Tag Archive for Fabian Espindola

After a stunning defeat, RSL is left with some very tough questions to face.

So I started writing this blog post on Sunday night, but I wasn’t sure why I was writing it, until today. I posted that I was pulling for New England to win MLS Cup, there are several reasons but the top one is I think they have an incredible team and I love the style of soccer they have been playing since Jermaine Jones was signed and how it has in large part freed up Lee Nguyen to become the player he is capable of being.

Of course having an opinion on twitter can be dangerous as people started to criticize me because if New England wins MLS Cup Real Salt Lake won’t end up with a Champions League spot.  They are right, RSL only gets into the tournament if LA or Seattle win, and we will get their 2nd spot by default since both have already qualified.  I went on to say that I didn’t want RSL to be in Champions League next year, because I don’t believe we can win it.  The reality is everything that follows is why I don’t want us in that tournament, and in part why I don’t think we can win it.  Simply we aren’t good enough, and while the 5-0 loss on Sunday was an anomaly where we played perhaps our worst match of the season and LA played one of their best, the reality is that we simply weren’t good enough to beat them and I don’t think continuing to do what we have in large part done for the last 5 years is the way we get good enough to beat them, to beat anyone who gets in our way of the trophies we should all be passionate about getting.

None of this means I don’t love RSL, or our players but sports is not a place where blind devotion should replace logic or common sense, it shouldn’t be a place where passion replaces intelligence.  Being critical actually is a way to show how much you care, because you want, and expect more, you know that better is within reach.  You may not agree with me, hell I don’t blame you if you don’t but my opinion is just as valid as those of fans who have for years hated on Saborio, Findley or any other RSL player who doesn’t live up to their expectations.  I have so much respect for the guys who play for RSL, because they in large part define what RSL is about, they have lived “The Team is the Star” and they have embraced the idea of the RSL Family.  Still we are left with some hard facts and some hard choices, is being consistently good, good enough?

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What people aren’t talking about from the RSL vs NYRB match

So we all can question the officials once again, should Yordany been sent off for his studs up tackle on Cahill?  Were any of the three PK’s called actually a real PK?  How in the world did the official call 46 combined fouls and yet have no control over the match.  Each of those are valid points of discussion,  but for me the impact of the ref is as much if not more than any of those, responsible for the subs that Jason Kreis made, which impacted the match both in positive and negative ways.

RSL may have been lucky that Yordany Alvarez was still on the pitch in the 61st minute of play, given the hard tackle that earned him an early yellow card (and some think was deserving of more).  He had been playing well since that early yellow, but given the nature of the match and the official, bringing in Khari Stephenson for Yordany instead of for Ned Grabavoy, who didn’t have his finest match, or Sebastian Velasquez both of whom play a position more normal for Khari seems to be at least if not completely motivated by how the match was being called.   It may have been wise as 3 more yellow cards where given out in the 15 minutes after the sub was made.

The second sub of the night was a straight swap of Luis Gil coming in for Sebastian Velasquez, this one I doubt had anything to do with the officiating but was more about fresh legs in what was a 2-1 match.  Still I wonder if again given the rough match that Ned Grabavoy was having, that if we hadn’t had to pull Yordany if perhaps Ned would have been the choice to take out here, but with Ned’s defensive abilities I can understand this move more than any other.

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Real Salt Lake at New York Red Bulls – The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly – Match Preview

Well I still haven’t re-watched the complete match from last weekend, because it will only upset me and make me mad at MLS and PRO, so like the players I have moved on to this next match, and again another huge match against a top Eastern Conference opponent and again thanks to this unbalanced schedule crap a team we only get to see live every two seasons. The Red Bulls are currently tied for second in the East, with 32 points from 21 matches, from a 9-7-5 record with 29 goals scored and 24 goals allowed, at home they are a more impressive side with a 6-2-2 record with 18 goals scored and just 8 allowed.  For RSL the home loss last weekend has to sting a bit, but RSL are a very good road team this season with a 5-4-1 record with 15 goals scored and just 10 goals allowed away from Rio Tinto Stadium.

These teams have faced off 15 times in MLS regular season action where RSL holds a 5-3-7 advantage with 21 goals scored and 20 goals allowed.  While most folks don’t see this as a rivalry match, think about a couple facts; the first match RSL ever played was a 0-0 draw at the then New York Metrostars (a match played in tropical storm conditions), the first ever MLS match at Rio Tinto Stadium was the 10-9-08 match against the Red Bulls (a 1-1 draw), and RSL’s first ever conference final match was against the Red Bulls back in 2008 (a 1-0 heartbreaking loss for RSL).  In more recent history RSL haven’t lost to the Red Bulls since April of 2009, and hold a 5-0-1 record against them since that loss, including a win and draw in our only two matches at Red Bull Arena.

The challenge for RSL will be huge this weekend, as we are still missing a huge number of players (3 – Beckerman, Rimando, and Beltran on National team duty, 1- Chris Wingert is suspended, 6 – Balchan, Salcedo, Saunders, Schuler, Stertzer, and Watson-Siriboe are out or questionable with injuries).  New York are missing Connor Lade and Heath Pearce with injuries but beyond that may be one of the most available rosters in MLS right now.  Should be interesting to see what lineups both sides put out for this one.

The Good:

Robbie Findley – After a good match against Sporting KC last weekend, and looking like one of the sharpest players on the practice pitch (from my observations on Wednesday), I think this is the type of match that could see Robbie get some quality chances to use his speed and recent form to punish a backline that despite the presence of Jamison Olave has a lot of question this season.  Robbie has never scored against the Red Bulls, but in his previous 7 matches against them he does have 3 assists, the most among RSL players who will be in action today.

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Real Salt Lake continues their hot streak

When RSL was 2 matches into the MLS season, I doubt most people thought that when the team had 20 matches under their belt that they would be at the top of MLS.  If you look at the stats, RSL has the most points 37 in MLS, their 1.85 points per match average is also tops in MLS, as is the +14 goal differential, their 11 wins, their 5 road wins.  With 32 goals scored they are tied for the top total in MLS with the Philadelphia Union, RSL’s 18 goals allowed is tied for second fewest in MLS with Portland, while New England have given up just 16 goals so far this season.

All of this came to a bit of a head on Saturday as RSL headed into Texas, missing 4 normal starters on national team duty, missing a couple other players with injuries or suspension, so was it a bit surprising when the team picked up their first every win in Texas with their 3-0 defeat of FC Dallas?  Not really, RSL has had to play with their lineup and even their formation often since the start of the season for various reasons, it is why 20 players have over 500 minutes of MLS action already this year, and 6 others have also gotten time in MLS matches. Both of those are more than the entire season for RSL last year, a rather amazing stat if you ask me.

On Saturday it was the same thing as we again saw different players step up, as Abdoulie Mansally stepped into the starting lineup, another match with Nat Borchers and Carlos Salcedo as our centerbacks, alongside Chris Wingert.  In goal we saw Josh Saunders get the start and play really well, only to pick up an injury late in the first half that eventually would take him out of the match early in the second half, we should know more early this week about the extent of his injury, but I sure hope it isn’t a serious one that will keep him out of action long.  That allowed for Jeff Attinella to get his first MLS minutes, and he looked like it was just another day, making some great saves and helping RSL keep the clean sheet.

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For Real Salt Lake, one down, 33 more to go

So when you open the season on the road against the defending Supporter’s Shield champion, it isn’t an easy task.  When you do so in an off-season that say you lose 3 All Star level players, plus all but one of your strikers, the task gets harder.  Then if you factor in, losing 4 other starting players (Chris Wingert, Nat Borchers, Javier Morales, and Ned Grabavoy) for the match, yeah it almost becomes mission impossible.  Yet that is exactly what happened to RSL on opening weekend, and the end result was a 2-0 victory over San Jose, and while there are plenty of areas for improvement, it was a very impressive win for a couple of factors.

First to me it showed something that sometimes has been missing over the last 18 months, it showed that old fight until the very finish mentality.  Now don’t get me wrong, RSL scored a good number of late goals to get draws or win matches the last couple of seasons, I am talking about a mentality of believing you can win, of believing that you will get one more chance.  Think back to 2009, the final match of the regular season and the unlikely goal from Yura Movsisyan that started the run to MLS Cup, or even of the comeback goal in MLS Cup by Robbie Findley, or the PK stops of Nick Rimando?  There was something about that team that kept everyone, fans, staff, and players believing.  Last year we heard the chant around the stadium, and I loved it, but on Sunday as I watched the work rate, the effort, and the heart of RSL on the pitch, I believed that we finally have gotten it back.

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Has Real Salt Lake answered their off season questions?

So the talk after last season for Real Salt Lake was the need to get cheaper (a million over the salary cap) get faster (something lacked since the departure of Robbie Findley) and to get younger (RSL had 9 players 29 or older in 2012), and how do we score goals in the big matches, so how did RSL do in the off season?

RSL traded Jamison Olave (expensive – $250K, old – 32, but very fast) and Fabian Espindola (not expensive – $125K but I believe was due a large raise for 2013, not so old – 27, and not fast but quick and very high energy) to the New York Red Bulls in exchange for a large chunk of allocation money.  Then RSL traded Will Johnson to the Portland Timbers (expensive – $245K, young – 25, and like Fabi not fast but quick and very high energy) for allocation money.  RSL also released a number of players like Kyle Reynish (expensive for a limited role back up GK – $75K & due a raise, age – 29, speed doesn’t matter much for GK’s),  the team also released 3 strikers (Justin Braun, Paulo Jr. and Emiliano Bonfigli) all who were under 25, cheap, and varying speed.

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Breaking up the band – RSL’s roster moves begin – Updated Again

Well anyone who didn’t see this coming, simply wasn’t paying attention or had their head buried in the sand, but after the 3rd straight season with 15 wins (only 3 teams in MLS history have done this) and no trophies to show for it, the time for change was at hand.

While it might seem as simple as the inability to score goals in the biggest of matches, when Alvaro Saborio would often be double or tripled teamed in coverage, the issues are larger than that.  To a large extent Major League Soccer wants complete parity; they don’t want any one team being too good or too bad.  Of course we know that is only partial true and one has only to look at how the league deals with allocation money to see what I mean.  The worst teams in MLS, the ones who don’t make the playoffs get the larger portion of allocation money from the main pool of funds (the mysterious murky vault at MLS HQ).  This seems perfectly in line with a salary cap league who wants parity, but the waters get a bit muddier when you consider the extra allocation money given to teams who make it into the CONCACAF Champions League, and even more money if they advance to the knockout rounds.

This rewarding of the successful seems counter to the parity ideals of MLS, but it is their strong desire to find a way to establish MLS as a respectable league regionally by winning the CCL.  Something no MLS team has been able to do yet, the closest a team has come was the RSL run in 2010/11 version of the tournament when RSL made it to the finals.  Often MLS teams find themselves facing opponents with team rosters much deeper than MLS’s and payrolls often 4-5 times the MLS salary cap or more. For Real Salt Lake making the playoffs in 2012 but not advancing to the knockout rounds of the CCL, and not qualifying for the next edition of the tournament means that allocation money wasn’t going to come from MLS’s vault.

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Real Salt Lake vs. Seattle Sounders – 1st half preview

For a 4th time this year RSL will take on the Seattle Sounders on Friday night in the 1st half of their Western Conference Semi-final series.  This will mark the 3rd trip for RSL to Seattle this year, they are 1-0-1 in the two matches played at CenturyLink this year, a 1-0 win and then most recently a 0-0 draw.  These teams have become very familiar with each other over the last couple of years, and faced each other in the Semi-finals last year as well.  That series featured a 3-0 RSL win at Rio Tinto Stadium in the 1st leg and a Sounders 2-0 win in the 2nd leg, which allowed RSL to advance to the Western Conference final last year.

The teams ended the season just a single point apart in the standings, RSL had 57 points to the 56 of the Sounders, RSL had 17 wins and the Sounders had 15, the Sounders pulled off 11 draws, while RSL settled for just 6 draws this year. Both sides were 11-4-2 at home this season, while RSL had the better road record at 6-7-4, while the Sounders were 4-4-9 away from home.  So while the Sounders choose to focus on their local “Cascadia Cup” opponents as their top rivals, I tend to believe based on the action on the pitch that along with LA that the Sounds have become one of the better rivals of RSL.  As RSL pointed out in their recently released infographic these teams have been over the past seasons two of the more evenly matches sides in MLS.

So what can you look forward to on Friday night?

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Real Salt Lake have to settle for another 0-0 draw

For the 3rd straight match (2 MLS & 1 CCL) Real Salt Lake have had to settle for a 0-0 draw, and while head coach Jason Kreis addressed the fans after the match to say the team has been saving up goals for the playoffs, I am not sure everyone is buying it.

Like the last two matches RSL has played the team dominated every aspect of the match, except for the scoreboard.  Saturday night it was 62.7% possession to 37.3%, it was 514 passes to 291, it was a 85% passing accuracy to 74%, it was 17 shots to 5, but only 3 shots on goal and none of them found the back of the net.

Heading into the playoffs there is no doubt that the RSL defense is up to the task, with just one goal allowed in the last 5 matches, and just 3 allowed in their last 10 matches.  A stretch where RSL is 5-1-4, but if you take out the 4 goal performance against Chivas USA a month ago, RSL has scored just 6 goals in those last 10 matches.  One of those is a good thing heading into the playoffs but the other not so much.

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Real Salt Lake vs. Vancouver Whitecaps – Season Finale Match Preview

It is kinda fitting that the last match of the regular season will be against the same team that the preseason began against back on February 10th, now just days away from November RSL will wrap up their regular season by once again taking on the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday night.

Both sides would like to have some positives from the match heading into the MLS playoffs that start next week, for RSL it is about trying to get some folks healthy as 4 defenders are listed on the injury report (Chris Schuler, Kwame Watson-Siriboe, Jamison Olave and Tony Beltran), for the Whitecaps it is about getting a positive result, they have struggled the last couple months and with their “wildcard” match against the Galaxy next week they need to get things going in a positive direction.

The Whitecaps have struggled on the road with a 3-10-3 record and just 10 goals scored and 24 allowed, while RSL has been solid at home with an 11-4-1 record and 27 goals scored and 15 allowed.  Neither side has come back from behind to get a win if they are trailing at halftime, RSL has come back after giving up the first goal to get 3 wins and a draw, while the Whitecaps have just a single victory and two draws after giving up the first goal.

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