Tag Archive for Sebastian Velasquez

The MLS expansion draft looms large for Real Salt Lake

So with two team entering MLS in 2015 it is time again for one of the most stressful times for fans, players and staffs of MLS teams, it is no different for Real Salt Lake.  In fact with former coach Jason Kreis in charge of one of the expansion sides NYCFC, maybe it is a bit more stressful, this time around as most of the players on our roster are guys that he knows well and many of them are guys he brought to RSL.  It should come as no surprise that he has already signed former RSL backup keeper Josh Saunders and former RSL defender Kwame Watson-Siriboe and I expect he will be looking to add more.

One other major fact in the stress levels heading into this expansion draft are the many unknowns of that the roster rules and salary cap might look like next season, with the CBA between the players and league expiring a couple weeks after the expansion draft. There is one thing that should reduce the stress level of RSL fans, the reality is that we can only lose two players via the expansion draft, I guess that is an upside.

So the current RSL roster has 29 players on it, according to the MLS website, but I believe the reality is that Sebastian Saucedo’s HGP deal doesn’t actually kick in until 2015. So if the rules are same as the last couple of expansion drafts, HGP (Home Grown Players) are exempt, so for RSL that would mean the following players are automatically protected:

  • Jordan Allen
  • Lalo Fernandez
  • Justen Glad
  • Benjamin Lopez
  • Sebastian Saucedo

So either way that leaves 24 players that would be eligible for the expansion draft pool. Current Generation Adidas players are also automatically protected, Luis Gil used to be on the Generation Adidas roster, but I believe he graduated the program a couple years ago.

In the past teams have been allowed to protect 11 players, and when a player is taken a team gets to add another player to their protected list.  If a designated player has a no-trade clause that player has to be protected (at least according to the last rules).  There are some other additional rules, such as players who are out of contract still have to be protected if you want to keep them but just protecting them doesn’t mean you have to re-sign them. At a high level that is what we know about what will likely be the rules for the expansion draft.

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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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Back to Practice for Real Salt Lake as MLS Cup looms

After a few days off to celebrate the holidays, RSL returned to practice on Sunday with a spirited 90 minute session that featured a variety of drills.  It was good to see Alvaro Saborio back to what appears to be close to full fitness, Chris Wingert was also an active participant but I believe he is still in some pain from the rib injuries suffered in the first leg against Portland. Devon Sandoval missed practice but Jason Kreis was confident (as was RSL PR man Sam Stejskal) that Devon would be ready to go by MLS Cup.

The drills started out small with smaller groups taking on each other in passing and possession drills and the scale kept getting larger and larger as practice went along, towards the end the keepers and groups of players broke off and started working on taking and defending PK’s (a sure sign that we are in full playoff mode).

Listening to a number of players and Jason talk after practice the group is fully aware of the task in front of them, they seem very focused while someone remaining relaxed.  Perhaps that is the veteran influence as RSL has a good number of players from the 2009 MLS Cup win on their roster (Nick Rimando, Chris Wingert, Tony Beltran, Nat Borchers, Kyle Beckerman, Ned Grabavoy, Javier Morales, and Robbie Findley) and with 6 straight seasons of playoff runs and this years US Open Cup run, every player on the roster has dealt with high pressure situations. That experience should provide a calming effect next Saturday as the big match hype has to be dealt with.

I was able to catch up with a couple of players after practice, first up is Lovel Palmer:

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Real Salt Lake find victory over the LA Galaxy and something more

Rio Tinto Stadium has always provided a good home for RSL, while not every match sells out the team draws a good crowd no matter the conditions or opponent being played.  Since the team moved to their home stadium, the club has never really suffered from a bad season, they have made the playoffs every year since the move.  That is 6 straight seasons for those of you counting, the longest streak in Major League Soccer, and getting close to the league record.  Four times in those 6 seasons RSL has made it to a conference final and on Sunday they will start their bid to play in and win their second MLS Cup title, which is a very good record for a team not even 10 years old yet.  On Thursday night, something interesting happened at Rio Tinto, something that has happened a couple times before but not nearly as often as some of us would like.  The crowd and team both seemed in sync with an energy level and passion that is rare in sports, that combined desire to help the other in whatever way possible.  You could see it in the eyes of the players on the first couple attempts on goal that went unsuccessful, you could hear from the fans in the stands who were perhaps as loud as I have ever heard them (despite it not being a sellout crowd), it kept building all night.  Sometimes it was positive and passionate, like the Seba goal and a few times not so positive, like the wrongly called off goal (even if you want to call Borchers offside, it was passive at best), but it was loud for the vast majority of the match and at points louder than I ever remember it being in the past.

The end result was a very entertaining 2-0 RSL win, or pair of wins.  It is hard enough to beat the Galaxy in an elimination match but last night RSL had to do it twice as Toledo made a mystery call on what should have been a Javier Morales goal that would have ended the match in regulation.  Instead RSL was forced to play 30 additional minutes and get another goal to end up with the deserved result, and while some may say it all comes out in the end, we saw Alvaro Saborio pick up an injury in that extra time, and had a majority of our players forced to play 30 minutes more with their next match just 3 days away.  We may never know what really happened on that call, or what impact the extra 30 minutes will have on RSL as they host the Timbers on Saturday, I do know my heartbeat was faster in those extra 30 minutes than it probably should have been.

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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 shocks Vancouver, prepare for the US Open Cup

I thought RSL head coach Jason Kreis would play a very heavy lineup of what many see as “B” players or reserves, and honestly many of them have seen a lot of action in reserve matches but the depth and quality of those players was too much for the Vancouver Whitecaps, who are fighting for a playoff spots, to deal with.

I actually liked the lineup of Jeff Attinella, Abdoulie Mansally, Brandon McDonald, Chris Schuler, Lovel Palmer, Yordany Alvarez, Sebastian Velasquez, Cole Grossman, Luis Gil, Devon Sandoval, and Olmes Garcia, I thought it provided a lot of high energy guys with a chance to show what they can do.  Several times this year the combination of Luis Gil and Sebastian Velasquez in the midfield has combined with Garcia and/or Sandoval to provide a very creative and high tempo look to the RSL attack, on Saturday it wasn’t all pretty but it sure was creative and high energy.

The centerback duo of Chris Schuler and Brandon McDonald looked great, and for RSL who has had some defensive challenges in recent weeks the added depth may be just what we need heading into the playoffs.  It was also good to see the two way work of Mansally and Palmer, both of whom showed great diversity for RSL and the ability to shut down some very good Vancouver players, perhaps nobody had a better match under tight scrutiny than Yordany Alvarez. Yordany has played really well at times this year, but he also has made some mental mistakes that have resulted in him making reckless and dangerous challenges that have left RSL short handed, but Saturday he played in complete control and reminded us why the RSL staff like him so much.

It was of course an early goal by RSL rookie Devon Sandoval, with an assist by Lovel Palmer, that was the difference in the match, again showing that RSL’s goals come from all over the roster, Devon becomes the 9th RSL player with at least 3 goals this season.  The team has gotten goals from 13 players this year, which has seen 26 different players get starts this year and 27 have seen action for RSL in MLS action.

RSL got a real boost late in the match as Ned Grabavoy came on in the 72nd minute, and helped to calm things down as Vancouver pushed to draw even.  He came on for Cole Grossman, who had a very good match as he gets back into the picture for RSL.

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RSL to Raise Awareness and Funds to Fight Childhood Cancer

I am always a sucker for a good cause, and this is about as good of a cause as there can be, so I am not going to do anything more than share the RSL press release with you all:

RSL TO RAISE AWARENESS AND FUNDS TO FIGHT CHILDHOOD CANCER AT SATURDAY’S GAME v. SAN JOSE 

RSL to Raise Funds through Ticket Sales; Claret-and-Cobalt to Host Delete Blood Cancer DKMS Swab Event at Rio Tinto Stadium

SANDY, Utah (Friday, Sep. 20, 2013) – Real Salt Lake, in conjunction with Leo’s Paws for the Cause, has teamed up with CureSearch Walk to raise awareness and funds to help find a  cure for childhood cancer at this Saturday’s game against the San Jose Earthquakes at Rio Tinto Stadium.

RSL will donate a portion of ticket sales from this Saturday’s near sellout against San Jose to CureSearch Walk. Additionally, a portion of ticket sales from RSL’s home games on Oct. 5 against FC Dallas and Oct. 23 against Chivas USA will also go towards the organization. Tickets to those games can be purchased with the promo code: KidsCancer at www.realsaltlake.com/tickets/ticket-promotions. Fans are instructed to contact Jen Petrosky at 801.727.2728 or at jpetrosky@realsaltlake.com for more information.

At halftime of this weekend’s match, RSL will recognize a select group of children who are either currently battling cancer or who have defeated the disease. The same group of children will all be participating in the Salt Lake City CureSearch Walk on Oct. 5th, along with Real Salt Lake mascot Leo the Lion, to raise awareness and funds and remember those who have lost battles to cancer. To sign-up for the walk visit CureSearchWalk.org

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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 Lakes takes on Houston as brutal August continues

Well we are 10 days into August and RSL is facing their third match of the month today as they will play host to the Houston Dynamo.  The Dynamo are a interesting foe, they are the team that has played in back to back MLS Cups only to come up shy each time.  The Dynamo are a very typical MLS team, they try to keep their core of players together while adding the right pieces to replace those who have left, it is a story common to fans of every MLS team and one way to common for RSL fans.

RSL has never had a lot of success against the Dynamo, just 3-9-5 and even at home RSL is more likely to get a draw with Houston with a 3-1-4 record in Utah.  This hasn’t been a good year for RSL against what is often perceived as the weaker Eastern Conference, with just a 2-4-2 record, so Saturday will provide a chance to secure 3 much needed points at home which would allow them to stay on top of both the MLS table and the Western Conference.

The Dynamo are an interesting team, since moving to Houston the Dynamo have seemed to know just when to peak in the MLS season, mid summer to late fall and it has paid off with them winning MLS Cup in 2006 and 2007 their first two teams in their new home town, playing in two more MLS Cups (2011 & 2012) and have missed the playoffs just once (2010) since moving from San Jose.  That is consistency at a very high level, given the fact that they moved cities, have moved conferences and dealt with a revolving door of players but at the helm has been Dominic Kinnear.   The changes have been huge over the last couple of years, Stuart Holden left, Ricardo Clark left (and is now back), Geoff Cameron has left, and while Brain Ching is still with the team he now plays a very limited role (0 starts, 13 appearances, 0 goals, 1 assist).

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What people aren’t talking about from the RSL vs NYRB match

So we all can question the officials once again, should Yordany been sent off for his studs up tackle on Cahill?  Were any of the three PK’s called actually a real PK?  How in the world did the official call 46 combined fouls and yet have no control over the match.  Each of those are valid points of discussion,  but for me the impact of the ref is as much if not more than any of those, responsible for the subs that Jason Kreis made, which impacted the match both in positive and negative ways.

RSL may have been lucky that Yordany Alvarez was still on the pitch in the 61st minute of play, given the hard tackle that earned him an early yellow card (and some think was deserving of more).  He had been playing well since that early yellow, but given the nature of the match and the official, bringing in Khari Stephenson for Yordany instead of for Ned Grabavoy, who didn’t have his finest match, or Sebastian Velasquez both of whom play a position more normal for Khari seems to be at least if not completely motivated by how the match was being called.   It may have been wise as 3 more yellow cards where given out in the 15 minutes after the sub was made.

The second sub of the night was a straight swap of Luis Gil coming in for Sebastian Velasquez, this one I doubt had anything to do with the officiating but was more about fresh legs in what was a 2-1 match.  Still I wonder if again given the rough match that Ned Grabavoy was having, that if we hadn’t had to pull Yordany if perhaps Ned would have been the choice to take out here, but with Ned’s defensive abilities I can understand this move more than any other.

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