Real Salt Lake returns home on Friday, hosting Eastern Conference foe New England Revolution at Rio Tinto Stadium at 8:00 p.m. MT.
Here are a few storylines to watch ahead of Friday’s Independence Day match:
Will U.S. internationals, Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando return to the lineup?
Real Salt Lake Captain Kyle Beckerman and goalkeeper Nick Rimando returned to the Utah club today after the U.S. bowed out of the 2014 FIFA World Cup on Tuesday. The U.S. was knocked out of the tournament after suffering a heartbreaking 2-1 loss to Belgium in extra time in its Round of 16 match.
Real Salt Lake has missed Beckerman and Rimando dearly, going 1-3-2 in MLS in their absence. The Claret-and-Cobalt also fell 2-1 at Atlanta Silverbacks in the club’s opening U.S. Open Cup match on June 14.
The duo's status is still unclear ahead of Friday's match, with both players likely struggling with the quick turnaround from Brazil. If Beckerman and Rimando don't start on Friday, a sold-out Rio Tinto Stadium will still be there to welcome home two of its greatest players.
Can RSL break its winless streak on Friday?
Real Salt Lake is now winless in its last five MLS matches, and six across all competition including the Claret-and-Cobalt’s loss in U.S. Open Cup play. RSL enters Friday’s match on a three-game losing streak across all competition, falling 3-1 at home to Portland on June 7, suffering a 2-1 defeat at Atlanta in the U.S. Open Cup on June 14 and most recently falling 1-0 at Chivas USA on June 28. RSL got off to a great start in 2014, going undefeated for its first 12 games. Hopefully, the Claret-and-Cobalt can return to its winning ways on Independence Day.
Real Salt Lake will look to improve its Independence Day record
RSL will look to improve its rather meager record in Independence Day matches on Friday. The July 4th match will be the Claret-and-Cobalt’s ninth game on the summer holiday in Utah, with RSL posting a 1-1-7 record. RSL and New England Revolution have also met before on Independence Day, playing to a 3-3 draw in 2011 at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Real Salt Lake undefeated against New England since 2010
The Claret-and-Cobalt has done well against New England in the past four years, going undefeated against the Revs ever since 2010. RSL has recorded four wins and one draw in that time frame. In 2010, RSL thrashed New England 5-0 at Rio Tinto Stadium and then won 2-1 on the road later that year. The Claret-and-Cobalt went on to defeat the Revs 2-0 on the road and draw 3-3 at home the following year. In their yearly meetings in 2012 and 2013, RSL pulled off 2-1 wins in both encounters.
Salt Lake City showed up in a big way on Tuesday, with over 6,000 Utahns packing downtown's Gallivan Center for the USA v. Belgium match. The show of support for the U.S. Men's National Team was tremendous and solidified that fact that Salt Lake City and Utah as a whole, is a hotbed for soccer. A huge thank you for all the fans that showed up to cheer on the USA and RSL.
Here's video of SLC going crazy after Julian Green scored for the U.S. in extra time:
The Real Salt Lake-Arizona Academy U-16’s and U-18’s wrapped up the U.S. Soccer Development Academy Playoffs last week, with the U-16’s advancing to the quarterfinals while the RSL-AZ U-18’s were eliminated from postseason play.
The RSL-Z U-16’s – reigning U.S. Soccer Development Academy National Champions – finished at the top of their group with a 2-0-1 record and total of six points, earning first-place based on goal differential. The U-16’s opened group play with a 3-1 victory over New Jersey Soccer Academy 04 all thanks to a hat trick from Claret-and-Cobalt FW Sebastian Saucedo. The youngsters then went on to defeat Georgia United 5-2, powered by another hat trick from Saucedo, and finished the week off with a 2-0 loss to St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri. The RSL-AZ U-16 squad will look to retain their title, hosting its quarterfinal match at home in Casa Grande, Arizona on either July 7 or 9. The exact date, time and opponent will be announced at a later date.
The RSL-AZ U-18’s did not fare as well as their younger counterparts, finishing second in their group with a 1-1-1 record and total of four points. Seattle Sounders FC U-18’s finished first with a perfect 3-0-0 record to advance to the quarterfinals. The RSL-AZ U-18’s opened up group play with a 1-1 draw against Indiana Fire and went on to earn three points with a 4-3 win over Concorde Fire. In the final group stage match, needing a win to advance to the quarterfinals, the RSL-AZ U-18’s fell 3-1 to Seattle after taking the lead early in the second half. The RSL-AZ U-18’s finished the regular season with an 18-4-5 record, the best record in history for a U-18 team at Grande Sports World.
The opportunity for Real Salt Lake fans to send Claret-and-Cobalt players to the 2014 AT&T MLS All-Star Game is winding down. Fans have two weeks left to vote for the seven RSL players that are on the “Fan XI” ballot. Real Salt Lake is facing some stiff competition for the final roster spots, so they need as many votes as possible. Let's spread the word and show MLS how deserving all seven RSL players named to the fan ballot are of representing the best of the league in Portland.
Throughout the next week we will be rolling out 2014 highlight videos of all seven players nominated. First up, here are some of the best RSL moments of 2014 for US internationals Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando. Vote HERE for RSL through July 11.
Real Salt Lake returns to MLS action on Saturday, taking on Chivas USA at StubHub Center at 8:30 p.m. MT.
Here are a few storylines to watch ahead of Saturday’s clash:
Can Real Salt Lake return to its winning ways?
Heading into the MLS World Cup break, the Claret-and-Cobalt hit a bit of a slump, going winless in its last four matches. Real Salt Lake played FC Dallas to a scoreless draw on May 24 at Rio Tinto Stadium, suffered its first loss of the season at Seattle Sounders FC, a 4-0 defeat on May 31, drew 1-1 at Columbus Crew on June 4 and fell 3-1 to Portland Timbers at home on June 7. With nearly a month off to regroup and reenergize, RSL should be hungry to claim three points this weekend.
Will Real Salt Lake continue its road dominance of Chivas USA?
The Claret-and-Cobalt have done well in recent years when facing Chivas USA on the road. The Utah club is currently riding a five-game win streak against The Goats when in Southern California. RSL’s last loss while visiting Chivas came on May 9, 2009, a 1-0 loss at then-named Home Depot Center. RSL has also boasted some high-scoring wins while on the road, routing Chivas USA 3-0 and 4-0 at the then Home Depot Center in 2012 and defeating the Red-and-White 4-1 in their sole meeting in SoCal in 2013.
Who will start up top against Chivas on Saturday?
Excluding RSL striker Alvaro Saborio who is out with a fractured foot, RSL boss Jeff Cassar will have a choice of healthy forwards when the Claret-and-Cobalt travel to Southern California this weekend. RSL’s leading scorer Joao Plata appears to be fully recovered from his hamstring injury along with Robbie Findley who has worked his way back from knee surgery undergone in the offseason – Findley started RSL’s U.S. Open Cup match against Atlanta Silverbacks on June 14. Cassar will also have target forward Devon Sandoval and the speedy Olmes Garcia to choose from as well. The first year coach has started five different pairings up top so far this season, with only Findley yet to earn an MLS start this year.
Real Salt Lake continues to deal with injuries
Real Salt Lake midfielder Ned Grabavoy is recovering from a strained right glute suffered in RSL’s last match before the MLS World Cup break, a 3-1 loss to Portland Timbers. If Grabavoy misses Saturday’s game, RSL midfielder Cole Grossman is likely to fill in at the bottom of the midfield diamond. Grossman subbed on for Grabavoy after he suffered the injury against Portland, which might mean RSL Head Coach Jeff Cassar will roll out a similar looking lineup from that night with midfielders Luis Gil and Luke Mulholland on the outside and Argentine playmaker Javier Morales at the top of the diamond.
Real Salt Lake midfielder Ned Grabavoy joined The Bill & OC Show on ESPN 700 yesterday, to get his take on the U.S.’s dramatic 2-1 win over Ghana. The RSL veteran had some great insight and analysis of the match and of course had nothing but praise for teammate Kyle Beckerman. Below are a few snippets of the interview but the whole thing is worth listening to here.
On Kyle’s performance:
“I think he was the best player on the field. I know I’m biased but coming from a position that is a little bit of an inglorious position for me, Kyle was absolutely unbelievable in that game. I think he plays the position a little bit differently for the U.S. because the players around him, but a guy that has to stay home a bit more for the U.S. and really clean up things, and can’t really get involved in the attack like he likes to for RSL. But at the same time maybe that’s asked of him a little bit more for the U.S. and I thought he did an unbelievable job in there and did everything that was asked of him and more.”
Grabavoy also approved of U.S. Manager Jurgen Klinsmann’s decision to use the diamond midfield formation – the signature of RSL – that allowed what he thinks are the four best two-way midfielders to be on the field at the same time. But Grabavoy wouldn’t be surprised if the German coach mixes things up in the next match against Portugal on Sunday.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he did especially knowing that a point in the next game maybe gets you through. For me as a coach, I think maybe I would think of switching shapes, but at the same time...he is a guy that claimed to always stay on the front foot and he’s going to try and be as aggressive as he can going forward. So I just think it remains to be seen, but I wouldn’t be surprised to maybe see them shift towards a 4-2-3-1. Maybe you play Beckerman and [Jermaine] Jones deep in the midfield with [Michael] Bradley in front of them.”
Even with injuries to Jozy Altidore and Matt Besler, the RSL midfielder claims the Americans “couldn’t be in a better position” heading into Sunday’s clash in Manaus.
Wow, what a 48 hours! It still hasn’t completely hit me yet that I’m in Brazil (!), watching the US Men’s National Team play in the World Cup (!) Let’s start from where we left off in the last post.
Early Sunday, the rain continued pouring in Natal, to the point that flooding became an issue in the streets. As we collected our tickets from the FIFA Ticketing Center, our taxis had to plow through the water. It seemed about a foot deep in some places, though the news channels here showed locations where people were in up to their waists. Luckily, the rain stopped later that day, allowing the city to dry out somewhat.
That night was the official US Soccer night-before party, and I’m incredibly impressed with how US Soccer put the event together. They actually converted a used car showroom into a pop-up “arena” for the night, filled with gigantic TVs everywhere, plenty of food and drink for the huge crowd, and a DJ and Brazilian band. The crowd for the event was great too: we started off with some US soccer chants, then the group just got into the music: crowdsurfers and energy everywhere.
On game day, us American Outlaws were bussed to a pizza-and-sushi restaurant (yes, really) near the stadium. That was another amazing experience: as a convoy of the Brazilian military sent to protect us watched on, we chanted and sang the National Anthem and God Bless America. Passing busses of Brazilians snapped photos and cheered us on. It was incredible. When the time came, a group of thousands made the March to the Match, again passing happy and surprised Brazilians in their streets.
The new Arenas das Dunas is beautiful; it was a remarkably intimate experience for a large stadium that seats over 40,000. Part of the credit for that goes to the Brazilian hosts, who made every effort to chant along with a majority US crowd. The group of Brazilians in front of me had a difficult time learning to pronounce “I believe that we will win”, but they eventually figured out a reasonable facsimile. The Dempsey goal was a flash: neither the crowd nor the Ghanaian defense believed that it could happen so quickly. Then progressed 80 minutes of hell. Jozy and then Besler got injured. Dempsey went down. Ghana bore down on the US left side, attacking Beasley to nearly calamitous effect.
Ghana eventually got their goal, and the Ghana crowd erupted, and rightly so: it was a great goal. For the last 10 minutes, the stadium buzzed. As you all know, John Brooks scored, and everyone lost it. The best description: So. Many. Hugs. We all bussed back to the hotel, all still in a daze, all of us not quite believing that the US had finally beaten Ghana and given themselves a great chance to advance out of the group.
We now have five days off in between games, during which I’ll be exploring more of Natal before heading off to Manaus. What a happy five days it will be.
The latest video in the Soccer Smarts with Professor Leo World Cup series takes a look at the group stage - the opening round-robin tournament featuring all 32 participating nations.
Andy's first post since arriving in Natal, Brazil with the American Outlaws ahead of tomorrow's U.S. v. Ghana match - kick at 4 p.m. MT on ESPN
Road to Natal
After a 32 hour journey, I’m safely in Brazil. The last two days have been spectacular and tiring, an exciting taste of what’s to come.
My first 2014 World Cup experience actually happened in Salt Lake City, at Rodizio Grill in Trolley Square. There, my friends and I attended a party thrown by the restaurant to watch Brazil’s opening match against Croatia. As I entered, a few Brazilians danced the Samba, waiting for the big event to begin, but it quickly got too crowded for that. It seemed as if the entire Brazilian population of Salt Lake City suddenly appeared, and it was significantly more than Rodizios expected. We all stood shoulder to shoulder. As the game began, the whole place shook as all Brazilians, and especially the young ones who attended, practically yelled the Brazilian anthem in unison. Then, when Neymar scored the equalizing goal, all stood up and cheered as one, with air horns and vuvuzelas and screaming and dancing and all. More celebrations came on Fred’s penalty, though perhaps more reservedly as the room sensed that it was an unfair decision. It was a veritable sea of yellow, though just a hint of what I would experience as I arrived in Brazil.
The next morning, I took a Delta flight to Houston, the meeting spot of the American Outlaws before taking a charter to Brazil. I found some fellow AO members at baggage claim and we desperately wanted to watch the rematch of last year’s final: Spain-Netherlands. However, there was just one establishment in the entire Houston airport complex featuring a TV that was outside of security, a literal hole-in-the-wall named the “Stadium Bar and Grille.” For those of you who will ever go to Houston, a tip: avoid the Stadium Bar. It has remarkably terrible food, exactly the kind you’d expect from a school cafeteria. Its only redeeming element was a single TV, which about 15 of us crowded around to watch the game. Two fans, especially, were notable: one was a Dutch man, who seemed almost too shocked at the proceedings to celebrate. Only the smile on his face and occasional hand gestures told the story of his inner emotions as he watched quietly. The other was actually my roommate, randomly assigned to me during the trip. He’s from Nebraska, and unfortunately lost his luggage when the airline sent the luggage to IAD (Washington DC) rather than IAH (Houston). He’s scheduled to receive it tomorrow, but we may have to share some supplies in the meantime.
As the day went on, and more and more U.S. fans arrived in Houston, I heard a wider variety of stories. The American Outlaws have grown greatly in the last four years, and I’ve met people from a wide variety of locales: some from large chapters (like Los Angeles, Washington DC, and San Francisco), and some from places as small as Carney, Nebraska, home of the smallest AO chapter with a population of just 35,000. We all waited to check in for our chartered flight at 8:30 to Natal, and as we waited to board, I looked up from my writing and decided to join a circle juggling a soccer ball. While the information phone may have been in danger from our touches, we didn’t particularly care.
The flight, a nine hour journey from Houston to Natal, Brazil, was an interesting experience in itself. We were served “dinner” at 2:30 AM due to delays, and as some tried to sleep, others tried to revel in the excitement of the times. Everyone, though, celebrated at the end of the flight, getting together for a rousing “We Are Landing in Brazil!” chant.
After getting through customs and grabbing our luggage, we were taken by bus to our hotel in Natal, a 35 minute ride from the airport. As visible on TV during the Mexico-Cameroon match, Natal has experienced heavy rain in the last two days. It’s clear that this is a rarity for the Natalians; indeed, I’m told Natal only receives rain 16 out of the 365 days per year. As we drove by, I saw kids making “mud angels” in the puddles, their parents waving to the bus filled with Americans.
The U.S.-Ghana game isn’t until Monday, meaning we have a day to get settled and learn about our surroundings here in Natal. Another dispatch from Brazil soon!