Archive for March 2016

Real Salt Lake face defending MLS Cup champs Portland – Match Preview

Real Salt Lake will head into Portland looking to continue the improvement they showed against Seattle in this critical stretch of 6 matches to begin the season.  While there is still room to be better on both sides of the ball, the way RSL reacted after giving up the first goal last Saturday shows a fight that was often lacking in 2015, and the team should be able to build upon that.  Without Javier Morales the side was still able to create chances, but Seattle was able to dictate much of the match be played at their pace and style, it sounds like Javi will rejoin the starting lineup for Saturday.

However, Jamison Olave has picked up a knock and hasn’t trained fully with the team this week, add in that the match is on the turf and it could a smart move to rest him this weekend. That could open the door to give Justen Glad his first start of the season, or to move Chris Wingert over to the middle of the backline and bring back Demar Phillips who is done serving his one match suspension. I expect the first option is probably the way things would go given how well Glad did in the preseason, especially the match against the Crew where he and Wingert did a great job in keeping Kei Kamara from being too dangerous.

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Week 2 brings a critical matchup for both teams RSL vs SEA – Match Preview

Real Salt Lake is desperate to remove the stigma of 2015 that crept into their season opener on Sunday, with a red card and then late goals given up to turn a win into a draw. Meanwhile the Sounders are simply looking to take “the step” to MLS Cup, in their 7th season in the league you have to believe that few teams are under more pressure to not only make the playoffs but hoist MLS Cup as the Sounders are.  So while it is just week two in a very long season, both sides will be looking to get a win on Saturday afternoon at Rio Tinto Stadium.

One huge story for Saturday could be who doesn’t play, for RSL a rib injury to Javier Morales kept him out of training on Thursday and he is unlikely for Saturday, and RSL will be without Demar Phillips who will be serving his red card suspension.  Seattle comes in without Brad Evans who picked up an injury on Sunday, but both Erik Friberg and Tyronne Mears returned to practice for the Sounders and will likely play a role on Saturday. The Sounders will be without Oniel Fisher who will be serving his red card suspension.  The loss of two starting defenders could be a huge factor in the match on Saturday if RSL can find a way to take advantage of it.

RSL holds a slight lead in the head to head matches with 7 wins to Seattle’s 6 and 4 draws when the two sides meet.  Last year RSL won 2-0 at home and lost 1-3 in Seattle.

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Life on the edge or being a RSL fan after 1 week of the MLS season

There are few people in soccer that I respect as much as I do Brian Dunseth, so when on On Frame Monday night he talked about RSL fans being on the edge and how too often we (fans) allow our emotions to push us to the negative vs understanding that one can be critical and acknowledge the positives as well.  He is right, and so was Matt Gacshk as he pointed out that last year the team probably drop their heads and pack it in when they go down to 10 guys so early in the match.

Both of them will tell you that they see something different with this group than last year, I agree with them. Even in the preseason matches and practices in Tucson, it seems like there is a higher degree of accountability within the team than there was last year.  I believe bringing back Yura and Chris, both guys who were here in 2009 when the team played as a team. So while as Dunny reminds us that the motto “The Team is the Star” came out of a time when the team was built around a lot of middle level salary guys and the team was successful without big name and big money DP’s, I hope and think that this year, that the mentality of playing for each other, playing for the fans and as a club being more interested in the collective good than individual glory (which can come as part of team success) will lead us to a new version of “The Team is the Star”.

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RSL suffer late gut punch at Orlando 2-2

When RSL gave up a late goal on Wednesday night in Champions League play, it was because they were pushing everything forward looking for a second goal to stay alive in their series and it felt great at the end. Effort, heart, passion, desire all were shown in spades on Wednesday night, so what would happen on Sunday?

Well early on Orlando gets a goal called back on an offside call (iffy at best), and you know the saying that “the ball don’t lie” well we would find out much later how true that is.  First it would be two early yellow cards to Demar Phillips (not sure why he was starting vs Chris Wingert in the first place) that would send RSL down a man with 70 minutes to go.  It was just a few minutes later that Chris Penso points to the PK spot and this time Joao Plata steps up and coverts it to give RSL a 1-0 lead in the 26th minute. As often has been the case RSL played better with 10 men than they were with 11 men, but before the half would end things would level.  Not the score but a straight red card to Darwin Ceren would mean both sides would play the second half with 10 men.

In the second half RSL would continue to create some chances and in the 66th minute one pretty goal would give them a 2-0 lead as Joao Plata would get his second of the day on a great play started by Burrito that lead to a sublime cross by Tony Beltran that Plata put into the back of the net.  RSL would force Orlando to chase them for the remainder of the match, but in stoppage time things simply would go all wrong in a hurry.

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The 2016 MLS season is here, what to expect

Today is the day, the 21st season of MLS action gets under way, in many ways 2016 is the calm after one storm and before an even bigger one, 2015 saw two new team jump into the fray of MLS (NYCFC and Orlando City SC) both came with some big names, Kaka, Frank Lampard (well eventually), David Villa, Mix Diskerud (is he still a big name?) and both struggled on the pitch to compete as neither made the playoffs in a rather weak Eastern Conference. It was also the start of the new TV deal for MLS, a new CBA, and lots and lots of new sponsorships for the league.  So with no new teams this year and a year where there simply haven’t been any of those huge signings like last year, don’t forget we also saw Steve Gerrard, Jermaine Jones, Giovani dos Santos and Sebastian Giovinco join the league, but maybe those come this summer?

There are new stars but smaller names, like Ashley Cole, Lucas Ontivero, Yura Movsisyan, Carlos Gruezo and Shkelzen Gashi, we also the return of a player I really like is Simon Dawkins now a DP with San Jose and there are a lot of open DP spots around the league.  We saw some big name players change places, Dan Kennedy, Jeff Larentowicz, and Mike Magee to LA Galaxy, Marco Pappa and Jermaine Jones to Colorado, Marcelo Sarvas to DC United, Maximiliano Urruti and Mauro Rosales to FC Dallas, Christian Miadana to Houston, Harry Shipp to Montreal, Brad Davis and Justin Mapp to Sporting KC, Will Johnson and Clint Irwin to Toronto FC and Blaz Perez to Vancouver.

All of this before we see 2 new teams likely join the league in 2017 and then 2 more in 2018, so even without those huge name signings it is a big year for the league as those new sponsors will want to see some ROI and the league needs to find a way to get the TV numbers moving up in a hurry.

So as a fan what should you expect?  Will it be another year with the big clubs missing out on MLS Cup (come on none of you picked Portland vs Columbus last year, don’t lie about it)? Well it is a crap shoot to try to pick who will win what at this point of the season, MLS has too many variables to be very accurate but I do have some thoughts

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Real Salt Lake vs Orlando City SC – Match Preview

OK, I am going to make this a quick one.  RSL is coming off a tough match at home in CCL action, but if they can replicate that performance it will be another season opener in which they can get a result.  RSL hasn’t lost an opening day match since 2009 and have only lost twice on the opening weekend of action.  The biggest question on Sunday will be does RSL build off that match and stick with a similar lineup or do they make some changes to get guys who battled hard and many of whom have been sick in the last week some rest?  Listen the start of the season is going to be huge for RSL so I expect that if healthy we see a very similar lineup as we did on Wednesday night as the extra day off probably was very helpful.

It is hard for me to comment too much on Orlando as I only saw a few minutes of their preseason matches, but we can talk about what we know when it comes to them. Kaka is the motor that makes them tick, Cyle Larin proved a serious threat last year in his Rookie of the Year campaign with 17 goals, but beyond those two Orlando City fell off in a hurry.  Kaka had 9 goals and 7 assists, so over half of their offense (26 of 46 goals) came from those two players, only Bryan Rochez, who had 3 goals, was able to score more than 2 goals last year.

When the two sides faced off last season it ended in a 1-1 draw in a match that saw Kaka get a red card in the 45th minute. It was a night that saw RSL take 23 shots, and despite the man advantage for the entire second half they were unable to get a second goal to secure the win.

So what will this seasons matchup hold?

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RSL 1-1 draw vs Tigres in pictures and post match quotes

Wednesday night RSL fans were treated to a very exciting match, but RSL was unable to move forward in the CONCACAF Champions league losing their series with Tigres 3-1 on aggregate, here are some post match comments from Jeff Cassar, Nick Rimando and Tony Beltran (along with some pictures from the match:

 

Real Salt Lake
Head Coach Jeff Cassar

3-2-16 Tigres_1141 (2)

Opening statement:
“Disappointed with exiting the tournament. It’s something that we really wanted to push on and make it back to the finals, but really pleased with the effort that our players put forth. Our staff – there was a lot of energy that went into preparing for Tigres because they’re a fantastic team. But, we’ve got to move on. We’ve got a really important game Sunday against Orlando, and that’s where our focus is going to be now.”

On how he feels being that close to tying the game:
“It’s painful. It’s painful no matter what. I’m a pretty positive guy. I couldn’t be more happy and more excited about what’s ahead for this team. If we have that kind of effort from everyone. We’ve talked about sacrificing for each other, and that’s what I saw tonight was players sacrificing for each other. If we continue to do things like that we’re going to have a successful year. It definitely hurts but we have to put it behind us.”

On Javier Morales PK approach and the stutter step:
“Listen, that goalkeeper is good. He is very good. He is very long, and if he goes down earlier it’s in the goal. Javier is a professional. He’s going to bounce back. It’s a PK. Sometimes you get saved. It is what it is.”

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When being really good isn’t good enough – RSL 1-1 Tigres

I am going to start with a personal rant, if you saw my tweets during the Capital One Cup final you know I am not a fan of cutesy PK attempts, that includes exaggerated stutter steps.  Javi has made it work for him more often than not but I have never been a fan of it and tonight it bite RSL in the ass in a moment when a goal was needed most.

OK, with that out of the way.  Wow, that was a hell of a match for RSL, a bit of a slow start but soon RSL put their foot on the gas and applied great high pressure causing all kinds of confusion for Tigres and especially for their keeper who seemed on the edge of a nervous breakdown until stoppage time. It was clear that RSL frustrated Tigres in the first half of the match, the insanely high line at times, great pressure on the ball, and players showing no fear of the Liga MX side.  While there were mistakes made, none were costly until there was nothing left on the clock and desperation forced RSL to play to either score a goal or give one up, and unfortunately they gave one up.

I am going to start at the back and work my way forward with my thoughts on the individual performances tonight.

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Real Salt Lake vs Tigres – Can RSL overcome a 0-2 deficit? Match Preview

You probably saw the first leg of the series last week and know that RSL has a hole to climb out of after losing 2-0 in Monterrey, you have probably heard others say that despite the loss, RSL played fairly well.  I guess you could say that but for me, I honestly believe we ended up lucky not to have given up more goals, Tigres could have scored a couple more off the mistakes RSL made.  Those mistakes came on defense, poor marking, bad passes, failed clearances, it simply wasn’t good enough.

On the other side of the ball RSL could have and probably should have had a couple goals themselves, so some bad luck kept the team from getting a critical road goal.  Again it simply wasn’t good enough.

So a week has passed and it is kinda hard to believe that a whole lot will have changed on the RSL side, a couple days of practice (interrupted by several players getting sick).  Now players will have had more minutes with the ball, so passes should be a bit crisper, shots should be of a better quality, and overall fitness should be better.  Now the bigger difference from last week could be on the Tigres side, a comfortable win in the first leg, a dramatic late finish over Club America last weekend and a huge derby match against Monterrey on Saturday, so what players will they put out in the second leg against RSL?

Here are some comments Head Coach Jeff Cassar made to the media on Tuesday about the match:

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The comeback against Tigres may have just gotten a lot harder for RSL

So with CCL in charge media access to RSL practice consisted of 15-20 minutes of watching the guys stretch (across the field from where we were stationed) a 45 minute wait and then a quick interview session with HC Jeff Cassar and Captain Kyle Beckerman (and Joao Plata if you knew Spanish).

What did come out is that there is a bug making it’s way thru the RSL locker room, 3 players missed practice today due to it and all of them were starters in the first leg and likely starters in the second; Javier Morales, Juan Manuel “Burrito” Martinez and Demar Phillips.  Coach Cassar said he believes all 3 would be probable for Wednesday’s match but one never knows. On the upside Luke Mulholland was a full participant in practice today so he may be a player that could make the 18 man roster.

Should those 3 players not be able to go one would have to expect some easy subs for Burrito, by bringing in Olmes Garica who has had a good preseason, for Demar Phillips you bring in Chris Wingert, but Javi’s shoes are very hard to fill, do you bring in Jordan Allen who is training to be that backup but is fairly new to the position?  Do you bring in Luke and put either him, Kyle or Sunny at the point of the attack?  You could bring in John Stertzer and push Kyle or Sunny forward to be the playmaker?

I wouldn’t want to be Jeff if any of those three are unable to go, but hopefully each will get some fluids and be back in action on Wednesday.

I will post my prematch thoughts tomorrow morning.

That’s How I See It