Tag Archive for Sebastian Velasquez

Real Salt Lake continues their hot streak

When RSL was 2 matches into the MLS season, I doubt most people thought that when the team had 20 matches under their belt that they would be at the top of MLS.  If you look at the stats, RSL has the most points 37 in MLS, their 1.85 points per match average is also tops in MLS, as is the +14 goal differential, their 11 wins, their 5 road wins.  With 32 goals scored they are tied for the top total in MLS with the Philadelphia Union, RSL’s 18 goals allowed is tied for second fewest in MLS with Portland, while New England have given up just 16 goals so far this season.

All of this came to a bit of a head on Saturday as RSL headed into Texas, missing 4 normal starters on national team duty, missing a couple other players with injuries or suspension, so was it a bit surprising when the team picked up their first every win in Texas with their 3-0 defeat of FC Dallas?  Not really, RSL has had to play with their lineup and even their formation often since the start of the season for various reasons, it is why 20 players have over 500 minutes of MLS action already this year, and 6 others have also gotten time in MLS matches. Both of those are more than the entire season for RSL last year, a rather amazing stat if you ask me.

On Saturday it was the same thing as we again saw different players step up, as Abdoulie Mansally stepped into the starting lineup, another match with Nat Borchers and Carlos Salcedo as our centerbacks, alongside Chris Wingert.  In goal we saw Josh Saunders get the start and play really well, only to pick up an injury late in the first half that eventually would take him out of the match early in the second half, we should know more early this week about the extent of his injury, but I sure hope it isn’t a serious one that will keep him out of action long.  That allowed for Jeff Attinella to get his first MLS minutes, and he looked like it was just another day, making some great saves and helping RSL keep the clean sheet.

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Real Salt Lake faces the Charleston Battery in the 4th round of the US Open Cup

Wednesday evening Real Salt Lake will play host to USL Pro side the Charleston Battery in US Open Cup action, this fourth round match will determine who moves on to host a quarterfinal match up in two weeks.  This is one of those matches that the MLS side should win, and with a 10 day break before their next match Real Salt Lake should be able to put our their top notch lineup, now I think a couple of guys like Sebastian Velasquez, Olmes Garcia, and Lovel Palmer might push their way into the starting lineup, as RSL head coach Jason Kreis has a number of great options who have stepped up at every level they have been asked to.

It would be easy for us to think that Charleston doesn’t pose a real threat but you should know that, they have beaten 9 MLS sides in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup; DC United (1999), MetroStars (2001, 2004), Houston Dynamo (2007, 2008), FC Dallas (2008), Chivas USA (2009), Chicago Fire (2010) and San Jose Earthquakes (2013).  You can also add in their preseason matches which often feature MLS opponents, this year one of those matches was a 2-1 win over the Houston Dynamo. A quick look at their roster shows that they have some size that RSL will have to deal with, 8 players 6’0″ or better without counting keepers.  They also have some guys with time or trials in MLS:

  • Amadou Sanyang – has spent time with Toronto FC and Seattle
  • Ben Fisk – time with the Vancouver Whitecaps developmental team
  • Jarad van Schaik – who was drafted by RSL but never made the roster

The Battery are currently in 3rd place in USL Pro with a record of 7-3-2 with 22 goals scored and 13 goals allowed.

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Real Salt Lake vs. San Jose Earthquakes – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly – Match Preview

Well the RSL season started out at San Jose and in that match “The Goonies” were silenced as RSL picked up the 2-0 win, and after a 2012 season that saw the Quakes lose just 6 matches all season while scoring 72 goals (2.12 per match) on their way to winning the Supporter’s Shield, 2013 hasn’t been so kind.  San Jose has lost 5 of their first 14 (the same number as RSL), they have won just 3 matches and are 0-4-2 on the road, but perhaps more alarming is that they have scored just 13 goals (0.93 per match).

Now they still have that never say die mentality and have been able to score 7 of their 13 goals in the final 15 minutes of matches, and that has given them a 2-5-4 record when allowing the first goal (RSL is 1-4-1), but the lack of goals is clear in the fact that they have only scored the first goal in a match 3 times (RSL has 8 times) for a 1-0-2 record (RSL is 5-1-2).  Last year a lot of San Jose’s success came from Alan Gordon (13 goals and 7 assists) and Steven Lenhart (10 goals and 2 assists), but neither of them have scored a goal yet this year. Instead it is rookie Adam Jahn (4 goals) who has been the support for the main Quakes threat, which remains Chris Wondolowski (5 goals and 3 assists).  San Jose will come to Rio Tinto missing a few players for various reasons; Nana Attakora and Ty Harden will be out with injuries, Marvin Chavez and Victor Bernardez who are gone for international duty.  They are also coming off a US Open Cup loss on Tuesday, they lost to the Charleston Battery, and the Quakes have just a single win in their last 10 MLS matches.

Real Salt Lake has one thing in common with San Jose, the ability to score late goals, RSL has 8 of their 18 in the final 15 minutes, and 11 of their 18 have come in the final 30 minutes of matches.  Another thing is that both sides have given up goals late in matches, both sides have given up 6 goals in the final 30 minutes of matches, for RSL 5 of those have come in the final 15 minutes.  We say late goals rob RSL of points a couple weeks ago in Montreal, and even last weekend RSL had to settle for a 1-1 draw with the Chicago Fire.  For RSL the international call ups will hit after this weekend, but injury issues will keep Alvaro Saborio out of action on Saturday, it was Sabo who scored both goals against San Jose on the opening weekend of the season.  Still RSL has plenty of weapons, 6 players have scored multiple goals so far this season (Saborio, Ned Grabavoy, Javier Morales, Olmes Garcia, Luis Gil, and Robbie Findley) and 3 more have scored one. San Jose has two players with multiple goals (Wondolowski and Jahn) and 3 others players have scored a single goal for the Quakes.

The Good:

Luis Gil – if you believe the projected lineup from the match guide, Luis will be getting the start at the top of the diamond after Javier Morales went a full 120 minutes on Tuesday in a very physical match in US Open Cup action.  I think this plays perfectly for Luis, at the point of the diamond he is able to dictate the match and gets a good number of touches, unlike when he is on the outside of the diamond where he sometimes gets lost in the match.  I liked what Luis did early in the season when Javi was out hurt, and expect that we might see him back to that much more active role on Saturday.  With the U20 World Cup coming up this summer, the more quality minutes we can get from Luis now will allow other midfielders a chance to rest a bit. In that 2-0 opening day win, Luis went all 90 minutes with 2 shots taken (1 on goal), it should be interesting to see how he matches up against the Quakes midfield.

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RSL swallows a bitter pill, but looks to rebound in US Open Cup

Well a four match home stand provided RSL with a perfect chance to gain ground on their Western Conference opponents but a late goal given up to the Chicago Fire leaves RSL with just a 1-1 draw to show from what on paper was a dominating performance.  I like stats as much as the next person but in soccer I have found that few stats really matter, the couple that really do are scoring first (RSL is 5-1-2 this year when scoring first, 14-1-0 last year) and the home team will most often win in MLS (RSL is 64-28-34 all time at home), beyond those two there is little on the stat sheet that matters.  Take Saturday as an example, RSL had a 67.5% to 32.5% edge in possession, RSL had 572 passes, Chicago had 251, RSL completed 87% of their passes, Chicago just 73%, RSL took 20 shots to 12 for the Fire, had 9 of those on goal to just 2 for the Fire, but the final scored didn’t reflect that, instead it showed 1-1.  It is what it is, and while it is a bitter pill to swallow for players, staff and fans, it shows that there is no such thing as an easy match, no such thing as a sure thing in soccer.  Now it is about moving forward.

On Tuesday night, RSL will again attempt to advance in the US Open Cup, they will face a NASL side in the Atlanta Silverbacks, a team that they should by all accounts defeat with any 11 of their players in the lineup.  Of course this is soccer and there are no sure things, last year RSL went out on a limb and bought the hosting rights for their opening US Open Cup match.  In return the visiting Minnesota Stars thumped RSL 3-1 in a match that could have been much worse on the scoreline as RSL looked flat and the Stars had nothing to lose in a match where few would have picked them to win.  So be it a year later or 3 days later from disappointing results, it is about how you pick yourself up, about how you respond.

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Real Salt Lake at Montreal Impact – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly – Match Preview

Well Real Salt Lake heads to Canada, where they have never won a match, where they will take on the Impact who started the season as one of the surprises, but have cooled off a bit lately. Both sides played a match on Wednesday, for RSL it was a come from behind 2-1 win over New England, and for the Impact it was too little too late as a stoppage time goal wasn’t enough to get a win and they lost 2-1 to the New York Red Bulls.

Both sides have 5 wins on the season and two draws, RSL however had 4 losses, while the Impact have lost only twice so far this season. These two sides have only faced each other once, a 1-0 RSL win at Rio Tinto Stadium last year, but both sides are very different teams now. RSL no longer has Paulo Jr. on the roster, he is the one who scored the goal last year, also missing for RSL will be Fabian Espindola, Will Johnson, Jamison Olave, Jonny Steele, and Terakazu Tanaka, all of whom played against Montreal last season. The Impact also have had a lot of roster changes since these sides last saw each other, names like Alessandro Nesta, Romero, Pisanu, Tissot and others, One thing is clear this early afternoon match will feature some players that should provide plenty of action.

The Good:

Kwame Watson-Siriboe – After missing a little time with the team for personal reason, Kwame headed to Montreal to meet the team as Nat Borcher’s illness forced him to return to Salt Lake to get further treatment.  It was unknown until mid-day yesterday if the second yellow card that was shown to Carlos Salcedo would be overturned (it was), but having Kwame available provides more options along the backline for Real Salt Lake, and having options is something that is always a good thing for RSL.

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Eleven Down and Twenty Three to go for Real Salt Lake

If there was a road match that RSL could go into with confidence given their past it would be at New England, but without Alvaro Saborio, without Robbie Findley, and without Nat Borchers things are never as easy as they would first appear.  There were moments when RSL looked like the home team, moving the ball around trying to find gaps between the 7-9 players behind the ball, and then there were moments when slight mistakes gave huge chances to the Revolution.  I have laughed at a few reviews of the matches that actually believe that this was an evenly played match, RSL dominated possession, controlled the pace of most of the match, and was by far the more attacking side.

You don’t have to believe me, here are the numbers: 13 shots for RSL, 11 for New England, 7 on target for RSL, 3 for New England, 482 passes for RSL and just 318 for New England, 81% passing accuracy for RSL (that seems a bit high) to 71% for New England, and 58.6% of possession for RSL, just 41.4% for New England.  The only category that New England really dominated in was corner kicks with a 10 to 2 advantage, oh and fouls, where they have a 17 to 11 edge.

This was another match where the official ended up being a big part of the story, several major calls missed (both ways), and then in stoppage time a bad call of a handball for a PK, and a 2nd yellow card to Carlos Salcedo who had nothing to do with the play.  Thankfully a PK save by Nick Rimando allowed RSL to hold on to the deserved win.  For me it was great to see our midfielders taking more shots, one of the things I believe we must do, on the night Ned had some great ones (and took a beating most of the night) to end with 3 shots, Kyle had that same number, and Luis Gil added two more shots.  I am not surprised that Javier Morales had no shots, he was marked closely (often too closely for comfort) by the Rev’s midfielders and defenders.

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Ten down and Twenty Four to go for Real Salt Lake

Saturday was an interesting day for Real Salt Lake, the last match of a three match homestand that saw the team upset by a makeshift LA Galaxy squad last weekend, and preparing for a 3 match road trip.  The team could even out their record with a win, a loss would have left the team with a lot more questions.  Injuries would once again play a major role in the match as Alvaro Saborio, Robbie Findley, and Olmes Garcia wouldn’t see action, leaving Devon Sandoval and Joao Plata to get the start and the majority of the minutes.  The match also saw the first start of the 2013 season for Chris Wingert, and the debut of Carlos Salcedo, the first of RSL’s HGP’s to see action in a MLS match.

You could tell that the changes to the roster caused some issues early on as passing and communication seemed to be a bit off, but RSL was able to rebound in the second half and be much more dynamic in the attacking third.  Just when you thought Nick Rimando couldn’t be a more important piece of the RSL puzzle this season, he goes and picks up an assist on the first RSL goal, his outlet finds an on charging Plata with precision accuracy, Plata then feeds the ball into the area and Luis Gil once again uses his head to put the ball into the back of the net.  How pretty was the play, well it is up for goal of the week.

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Real Salt Lake gets snake bit early against the LA Galaxy

Last year it was RSL that scored a couple of early goals against the LA Galaxy at Rio Tinto, but were unable to hold on, this  year it was the Galaxy who were able to get two early goals but despite an onslaught they were able to hold on.  The first 20 minutes of the match reminded me a lot of the match against the MN Stars last year, when several players appeared to think that they could get by with something less than 100% readiness and sharpness.  It is easy to understand at one level, you are a top level athlete and you see the starting lineup for your opposition and missing are the biggest names, and in their place are several guys getting their first ever MLS start, and several others have played a bit but aren’t guys that you know much about.

The first goal LA scored was a textbook set piece play for them, they looked beyond their big targets and found a hard charging, wait for it, wait, Mike Magee who was able to get over Tony Beltran and in front of Nat Borchers to head the ball past Nick Rimando.   RSL tried to answer back but it was, Charlie Rugg who would get the next goal, and less than 15 minutes into the match RSL was down 2-0.  That score would hold as the LA Galaxy simply changed to a deny tactic, they would occasionally make a run on a counter attack but they simply sat back and clogged the passing lanes.  LA also got some great saves from Brian Rowe, who made a couple of fingertip saves and got the benefit of the crossbar and post to help out on some saves.

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Real Salt Lake 1st quarter report card

So 8 matches in the book and that represents just under ¼ of the MLS season, so how exactly has RSL done?  I keep having to remind myself of what RSL GM Garth Lagerwey said before the start of the season “We will be better in June than we are in March, and we will be better in September than we will be in June” and if that is the case we should all be very happy, RSL currently is one of 4 teams with 11 points and only 4 teams have more than 11 points.  That means that 11 teams are currently behind RSL in the standings, and just 4 are in front of us and for a team that has had to deal with losing 3 All Star level players and a bevy of injuries early in the season, it isn’t as bad as some might think.  So let’s take a bit deeper look at things.

First the record of 3-3-2 is how we got to our 11 points, now 5 of those matches have been away from home where RSL is 1-3-1 and that simply isn’t good enough.  Losses at Colorado, Dallas and DC United all hurt, but only in the Dallas match was RSL really outplayed, and that match also saw RSL missing an additional 5 players due to various national team call ups in addition to injured players.  Still our road performance has to improve; I firmly believe that RSL will need to at least duplicate their 6 road wins if not improve as they have done the last few seasons (4 wins in 2010, 5 wins in 2011, 6 in 2012).  Last year the team also had a fairly impressive (compared to the past) -1 goal differential on the road with 19 goals scored and 20 goals allowed, after a -6 the year before, currently the team is at a -2.  I expect that for RSL to finish in the top 3 in the West (avoiding the wildcard) that they will need to pull an average of 1.20 points per road match (based on their recent finishes), currently the team has 4 points from 15 possible an average of just 0.80 per match.

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Time to catch up a bit on my RSL thoughts

So I have been AWOL for a couple of weeks, this is what can happen when life and work collide with passion and hobby.  Anyhow a lot of thoughts about the last couple of weeks, but all of that will be covered and more, to get started I thought I would offer my thoughts on the last 3 matches during which RSL has looked good at moments but too often mistakes have left us without the desired and often deserved result.

Starting with the 1-0 loss at the Rapids to kick off April, a match in which a simple failure to clear a ball out of the area allowed it to ping pong around and past Nick Rimando, and a failed PK attempt by Alvaro Saborio were the key plays in a match where RSL otherwise was the superior side.   It isn’t often on the road in MLS where you see a side dominate possession by a 60% to 40% edge over the home side, or where the visiting team has 130 more passes than the home team, but those are the facts of what happened.  The match reminds us that soccer can be a cruel mistress and it leaves RSL in a hole heading into the final match of the Rocky Mountain Cup later this summer.  Perhaps the only good things to come out of the match were the performances by Devon Sandoval (his first MLS start) and Olmes Garcia, both of whom did very well for first year players and have forced themselves into a real dogfight for minutes at the top of the RSL formation.

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