Archive for February 2016

Keys to digging out of a 0-2 hole in Champions League

In RSL’s history in CONCACAF Champions league they have found a way to get some impressive wins at home.  The last time we were in the knockout rounds, RSL got a 4-1 win in the second leg over the Columbus Crew to move on to the semifinals.  In their home leg of those semifinals, they picked up a 2-0 win at home over Saprissa.

In the 2010 group stage, there was a 4-1 win over TFC at home and a 3-1 win over Cruz Azul (that wouldn’t be good enough on Wednesday), in 2012 there was a group stage there was a 2-0 win over Tauro.

In MLS action RSL had 20 home wins in the last 5 seasons where the score would have been enough to advance them or at least push the 2nd leg to extra time.

So for those who doubt the ability of RSL to comeback, there is more than enough evidence to suggest that the team is capable of turning this series around and moving forward.

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RSL digs a hole in first leg of CCL series with Tigres

Every coach and player will always tell you they are playing for the win, and they are but then you have reality that sometimes says “The better team, the in form team, the deeper team wins most often” and reality is right.  On Wednesday night RSL had to play a perfect match to get a win in Monterrey against Tigres and they were far from perfect, so there was no win.  That doesn’t mean everything was wrong, or went wrong, there were both positives and negatives that the team can use to improve itself as the series moves to the second leg and their MLS season approaches.  Recovering from a 0-2 deficit will not be easy against a quality Tigres side, neither MLS team that played their first leg at home were able to get a win vs their Liga MX opponent as both LA and Seattle ended with draws in their matches.

First a few of the positives that I saw on Wednesday, Sunny Obayan playing in his first real match for RSL looked like he both understood what was being asked of him and was able to work well with the other midfielders.  That is a huge step for a player who had only a couple weeks of preseason with the team, and could be a real positive as the season moves forward.  While he was playing a largely defensive role for RSL on Wednesday, during the preseason we have seen his work on the offensive side of the ball as well. In the match he attempted 24 passes, connecting on 22 of them for a 92% success rate according to the CONCACAF site, MLS had him completing 20 and missing on 4, still a great number for his first match.

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Real Salt Lake needs to keep it simple at Tigres in 1st Leg of Champions League series

When you think about the reality that Real Salt Lake is still about 2 weeks from the start of their MLS season, and facing a team that many expect to win the CONCACAF Champions League, the hill is steep.  It doesn’t mean you don’t try, it means you have to be very smart in how you approach things, but I don’t thing RSL needs to be afraid of Tigres.  The reality is that in soccer the better team doesn’t always win, we have been on the losing side of matches in the past where we simply were the better team.  So for me it is all about playing within yourself, knowing that you are facing a quality opponent that is in form as they are 7 matches into their season already (3-2-2 with 13 GF and 9 GA).

I fully expect the RSL lineup to be the same as the lineup they went with in their Saturday morning scrimmage with FC Tucson:
Rimando
Beltran – Olave – Maund – Phillips
Sunny – Beckerman – Morales
Burrito – Yura – Plata

To get a result in Monterrey will require playing simple, not making mistakes and taking advantage of any opportunities that may present themselves.

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Do you have Fox Sports 2? If not you catch RSL’s CCL match here

It is very, very rare that you will see me just copy and paste a RSL or MLS press release.  It just isn’t my style but in this case I am going to make an exception:

SANDY, Utah (Monday, February 22, 2016)  – Longtime Real Salt Lake supporter Budweiser and several of its “Pub Partner” locations across the Salt Lake valley will host “#BELIEVE Bashes” for fans of the Claret-and-Cobalt. The total of nine watch party locations offer fans the chance to commune together and support Captain Kyle Beckerman, GK Nick Rimando, MF Javier Moralesand the entire team as it kicks off the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal series Wednesday at 6:00 p.m. MT against reigning Mexican champion Tigres UANL in Monterrey, Mexico.

Each of the following establishments will offer autographed RSL merchandise, RSL & Monarchs ticket giveaways, and more to celebrate the official kickoff of RSL’s 12th season. Locations include:

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Real Wraps up preseason with a 1-1 draw with the Columbus Crew

So I have to start this by saying I had a great time in Tucson, the weather and people were awesome there.  It provided me a good chance to see RSL in action a couple times, Wednesday 3-3 draw with New England, Friday practice session, Saturday AM 4-0 in a 45 minute scrimmage vs FC Tucson, and the 1-1 draw against Columbus Saturday night.  It also allowed me to get my new camera set up correctly and ready for the season, which is a very good thing.

Saturday evening was an interesting match as RSL went with almost a complete lineup of “2nd string” guys, and while that might sound like an insult, it sure isn’t meant that way.  With the CCL match at Tigres coming up the choice to rest the likely starters on Saturday night seems like a natural move and it was the right thing to do.  So instead we got to see some of the future guys for RSL go head to head for 60 minutes with the likely starting roster for the Columbus Crew who were the team who represented the Eastern Conference in MLS Cup in December.

So here is what your starting lineup looked like:

Jeff Attinella

Boyd Okuwonu – Phanuel Kavita – Justen Glad- Chris Wingert

John Stertzer – Danilo Acosta – Jordan Allen

Emery Welshman – Olmes Garcia – Devon Sandoval

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Real Salt Lake starters look good in scrimmage vs FC Tucson

So this morning in Tucson the first team for RSL, likely starters for next weeks CCL match, played a 45 minute scrimmage vs FC Tucson and while I got there a few minutes late it was clearly the Plata and Burrito show as Joao found the back of the net 3 times and had an assist on Martinez’s goal (Burrito had the assist on Plata’s first goal).

Now one should expect that RSL’s top guys should have been able to handle the amateur side fairly easily, and they did but FC Tucson pressed hard and played well as to give RSL a good workout.  RSL focused on their positioning and communication as you could hear Nick Rimando constantly reminding guys to communicate.

A couple things stuck out to me, one was that Demar Phillips looked very involved on both sides of the ball, his positioning seemed very in flow with the match, going forward at the right time and being in position on defense whenn second was that Joao is ready to pick up where he left off in 2014 when he had a breakout year.  Joao’s runs were well timed and he was able to find gaps to work in often with some great balls played to him by both Juan Manuel and Javier Morales.

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For RSL the first 6 matches of the MLS season will be telling

I know you can never read too much into how a team does at the start of the season but I think for RSL this year you can.  First they will have two hugely important matches in CCL against a top level opponent in Tigres that should help get them ready for MLS action.  Second, the first 6 matches are huge as 3 of our 4 home matches before the May to mid June grass replacement at Rio Tinto will take place in the first batch of matches.  So let’s take a closer look at those first 6 matches:

  • Opening Day – at Orlando FC – Sunday, March 6th
    • You can expect a very full house in Orlando for their kickoff of their second season in MLS, in fact they are trying to again get 62,000 plus fans into the Citrus Bowl.  Last year RSL was unable to take advantage of a Kaka red card and settled for a 1-1 home draw on July 4th. In a battle of teams that embrace lions, RSL should be able to win the battle of Prides to open the season on a positive note.
  • Home Opener – Seattle – Saturday, March 12th
    • Every match with the Sounders has been a battle as the two sides seem to bring out the best in each other. Over the last 5 years we are 6-2-5 facing the Sounders, 4-1-0 at Rio Tinto Stadium.  With the Sounders adjusting to life without Obafemi Martins there may be no better time to lay a beat down on them than our home opener. A early match that will have points on the line that could decide playoff positioning.

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Real Salt Lake settle for a 3-3 draw vs New England in Tucson

So Let me start this by explaining that while I understand there were huge issues with the online stream of this match, first know that had nothing to do with the RSL front office or media team they were not in charge of any of the technical side of the feed.  Second know issues were had on the feed of the Colorado match as well, and there was no feed of the SKC vs Crew match. Finally for all of you who watched the second half via my periscope, thanks that was kinda fun.  If you want to check that out, it is here.

I expect the lineup we saw in this match is what the team is expecting to go with in the first leg of the CCL series with Tigres:

Rimando, Beltran, Olave, Maund, Phillips, Beckerman, Sunny, Morales, Plata, Movsisyan, Martinez

That is depending on injuries, based on what I saw last night both Luke Mulholland and Chris Wingert on the bench in non-uniform outfits and neither took part in warmups.  I expect we will see a much more second team based lineup on Saturday knowing that the team will then travel to Monterrey in front of their match next Wednesday.

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Real Salt Lake faces high expectations in 2016

So after what was probably the most disappointing season in RSL history, I didn’t expect us to be good in those early years as we built a team, but coming off a 2013 MLS Cup final appearance, and a 3rd place finish in 2014, to finish just above the Rapids at the bottom of the Western Conference in 2015 and to miss the playoff was far from expectations.  So lots of things went wrong in 2015, a lot of injuries, a new formation, and simply an ever improving league, it is hard to know what happened and looking back at this point is rather pointless as we head rapidly into 2016.

I think it is important for fans to remember it wasn’t until the 3rd season under Jason Kreis that RSL made their run to MLS Cup, a season in which the team barely made the playoffs on the closing weekend of the season.  So as we hit the 3rd year of the Jeff Cassar tenure, the expectations for a much better season and a return to the playoffs is expected.  In the offseason the team made several moves to improve, the biggest of which is bringing back Yura Movsisyan, but that isn’t the only move the team has made.  RSL picked up well traveled Nigerian midfielder Sunday “Sunny” Obayan, who is expected to fight for that 3rd midfield spot alongside Javier Morales and Kyle Beckerman.  Add in a healthy Joao Plata and a full preseason for Juan “Burrito” Martinez and the front 3 look to be set and very dangerous.

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What is old is new again at Real Salt Lake

I find a sense of humor in how an element within the RSL fan base seem to complain when we lose players and now that several have returned they complain about that.  Now the easy examples of what is old being new again at RSL are Yura Movsisyan and Chris Wingert and while the time away and circumstances are much different, there were groups of people who were happy and some sad when they left, and as they return again some folks are happy while others are sad.

I am going to start with a look at Chris Wingert who had been a stalwart of the RSL lineup from 2008 to 2014, years during which RSL often had one of the top defenses in MLS.  Chris is more of a stay at home back than the adventurous backs featured on some teams, he got forward often enough but his primary focus was always defense first, defense second, and then maybe going forward to help out on the offensive side of things.  Chris was left unprotected in the 2015 expansion draft and while I expect he didn’t want to leave a chance to go home (he is a New York native) and play in front of family and friends and for a coaching staff that was head up by Jason Kreis, had to be attractive to him.  At NYCFC last year he started in 26 matches and played both outside and center back in a season that only could be considered a struggle for the expansion side.  With a massive change in their coaching staff, who didn’t see that coming, several players brought in specifically by Jason were either traded or let go and Chris was one of those.

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