Tag Archive for Olmes Garcia

Real Salt Lake look for progress vs upstart Vancouver

If you follow MLS closely you saw a few things coming, first you saw that the Vancouver Whitecaps were on the verge of becoming a powerhouse team. They were very young, very talented, very energetic, and playing as if they had nothing to lose, in fact the more I watch them play the more I am reminded of the evolution of RSL in the last part of 09 and the 2010 season. It as then run to MLS Cup when things just clicked for RSL, and it was exciting to watch, and it launched RSL into being one of the best teams in MLS over the last 7 seasons.

The flip side of that is RSL trying to reinvent itself, gone is Jason Kreis, gone is Garth Lagerwey, gone is the diamond midfield, the result has left some fans (including myself from time to time) scratching their heads about the new formation.  Still there is the very solid defense, Rimando in net is still the top keeper in the league, the backline is faster, more athletic, and so far this season they have been just as stingy as they were last year. With 4 goals allowed in our first 5 matches this season, we are at the exact same place as last year, 3 clean sheets in the first 5 last year and yes 3 in the first 5 this year. Last year a flukish 3-3 draw with San Jose accounted for a majority of our goals allowed, this year a flukish 3-3 draw with Philadelphia has accounted for a majority of the goals allowed.

On the offensive side of the ball things have been a bit different for RSL, those first 5 matches last year saw RSL score 8 goals, we are down 2 with just 6 this season.  Interestingly enough 5 matches in last year Joao Plata had 2 goals, and of course he has been out injured to start the season, also a bit telling last year Alvaro Saborio had 3 goals in RSL’s first 5 matches and he has just 1 this season.  Still the change in formation, the injury to Joao, both are reasonable explanations on why the offensive side of things might be lacking just a bit. Still it isn’t the results that have left people (including myself) scratching our heads it has been the departure from what was considered by many the most attractive style of soccer in MLS, our dominating possession, overwhelming passing numbers and precision to what is to the eye a much more frantic style of the 4-3-3.

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RSL face their biggest challenge so far this season Sporting KC

For Real Salt Lake Saturday night will provide one of measuring stick moments of the season, when they head to Sporting Park and take on SKC.  Most folks acknowledged that moving SKC and Houston to the West made a very tough conference even tougher, for RSL that is especially true given their history with both sides.  Tough hard fought matches are the norm when these two meet, last year saw a 0-0 draw but more often than not the guys from KC have gotten the better of RSL, a over all 8-5-4 advantage for SKC, with a very good 5-1-3 when the match is played on their pitch.

Both sides have been kinda neurotic in how they have played so far this season, RSL adjusting to the 4-3-3 and national team callups, SKC dealing with some big roster changes (gone are Collin, Saad, Bieler, Sapong and both Kronberg and Gruenebaum) then toss in a hamstring injury to Zusi and you see a very different looking side than you have been used to.  To the credit of both sides they have adjusted fairly well, with 2 wins and 2 draws, SKC did lose one match while RSL still have to taste defeat this season.

The teams have two opponents in common early on in the 2015 season, both sides had 0-0 draws against Portland, and both sides faced Philly, while RSL were lucky to get a 3-3 draw in a very strange match. KC came from behind with two stoppage time goals to get a 3-2 win in a match were they were really outplayed for the vast majority of the match.  Those results lead me to believe that both sides are really looking for their new identity in 2015, be it personal or formation changes.

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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 ready for 2015 home opener against Union

After a 0-0 draw at Portland last weekend, RSL will look to secure 3 important points at home Saturday night against the Philadelphia Union.  Yes, I called these important points, the reality is the Eastern Conference is the weaker conference in MLS so every time RSL faces a Eastern Conference team at home 3 points are important and against a Union team that is really still looking for an identity and were very unimpressive at home in week 1, the points are very important.

The Union picked up a couple of DP’s last year to boost their roster, former USMNT player Maurice Edu to be their defensive leader and Cristian Maidana to be their offensive leader, they added a 3rd DP in forward Fernando Aristeguieta who is on loan to them, but if you watched their match last week against the Rapids, you saw a team that still has more questions than answers on the pitch.  It is to be expected as Jim Curtin continues building the team he wants, I believe they have a lot of interesting pieces on their roster but as a team they seem to still be more interested in no losing than in winning matches.  They will be looking for their first ever win over RSL they are 0-2-5 in matches against RSL, and are 0-2-1 at Rio Tinto Stadium.

For Real Salt Lake, the transition to the 4-3-3 continues and as we saw often in the Desert Diamond Cup and last weekend in Portland, that formation can mean a lot of frantic action on both sides of the ball.   Or does it just look that way?  RSL had the edge in possession, overall they had a passing completion rate of 76% (a bit low for traditional RSL) but they 364 to 297 edge in passes over Portland.  Where the formation may have fallen short of expectations was on the offensive side, where RSL managed 9 shots (Portland had 18) but only had 2 on goal.  If RSL is going to be a more offensive team with this new formation, those numbers will have to go up.

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Real Salt Lake will be tired and shorthanded when they face Portland

Last Saturday RSL lost their first match of the season a 4-0 thumping at Seattle, a second straight match where the team looked out of sorts as they tried to adjust to their many missing stars and what would be their first 3 matches in a week stretch of the season.  On Wednesday they held on in Columbus to get a 1-1 draw despite a short bench and a starting XI that included many changes from the previous match.  Now heading into their “World Cup Break” which means no MLS matches for a couple weeks but doesn’t account for what will hopefully be more than 1 US Open Cup match, the team will face a familiar foe as the Portland Timbers come to town Saturday evening.

The team will once again be shorthanded and given the extensive travel and two matches in the last week we will likely see another lineup with several changes and some signs of fatigue as the match wears on.  Both RSL and Portland have 3 wins, 2 draws and a loss in their last 6 matches of the MLS season, so current form is fairly even between the sides. Of course given the way last year went one can expect that the Timbers will be green around the gills as they look for some revenge against RSL who knocked them out of the US Open Cup, the MLS Playoffs and whom the Timbers have only beaten once since joining MLS (RSL holds a 5-1-3 regular season record, a 2-0-0 playoff record, and a 1-0-0 record against Portland in US Open Cup action). Still one has to believe that the Timbers have looked at RSL’s roster (depleted via injuries and World Cup call ups) and busy schedule and think that this might be their best chance to steal a win at Rio Tinto Stadium.

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Real Salt Lake look to make history at Seattle – Match Preview

A couple years ago Real Salt Lake went on an amazing unbeaten streak at Rio Tinto Stadium, that streak was ended by Seattle, now RSL will be looking to set a new record for most matches without a loss to start a MLS season with a win or a draw at Seattle.  The record would be nice but for me it is about a team that has overcome so much already this season proving that together they are capable of amazing things.

With a completely new coaching staff entering into the 2014 season, including a rookie head coach in Jeff Cassar, expectations were tempered and when you factor in a rather brutal schedule (or what looked like on when it was released) I can assure you that nobody was talking about setting a record for most matches without a loss to start the season.  Then came the actual matches, the injuries, the call ups, more injuries, and some ugly matches, and here we sit heading into the 13th match of the season with a 6-0-6 record.  There are so many places that one has to give credit, the breakout season that Joao Plata is having with 6 goals and 3 assists, the surprise off season signing of Luke Muholland who has added 3 goals and 2 assists while playing in every RSL match so far this season, the dominance of Jeff Attinella when filling in for Nick Rimando with a 0.75 GAA, 2 clean sheets and a MLS save of the week.

Of course we also have the things that don’t surprise us, Kyle Beckerman’s commanding presence at the back of the diamond, which over the last two years have seen him claw his way back into the USMNT and onto the World Cup roster.  I am so very proud of the heart and passion that Kyle has brought to RSL over the years, nobody deserves a trip to the World Cup more than the most consistent player in MLS.  We have another MVP type season coming from Javier Morales, with 4 goals and 5 assists he continues to put his stamp on RSL and MLS as one of the best creative players the league has had.  The consistency of the RSL defenders, Chris Wingert, Nat Borchers, Tony Beltran, Chris Schuler, along with some great work from Aaron Maund as well.

That just scratches the surface of things that have lead RSL to where they are, when you think about Seattle, you have to think Clint Dempsey (8 goals, 3 assists) and Obafemi Martins (5 goals, 6 assists) two guys who struggled to make an impact at the end of the 2013 season but who have lifted the Sounders to the top of the MLS table early in 2014.  The Sounders have also gotten a real boost from some new players this season as Chad Marshall came over from the Crew and has looked like a younger and better version of himself in Rave Green while leading the Seattle backline, in the midfield Gonzalo Pineda and Marco Pappa have fit in nicely working with Osvaldo Alonso, and a mix of Lamar Neagle, Brad Evans and others.  At 8-3-2 the Sounders have done something that most MLS teams can rarely pull off, they have given up the first goal in 6 of their matches and found a way to come back and claim wins in 4 of them, that is impressive.

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Real Salt Lake look to remain undefeated against Philadelphia Union – match preview

So there are two meanings to that title, first is that RSL in 6 meetings has never lost to the Union, and of course RSL will look to remain undefeated in week 6 of the 2014 MLS regular season.  Since joining MLS, the Union are 0-2-4 with 5 goals scored and 9 goals allowed against RSL.  Of course they have never lost to RSL at PPL Park, a pair of 1-1 draws and a 0-0 draw in the most current match in Chester.  Last year the Union came close to beating RSL at Rio Tinto Stadium but a short handed stoppage time goal equaled the score at 2-2 and crushed the hopes of the Union fans for that first victory over RSL.

This year the Union have made some improvements to their roster, they picked up Maurice Edu, Vincent Nogueira, Fred, Austin Berry and most recently Andrew Wenger and with the first 2 have started all five of the Union’s matches and has helped their midifield lift it’s level of play. The Union will likely be without Danny Cruz and Sheanon Williams both of who are recovering from injuries, of course that is a mighty short list compared to the 11 players on the RSL list (some of who are possible or probable).  RSL will be without Joao Plata, Nick Rimando, Luis Gil and most likely both Tony Beltran and Chris Wingert, but as has been the case since the start of the season there are guys who are stepping up to fill those spots, we saw both Rich Balchan, Abdoulie Mansally and Jeff Attinella all get their first starts of the season last week in a match where they played major roles in helping RSL keep a clean sheet in their 0-0 draw with Sporting KC.

So can RSL find a way to keep their streaks alive?

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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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Real Salt Lake to host LA Galaxy in home opener – match preview

It seems almost amazing that Real Salt Lake already has two matches under their belts and now as spring has sprung they will start the home portion of their season by taking on the LA Galaxy again.  The first time around it was the Galaxy home opener and RSL was able to rain on their parade thanks to a Joao Plata goal and some amazing stops by Nick Rimando.  It was an exciting match as both side showed a little bit of rust but both showed that they can be very dangerous, it was lucky that Robbie Keane didn’t get a goal and unlucky that the officials got the call wrong on Luke Mulholland’s goal.  In the end it was a 1-0 win for RSL who notched their 5th straight opening day win, and now RSL will look to extend their undefeated home opening streak.  Oh I know that someone will think I am going to jinx them, but RSL has never lost a home opener, they may not have won all of them but never a loss.

For RSL it will be a real test as the injuries are piling up early on in the season, Findley, Sandoval, Velasquez, Morales, Allen, Maund, Schuler and Watson-Siriboe all have some type of injury issues they are dealing with. The upside is that newcomer Luke Mulholland has been a great surprise and Plata has started off the season as well as anyone in MLS. So with the home crowd behind them on a rare afternoon start, it should be a perfect chance to catch the two best teams in MLS over the last 5 seasons.

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