Tag Archive for Kenny Mansally

Real Salt Lake start the 2nd half of season looking forward, not backwards

It has been a very long time since RSL sat with a losing record at the midway point of the season, but at 5-6-6 that is exactly where we are.  Now some will make excuses as to why we are here, off season losses of Borchers, Wingert, Grabavoy, and others, or will point to the formation change and it taking time to figure out the 4-3-3, or injuries and national team call ups.  The harsh reality is we haven’t been good enough, often touted as one of the deepest teams in MLS, our first 11, our 18 man match day rosters, the 23 players with minutes and our coaching staff, simply haven’t been good enough.  That is hard for any of us to hear, it is hard to say (part of why there have been so few posts lately), but it is the truth and unless we are willing to admit there is a problem, we will never solve it.

I am not going to focus on the negative too much, but let me be clear this issue is on both sides of the ball, this issue is at home as well as on the road, and while you can never take anything away from the heart and passion that most of our players play with, the results haven’t followed.  At the midway point of the season we have allowed 20 goals, which if about the middle of the pack this season in MLS, 8 teams have allowed more and 10 teams have allowed fewer.  As a team that has the best keeper in MLS in Nick Rimando, you would think we would be better than middle of the pack, but injuries, suspensions and other issues have kept RSL from having any real consistency on their back line except Tony Beltran.

It is on offense that perhaps the most glaring issues have been for RSL in the first half of the season, just 15 goals scored and only 1 team in the league has scored fewer (Colorado). At the halfway point of the season RSL has 3 players who have scored more than a single goal, Javier Morales and Alvaro Saborio with 3 each and Luke Mulholland with 2. If you want to know why I am fully supportive of the idea of RSL breaking the bank to bring back Yura Movsisyian well, there you go. Now to be fair, Jaoa Plata our leading scorer from last year has just returned to action, but at the same time a healthy Sabo has simply under produced and failed to finish chances that in the past would have lead to goals.  Both Olmes Garcia and Sebastian Jamie scored their first goals last week, but both guys that RSL paid huge transfer fees for, and large salaries either have to deliver or we have to make changes.

Then there is the league leading 5 red cards, 2nd worst 37 yellow cards and while we are the 11th place team in fouls committed, we are the 2nd most fouled team.  Yeah something about these numbers really make me question the officiating in MLS, but that is for another day.   So Saturday night can RSL start the second half of the season on the right foot?

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Disappointment, despair, whatever it is both RSL fans and players feel it heading into Galaxy match

I have heard from several sources that the players are as upset and in many case more upset than the fans at the way the season has started for Real Salt Lake, and who can blame them it hasn’t been pretty.

9 points from 8 matches isn’t how RSL usually starts a season, but for me the points are less important than the eyeball test, in which RSL simply hasn’t looked very good for a full match, heck for a half, or if we are being brutally honest for a 15 minute stretch.  Yes there have been passing combos that have inspired, saves that have made the highlight reel, but overall this has been simply ugly. It has been a very, very long time since I remember seeing RSL rated just #15 in the USA Today Sagarin ratings.

In recent RSL history, this is our worst start at 2-2-4, last season we were 3-0-3 after 8, 3-3-2 in 2013 and 5-3-0 in 2012.  For me the question on my mind is what happens in the next 2 matches?  I believed and still do that the key to making the playoffs and hitting that gold standard of 15 wins/50 points is to win you home matches and to get results against teams from the East.  4 points from these next two matches would put us at 14 points the same as 2013, but lagging behind our 20 points of last season or 19 points after 10 matches in 2012.  A pair of wins would put us at 16 points from 10 matches and that wouldn’t be a bad place to be.

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RSL face their biggest challenge so far this season Sporting KC

For Real Salt Lake Saturday night will provide one of measuring stick moments of the season, when they head to Sporting Park and take on SKC.  Most folks acknowledged that moving SKC and Houston to the West made a very tough conference even tougher, for RSL that is especially true given their history with both sides.  Tough hard fought matches are the norm when these two meet, last year saw a 0-0 draw but more often than not the guys from KC have gotten the better of RSL, a over all 8-5-4 advantage for SKC, with a very good 5-1-3 when the match is played on their pitch.

Both sides have been kinda neurotic in how they have played so far this season, RSL adjusting to the 4-3-3 and national team callups, SKC dealing with some big roster changes (gone are Collin, Saad, Bieler, Sapong and both Kronberg and Gruenebaum) then toss in a hamstring injury to Zusi and you see a very different looking side than you have been used to.  To the credit of both sides they have adjusted fairly well, with 2 wins and 2 draws, SKC did lose one match while RSL still have to taste defeat this season.

The teams have two opponents in common early on in the 2015 season, both sides had 0-0 draws against Portland, and both sides faced Philly, while RSL were lucky to get a 3-3 draw in a very strange match. KC came from behind with two stoppage time goals to get a 3-2 win in a match were they were really outplayed for the vast majority of the match.  Those results lead me to believe that both sides are really looking for their new identity in 2015, be it personal or formation changes.

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Real Salt Lake ready for 2015 home opener against Union

After a 0-0 draw at Portland last weekend, RSL will look to secure 3 important points at home Saturday night against the Philadelphia Union.  Yes, I called these important points, the reality is the Eastern Conference is the weaker conference in MLS so every time RSL faces a Eastern Conference team at home 3 points are important and against a Union team that is really still looking for an identity and were very unimpressive at home in week 1, the points are very important.

The Union picked up a couple of DP’s last year to boost their roster, former USMNT player Maurice Edu to be their defensive leader and Cristian Maidana to be their offensive leader, they added a 3rd DP in forward Fernando Aristeguieta who is on loan to them, but if you watched their match last week against the Rapids, you saw a team that still has more questions than answers on the pitch.  It is to be expected as Jim Curtin continues building the team he wants, I believe they have a lot of interesting pieces on their roster but as a team they seem to still be more interested in no losing than in winning matches.  They will be looking for their first ever win over RSL they are 0-2-5 in matches against RSL, and are 0-2-1 at Rio Tinto Stadium.

For Real Salt Lake, the transition to the 4-3-3 continues and as we saw often in the Desert Diamond Cup and last weekend in Portland, that formation can mean a lot of frantic action on both sides of the ball.   Or does it just look that way?  RSL had the edge in possession, overall they had a passing completion rate of 76% (a bit low for traditional RSL) but they 364 to 297 edge in passes over Portland.  Where the formation may have fallen short of expectations was on the offensive side, where RSL managed 9 shots (Portland had 18) but only had 2 on goal.  If RSL is going to be a more offensive team with this new formation, those numbers will have to go up.

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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 vs. Sporting KC – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly Match preview

Just past the midway point of the MLS season, Real Salt Lake and Sporting KC find themselves facing off on Saturday, each represents the top team in their conference and probably the two best teams in the league right now.  There are some similarities between the two sides they both have a lot of talented players, both play an aggressive style of soccer, both look to force their opponents to play their style.  Of course there are some huge differences as well, RSL plays a passing game that controls long stretches of the match, SKC is a bit more frantic on the pitch with high pressure on the ball, RSL will defend with every player on the pitch, while SKC rely a lot more on their defenders and that high pressure. The one clear thing is, that both sides are very good at what they do.

Sporting KC is one of the reasons why I hate the unbalanced schedule, there are some players on their team that I love to watch play the game, Graham Zusi has quickly become one of the most exciting players in MLS. Kei Kamara is just fun to watch, and has a sparkling personality on and off the pitch, while he may have heart shaped hands it is clear that he has a huge heart to match them.  Teal Bunbury and CJ Sapong both can provide exiting moments at any time during a match.  Aurelien Collin is one of the most fierce defenders in MLS, and while I may not always be a fan of the physical way he plays, you can’t deny the results.  Only getting to see these guys and the rest of SKC only once every two years seems like a real disservice to MLS fans in the Western Conference.

For Real Salt Lake this match may be one of the toughest tests of the year, a top opponent in good form (SKC is 3-0-1 in their last 4 matches), a roster that is stretched thin by call ups and injuries.  With a overall 11 match unbeaten streak on the line RSL is going to have to rely on names like Aaron Maund, Jeff Attinella, and Yordany Alvarez, the upside is that all season long the unfamiliar names have stepped up and not only delivered but most often over delivered. For RSL to keep their streak alive that will have to happen again on Saturday.

The Good:

Javier Morales – Hot off his Goal of the Week goal (which really shouldn’t have won) will come a very tough test for Javi, where his skills on both sides of the ball will be tested by a strong and physical team(RSL has committed 235 fouls this season, SKC has 293).  We all know how good Javi can be on the offensive side of the ball his 5 goals and 8 assists have been a real difference maker for RSL, 3 of those goals have been game winners for RSL.  Javi has never had a lot of success against Sporting KC, just a single assist in his 6 matches against them, but I think the biggest thing on Saturday will be how he responds to the pressure of SKC, and if he can quickly move the ball into dangerous positions.

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Real Salt Lake vs. Colorado Rapid, The Good, The Bad & The Ugly II Match Preview

We can all face facts, first these two teams don’t like each other much, their fans don’t like each other, and well Colorado is a desperate team.  They have no wins so far this year, they haven’t held the Rocky Mountain Cup in 6 seasons, and well they are the Rapids.  The fact that these two teams are meeting for the second time in the first 5 weeks of the season seems a bit  nuts to me as I would think they would spread rivalry matches over the course of the season, and maybe feature them on holidays or other big weekends.  We know how big this series is to each team, and the series is as even as they come with each side having 9 wins, and their being 8 ties between the two sides.  RSL has scored 27 goals and the Rapids 24 goals, the Rapids do hold and edge when the match is played in Colorado, they have 6 wins to RSL’s 2 with 4 draws.  The Rapids have won just 2 matches against RSL in the last 4 seasons, but RSL haven’t won at Dick’s since 2007, if RSL want to keep the Rocky Mountain Cup, they most likely will need to figure out a way to get a win in Colorado this year.  So let’s take a look at the match:

The Good:

Javier Morales – for RSL there is no denying the fact that a healthy Javier Morales makes them a better team, when he is 100 percent he is one of the best creative players in MLS.  He marked his first minutes of 2013 coming on for the final 28 minutes against Seattle last week, he got a huge standing ovation from the crowd at Rio Tinto Stadium from the fans who appreciate what he means to the team.  While I have no doubt that he will see action against Colorado, could this be the time he gets his first goal against them?  I think expecting anything special from him while he is working his way back to full fitness is unrealistic but with Javi you just never know.

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Real Salt Lake vs. Colorado Rapids – The Good, The Bad and the Ugly match preview

Well it is the busiest time of year at work for me, and for the second straight year it matches up with the RSL home opener. Still how can you not be excited for the first home match of the season?  Then add in it is a Rocky Mountain Cup match, and the only one that will be at Rio Tinto this year, so the stakes for the team and fans are huge.   It is nice to see that RSL was smart enough to schedule an early start time to take advantage of the daylight hours early when the weather conditions can still be a big issue. I expect it will probably be a sell out or close to it, which should make for a great way to kick of what I think will be a huge home season for RSL this year.  So all that being said, let’t talk about the match.

The Good:

Lovel Palmer – One of the real high spots for me in the DC United match last weekend was the energy and effectiveness that Lovel had on both sides of the ball when he came on.  With Abdoulie Mansally suspended for the match, we could see Palmer put into the starting lineup and even if not, I expect that with how he showed last weekend that we will see him at some point during the match.  The RMC matches are a tough one to make your starting debut for RSL, but maybe it could be the start of something great for RSL & Lovel Palmer.

Kyle Beckerman – The only player who has never lost the Rocky Mountain Cup will be in his normal place at the back of the diamond for RSL on Saturday, Kyle won two RMC’s with the Rapids, and now six with RSL.  It is a testament to Kyle’s physical and mental toughness, as well as his never say die attitude on the pitch that had him go from hated rival to one of the most beloved players in RSL history.  It is only fitting that Kyle is the player featured on the home opener ticket.  I expect another classic performance from Kyle.

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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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