Tag Archive for Nat Borchers

Real Salt Lake finds victory in contentious match against Galaxy

If you watched the RSL victory over the LA Galaxy last fall in the 2nd leg of their playoff series, then little during Saturdays 1-0 win  in LA was probably surprising to you.  Just like the fall match, RSL was victimized by some strange calls including a clear goal being called back on a mystery call but instead of letting it get them down, they powered on and managed to still pick up the victory.

The highlight of the match, or highlights had to be the extraordinary effort in goal of Nick Rimando who made several key stops but none more important than the stoppage time PK stop of Robbie Keane to keep both the clean sheet but also to ensure the RSL victory. Several times mistakes forced Nick to clean up opportunities that the Galaxy had, some required his normal saves and others will likely get him nominated for save of the week. Nick in true RSL fashion was quick to point out that it was a collective team effort that secured the victory:

It’s tough to get a result, let alone a shutout here, and they came at us like we knew they would and I thought the defense played great, and by defense I mean the whole team.

Nick Rimando

Nick is right, work by everyone on both sides of ball is always a key to how RSL plays and we saw a lot of that, and while not every thing was perfect the mistakes were either quickly covered by a teammate or the Galaxy failed to capitalize.  It was good to hear that Nat Borchers mentioned that the team pushed for Aaron Maund to get the start and that confidence in him was rewarded by a solid effort against some of the most dangerous offensive players in MLS.

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Real Salt Lake open season against LA Galaxy – match preview

Real Salt Lake will kick off their 2014 season like almost every other season, with a match away from home, but that hasn’t proven to be a task they aren’t able to handle. Can RSL pick up their 5th straight opening day road win? To do so they will need to beat rival side LA.

A lot of people think that sports rivalries, especially those in MLS are all about geography but if you don’t think that RSL vs LA is a rivalry, despite what some of the Galaxy players might tell you, or how MLS might promote the match, well then you clearly haven’t looked at the definition of the word lately, let me help you out:rivalry

For the last 4 seasons both the Galaxy and Real Salt Lake have won at least 15 matches and scored at least 50 points, a feat that no other MLS team has ever done before (post shoot out era), two of those years the Galaxy finished higher in the table than RSL and twice it was RSL who finished with a better position. Since 2009 the teams have played for 5 MLS Cups combined, and won it 3 times.

Heck since RSL joined MLS 10 years ago the teams have fought 25 times in the regular season and the competition couldn’t be more equal with each side winning 10 matches and 5 draws.  The competition actually goes beyond the normal win at home type of MLS results, RSL has actually won 5 times in LA out of their 13 regular season matches, with 1 draw.  It goes beyond the regular season, the teams have faced each other 3 times in the playoffs since 2009.  RSL won the MLS Cup over LA in 2009, in 2011 LA beat RSL in the Western Conference final, and last year RSL was able to get the win over the Galaxy in the semifinals.

So how will the teams match up on the opening weekend of the 2014 MLS season?

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The 2014 Real Salt Lake Journey is about to begin

This weekend RSL kicks off their 10th season in Major League Soccer, before they do I thought taking a look at some of the challenges they face would be a good idea.

I know the easiest things to focus on will be the coaching change, an aging roster, limited changes on our roster to keep pace with other clubs making moves, but for me the 2nd full year of ownership by Dell Loy Hansen will actually be the area of greatest concern.

Oh I know some of you will jump on the fact that I am not going to name sources, but with people’s jobs on the line that is just the way it is, so if unnamed sources bother you then stop reading now.  First is the issue that DLH is a businessman, and a very good one but his experience with professional sports is none.   This is something that can be overcome with a knowledgeable staff and it would be hard to argue that Bill Manning and Garth Lagerwey aren’t among the very best in MLS, but if you hesitate to listen to their advice or if you have trust issues because they were hired by the previous owner, well then you will likely run into issues.   I get it, you have bought into an organization but you still feel like an outsider at time because the relationships between Dave and many are so tight (having weathered real storms over the years), I can see how you might not be sure of who you can really trust or not.  Clearly there also is the need to be wary given the financial state the team was in when you signed up and over the next couple years as a co-owner.

All of those things when you think about them make great sense, I hope by now that things have become more clear, from the top to the bottom of the organization people have bought into “the team is the star” and the ‘RSL Family” mentality.  Fans, players, coaches, front office staff, all have invested a lot into the team, maybe not in dollars and cents, but in passion, in dedication, and all have done so to see the team grow and succeed.  I do feel that if the trust issues, they go both ways, don’t get resolved this year (as early as possible) it could really lead to issues on and off the pitch.  Players come here because we have something special going on, it is in the locker room, it is in the stands, it is on the pitch and off of it.  If you doubt me, talk to guys like Lovell Palmer, or others who have left the team, or talk to the new guys who within a couple weeks learn that something different is happening here than at a lot of clubs.  Yeah we have a chip on our shoulders here, small market team, smaller budget than most, years of fighting to get national attention, but never for a moment have we seen that chip be anything than wanting better for the whole of RSL.

Mr. Hansen it is your money and as such you get to do what you want with the club, but understand that every decision at every level impacts the whole, you have fans, players and staff that want nothing more than to see RSL be as great as we all know it can be.  You can lead us there, but we must learn to trust each other or things will never be as good as they can be.

OK, on to those other things

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The top Real Salt Lake moments of 2013, the year of “almost”

So it is the time of year when most blogger/pundits/reporters put together their light of the highlights and lowlights of the past year, so it seemed only fitting that I take a look back at what was a very interesting year for Real Salt Lake.  I started out wanting to look at the 5 best things and the 5 worse things of the year and found that the two lists were very similar and often the events were very intertwined with each other.  For how long the MLS season is, just under 11 months, it was couple weeks that provided a lot of the material for my lists.  Anyhow, here we go:

The Top 5 highlights of the 2013 RSL season

5. US Open Cup run – it seemed as if RSL had destiny on their side as each and every coin flip by US Soccer gave home field advantage to RSL and despite questionable starts in several of the matches RSL was able to advance to the Open Cup final, a level they had never reached before in the tournament. It was in the Open Cup run that we got to see Devon Sandoval really step out of the shadows of being a rookie and show his potential, something that would benefit RSL for the rest of the season.   It was also great to see RSL pull in over 10,000 fans to each of their US Open Cup matches, in fact over the 5 matches RSL averaged over 14,000 fans, showing that a serious run at the USOC actually was important to both the club and the fans.  In almost every match played RSL put out a lineup that featured most of their top players another indication of how the club viewed the importance of the tournament, I hope that we see this same level of commitment in years to come.

4. Extra time win over the LA Galaxy in playoffs – Over the years I think this has become one of the best “non-rivalries” in MLS, from the style of play on the pitch to the way the clubs are run there really aren’t two clubs as polar opposites in the league.  So a highlight of the year has to be eliminating the Galaxy from the playoffs, and to do so in a match where some questionable calls again seemed to be strongly against RSL (hint this match should have ended in regulation time) just put a smile on the faces of all the RSL fans in the stands for that match.  I thought it was interesting how much attention had been given to the combo of Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane leading up to the series and how after it the talk was all about the duo of RSL centerbacks Nat Borchers and Chris Schuler.

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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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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. Seattle Sounders – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly III

If there has been a bigger MLS regular season match this season than the Friday night showdown between RSL and Seattle, please tell me what it is.  Real Salt Lake has been holding on to first place in both the Western Conference and overall MLS table for a couple months, the Sounders are the hottest team in MLS, so when they meet for the final time of the regular season with a possible swing of 6 points on the line, well expect a very intense match.

Of course every time these two teams meet it tends to be intense, only 2 of the 11 regular season matches have been decided by more than a single goal (a 2-0 Seattle win in March 2009, and RSL’s 2-0 win in June of this year), there have been 3 0-0 draws in the regular season series that sees RSL hold a 5-2-4 advantage and even a 2-1-2 edge in Seattle. The Sounders have 7 wins in their last 10 matches and 4 straight wins and have clawed their way into second place in the West, RSL had a rough July but went 3-1-2 in August to and have scored multiple goals in their last 4 matches.

The Good:

Kyle Beckerman – I always get a good laugh out of MLS fans who seem to have a strict love/hate relationship with Kyle, it is the same at the USMNT level. I get it, he plays hard, he is always in the middle of the action, and if your team is playing against him you will likely resort to making fun of his hair.  Why, because you can find so few flaws in his game, if he is called on to be the guy who breaks up plays in the midfield before they can develop, he does it, if he is called on to be more offensive minded, he can do that too.  No matter what the coach asks of him, he can do it.  Yes he does have a +10 when it comes to fouls committed vs fouls suffered, but surprisingly he has only been whistled for 24 fouls all season.  Off the pitch he is a laid back, mellow guy, soft spoken and great with fans, but when he steps on the pitch he is a warrior pure and simple.  I remember hating him when he was with the Rapids, that is the kind of player he is, you hate him when he is playing against your team, but when he is on your side, you can’t help but love him.

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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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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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