Tag Archive for MLS

Real Salt Lake have to wait for Dynamo – Match Preview

It was a crazy week for me, so I wasn’t able to get a match preview done before the scheduled 6:30pm kickoff on Saturday for the RSL at Houston Dynamo match, but crazy also can describe the weather in Houston and due to severe weather in the area the match was delayed until Sunday morning/afternoon with a 12:00 kickoff.

So that means I have enough time to put together a quick match preview for you.  RSL went into Colorado last weekend with a chance to secure the 2016 version of the Rocky Mountain Cup, but the Rapids aren’t a pushover anymore. Despite doing most things right, RSL looked a bit off all night, it may have been the awful weather, a early second half play by the Rapids found a wide open Jermaine Jones in the area and he put the ball in the back of the net for the only goal of the night.

So now RSL needs to put that behind them and take advantage of the struggling Dynamo, who have a 2-6-2 record so far this year and are just 2-1-2 at home.  They Dynamo are also coming off a busy week that saw them on the wrong end of a 3-1 scoreline in San Jose on Wednesday, so while an extra few hours of rest may help them RSL should still be the much fresher team.

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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 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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Is the RSL signing of Yura Movsisyan the start of RSL 3.0?

So for the last couple of years we have heard folks talking about MLS 3.0, the era of big TV deals, new forms of Allocation money, and even more big name DPs.  RSL’s owner has talked about it as a part of the reason why some of the front office changes over the last couple of years have been made, so RSL can compete in this new MLS, despite being a small market team.

Last year we saw RSL attract Juan Manuel “Burrito” Martinez, a move that saw him pay off his own contract so he could find a new team to play with, and he chose to come to Salt Lake City.  We saw the potential of what he can do in his limited minutes at the end of the season last year, I expect the best is yet to come.  It was a sign of things to come, or so it appears.

Listening to Yura talk to the media today, he mentioned over and over again that he had told his agent that he wanted to come back to MLS, and back to RSL for the last two years.  Now a player having a very specific place he wants to play can really put both his current club and his target in a rough spot as deals are never easy to complete. Between transfer fees, salary, MLS salary cap issues, it is a complicated thing but Yura’s agent Patrick McCabe (@GlobalPremMgmt) and RSL GM Criag Waibel did a lot of work over the last couple of months to make this deal happen.  

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Real Salt Lake roster review Part 1 – 1/14/2016

So we are 40 days from RSL’s first action of the year, their Feb 24th Champions League match at Tigres. So with the first 2 rounds of the MLS draft done, lets take an updated look at the RSL roster as it sits:

Goalkeeper – The position RSL has the best depth has to be keeper

  • Nick Rimando – RSL keeps one of the best keepers in MLS history in goal and should the defense in front of him improve from last year we should see another great year from Nick.
  • Jeff Attinella – I expect there are probably a few teams who would be happy to have Jeff as their number one keeper, so RSL is lucky to have him as our number two. When called on, Jeff has provided a very solid replacement for Nick and with the season starting so soon, I expect Jeff will see plenty of action in 2016.
  • Lalo Fernandez – The academy project spent most of 2015 with the Monarchs with 18 appearances, I expect those minutes will probably be similar in 2016 as he continues to progress as a keeper.  Holding onto him as his development continues will be a challenge for RSL.

I think RSL probably has the best or one of the top 2 or 3 keeper combos in all of MLS, this is an area of real strength heading into 2016.

Forwards – To say that the pressure is on RSL to get more productivity out of their forwards has to be the biggest understatement of the 2016 preseason.

  • Juan Manuel “Burrito” Martinez – While he was only with the club for a few months in 2015, I think all fans are excited by what we believe he will be able to provide. Clearly a player to watch in 2016 in MLS not just RSL.
  • Joao Plata – Injuries ruined what should have been a huge year for Joao, who exploded to new levels in 2014 with 13 goals.  He had just 4 goals in 19 appearances, now with more time to gain fitness and sharpness we should expect a return to his 2014 style and productivity.

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Real Salt Lake will look to restart season vs Rapids, minus a few key players

While the Rocky Mountain Cup was once the trophy for what was at one time one of the top rivalries in the league, years of dominance by Real Salt Lake, 7 of the last 8 years won by RSL, have made it less important to some fans (me included). This year the 3 matches with the Rapids will be huge, not because of the RMC, but rather for the 9 points that could make the difference of making the playoffs or not.  If you look at the Western Conference standings today, you will see that the Rapids are at the very bottom with just 13 points from 13 matches and just above them are RSL with 17 points from 14 matches. Neither side can be happy with these results, neither second year coach looks very comfortable with how the season is going.

A single win won’t put either side back into the playoff picture, but 3 points would at least get things moving in the right direction. With just 4 losses on the season the Rapids have fewer losses than RSL, but their two wins are also fewer than RSL. Both sides are coming off back to back losses and it isn’t the first time this season for both sides to have to deal with that.

Traditionally RSL has been one of the most solid defensive squads in MLS, but this year mistakes have cost matches, and 18 goals allowed the 1.29 GAA is one of the worst in team history (2008 we gave up 1.3 GAA) compared to 2010 season when we gave up just 20 goals all season. Life on the other side of the ball is just as troubling with just 13 goals scored in 14 matches and 6 times RSL being held without a goal. Our 0.93 goals scored per match is lower than any season average, even our 2005 season ended with a 0.94 average. So it is little wonder that many RSL fans are scratching their heads, we were told about this new more dynamic formation that would solve the woes of last years playoff performance against the Galaxy but as we near the halfway point of the MLS season, there is very little proof in the pudding.

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