Tag Archive for Lovel Palmer

RSL vs SKC – 2013 MLS Cup Match Preview part II

So if you missed part one of my MLS Cup Preview you can check it out here.

To continue with my look at he matchups-

  • Midfield – This one is tough as it depends on where Graham Zusi lines up,  if he is in the midfield it is fairly even, but if he is up top as a forward then an edge to RSL.  Another key factor is which Benny shows up, if the Feilhaber of the regular season shows up then RSL is in good shape, if the guy who has stepped up in the playoffs is there, then it becomes a better battle.  Let’s be honest, Kyle Beckerman is better than Oriol Rosell, Ned Grabavoy is better than Benny over the course of the season, Luis Gil is better than Peterson Joseph and Javier Morales and Zusi are a wash.  Yeah I am saying edge to RSL.
  • Forwards – Edge RSL – A healthy Alvaro Saborio is a difference maker unlike anyone that Sporting can offer up, now Claudio Bieler is a damn good forward but his form of recent has been less than ideal. RSL can also offer up a very in form Robbie Findley, who had 6 regular season goals along with subs like Olmes Garcia with 5 goals, 4 assist in less than 1,000 minutes, or Devon Sandoval with 3 goals in under 900 minutes in the regular season, oh and Joao Plata. On the SKC side, I actually like Teal Bunbury and CJ Sapong but they seem to be a bit lost without Kei Kamara in the formation. Soony Saad and Dom Dwyer are wildcards but I give the edge here to RSL.
  • Intangibles – Edge SKC – I get the home field advantage but SKC was just 9-5-3 at home, not exactly dominating, but their 29 to 15 edge in goals scored was very impressive.   Sleeping in your own bed vs a hotel can be a big difference maker, but I imagine some of the weather issues may negate a bit of the home field advantage.  Clearly the SKC front office did their part to try and stack the crowd with as many home fans as possible and it is hard to blame them for that. One advantage RSL will have is experience, it is possible that 6 starters from the 2009 MLS Cup could be in the staring XI for RSL on Saturday (Nick Rimando, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert, Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales, and Robbie Findley), I don’t believe any SKC players have played in a MLS Cup before.
  • Overall – RSL – I know you will say that is a homer pick, but I think Sporting is a damn good team, however they aren’t the same team without Kei Kamara as they are with him.  Without that spark SKC just seems to be lacking that special factor, for RSL when Sabo went out with an injury it took just minutes for Devon Sandoval to step up and deliver big time results in big matches.  Unless someone does that for SKC on Saturday then I expect that RSL will win this match. 2-1

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RSL vs SKC – 2013 MLS Cup match preview part I

This is what it all comes down to, two teams battling for the right to be called the best team in MLS, the regular season is a grind of toughness but the playoffs are when you have to shine your best when the spotlight is the brightest.  It is funny that a lot of folks had Sporting KC picked early to be here, but very few thought after the off season roster changes that RSL would have what it took to get to this point, but no matter the thoughts in March, it is RSL and SKC playing in December (that is a whole other topic).

It would be hard to argue that these aren’t the two teams that deserve to be here, RSL spent most of the post All Star Match calendar at the top of the MLS table, only to drop to 4th in the final weeks, while Sporting was a top 3 side in the Eastern Conference almost the entire season.  While you might argue that the Eastern Conference was the weaker side of the bracket, it is hard to argue against SKC as a top team in the league.

The two sides faced off once this season in a physical match that ended up being more about what was and wasn’t called by the officials than what the actual play was on the pitch, add in that the match came during  Gold Cup and that RSL was missing 4 players to national team duty and you can toss that 2-1 SKC win into the trash heap.

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Back to Practice for Real Salt Lake as MLS Cup looms

After a few days off to celebrate the holidays, RSL returned to practice on Sunday with a spirited 90 minute session that featured a variety of drills.  It was good to see Alvaro Saborio back to what appears to be close to full fitness, Chris Wingert was also an active participant but I believe he is still in some pain from the rib injuries suffered in the first leg against Portland. Devon Sandoval missed practice but Jason Kreis was confident (as was RSL PR man Sam Stejskal) that Devon would be ready to go by MLS Cup.

The drills started out small with smaller groups taking on each other in passing and possession drills and the scale kept getting larger and larger as practice went along, towards the end the keepers and groups of players broke off and started working on taking and defending PK’s (a sure sign that we are in full playoff mode).

Listening to a number of players and Jason talk after practice the group is fully aware of the task in front of them, they seem very focused while someone remaining relaxed.  Perhaps that is the veteran influence as RSL has a good number of players from the 2009 MLS Cup win on their roster (Nick Rimando, Chris Wingert, Tony Beltran, Nat Borchers, Kyle Beckerman, Ned Grabavoy, Javier Morales, and Robbie Findley) and with 6 straight seasons of playoff runs and this years US Open Cup run, every player on the roster has dealt with high pressure situations. That experience should provide a calming effect next Saturday as the big match hype has to be dealt with.

I was able to catch up with a couple of players after practice, first up is Lovel Palmer:

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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 shocks Vancouver, prepare for the US Open Cup

I thought RSL head coach Jason Kreis would play a very heavy lineup of what many see as “B” players or reserves, and honestly many of them have seen a lot of action in reserve matches but the depth and quality of those players was too much for the Vancouver Whitecaps, who are fighting for a playoff spots, to deal with.

I actually liked the lineup of Jeff Attinella, Abdoulie Mansally, Brandon McDonald, Chris Schuler, Lovel Palmer, Yordany Alvarez, Sebastian Velasquez, Cole Grossman, Luis Gil, Devon Sandoval, and Olmes Garcia, I thought it provided a lot of high energy guys with a chance to show what they can do.  Several times this year the combination of Luis Gil and Sebastian Velasquez in the midfield has combined with Garcia and/or Sandoval to provide a very creative and high tempo look to the RSL attack, on Saturday it wasn’t all pretty but it sure was creative and high energy.

The centerback duo of Chris Schuler and Brandon McDonald looked great, and for RSL who has had some defensive challenges in recent weeks the added depth may be just what we need heading into the playoffs.  It was also good to see the two way work of Mansally and Palmer, both of whom showed great diversity for RSL and the ability to shut down some very good Vancouver players, perhaps nobody had a better match under tight scrutiny than Yordany Alvarez. Yordany has played really well at times this year, but he also has made some mental mistakes that have resulted in him making reckless and dangerous challenges that have left RSL short handed, but Saturday he played in complete control and reminded us why the RSL staff like him so much.

It was of course an early goal by RSL rookie Devon Sandoval, with an assist by Lovel Palmer, that was the difference in the match, again showing that RSL’s goals come from all over the roster, Devon becomes the 9th RSL player with at least 3 goals this season.  The team has gotten goals from 13 players this year, which has seen 26 different players get starts this year and 27 have seen action for RSL in MLS action.

RSL got a real boost late in the match as Ned Grabavoy came on in the 72nd minute, and helped to calm things down as Vancouver pushed to draw even.  He came on for Cole Grossman, who had a very good match as he gets back into the picture for RSL.

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RSL to Raise Awareness and Funds to Fight Childhood Cancer

I am always a sucker for a good cause, and this is about as good of a cause as there can be, so I am not going to do anything more than share the RSL press release with you all:

RSL TO RAISE AWARENESS AND FUNDS TO FIGHT CHILDHOOD CANCER AT SATURDAY’S GAME v. SAN JOSE 

RSL to Raise Funds through Ticket Sales; Claret-and-Cobalt to Host Delete Blood Cancer DKMS Swab Event at Rio Tinto Stadium

SANDY, Utah (Friday, Sep. 20, 2013) – Real Salt Lake, in conjunction with Leo’s Paws for the Cause, has teamed up with CureSearch Walk to raise awareness and funds to help find a  cure for childhood cancer at this Saturday’s game against the San Jose Earthquakes at Rio Tinto Stadium.

RSL will donate a portion of ticket sales from this Saturday’s near sellout against San Jose to CureSearch Walk. Additionally, a portion of ticket sales from RSL’s home games on Oct. 5 against FC Dallas and Oct. 23 against Chivas USA will also go towards the organization. Tickets to those games can be purchased with the promo code: KidsCancer at www.realsaltlake.com/tickets/ticket-promotions. Fans are instructed to contact Jen Petrosky at 801.727.2728 or at jpetrosky@realsaltlake.com for more information.

At halftime of this weekend’s match, RSL will recognize a select group of children who are either currently battling cancer or who have defeated the disease. The same group of children will all be participating in the Salt Lake City CureSearch Walk on Oct. 5th, along with Real Salt Lake mascot Leo the Lion, to raise awareness and funds and remember those who have lost battles to cancer. To sign-up for the walk visit CureSearchWalk.org

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Real Salt Lake vs. Portland Timbers – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly III – Match Preview

How the West will be won, step one beat the Timbers, for Real Salt Lake it is simple, win and then win some more.  The Western Conference is tight and with all of our remaining MLS matches against teams in the Western Conference, well the easiest way to stay ahead of everyone is to “just win baby”.   As I looked at records (home and away) of the top teams in MLS it looks as if everyone finishes off the season the same way they have played to this point, well RSL should be sitting pretty at the end of it all, but things rarely go the way you would expect.  So if RSL can pick up all 12 points at home, it would go a long way towards securing that top spot.

First up is a foe that now is very familiar to RSL, the Portland Timbers, who like RSL haven’t exactly been cruising to victories the last month or so.  Portland has just two victories in their 8 matches since July 7th, while RSL has 3 wins in their 9 matches since July 3rd, RSL however is building off a comeback 3-3 draw at Portland just 9 days ago and a huge 4-0 win at home over the Crew last weekend.  The Timbers blew a late lead against RSL and then fought bravely but lost 1-0 at Seattle last weekend.

For RSL this year it has been the late goal that has been one of the keys, with 12 goals in the final 15 minutes of the first half of matches, and 19 in the final 15 minutes of the second half, 31 of our 48 goals scored come near the whistle.  Against the Timbers we saw a late RSL goal earn the draw in Portland but the Timbers have only given up 6 goals in the final 30 minutes of matches all season (RSL has given up 14), their most vulnerable time is the start of the second half, where they have given up 11 goals in minutes 46-60.  One thing is for sure I don’t think this one will end without at least a couple of goals being scored, as both sides a hungry for points.

The Good:

Nick Rimando – I think at this point of the season we can all be fairly honest with each other, without Nick both in goal and as a team leader, we probably would be one of those teams fighting to get into a playoff position rather than leading the conference.   It was great for everyone to get to see Nick with the USMNT as it allowed him to showcase what us RSL fans have known for years, he simply is the best keeper week in and week out in MLS.   He is putting up another career year in MLS with a 0.95 GAA, 8 shutouts and 12 wins.  When Nick finally decides to hang up his boots and gloves I believe that he will hold so many goal keeping records in MLS that maybe then people will appreciate him for the qualities he brings to the pitch, I know that fans in Salt Lake and DC already know that Nick is simply clutch.

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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 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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