seasons of MLS over the last few years.

Now Toronto wants to join in on the fun, the second method didn’t work for them so they are trying to spend their way to success, and while it may not be the way I think teams should be built, I don’t blame them.  Since joining the league in 2007, they have yet to make it to the post season, in fact if their had been relegation in place TFC wouldn’t be in MLS.  Making that worse is the fact that TFC has had amazing fan support from day one, so do I blame their ownership for making a huge shift in spending?  Nope not at all.

On Saturday night TFC will play their 3rd match of this new era for their club, and let’t be honest none of us know what to expect.  Do we see the team that quickly put up two on Seattle and then held on for a 2-1 win, or the club that struggled to a 1-0 win at home against DC United?  Of course there are also some questions about RSL, after a 1-0 opening day win over the LA Galaxy, RSL lost a 3-1 lead at San Jose and settled for a 3-3 draw, and then last weekend after getting a 1-0 lead over LA in RSL’s home opener the team again had to settle for a draw, this time 1-1.  So what will we see on Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium?

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RSL recovers from LA match and prepares for Toronto FC

It is kinda funny that in 3 of the first 4 weeks of the MLS season RSL is facing a team built by Tim Leiweke, if you don’t know who Tim is well then you haven’t paid very close attention to MLS for the last 10 years or so.  We will talk about Tim in a bit.  So last Saturday RSL kicked off the home portion of their 2014 season, and while it didn’t go the way RSL players or fans wanted, the 1-1 draw was probably a fair result on a night that saw both sides suffer some big losses due to injuries.  We can relive the many bad calls that were made or not made but in the end there isn’t anything that can be done about that.

The loss of Joao Plata to a hamstring injury clearly impacted the rhythm and style that RSL wanted to play in the match, but in the end it may have been the elevation that drained both teams and turned the match into something resembling the Hobbit – The Desolation of Smaug.  You know spots of excitement, but lots of “meh” to get to those spots. I will say this, Sabo’s goal was a great one but the highlight of the night had to be the capacity crowd that was loud, dedicated and rocking the entire match.  TIFOs, banners, signs, and flags were all around the stadium, enough so that Brian Dunseth reports several national soccer folks reached out to him to compliment the RSL faithful for their outpouring of team pride.

So with the Galaxy in the rear view mirror, sights are now set on Toronto FC that are coming to town, but this isn’t the same TFC as in years past, as I said RSL will be facing a Tim team for the 3rd time in their first 4 weeks of the season.  So I guess I should explain who this Tim guy is to those of you who may not know about him.

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Real Salt Lake to host LA Galaxy in home opener – match preview

It seems almost amazing that Real Salt Lake already has two matches under their belts and now as spring has sprung they will start the home portion of their season by taking on the LA Galaxy again.  The first time around it was the Galaxy home opener and RSL was able to rain on their parade thanks to a Joao Plata goal and some amazing stops by Nick Rimando.  It was an exciting match as both side showed a little bit of rust but both showed that they can be very dangerous, it was lucky that Robbie Keane didn’t get a goal and unlucky that the officials got the call wrong on Luke Mulholland’s goal.  In the end it was a 1-0 win for RSL who notched their 5th straight opening day win, and now RSL will look to extend their undefeated home opening streak.  Oh I know that someone will think I am going to jinx them, but RSL has never lost a home opener, they may not have won all of them but never a loss.

For RSL it will be a real test as the injuries are piling up early on in the season, Findley, Sandoval, Velasquez, Morales, Allen, Maund, Schuler and Watson-Siriboe all have some type of injury issues they are dealing with. The upside is that newcomer Luke Mulholland has been a great surprise and Plata has started off the season as well as anyone in MLS. So with the home crowd behind them on a rare afternoon start, it should be a perfect chance to catch the two best teams in MLS over the last 5 seasons.

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Cancelled-Do you want to see the new Captain America movie early, and help the RCB?

Well events like this require hundreds of people to commit and that simply didn’t happen in time to secure the theater and the movie, so unfortunately it has been cancelled.

OK, so it isn’t cheap doing all the things the supporter groups do, so when you can make a donation ($20) and get to also see Captain America: The Winter Soldier a day early, plus get popcorn and a soda, well that seems like a no-brainer to me. So the RCB is doing a screening at 7pm on April 3rd at the Gateway Megaplex and there are still tickets available.

So how can you get tickets? Well you can email Cidne Christensen (rcbleaders@gmail.com) or give her a call at 801-388-6775 for details.  Profits from the event will go to cover costs of Tifo, Drums, Supplies and other expenses.

Have you seen the trailer for this movie?

I hope to see you there.

 

 

Real Salt Lake look to spoil the Quakes 2014 home opener – match preview

Heading to San Jose for an early season match is nothing new for RSL, this will be the 3rd time in the last 4 seasons that we have played at Buck Shaw in March.  In 2011 we kicked off the season there and picked up a 1-0 win, then last year it was a 2-0 win over the Quakes on opening day.  So while we kicked off our season last weekend with the win in LA, this will be the first MLS match for San Jose and while RSL’s roster remained largely the same as last year, that is far from true for the Quakes who missed the playoffs last year despite breaking the 50 point plateau (51 points).

Sixteen players on the out side of the transaction list for San Jose, thirteen on the in side of that list:
San Jose Transfers

For me this means two things, despite all the changes they are really the same basic team, there are no huge moves, no mega DP’s for San Jose they will still rely on the same guys up top (Wondolowski, Gordon, and Lenhart) and they hope that Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi their big off season pick up from France can provide them some type of creativity in the midfield, something they lacked last year.

While San Jose missed the playoffs last year they were the hottest team down the stretch with just 2 losses in their last 14 matches, to go along with 3 draws and 9 wins but it was goals scored that kept them out as they lost that tiebreaker to Colorado (45 to 35). Their 35 goals scored last year was less than half of their 2012 total, but nobody really thought that they would get another record year from Chris Wondolowski, or that their last minute antics of that season could really be repeated on a regular basis over a full season.

The season got off to a great start for Real Salt Lake, after everyone urged caution in getting expectations too high, the exciting result in LA has a lot of people buzzing.

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Real Salt Lake finds victory in contentious match against Galaxy

If you watched the RSL victory over the LA Galaxy last fall in the 2nd leg of their playoff series, then little during Saturdays 1-0 win  in LA was probably surprising to you.  Just like the fall match, RSL was victimized by some strange calls including a clear goal being called back on a mystery call but instead of letting it get them down, they powered on and managed to still pick up the victory.

The highlight of the match, or highlights had to be the extraordinary effort in goal of Nick Rimando who made several key stops but none more important than the stoppage time PK stop of Robbie Keane to keep both the clean sheet but also to ensure the RSL victory. Several times mistakes forced Nick to clean up opportunities that the Galaxy had, some required his normal saves and others will likely get him nominated for save of the week. Nick in true RSL fashion was quick to point out that it was a collective team effort that secured the victory:

It’s tough to get a result, let alone a shutout here, and they came at us like we knew they would and I thought the defense played great, and by defense I mean the whole team.

Nick Rimando

Nick is right, work by everyone on both sides of ball is always a key to how RSL plays and we saw a lot of that, and while not every thing was perfect the mistakes were either quickly covered by a teammate or the Galaxy failed to capitalize.  It was good to hear that Nat Borchers mentioned that the team pushed for Aaron Maund to get the start and that confidence in him was rewarded by a solid effort against some of the most dangerous offensive players in MLS.

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Real Salt Lake open season against LA Galaxy – match preview

Real Salt Lake will kick off their 2014 season like almost every other season, with a match away from home, but that hasn’t proven to be a task they aren’t able to handle. Can RSL pick up their 5th straight opening day road win? To do so they will need to beat rival side LA.

A lot of people think that sports rivalries, especially those in MLS are all about geography but if you don’t think that RSL vs LA is a rivalry, despite what some of the Galaxy players might tell you, or how MLS might promote the match, well then you clearly haven’t looked at the definition of the word lately, let me help you out:rivalry

For the last 4 seasons both the Galaxy and Real Salt Lake have won at least 15 matches and scored at least 50 points, a feat that no other MLS team has ever done before (post shoot out era), two of those years the Galaxy finished higher in the table than RSL and twice it was RSL who finished with a better position. Since 2009 the teams have played for 5 MLS Cups combined, and won it 3 times.

Heck since RSL joined MLS 10 years ago the teams have fought 25 times in the regular season and the competition couldn’t be more equal with each side winning 10 matches and 5 draws.  The competition actually goes beyond the normal win at home type of MLS results, RSL has actually won 5 times in LA out of their 13 regular season matches, with 1 draw.  It goes beyond the regular season, the teams have faced each other 3 times in the playoffs since 2009.  RSL won the MLS Cup over LA in 2009, in 2011 LA beat RSL in the Western Conference final, and last year RSL was able to get the win over the Galaxy in the semifinals.

So how will the teams match up on the opening weekend of the 2014 MLS season?

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The 2014 Real Salt Lake Journey is about to begin

This weekend RSL kicks off their 10th season in Major League Soccer, before they do I thought taking a look at some of the challenges they face would be a good idea.

I know the easiest things to focus on will be the coaching change, an aging roster, limited changes on our roster to keep pace with other clubs making moves, but for me the 2nd full year of ownership by Dell Loy Hansen will actually be the area of greatest concern.

Oh I know some of you will jump on the fact that I am not going to name sources, but with people’s jobs on the line that is just the way it is, so if unnamed sources bother you then stop reading now.  First is the issue that DLH is a businessman, and a very good one but his experience with professional sports is none.   This is something that can be overcome with a knowledgeable staff and it would be hard to argue that Bill Manning and Garth Lagerwey aren’t among the very best in MLS, but if you hesitate to listen to their advice or if you have trust issues because they were hired by the previous owner, well then you will likely run into issues.   I get it, you have bought into an organization but you still feel like an outsider at time because the relationships between Dave and many are so tight (having weathered real storms over the years), I can see how you might not be sure of who you can really trust or not.  Clearly there also is the need to be wary given the financial state the team was in when you signed up and over the next couple years as a co-owner.

All of those things when you think about them make great sense, I hope by now that things have become more clear, from the top to the bottom of the organization people have bought into “the team is the star” and the ‘RSL Family” mentality.  Fans, players, coaches, front office staff, all have invested a lot into the team, maybe not in dollars and cents, but in passion, in dedication, and all have done so to see the team grow and succeed.  I do feel that if the trust issues, they go both ways, don’t get resolved this year (as early as possible) it could really lead to issues on and off the pitch.  Players come here because we have something special going on, it is in the locker room, it is in the stands, it is on the pitch and off of it.  If you doubt me, talk to guys like Lovell Palmer, or others who have left the team, or talk to the new guys who within a couple weeks learn that something different is happening here than at a lot of clubs.  Yeah we have a chip on our shoulders here, small market team, smaller budget than most, years of fighting to get national attention, but never for a moment have we seen that chip be anything than wanting better for the whole of RSL.

Mr. Hansen it is your money and as such you get to do what you want with the club, but understand that every decision at every level impacts the whole, you have fans, players and staff that want nothing more than to see RSL be as great as we all know it can be.  You can lead us there, but we must learn to trust each other or things will never be as good as they can be.

OK, on to those other things

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