Tag Archive for Major League Soccer

Real Salt Lake look to secure 2016 RMC at Colorado – Match Preview

I really haven’t considered the Colorado Rapids much of a rival over the last few years as they have struggled to be competitive in both the league and Rocky Mountain Cup. Last year the Rapids won the RMC for the first time in 6 years, but still finished as the bottom team in the Western Conference. So on Saturday, RSL will start their first of 5 straight on the road at Colorado, where a win would move them to the top of MLS as well securing the 2016 version of the RMC.

If you had picked RSL and Colorado to be at the top of the Western Conference after 8 matches, well you probably also had Leicester City picked to win the EPL back in August of last year.  OK maybe it isn’t that big of a longshot, but clearly both sides have found their form quickly in 2016, so this match should be an exciting one.  The RSL offense is one of the top in MLS with 14 goals scored, while the Rapids have one of the best defenses with just 8 goals allowed in their first 9 matches. RSL holds the all time lead between the two sides with a 14-11-10 record, and RSL has 4 wins and 5 draws vs the Rapids on the road including a 1-0 win in 2014.

Early on in the season it was Marco Pappa pulling the strings for the Rapids but he has been out a couple weeks with an injury, but several others have stepped up.  First of them is Jermaine Jones who has served his suspension and in his 3 matches back he has 2 goals and 2 assists. There is also their new DP Shkelzen Gashi, who also has 2 goals and 2 assists this season.  It is started to become clear last year with the signing of Kevin Doyle, that the Rapids were starting to take things a bit more seriously.  The question is will their fans notice or care?  Attendance is still barely averaging 14,000 and if you have seen there games you know that is being very generous.

So what will RSL need to do in order to get a result in Colorado?

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RSL finish first quarter of season strong, head out for long road trip

Did we all think after coming in mid year that this year we would see more from Juan Manual “Burrito” Martinez, sure.  Did we all hope that Joao Plata would return to his 2013 form after injuries last year, sure. Did we all think bringing back Yura Movsisyan would help the RSL offense, sure. Did we all think that younger guys like Jordan Allen and Justen Glad had a ton of potential to make RSL better, sure.  Did any of us think Sunny would step in and make this much of a difference right away, nope. Did all of us think we had serious issues at CB heading into this season, yup.  Do most of us still think we have those issues at CB, probably

The first 8 matches of RSL season have come as a surprise to just about everyone, but I doubt many people are disappointed given the team has the best PPM 2.13 in the league and our 5-1-2 record is mighty good given some of the early season injuries, suspensions and mistakes.  I think a lot of us noticed something different about the team early on, the amount of fight when faced with things going wrong seemed much better than last year.

While all of us are impressed with where RSL is after the first 8 matches, things could have been better a couple of bad red cards in two of the first  3 matches, along with a couple of mental and physical breakdowns late in matches left RSL exposed late and the team ended up with a couple of draws in matches that could have and probably should have been wins.  Imagine what people would be saying about a 7-1-0 start by RSL.  Still you have to deal with the hands you are given sometimes and I believe the team learned a lot about itself in those tough situations, something that will pay off over the long MLS season.

On Saturday night in their 2-1 win over Houston we saw RSL do something rare in MLS, get a win after giving up the first goal. For RSL it is actually the second time this season they have done it, they also did it again Seattle in our 2-1 win over them.  The only team that has shown the ability to come from behind better than RSL has been the LA Galaxy who have won 3 and gotten 2 draws after giving up the first goal.

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Real Salt Lake hosts Houston, looking for a win – Match Preview

With the turf coming up at Rio Tinto after Saturday’s match RSL will look to rebound from their loss at LA with a win over Houston.  The biggest question is what Houston team will they face, the team that scored 11 goals in their first 3 matches, or the one who has scored just 2 in their last 4?  The one thing in common that both RSL and Houston have is that they both were recently spanked by the Galaxy (the best team in MLS the last few weeks).

So RSL will need to find a way to quickly put last weekend out of their minds and focus on getting the full 3 points against Houston before they head out on the road.  They will do so without Plata, could be without Burrito, and have a Javi and Sunny that are still working their way back to full fitness, and facing a team that has looked to play more conservatively than they did at the start of the season.  After being thrashed at home by the Galaxy, they went on the road at Columbus and played a much more defensive style and while they still ended up on the losing end of the match, they did play much better.  I expect against a RSL team that has scored goals in every match, that once again on the road Houston will be looking to play defensively and hope to counter or take advantage of any RSL mistakes. While they picked up a red card early in the match against Columbus, it was back up keeper Tyler Deric who saw red and was replaced by their regular starter (so far this season) Joe Willis.

So one area of focus all year in MLS matches has been the officials, and it has been for good reason as many strange calls have been made or not made so far this year.  Nima Saghafi will be the ref in charge of the match, it will be just his MLS match as the main official. In his previous match there was a red card and two PK’s given, the red card looked very legit but the PK’s had a bit more question about them.  We will see how this new official handles the match on Saturday.

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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 Salt Lake looks to remain unbeaten vs Vancouver

I sure didn’t pick RSL to be this good, this soon but heading into a long road trip in a couple weeks it sure will be helpful to have gotten off to such a positive start to the season.  The reality is but for a few last minute mistakes RSL could be sitting at 5-0-0, despite already having given up 2 PK’s and having been given a league leading 3 red cards.  So a 3-0-2 start is a very good way to have started the season, despite the injuries and suspensions.

Perhaps the strong start is actually a result of these things, RSL has already had 19 players see first team minutes, has gotten goals from 6 different players. No player has gotten off to a hotter start than Joao Plata, with 4 goals and 3 assists, but the performances of several guys has been noteworthy, including how quickly Sunday “Sunny” Stephen has adjusted both to RSL and MLS. The second serving of Juan Manuel “Burrito” Martinez has been better than the first as he has shown the ability to be as creative as any player in MLS with the ball at his feel, and as Javier Morales returns from injury the options for RSL simply make the job of picking just 11 starters difficult for Jeff Cassar.

Vancouver owned RSL last year, winning all 3 matches against us by a combined 7-1 scoreline, in fact RSL hasn’t beaten Vancouver since Jeff took over as head coach we are 0-4-2 against them. This year’s Whitecaps side has struggled to start the season, after a pair of losses to start the season, Pedro Morales carried them to wins at Seattle and over Houston, but he left injured against the LA Galaxy a match the ended in a 0-0 draw and then last weekend at DC United they got beat badly by a pair of former RSL’ers as both Fabian Espindola and Alvaro Saborio put in two against them in a 4-0 loss. To be fair the Whitecaps have battled injuries since the start of the season, and of their 6 goals 4 have come from the PK spot.  In fact each of the 6 goals they have scored this year have come from a set piece, something RSL will want to avoid giving them.

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The 2016 MLS season is here, what to expect

Today is the day, the 21st season of MLS action gets under way, in many ways 2016 is the calm after one storm and before an even bigger one, 2015 saw two new team jump into the fray of MLS (NYCFC and Orlando City SC) both came with some big names, Kaka, Frank Lampard (well eventually), David Villa, Mix Diskerud (is he still a big name?) and both struggled on the pitch to compete as neither made the playoffs in a rather weak Eastern Conference. It was also the start of the new TV deal for MLS, a new CBA, and lots and lots of new sponsorships for the league.  So with no new teams this year and a year where there simply haven’t been any of those huge signings like last year, don’t forget we also saw Steve Gerrard, Jermaine Jones, Giovani dos Santos and Sebastian Giovinco join the league, but maybe those come this summer?

There are new stars but smaller names, like Ashley Cole, Lucas Ontivero, Yura Movsisyan, Carlos Gruezo and Shkelzen Gashi, we also the return of a player I really like is Simon Dawkins now a DP with San Jose and there are a lot of open DP spots around the league.  We saw some big name players change places, Dan Kennedy, Jeff Larentowicz, and Mike Magee to LA Galaxy, Marco Pappa and Jermaine Jones to Colorado, Marcelo Sarvas to DC United, Maximiliano Urruti and Mauro Rosales to FC Dallas, Christian Miadana to Houston, Harry Shipp to Montreal, Brad Davis and Justin Mapp to Sporting KC, Will Johnson and Clint Irwin to Toronto FC and Blaz Perez to Vancouver.

All of this before we see 2 new teams likely join the league in 2017 and then 2 more in 2018, so even without those huge name signings it is a big year for the league as those new sponsors will want to see some ROI and the league needs to find a way to get the TV numbers moving up in a hurry.

So as a fan what should you expect?  Will it be another year with the big clubs missing out on MLS Cup (come on none of you picked Portland vs Columbus last year, don’t lie about it)? Well it is a crap shoot to try to pick who will win what at this point of the season, MLS has too many variables to be very accurate but I do have some thoughts

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Real Salt Lake settle for a 3-3 draw vs New England in Tucson

So Let me start this by explaining that while I understand there were huge issues with the online stream of this match, first know that had nothing to do with the RSL front office or media team they were not in charge of any of the technical side of the feed.  Second know issues were had on the feed of the Colorado match as well, and there was no feed of the SKC vs Crew match. Finally for all of you who watched the second half via my periscope, thanks that was kinda fun.  If you want to check that out, it is here.

I expect the lineup we saw in this match is what the team is expecting to go with in the first leg of the CCL series with Tigres:

Rimando, Beltran, Olave, Maund, Phillips, Beckerman, Sunny, Morales, Plata, Movsisyan, Martinez

That is depending on injuries, based on what I saw last night both Luke Mulholland and Chris Wingert on the bench in non-uniform outfits and neither took part in warmups.  I expect we will see a much more second team based lineup on Saturday knowing that the team will then travel to Monterrey in front of their match next Wednesday.

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Real Salt Lake faces high expectations in 2016

So after what was probably the most disappointing season in RSL history, I didn’t expect us to be good in those early years as we built a team, but coming off a 2013 MLS Cup final appearance, and a 3rd place finish in 2014, to finish just above the Rapids at the bottom of the Western Conference in 2015 and to miss the playoff was far from expectations.  So lots of things went wrong in 2015, a lot of injuries, a new formation, and simply an ever improving league, it is hard to know what happened and looking back at this point is rather pointless as we head rapidly into 2016.

I think it is important for fans to remember it wasn’t until the 3rd season under Jason Kreis that RSL made their run to MLS Cup, a season in which the team barely made the playoffs on the closing weekend of the season.  So as we hit the 3rd year of the Jeff Cassar tenure, the expectations for a much better season and a return to the playoffs is expected.  In the offseason the team made several moves to improve, the biggest of which is bringing back Yura Movsisyan, but that isn’t the only move the team has made.  RSL picked up well traveled Nigerian midfielder Sunday “Sunny” Obayan, who is expected to fight for that 3rd midfield spot alongside Javier Morales and Kyle Beckerman.  Add in a healthy Joao Plata and a full preseason for Juan “Burrito” Martinez and the front 3 look to be set and very dangerous.

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Real Salt Lake has a lot of questions heading into 2016 season

The first MLS event of the new year is the MLS Draft, that will take place on Jan 14th in Baltimore and the questions for RSL heading is simple:

How to rebound from a disappointing 2015? The worst year for the team since 2007 left fans wondering what happened. In a single season RSL went from a +15 goal differential and finishing 3rd in the West and 4th place overall in MLS to a -10 and a 9th place finish in the West, 16th overall.  Offense was down as RSL scored just 38 goals, our defense gave up 48 goals our highest number since 2006.  Missing the playoff for the first time since the move to Rio Tinto in 2008, what was the longest streak in MLS.  Also gone was the 5 year streak of 15 wins and 50 points, what I consider the new gold standard for MLS regular season success.  The one positive (for most) in the 2015 season was qualifying for the knockout rounds of the CONCACAF Champions League tournament, which provides RSL with a bit more allocation money and pressure to try to once again make a run at being the first MLS team to win it all.

To recover from that disappointing season will require RSL to become dominant at home again, a 7-4-6 record at home is simply unacceptable. It will have to start with offense, just 22 goals scored by RSL at home which is down 11 from the 2014 season.  RSL seems to have addressed this issue with the soon to be announced signing of Yura Movsisyan back to RSL. Also boosting the RSL offense should be a healthy Joao Plata who saw his 2015 minutes drop by over 500 from the 2014 season.  Another boost should come from Juan Manuel “Burrito” Martinez having a full preseason with RSL, we saw the glimpses of what he could bring to the table, now we need him to deliver a full portion.

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