Well with just 4 matches to go it is likely RSL will make the playoffs, but over the last 5 matches there have been a lot more questions than answers. 2-1-2 in those last 5 matches with a home loss to Houston last weekend and RSL has simply looked anemic on offense and that leaves any simple mistake on defense as a point costing one. The injury report for RSL has both Yura and Joao listed as questionable, but we may see the return of Javier Morales, so the task of beating league leaders FC Dallas gets even more difficult.
While the loss to Houston was the first home loss of the season, RSL’s 8 home wins is tied for the lowest number of home wins of any Western Conference team that is above the red line at this point of the season, tied with LA. FC Dallas has a conference leading 5 road wins to go with their 10-1-4 home record and are the only team heading into Saturday to have secured a playoff spot already. So can RSL derail their goal to win the supporters’ shield?
To win this one, RSL will need to score first, FCD is 12-0-2 when they score first and just 3-8-4 when they allow the first goal. The FCD defense isn’t much better than RSL’s, they have 39 goals allowed vs RSL’s 42, and even their offense isn’t a lot better with 47 goals scored to RSL’s 42. When Dallas is good, they are really good, in 17 of their matches they have scored 2 or more goals, which when combined with 9 clean sheets explains why their record is so good. RSL has scored 2 or more goals 15 times, but with just 4 clean sheet it has been hard to get wins instead of draws. That goes a long way to explain why FCD has 3 more wins and 2 fewer loses than RSL. What will the keys be on Saturday? Read more
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
“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.”
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.