Tag Archive for John Stertzer

RSL put undefeated streak on the line at LA Galaxy – Match Preview

I get that it might lack the prestige to some of Seattle vs Portland, or New York vs New York, but for my money there simply is no better rivalry in MLS than RSL vs LA.  It is as much about how things are done within the organizations as it is the battles on the pitch for me.

You have LA, the team that probably writes most of the MLS roster rules over the year, and given the investment AEG has made in MLS over the years it almost is understandable. The DP rule was created to allow the Galaxy to sign David Beckham, he wasn’t the first player the league discussed changing the rules for but he was the one that made it happen. Their current roster are mega DP’s like Steven Gerrard, Gio dos Santos and the best DP in MLS history Robbie Keane, with that they have European imports Nigel de Jong, Ashley Cole, Jelle Van Damme.  They also picked up MLS stars Jeff Larentowicz and Mike Magee, which compliments guys like Robbie Rogers, AJ DeLaGarza, Gyasi Zardes, Jose Villareal, Baggio Husidic and Sebastian Lletget. I am always amazed how they keep this type of roster within the cap, but that is the magic of allocation money.

On the other hand, RSL have brought in players but never break the bank guys, the biggest signings in the club’s history have come in recent months with the arrival of Juan Manuel “Burrito” Martinez late last year and the return of Yura Movsisyan this year.  The core of the team are the guys who were brought in almost a decade ago, Nick Rimando, Javier Morales, Kyle Beckerman, and Tony Beltran even returning guys like Chris Wingert and Yura.  Then toss in some of the young players, like Glad, Plata, Allen, and guys who have yet to make an impact like Kavita, Holnes, Acosta, Attinella, and others.  RSL has pushed the salary cap not with the huge signings but by raising the salaries of their veteran core, which probably takes as much work as the mega DP route that LA takes.

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Real Salt Lake proves you don’t have to play pretty to win in 1-0 victory over Whitecaps

So let me be clear, there were some very pretty moments in the match for RSL and one only has to listen to Brian Dunseth remind us that Juan Manuel “Burrito” Martinez is “Killing careers one vine at a time” or read what RSL head coach Jeff Cassar had to say after the match

“I wish I knew what he was going to do every time because he does some really special things. He (Martinez) got out of some really tricky situations. All of our attacking players are extremely talented and when they’re playing with each other you can do special things you can do some things that you don’t necessarily think are going to happen because you trust the player that is giving the ball to you. I think that we can still get even better. That is what is exciting.”

to understand there were some simply amazing moments on Saturday night. Still if you watched the match you know how bad the first 20 minutes or so looked as Vancouver came out like it was a playoff match and were pressing high and causing chaos for the RSL defense.  Still despite the early mistakes and pressure, RSL didn’t give up a goal in fact RSL created a few good chances on counters early on but were unable to get the early goal. I think the biggest difference between last year and this year (so far) is that in ugly close matches last year we lost leads and often lost matches. So far this year even when we have lost leads, we have managed not to lose those matches, we have recovered or withstood adversity early on this season and as things get better (play, form, fitness, injuries) results should stay very good.

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Real depth to be tested at Sporting – RSL vs SKC match preview

It is now beyond RSL’s depth as suspension and injuries force the team to bring up a couple of Monarch’s players just to fill out their roster when they take on Sporting KC on Saturday night.  Let’s start with the things that were avoidable, the red cards and suspensions:

  • Kyle Beckerman – Red Card vs Portland
  • Jamison Olave – Red Card vs Portland
  • Juan Manuel “Burrito” Martinez – MLS disciplinary action vs Portland

It is hard enough to beat a rival, even harder when it is a pretty good SKC team, but to do so without 3 starters all suspended for what one has to consider silly and pointless fouls it doesn’t do the club any favors.  Now for RSL when you add in what all of a sudden is a rash of injuries:

  • Javier Morales (broken ribs)
  • Emery Welshman (hip flexor)
  • Olmes Garcia (ankle)
  • Omar Holness (shoulder)
  • Boyd Okwuonu (concussion)
  • Phanuel Kavita (knee)

The issues were so bad and deep that RSL used a hardship clause to bring up both Emilio Orozco and Andrew Brody for the match.  I don’t expect either to see action but one never knows.

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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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2016 Real Salt Lake roster review Part 2

So in my RSL roster review part 1 we focused on forwards and keepers, which happen to be where the team has some great depth. Now we will take a look at the midfield where there are a lot more questions but also a lot of talent.

Midfield – with two of the games top players in their positions (Kyle Beckerman and Javier Morales) you would think there would be no questions about the RSL midfield, but I have questions, lots of them.

  • Javier Morales – There are few in MLS that are as good with the ball at their feet as Javi, his vision and passing are sublime as all RSL opponents know only too well.  This however has lead to him being one of the most fouled players in MLS over the last several years and at age 36 it has taken it’s toll. In 2015 he played in just 24 matches, the lowest full season total in him MLS career (minus the injury year of 2011), and while he maintains a great level of fitness the league is a physical one.  If we can keep Javi healthy for the 2016 campaign I think every RSL fan would rejoice, but we will for sure take what we can get because RSL is simply a much better team with him than without him.
  • Kyle Beckerman – The face of the franchise, and there simply is no other player in MLS, I would rather have in the d-mid position than Kyle.  His leadership, energy, skill, and passion simply make him one of a kind and we can never thank the Colorado Rapids enough for gifting him to us.  His offensive production was off in 2015, 1 goal & 2 assists, down from 3 & 3 in 2014 and 4 & 6 in 2013. I expect a big portion of this was the new formation which left him often spending more time on the defensive side of things.  Kyle is a leader on and off the field, he sets the tone and his leadership with a lot of roster changes will be needed in the long season ahead.

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Real Salt Lake will be tired and shorthanded when they face Portland

Last Saturday RSL lost their first match of the season a 4-0 thumping at Seattle, a second straight match where the team looked out of sorts as they tried to adjust to their many missing stars and what would be their first 3 matches in a week stretch of the season.  On Wednesday they held on in Columbus to get a 1-1 draw despite a short bench and a starting XI that included many changes from the previous match.  Now heading into their “World Cup Break” which means no MLS matches for a couple weeks but doesn’t account for what will hopefully be more than 1 US Open Cup match, the team will face a familiar foe as the Portland Timbers come to town Saturday evening.

The team will once again be shorthanded and given the extensive travel and two matches in the last week we will likely see another lineup with several changes and some signs of fatigue as the match wears on.  Both RSL and Portland have 3 wins, 2 draws and a loss in their last 6 matches of the MLS season, so current form is fairly even between the sides. Of course given the way last year went one can expect that the Timbers will be green around the gills as they look for some revenge against RSL who knocked them out of the US Open Cup, the MLS Playoffs and whom the Timbers have only beaten once since joining MLS (RSL holds a 5-1-3 regular season record, a 2-0-0 playoff record, and a 1-0-0 record against Portland in US Open Cup action). Still one has to believe that the Timbers have looked at RSL’s roster (depleted via injuries and World Cup call ups) and busy schedule and think that this might be their best chance to steal a win at Rio Tinto Stadium.

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Why the US Open Cup matters, and matters so much to Real Salt Lake

Tuesday night Real Salt Lake will play the second most important match they have ever played at Rio Tinto Stadium, the 2011 CCL final was the most important.  This will be the third time RSL will be able to lift a trophy at home, they failed in their two previous attempts (2008 Western Conference Final & 2011 Champions League Final).  Of course it is funny how some people don’t put much weight behind the US Open Cup, saying that MLS teams rarely take it seriously, that US Soccer doesn’t really care about the tournament, but it is kinda strange when you compare the realities to those statements.

5 years ago I would have agreed that most MLS teams dialed it in when it came to the US Open Cup, the format changed often and it was hard to get fans interested in it.  Then came back to back to back titles by the Seattle Sounders, who showed that it was the easiest path to Champions League.  Last year more teams put out top lineups and the final between Sporting KC and Seattle was played before 18,000 plus fans and saw SKC win in a PK shootout.  This year we saw more teams (not all) put serious effort into US Open Cup, it sure was the case for RSL.

In the first Open Cup match for RSL, they put out a mixed lineup (Saunders, Palmer, Watson-Siriboe, Salcedo, Wingert, Morales, Alvarez, Velasquez, Beckerman, Sandoval, and Findley) and used all 3 subs (Plata, Grabavoy, Stephenson).  It took RSL extra time to get their 3-2 win over Atlanta, but clearly showed that the team was going to take the tournament seriously.  The second match for RSL was against Charleston again saw a very experienced lineup used (Saunders, Wingert, Maund, Borchers, Beltran, Velasquez, Beckerman, Morales, Grabavoy, Garcia, Sandoval – subs Stephenson, Plata, and Findley) and again it took 120 minutes for RSL to secure their 5-2 win.

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Real Salt Lake faces the Charleston Battery in the 4th round of the US Open Cup

Wednesday evening Real Salt Lake will play host to USL Pro side the Charleston Battery in US Open Cup action, this fourth round match will determine who moves on to host a quarterfinal match up in two weeks.  This is one of those matches that the MLS side should win, and with a 10 day break before their next match Real Salt Lake should be able to put our their top notch lineup, now I think a couple of guys like Sebastian Velasquez, Olmes Garcia, and Lovel Palmer might push their way into the starting lineup, as RSL head coach Jason Kreis has a number of great options who have stepped up at every level they have been asked to.

It would be easy for us to think that Charleston doesn’t pose a real threat but you should know that, they have beaten 9 MLS sides in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup; DC United (1999), MetroStars (2001, 2004), Houston Dynamo (2007, 2008), FC Dallas (2008), Chivas USA (2009), Chicago Fire (2010) and San Jose Earthquakes (2013).  You can also add in their preseason matches which often feature MLS opponents, this year one of those matches was a 2-1 win over the Houston Dynamo. A quick look at their roster shows that they have some size that RSL will have to deal with, 8 players 6’0″ or better without counting keepers.  They also have some guys with time or trials in MLS:

  • Amadou Sanyang – has spent time with Toronto FC and Seattle
  • Ben Fisk – time with the Vancouver Whitecaps developmental team
  • Jarad van Schaik – who was drafted by RSL but never made the roster

The Battery are currently in 3rd place in USL Pro with a record of 7-3-2 with 22 goals scored and 13 goals allowed.

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Real Salt Lake 1st quarter report card

So 8 matches in the book and that represents just under ¼ of the MLS season, so how exactly has RSL done?  I keep having to remind myself of what RSL GM Garth Lagerwey said before the start of the season “We will be better in June than we are in March, and we will be better in September than we will be in June” and if that is the case we should all be very happy, RSL currently is one of 4 teams with 11 points and only 4 teams have more than 11 points.  That means that 11 teams are currently behind RSL in the standings, and just 4 are in front of us and for a team that has had to deal with losing 3 All Star level players and a bevy of injuries early in the season, it isn’t as bad as some might think.  So let’s take a bit deeper look at things.

First the record of 3-3-2 is how we got to our 11 points, now 5 of those matches have been away from home where RSL is 1-3-1 and that simply isn’t good enough.  Losses at Colorado, Dallas and DC United all hurt, but only in the Dallas match was RSL really outplayed, and that match also saw RSL missing an additional 5 players due to various national team call ups in addition to injured players.  Still our road performance has to improve; I firmly believe that RSL will need to at least duplicate their 6 road wins if not improve as they have done the last few seasons (4 wins in 2010, 5 wins in 2011, 6 in 2012).  Last year the team also had a fairly impressive (compared to the past) -1 goal differential on the road with 19 goals scored and 20 goals allowed, after a -6 the year before, currently the team is at a -2.  I expect that for RSL to finish in the top 3 in the West (avoiding the wildcard) that they will need to pull an average of 1.20 points per road match (based on their recent finishes), currently the team has 4 points from 15 possible an average of just 0.80 per match.

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Real Salt Lake vs. Vancouver Whitecaps – The Good, The Bad and the Ugly Match Preview

So Real will play their 5th road match of the season on Saturday at BC Place against the Whitecaps, the biggest upside is that they will only have 12 road matches left this season.  RSL have never won a match at BC Place, in fact RSL has never won a match in Canada.  While I would love to hold out a for a road win, if I look at our list of injured players,  it is hard to have much faith in even picking up a draw, here is the list:

  • MF Sebastian Velasquez (R fractured metacarpal) and MF Cole Grossman (concussion) are both out for the match
  • FW Robbie Findley (L adductor strain), FW Alvaro Saborio (R knee swelling), FW Joao Plata (R hamstring strain), MF Javier Morales (R knee menisectomy), MF David Viana (R quad strain), MF Khari Stephenson (L knee sprain), DF Chris Wingert (R foot fracture), DF Rich Balchan (L groin strain) and DF Carlos Salcedo (concussion) are all questionable for the game.

Yes that is almost a full roster of players missing for RSL, just shy an injured keeper and even with a full 30 man roster, RSL’s depth will be tested yet again this season.   Then you add in the lovely fake grass surface in Vancouver and you can understand why Jason Kreis may hold back a number of those questionable players to rest in front of the upcoming 3 match home stand for RSL.   Still one can always hold out hope, it isn’t as if Vancouver is burning up the league either, they are 2-2-1 in their first 5 matches with a +/- 0 goal differential on 6 goals scored and 6 allowed.  RSL have a -1 after last week’s loss in Colorado with 5 goals scored and 6 allowed in their 6 matches, so how does the matchup look?

The Good:

Nick Rimando – Nick has a 0.80 GAA so far this season and if we honest a couple of the goals he has given up were instances where he was left out to dry by bad plays in front of him.  Perhaps one of the most consistent keepers in MLS history, Nick brings skills both in net and as a leader on the pitch that make him a constant game changer.  Either this year or next Nick will set a new mark in MLS clean sheets, he hit the 100 mark this year at San Jose and now needs just a dozen more for the record.   Nick has also established himself as a regular part of the USMNT over the last couple of seasons, and while I still would love to see him get more action at that level, I expect having him on the bench gives Jurgen a measure of comfort in case something would go wrong in a match.

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