Tag Archive for Michael Bradley

Let the matches begin RSL vs TFC – match preview

For only the second time in club history and first time at Rio Tinto, RSL will open the season at home as they take on Toronto FC on Saturday afternoon. Facing teams from the East are often fairly easy affairs at home, I mean RSL is 7-1-0 vs TFC in Utah and 7-0-0 at Rio Tinto. RSL holds a +11 goal differential at home vs the defending Eastern Conference Champs, but we have to remember RSL hasn’t won a match in 7 months while TFC is coming off the shortest break in MLS history between MLS Cup and opening day.

This has the potential to be a thrilling match as both clubs showed last year that the traditional score first and win rule in MLS doesn’t apply to them, there is no safe lead against either of these sides.  This TFC side will look very similar to the one that played for MLS Cup in December, but for RSL there will be some very glaring differences from last year.  No Javier Morales, no Burrito Martinez, no Olave and while those players are gone it is likely RSL will also be without some regular starters from last year due to injuries and callups as I expect Kyle Beckerman, Aaron Maund will no start (or likely play) due to injury, Justen Glad will be with the U-20s (along with Sebastian Saucedo, Brooks Lennon and Danilo Acosta).  So it will be interesting to see what the starting XI and bench looks like on Saturday afternoon.

Keys to the Match:

There are a few keys to beating TFC, first of which is make someone other than Sebasitian Giovinco beat you.  You start the match with Luke Mulholland man marking him everywhere, when Luke gets a yellow card, you swap out Sunny on Gio, and if he gets a yellow you bring in Omar Holness to man mark him.  You don’t let him get behind you but you also have to no commit fouls in stupid places and let him beat you on a set piece.  Last year Giovinco accounted for 32 (15 goals, 17 assists) of TFC’s 51 goals, so over 60 percent of their offense comes from one guy. So to stop TFC, stop Gio.

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Real Salt Lake vs Toronto FC – Despite missing stars a critical match for both teams

Perhaps no two established teams in MLS have more questions being asked of them this season than RSL and TFC, can RSL in the 2nd year of Jeff Cassars leadership continue to be a dominant force in the West?  Can RSL make the transition to the 4-3-3 work?  For TFC can they make the playoffs?  Will another year with huge signings and what is likely to be the highest payroll in MLS result in success or will the oft chaos in the organizations leadership lead them to the rocky shore yet again?

It is hard to believe that both of these teams are heading into just their 3rd match of the season but have so very much at stake, it is ridiculous that this match is being played this weekend at all.  See both teams had a bye week last week when both teams had full rosters, but no we get a match missing several key players on both side.  For RSL there will be no Nick Rimando, no Alvaro Saborio, no Luis Gil, and no Elias Vasquez, and for TFC there will be no Jozy Altidore, no Michael Bradley, no Marky Delgado, no Quillan Roberts, and no Chris Mannella, all on national team call ups.  Then add in the injuries to Joao Plata, and Pecka on the RSL side, and Steven Caldwell, Mark Bloom, Eriq Zavaleta, on the TFC side which will also deal with the suspension of Justin Morrow.  The reality is this match will be played with 11 combined likely starters missing between the two squads, and that is never a good thing and probably has the folks at Fox scratching their heads as this is their prestige national TV match for the weekend.

Still the match is going to be played, and the match is a hugely important one for both sides, as RSL are looking for their first win of the season after a pair of draws in their first two matches of the season.  Toronto will be looking to figure out which team they really are, the one that dominated in their opening match a 3-1 win over a improved Vancouver side or the one that got handled 2-0 at Columbus?

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Real Salt Lake dismantle Toronto FC 3-0

So in my match preview post, I pointed out how the passing and possession style of RSL would cause issues for TFC who often look to force a mistake or counter and attack, on Saturday night RSL had 434 passes completed at a 80% rate, while TFC had just 265 and a completion rate of 73%.  That resulted in RSL dominating the possession by a 60.5% to 39.5%, and RSL was much more effective with their possession.

I thought the absence of Jonathan Osorio would be huge as he was the main link for TFC between their defense and Michael Bradley, the result was the Bradley often found himself having to come further back to get the ball and that limited his effectiveness as a playmaker and provider.  The TFC midfield simply couldn’t match up with RSL’s on Saturday, despite the play of Bradley, only 7 passes found their way to Jermain Defoe who only got 2 shots off and neither was on target.  Gilberto took 5 shots with a couple forcing saves by Nick Rimando but on the night the RSL defense was very solid and despite some good attempts by TFC, they simply never were able to find the back of the net.

I will say that I got mighty lucky with my preview picks on the scoring Saturday night, I predicted a 3-1 RSL win with Sabo getting the brace (check), and Luis Gil getting one (check), I did pick Bradley to get a goal for TFC and he came within a couple of inches with a shot from distance that froze Rimando but bounced off the frame.  Not a bad round of predictions.

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Real Salt Lake vs Toronto FC – Match Preview

So within a couple weeks of RSL coming up short in MLS Cup, all the attention around MLS shifted north of the border as Toronto FC started spending money like a rapper in a strip club, the MLS version of making it rain.  Gilberto was signed as a DP, but he was the appetizer for their fans, as the team would announce both Michael Bradley and Jermain Defoe would be joining them heading into the 2014 MLS season.  Now Toronto wasn’t the first team to spend big buck on Mega DP’s, but they were the first to do so on this scale of both transfer fees and salaries.

As a RSL fan, I have seen a club built a very different way, a way that has seen a consistency over the last 5 plus seasons that have kept them at the top levels of MLS. During that time we saw LA push and lead the league in creating the DP rule, then the two DP rule and eventually the league settled on 3 DP’s per team.  We have seen big names come before Toronto made their moves, we had Beckham, Henry, Marquez, Blanco, Keane, and others come and go with varying levels of success.  Clubs have most often found themselves in one of two quickly diverging paths, spending huge amounts of money on a select few and hoping to fill in pieces around them (LA, NY, SEA), or spreading their money around more players building deep rosters and selectively using the DP rule when needed (RSL, SKC, HOU, POR).  Both types of teams have found success in both the regular and post seasons of MLS over the last few years.

Now Toronto wants to join in on the fun, the second method didn’t work for them so they are trying to spend their way to success, and while it may not be the way I think teams should be built, I don’t blame them.  Since joining the league in 2007, they have yet to make it to the post season, in fact if their had been relegation in place TFC wouldn’t be in MLS.  Making that worse is the fact that TFC has had amazing fan support from day one, so do I blame their ownership for making a huge shift in spending?  Nope not at all.

On Saturday night TFC will play their 3rd match of this new era for their club, and let’t be honest none of us know what to expect.  Do we see the team that quickly put up two on Seattle and then held on for a 2-1 win, or the club that struggled to a 1-0 win at home against DC United?  Of course there are also some questions about RSL, after a 1-0 opening day win over the LA Galaxy, RSL lost a 3-1 lead at San Jose and settled for a 3-3 draw, and then last weekend after getting a 1-0 lead over LA in RSL’s home opener the team again had to settle for a draw, this time 1-1.  So what will we see on Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium?

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RSL recovers from LA match and prepares for Toronto FC

It is kinda funny that in 3 of the first 4 weeks of the MLS season RSL is facing a team built by Tim Leiweke, if you don’t know who Tim is well then you haven’t paid very close attention to MLS for the last 10 years or so.  We will talk about Tim in a bit.  So last Saturday RSL kicked off the home portion of their 2014 season, and while it didn’t go the way RSL players or fans wanted, the 1-1 draw was probably a fair result on a night that saw both sides suffer some big losses due to injuries.  We can relive the many bad calls that were made or not made but in the end there isn’t anything that can be done about that.

The loss of Joao Plata to a hamstring injury clearly impacted the rhythm and style that RSL wanted to play in the match, but in the end it may have been the elevation that drained both teams and turned the match into something resembling the Hobbit – The Desolation of Smaug.  You know spots of excitement, but lots of “meh” to get to those spots. I will say this, Sabo’s goal was a great one but the highlight of the night had to be the capacity crowd that was loud, dedicated and rocking the entire match.  TIFOs, banners, signs, and flags were all around the stadium, enough so that Brian Dunseth reports several national soccer folks reached out to him to compliment the RSL faithful for their outpouring of team pride.

So with the Galaxy in the rear view mirror, sights are now set on Toronto FC that are coming to town, but this isn’t the same TFC as in years past, as I said RSL will be facing a Tim team for the 3rd time in their first 4 weeks of the season.  So I guess I should explain who this Tim guy is to those of you who may not know about him.

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Michael Bradley comes to MLS, what it could mean to the rest of the league

A lot of us have roommates, some because they are friends and others to divide up living costs.  A lot of us carpool or take public transit, some because it is environmentally good and others to save money.  For the 25% plus of MLS players who reportedly made under $50,000 last year I imagine it was a lot of the second, most don’t play in cities where their parents live so crashing in their basement isn’t an option.   Now when compared to the league minimums of other professional sports leagues in the US this number will either make you laugh or cry:

So at the low end of the list is the NFL, a bit of a surprise to me, but consider that just 18 players in all of MLS in 2013 made more than the league minimum of what a NFL player would make, 501 made less.

Now it is kinda unfair to compare MLS which is a very young league with those who have been around a lot longer, but clearly if you want to compete for the very best athletes in the US you have to be able to offer them something closer to what they can make in other leagues.

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