Well Saturday night lived up to all the potential that a match between RSL and Seattle has, unlike some of the defensive battles of the past, this one was action packed from start to finish and had more goals scored as all 5 of their 2012 meetings (3 0-0 draws & 2 1-0 results). While RSL was clearly the more offensive minded team on the night, the Sounders weren’t afraid to take their chances whenever they could find them. Still with an overwhelming 25 to 8 edge in shots taken, this match could easily have seen more goals than the final 2-1 score would indicate and the sellout crowd really seemed to appreciate the almost frantic pace of the match. Just a note, this was the 7th straight sellout of a MLS match at Rio Tinto Stadium, so far this season RSL is 5th in home attendance average, not bad for the smallest market in the league.
There were a number of things that stuck out to me, first was that despite being a rookie and in his first start Devon Sandoval showed very well for himself, enough so that RSL head coach Jason Kreis was singing his praises in the post-match press conference. We saw a top notch performance from Joao Plata who had to come on much earlier than in past matches as Robbie Findley picked up an injury early in the match, but not before scoring his first goal of the 2013 season. I also thought our back line played very well, the Seattle goal came off a ball that bounced around in the area and was poked past Nick Rimando, but most other opportunities were quickly shut down by the RSL defense. It was clear that RSL kicked it up a gear for that match, and it would appear that the Sounders perhaps were a bit conflicted as they prepared for their CCL match with Santos (a match in which they would look better but still lose).
So it has been a very active off/pre-season for Real Salt Lake, the roster moves top any of the previous off seasons both in quantity and quality of players impacted. The team was forced to take a long, hard look at both how to get under the MLS salary cap, RSL would have been about 1 million over without major changes, as well as how to become a better team on the offensive side of the ball.
The latter goal became evident when the history of “big” games at Rio Tinto Stadium was examined, despite being the better team in the 2008 Western Conference final against the New York Red Bulls, a 1-0 loss. The same could be said of the 2010 playoff match against FC Dallas a home draw but a series loss, the 2011 Champions League final against Monterrey, a 1-0 loss, and the 2012 playoff loss to the Seattle Sounders, another 1-0 loss. 2012 saw RSL score 46 goals, but 7 of the 10 playoff teams has as many or more goals scored than did RSL. It was no surprise that only one striker, Alvaro Saborio, remained with the team after the season, his 40 goals in MLS action over the last 3 years is only surpassed by San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski.
Well it was the un-official start of my 2013 RSL season on Saturday as players and coaches made their first appearances of the new season at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday. Not only were the players and coaches there to meet with the media, but things like team photos and intro videos had both groups making the rounds at different stations around the stadium grounds. In between those appearances some stopped by the media room, while some others were caught in hallways between the different stations.
Over the next few days I will be bringing you some video I shot, as well as some pictures and my thoughts on talking with some of the guys. I will start with our two draft picks:
John Stertzer was selected with the 12th overall pick in the 2013 MLS draft, here is the standard info on him:
Real Salt Lake’s 1st round 2013 MLS draft pick.
Position: Midfielder Height: 6-foot-0
Weight: 170 lbs.
Date of Birth: Oct. 4, 1990
Hometown: Oakton, Va.
College: University of Maryland
Here is the video of his interview with the local media:
My first impression of him is that he seems very composed, polite and confident. I think he will fit in well with RSL, I like having some more size in our midfield. I will wait to read the paper he wrote in college on soccer in the United States. He spent his entire college career at the University of Maryland, and put up some fairly impressive numbers (check out this great infographic that RSL put together)