Meetings between Real Salt Lake and Portland Timbers have never lacked for excitement, with the two teams producing open-ended, high-scoring matches ever since the Timbers joined MLS in 2011. The meetings went up a notch last year, with then-rookie Portland Head Coach Caleb Porter bringing an RSL-like possession style to the Timbers.
Real Salt Lake has had great success against the Cascadia side, posting a 7-1-3 all-time record against the Timbers across all competitions, with RSL’s sole loss coming in the teams’ first-ever encounter in April 2011. RSL and Portland had a couple of high-stakes matchups last year, meeting in the U.S. Open Cup Semifinal on Aug. 7, with the Claret-and-Cobalt pulling off a 2-1 victory to advance to the USOC Final. RSL and the Timbers then went on to meet in the 2013 Western Conference Final series, with RSL defeating Portland 4-2 in the first leg and earning a 1-0 win in the second leg on the road to advance to MLS Cup 2013.
The team truly is the star when it comes to Real Salt Lake’s success against Portland, as nine different RSL players scored against the Timbers in 2013 alone, and 10 current Claret-and-Cobalt players have scored against Portland in their career. Not surprisingly, RSL’s most prolific scorer against Portland is forward Alvaro Saborio, who has seven goals and one assist in seven games against the Oregon side. RSL maestro Javier Morales has also been excellent against Portland, posting four goals and five assists in 10 meetings against the Timbers. And it’s not just all about the goals – seven different RSL players had assists against Portland in 2013, and eight current RSL players have assists against Portland all-time.
Let’s hope RSL can continue its unbeaten streak on Saturday and get even more Claret-and-Cobalt players on the scoreboard.
Here’s a full breakdown of current RSL players with goals and/or assists against the Timbers:
Kyle Beckerman: 1 goal, 4 assists – 9 games
Nat Borchers: 1 goal – 11 games
Robbie Findley: 2 goals, 1 assist – 6 games
Luis Gil: 1 goal, 2 assists – 9 games
Ned Grabavoy: 1 goal – 10 games
Cole Grossman: 1 goal – 1 game
Javier Morales: 4 goals, 5 assists – 10 games
Joao Plata: 1 goal, 3 assists with RSL, 1 assist with Toronto FC – 6 games
Alvaro Saborio: 7 goals, 1 assist – 7 games
Devon Sandoval: 1 goal – 2 games
Chris Schuler: 1 goal – 4 games
Chris Wingert: 1 assist – 10 games
Real Salt Lake will look to extend its unbeaten start to the season on Saturday, when it will take on Philadelphia Union at 2:00 p.m. MT on ABC 4.
Here are a few storylines to watch ahead of Saturday’s contest:
Real Salt Lake undefeated against Philadelphia Union
Real Salt Lake and Philadelphia Union have met a total of six times in Major League Soccer history, with the Claret-and-Cobalt never losing to its Eastern Conference foe. RSL has a 2-0-4 record against the Union, with the two sides tying their last two league meetings. Although RSL is undefeated against the Union, the Claret-and-Cobalt have yet to win at PPL Park, tying every match played there. Both of Real Salt Lake’s wins over Philly came at home, with RSL defeating Philadelphia 3-0 in the club’s first ever meeting on May 8, 2010 at Rio Tinto Stadium and claiming a 2-1 win on Sept. 3, 2011 at the RioT.
Attinella likely to fill in for Rimando for second-straight match
With RSL veteran goalkeeper Nick Rimando still recovering from a knee injury, backup ‘keeper Jeff Attinella will likely start on Saturday in his absence. The Florida native started against Sporting Kansas City last weekend in his first appearance for the Claret-and-Cobalt in 2014, turning in a stellar, eight save performance to keep the shutout and earn a 0-0 draw. The scoreless draw marked Attinella’s second MLS career clean sheet. The 25-year-old made a total of five appearances in 2013, posting a 1-2-1 record and earning one shutout. Rimando missed RSL’s last match against Philadelphia while with the U.S. national team for CONCACAF Gold Cup duty – Josh Saunders started in his place.
The goalkeeper connection – Attinella and MacMath go way back
The relationship between Attinella and Philadelphia goalkeeper Zac MacMath goes way back, with the pair first meeting each other during their days at Tampa-area youth club Clearwater Chargers. Attinella and MacMath faced off against each other several times while in high school, with Attinella – then a senior – usually leading Countryside High over MacMath – who was only a freshman – and St. Petersburg HS. Should Attinella play on Saturday, it would mark the first time the Florida-area natives would face off against each other as pros.
Real Salt Lake looks to remain undefeated in 2014
Real Salt Lake enters Saturday’s match undefeated through its first five MLS regular season matches. RSL boasts a 2-0-3 record for a total of nine points, placing the Claret-and-Cobalt second in the Western Conference – four points behind MLS leaders FC Dallas. RSL is just one of two unbeaten teams in MLS, with Dallas – which hosts Seattle on Saturday – currently the only other squad without a loss. Three of RSL’s first five matches have been on the road, with the Claret-and-Cobalt earning a win and two draws as the visiting side. The Claret-and-Cobalt has a win and a draw at home – defeating Toronto FC 3-0 on March 29 and tying LA Galaxy 1-1 in its home opener on March 22.
SANDY, Utah – It was announced yesterday that three RSL-Arizona Academy players, DF Justen Glad, GK Christian Herrera and MF Sebastian Saucedo, have been named to the U.S. Under-18 Men’s National Team roster for a 10-day training camp. The training camp will be held at the U.S. Soccer National Training Center in Carson, Calif., from April 4-13.
The U.S. will play two friendlies while in the 10-day camp, facing off against the Canada’s U-18 National Team on April 8 and then Mexico’s U-18 squad on April 12. This will be the first camp since the U.S. U-18 Men’s National Team participated in the Copa del Atlantico in the Canary Islands in February. Both Herrera and Saucedo were a part of the U.S. squad that competed in the international tournament.
Glad, Herrera and Saucedo have guided the RSL-Arizona U-16 Academy team to the top of the U-15/16 Western Conference with a 16-2-2 record, qualifying them for the Academy playoffs. The RSL-Arizona U-16 Academy team is reigning U.S. Soccer Developmental Academy U-16 champions.
After the April camp, the U-18s will next assemble in May for the Lisbon International Tournament in Lisbon, Portugal.
Real Salt Lake continues it California road trip on Saturday night, taking on Western Conference foe San Jose Earthquakes at 8:30 p.m. MT on ABC 4 at Buck Shaw Stadium.
Saturday’s match is full of interesting storylines. Here are a few to watch out for:
RSL Head Coach Jeff Cassar looks for consistency after win in debut
Newly appointed Head Coach Jeff Cassar had a great first game in charge of the Claret-and-Cobalt, shutting out LA Galaxy 1-0 at StubHub Center in the 2014 season opener. With his first win under his belt, Cassar will look for consistency from his squad as RSL faces another tough road match in San Jose. With a few starting players suffering from injuries, it will be interesting see how the team responds and whether or not it can pull out a result against a very physical and challenging San Jose side.
RSL looks to snap San Jose’s 20-game home unbeaten streak
Real Salt Lake and San Jose Earthquakes last met at Buck Shaw Stadium on March 3, 2013, with RSL beating the Bay Area side 2-0. That match marked the last defeat the Quakes suffered at home, with the “Goonies” going on a 20-game home unbeaten streak across all competitions since. RSL players and coaches didn’t seem to know San Jose’s last home defeat came at their expense but they did remark about how difficult it is to play at Buck Shaw Stadium. The atmosphere in Santa Clara is sure to be heightened on Saturday, as it is the Quakes’ 2014 MLS season opener. Hopefully, RSL can pull off a repeat of last year and keep this storyline alive.
U.S. Men’s National Team players will face off against each other
A few Real Salt Lake and San Jose Earthquakes players are more familiar with each other than most, as both squads have players that are regular members of the U.S Men’s National Team. RSL U.S. internationals, midfielder Kyle Beckerman and goalkeeper Nick Rimando, have played alongside San Jose forward Chris Wondolowski and defender Clarence Goodson for the Stars-and-Stripes frequently. Most recently, they were all included in the national team’s annual January camp a few months back, along with RSL midfielder Luis Gil, who was in his first senior camp.
Having consistently played alongside your opposition might prove helpful this Saturday with the U.S. internationals intimately knowing each other’s strengths and weaknesses. It will be interesting to see which U.S. duo comes out on top.
Will San Jose’s CCL result affect its starting lineup vs. RSL?
San Jose was able to get a 1-1 draw against Toluca in the first leg of its CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal series on Tuesday. With the positive result, Quakes’ Head Coach Mark Watson could give his starters a bit of a break on Saturday with his focus on the team’s second leg next Wednesday in Toluca.
Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando continue climbing up the record books
Real Salt Lake stalwarts Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando continue their climb up the MLS record books this season, with both players set to achieve more career milestones this year.
RSL’s captain, Beckerman will crack the top-10 in MLS history in games played this season. Currently on 326 games played, he needs 16 appearances to become fifth in league history in appearances, and he should set himself up for a run at the top-three in 2015. He’ll also continue his rise up the games started list. Beckerman tied Tyrone Marshall for eighth all-time in MLS history with his start against LA Galaxy last weekend. He’ll likely end 2014 in fifth in this category, as well. Look for Becks to crack the top-five in MLS history in career minutes played this season, too.
Rimando is slightly ahead of Beckerman in the aforementioned categories. Currently in fourth in league history with 347 games played, Rimando should pass Jeff Cunningham (365) for third-all time and get within touching distance of Steve Ralston (378) for second. Rimando could become the all-time leader in games played early in the 2016 season, when he could conceivably catch current leader Kevin Hartman (416). Rimando should pass Ralston for second all-time in both games started and minutes played this season.
Of course, the biggest record in play for any RSL player this year is the all-time shutout mark. Rimando is second in MLS history with 109 clean sheets, just three behind Hartman for the all-time record. Here’s hoping that deficit will be two after this weekend.
The last defeat the San Jose Earthquakes have suffered at home came at the hands – or feet – of Real Salt Lake when the clubs last met at Buck Shaw Stadium in the 2013 MLS season opener. Ever since the Claret-and-Cobalt downed the Bay Area side 2-0 on March 3, 2013, the Goonies have gone on a 20-game unbeaten streak at home. San Jose kept the streak alive this past Tuesday, when the Earthquakes managed a late draw with Toluca in their CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal series.
The opening win at San Jose in last year’s season opener provided a taste of what was to come for the Claret-and-Cobalt in 2013, as the club went on to qualify for the postseason for the sixth-consecutive year, advance to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final, become Western Conference Champions and make it to 2013 MLS Cup.
The San Jose match saw great performances from both RSL veterans and its new crop of young players. Claret-and-Cobalt forward Alvaro Saborio notched a brace with both goals scored in the second half, his 14th career brace. Newcomer forward Joao Plata – who made his RSL debut that night – assisted on Saborio’s first goal. Captain Kyle Beckerman – who made his 300th career regular season appearance – and wonder kid midfielder Luis Gil assisted on the second.
Plata entered the match in the 65th minute and made an immediate impact, providing the game-winning assist six minutes later. Plata collected a pass from defender Abdoulie Mansally near the midfield stripe, turning and chipping a fantastic through ball behind the San Jose back four. Saborio was quick to read the play, sprinting past an Earthquake player and running onto the ball just inside the box before burying his 15-yard half-volley inside the near post with his first touch.
Saborio went on to double the lead in the 85th minute with Gil starting the play, playing a square ball to Beckerman in the middle of San Jose’s defensive third. Beckerman then hit a no-look pass to Saborio in the left side of the box, setting up the Costa Rican international for a left-footed smash that found the inside of the far post.
Last year’s season opening match was also memorable for veteran RSL ‘keeper Nick Rimando, who earned his 100th regular season career shutout that night. Rimando, who currently has 109 shutouts, is only three away from tying the all-time MLS record held by retired goalkeeper Kevin Hartman with 112.
When the clubs meet again at Buck Shaw Stadium this Saturday, Real Salt Lake will be looking to snap that 20-game unbeaten streak at home and put on a performance that will hopefully continue to set the tone for what’s to come in 2014.
Re-live RSL’s fourth-consecutive season opening win above.
ABC 4 kicks off this season's Crossbar Challenge series with Dunny taking on newly appointed RSL Head Coach Jeff Cassar. Cassar opens up about his early playing days in MLS, helping build the RSL ethos and what it's like taking the top job.
Real Salt Lake will play its first-ever regular season game under Cassar tomorrow, taking on the LA Galaxy at 8:30 p.m. MT at StubHub Center. The match will be broadcast live on ABC 4, which will begin its coverage with a 30-minute pregame show at 8:00 p.m. MT.
Real Salt Lake General Manager Garth Lagerwey participated in a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Wednesday morning, answering a wide-range of questions from fans around the league ahead of Saturday’s season opener at LA Galaxy.
Below are a few highlights from Lagerwey’s AMA, which you can find in its entirety here.
Reddit user whitecapsfan2010: What's the RSL secret in bringing success in a salary capped league?
Lagerwey: Consistency and humility. You have to set aside your ego to constantly pick up other teams scraps and rehabilitate them, but it works. And there is a lot of hard work scouting. You must be efficient and you can’t afford mistakes because one bad contract can hurt the group. As a GM never think you have all the answers, always have multiple solutions to every possible problem. Players are human and humans are inherently unpredictable so you need options.
Reddit user rmczerz: How do you react when you hear about teams like Toronto going crazy and getting multiple household name players? Do you think it improves the league as a whole, regardless of whether these types of players only go to a few teams? Along the same lines, what kind of mix between experienced vets who have competed at higher levels and young MLS kids do you think is best for a team and the game?
Lagerwey: Big signings raise the quality and profile of the league. MLS is better than most people give it credit for. If we need to sign stars for people to notice, so be it.
You always need a balance of vets and young talent. Vets are the guys who win you games and you have to win games to keep your job. For smaller clubs like ours, developing young players is critical and our Academy is one of the best in the country. The beauty of Academies is that when we sign kids they have already played in our system and it’s easier to transition them to the first team.
Reddit user wackyguy15: I've always wondered, how do you (and other GMs) keep track of players from all over the world for possible transfers? Do you have a centralized database of info, stats and video? Do you use a network of scouts? Is there a specific area of focus in the world you guys look for folks? Thanks for the AMA!
Lagerwey: We have a network of people we use that are on the ground all over the place. We use Wyscout and Prozone to evaluate various aspects of players through video and data. We tend to look in economically depressed areas or for struggling leagues as you can obtain players below market value, which is our mantra for player acquisition.
Reddit user keepa1: What is one thing that makes Real Salt Lake unique from all other MLS clubs from the view of a player looking to come into the league from overseas? What would entice someone to come to your 'small market' club?
Lagerwey: Culture - the team is the star. Our locker room is very important to us and since we are all former players on both the staff and front office we value the input of our players. We go to great lengths to treat everyone with respect on a daily basis
Reddit user yahakum: I like your mantra (and honesty) - "We tend to look in economically depressed areas or for struggling leagues as you can obtain players below market value, which is our mantra for player acquisition."
I've always thought a fair way to rank leagues worldwide would be on average salary, but now I'm not so sure. How do you think MLS ranks?
Lagerwey: Soccernomics, among other sources found a strong correlation between player salaries and wins. As a former player I always felt MLS didn’t get the respect it deserved. The way to change that is to win Champions League and have the national team do well in this world cup while three of the best players on that team ply their trade in MLS (Dempsey, Donovan, Bradley), as well as a number of other players. In order for MLS to be an elite league we at some point need the best American players to play here. MLS's salary cap is 50 times less than the big 5 leagues, so I don’t think that is a reasonable comparison. However, I do think that MLS can compete with mid-tier teams in almost every other country. If I had to give a rank I'd say much like my law school Georgetown, we are pushing to get into the top 10.
Reddit user GalaxySC: What a normal day like for the RSL General Manager?
Lagerwey: Every day is different which is great. We are managing 30 players and 12 staff on the team side so all kinds of issues pop up, whether they surround media/broadcast interactions, community relations, facilities, travel or simply soccer. GM stands astride the business and soccer aspects of the club so having a clear philosophy linking them is critical to success. For RSL that has been the "Team is the Star" and we apply that across the salary cap as well as our business and fan platforms.
Reddit user Misplays4days: Mulholland has looked really impressive this offseason. How much do you think he'll see the field this year? Also with Alvarez going to Orlando, who is our backup D-mid? Seems like we have quite a few options. Thanks!!
Lagerwey: Mulholland is off to a great start and he and Jordan Allen are both in competition for the 18 right now in the first week of the season which is a really good sign. We have a number of options at d-mid behind Kyle. Cole Grossman dressed in front of Yordany for the last two months of last season. Stertzer may be able to play there as could Joey Dillon. I’d also remind folks that Ned Grabavoy started there in the Champions League final against Monterrey and acquitted himself quite well.
Reddit user antoine474: Following last year’s successes and the departure of Jason Kreis, are you predicting more of the same as last year or decline?
Lagerwey: On paper, from a talent perspective we should be as good or better. We added two players to our top 18 in Allen and Mulholland, the half dozen kids under 23 who played for us regularly last year now have a year in the system under their belts and we were able to retain our veteran core. So long as our young talent can take some miles off the vets during the regular season we will hopefully be fine and reach the playoffs again.
Reddit user amazingcube: Garth, first I would personally like to thank you for your part in building RSL into something that fits the local market so perfectly and represents Salt Lake City in a positive way. There are no shortage of stereotypes or misconceptions about this city and its inhabitants. How do you or any of the staff address concerns from potential recruits who might be hesitant about coming to play and live in Utah?
Lagerwey: I had been in SLC for one day before taking this job so I had no idea what I was getting into. Some of the stereotypes are just silly. It’s gorgeous here and you can do any outdoor activity you can dream up. Traffic isn’t bad, cost of living is affordable. People here care about and are invested in our club. Our players do a tremendous job of showing new guys around the city and introducing them to all the great things about SLC. Kyle Beckerman recently married a SLC girl and I suspect there may be more follow. Our team is relevant and our players matter in the cultural landscape. Some players are always going to pick the bright lights of a bigger city, but if you believe the team is the star, you will likely want to play for RSL.
Reddit user melkahb: Thanks for coming on and doing this, Mr. Lagerwey. The willingness of people at all levels to communicate directly with the fans in this kind of forum is one of the strengths of MLS.
1) You've already spoken to the challenges and techniques needed for smaller-market teams to compete in MLS's increasingly high-spending environment. Going forward, how well do you see organizations like RSL faring as the expectations for high-salaried stars continue to rise?
2) Related, what steps do you think the league and/or owners need to take in order to maintain true parity and squad cohesion? Personally, I feel that allocation money or cap space leniency for keeping veteran squads intact is a good direction, but from your perspective, what's necessary to build and maintain good teams while ensuring largely-even competition?
Lagerwey: 1) So long as you have playoffs, the league will have parity. Big markets will have advantages in the regular season, but the teams are close enough where anyone can win over two legs.
2) Continuity helps us punch above our weight. When players are very familiar with their teammates they can combine to play at a level higher than the individual parts. You need the right culture as a small market club and a true identity. We can’t beat big market teams at spending, but we can focus on youth development and keeping systems in place to solve the problem a different way. We have to think, not simply spend.
Real Salt Lake and LA Galaxy have long been Western Conference foes, with each meeting between the sides always a battle. LA Galaxy has won MLS Cup four times, including back-to-back wins in 2011 and 2012 and has been crowned Western Conference Champions six times. So when Real Salt Lake and LA Galaxy last met in the 2013 Western Conference Semfinal series, the stakes were high and the rivalry never more intense.
Real Salt Lake defeated LA Galaxy 2-1 on aggregate in the two-legged series to advance to the Western Conference Championship series. RSL headed into the second leg down a goal after losing 1-0 at LA. The Claret-and-Cobalt took full advantage of its opportunity to stage a comeback in front of its home crowd at Rio Tinto Stadium, getting goals from two surprising players to defeat LA 2-0 in a thrilling, extra time affair.
RSL midfielder Sebastian Velasquez opened the scoring in the 35th minute, notching his first career goal to tie the aggregate 1-1. The goal was beautifully constructed, beginning with midfielder Javier Morales finding unmarked defender Chris Wingert on the left flank. Wingert collected the ball, took a touch toward the end line and whipped in a fantastic cross, picking out the onrushing Velasquez at the top-left corner of the box. The 5-foot-7 Velasquez took it from there, brilliantly snapping a header inside the near post to put RSL on the board.
RSL went on to hit the woodwork two times in regulation – once by defender Chris Schuler in the 74th minute and then by forward Alvaro Saborio four minutes later. In the 85th minute, the Claret-and-Cobalt had a controversial goal called back when Morales’ free kick found the back of the net but referee Baldomero Toledo called a foul on Schuler in the box, disallowing the goal.
The two sides headed into extra time deadlocked in a 1-1 tie on aggregate. RSL netted the game-winner in the 102nd minute when Schuler picked the perfect time to score his first goal of 2013. Morales had the assist, curling a free kick in from the left flank that Schuler – who made a marvelous run from the top of the box – side-volleyed in from the right edge of the six, sending Rio Tinto Stadium into euphoria.
The stakes won’t be as high when RSL and LA meet again in Saturday’s season opener, but the memory of the last meeting still lingers. The four-time MLS Cup Champions will be sure to seek revenge at home and RSL will be looking to make a statement that 2013 was no fluke.
Re-live RSL's win in the thrilling second leg of last year's Western Conference Semifinal above.
Real Salt Lake put in its second full training session today in Tucson in RSL’s final preseason camp before the start of the 2014 MLS regular season. The Claret-and-Cobalt welcomed back forward Alvaro Saborio who was absent from yesterday’s session due to an MLS media tour. The squad looked energetic and focused today as Head Coach Jeff Cassar ran 11v11 scrimmages and emphasized tactical awareness.
TUCSON - Real Salt Lake officially began its final preseason training stint Monday as the team arrived in Tucson to participate in the 2014 Desert Diamond Cup. This will be RSL’s third-straight appearance in the round-robin tournament. Real Salt Lake will take on the New England Revolution on Feb. 19, Colorado Rapids on Feb. 22 and FC Tucson on Feb. 26. The Championship and Consolation games will be held on March 1.