Real Salt Lake took down Seattle 2-1 on Saturday, scoring two goals from set pieces and looking rather like the well-oiled machine that seemed absent through most of 2012. It's hard not to focus on those two goals, because they're indicative of something the squad's been missing for some time.
It's just as Alexi Lalas says: "Set pieces." I'm sure there's more to that statement, and it probably relates to what we saw on Saturday. Luis Gil scored from a corner, and Robbie Findley scored from a throw-in. The nature of their goals being as different as they were — one a well-planned attack that caught a defense ball-watching, the other a quick finish that came from awareness up front — it's easy to see how important set piece planning can be.
If there's been a major criticism of Real Salt Lake in attack this year — and perhaps longer than that — it's been a lack of threat from set pieces. Saturday changed that, but it came from a shift in mentality. The first goal saw Tony Beltran thrust a ball into the mix from a throw-in, and the strength of Devon Sandoval kept Seattle from making an easy clearance. Robbie Findley's awareness paid dividends, and not a moment too soon, as he was taken off injured hardly minutes later.
For the second goal, rather than sending a corner straight into the center of the Seattle box, where they were well covered, a touchline-searing ball from Velasquez to Grabavoy set up Luis Gil for a strong header to the far post. Too often, defenses can crowd Real Salt Lake in the middle of the box, but creative play and danger from multiple areas will give defenses pause for thought.
It's perhaps no surprise that Jason Kreis confirmed that more time was spent on set pieces than in the past. When it becomes less about power and strength (particularly with the departure of Jamison Olave) and more about finesse, Real Salt Lake, with its array of short midfielders, will be a natural benefactor.
It's difficult to say what the proper tactical approach would have been in the second half, but with Seattle putting RSL on the back foot for the first 15 minutes of the second half, Abdoulie Mansally and Tony Beltran tucked in to cover runs from attacking midfielders. On the conceded goal scored by Brad Evans, the defense had become so narrow as to allow Seattle right back DeAndre Yedlin all the time in the world to cross, and as such, a goal was scored.
The return of Javier Morales and the rise of Sebastian Velasquez
Javier Morales looked closer to the Javi of bygone days than he has in some time. Claims that he's a slow, old player are overblown: The breakaway, on which he should have been awarded a penalty kick after being hauled down by Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, showed that.
Whether it was planned that Luis Gil would come off for Morales or not, there was something incredible about seeing the playmaker-in-chief lining up with the talented Sebastian Velasquez for 30 minutes. Whether that continues depends on how Luis Gil fares in training sessions, but it seems Kreis has every reason to be impressed with the rat-tailed kid. He's been one of RSL's best players in the early days of the season, and his hard work is a sure factor in that.
Real Salt Lake picked up its first home win of the season on Saturday night, beating Western Conference rival Seattle Sounders FC 2-1 in front of a sold-out crowd at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Here are a few interesting numbers from the match:
20,359 RSL fans packed a sold-out Rio Tinto Stadium to the rafters on Saturday night. Saturday’s game was RSL’s eighth-straight non-playoff sell-out and seventh-straight MLS regular season sell-out.
The number of days between RSL goals for forward Robbie Findley, who opened the scoring for the Claret-and-Cobalt in the eighth minute on Saturday night. Findley’s last RSL goal came on Nov. 6, 2010 in the Western Conference Semifinals second leg against FC Dallas. The 27-year-old speedster left RSL after that match, spending 2011 and 2012 with English Championship side Nottingham Forest before rejoining RSL this offseason.
Findley’s last regular season goal for RSL came 973 days ago on Aug. 7, 2010 at Kansas City.
Findley’s goal broke Real Salt Lake’s 408-minute scoreless streak against Seattle. The Claret-and-Cobalt hadn’t scored in its previous four matches against Sounders FC, last scoring against the Cascadia club in the 50th minute of its 1-0 win at Seattle on May 12 of last year.
RSL midfielder Javier Morales entered Saturday’s match in the 62nd minute to make his 2013 season debut. Morales – who entered the game to a raucous standing ovation from the RSL faithful – had missed the Claret-and-Cobalt’s first four matches while recovering from preseason knee surgery.
Real Salt Lake outshot Seattle 25-8 on Saturday night. The total was RSL’s highest mark of the season and vaulted the Claret-and-Cobalt from seventh in the league in total shots to third.
Pumped yet for Saturday's grudge match between Real Salt Lake and Seattle Sounders FC?
You will be once you watch this great video from RSL videographer Nick Lamping, a.k.a. the greatest hype man since Puff Daddy.
Real Salt Lake announced late on Tuesday night that it will host Brigham Young University in a friendly match at Rio Tinto Stadium on Monday, April 1.
Claret-and-Cobalt Head Coach Jason Kreis talked on Wednesday about Monday's match, which will kickoff at 6:30 p.m. MT.
"We have annually enjoyed our games throughout the years with BYU, and are very excited to finally hold this fantastic Utah soccer event at our Rio Tinto Stadium home," Kreis said. "RSL looks forward to a competitive game against our state's best PDL side, and we look forward to welcoming fans from all over Utah for this unique event."
RSL will likely field a reserve lineup for the match, which will come just two days after Saturday's home match against Western Conference rival Seattle Sounders FC. Monday's game will be the second time in 2013 that the Claret-and-Cobalt's lesser-known players will play under the bright lights of Rio Tinto Stadium -- the RSL Reserves beat the Colorado Reserves 2-1 in Reserve League play at the RioT on March 16.
Tickets to Monday's match are just $5 for RSL Season Ticket Holders and $10 for the general public. Be sure to give RSL your full support - get your tickets now.
Real Salt Lake offseason acquisition Olmes Garcia made his Claret-and-Cobalt debut on Saturday night, coming on with the score 1-0 in the 77th minute of RSL's 2-0 loss at FC Dallas.
The 20-year-old Colombian had an exciting debut, nearly equalizing with the first touch of his MLS career. Video of the chance - a diving header that clanged off the near post - is above.
U.S. national team midfielder Jermaine Jones has been ruled out of Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier at Mexico due to an ankle injury, possibly opening the door for RSL captain Kyle Beckerman to start for the Stars-and-Stripes at Estadio Azteca.
Beckerman came on as a late game defensive substitute in the U.S.’s 1-0 win over Costa Rica on Friday, entering the match in the 89th minute for forward Herculez Gomez.
The Claret-and-Cobalt captain has experience at Estadio Azteca, playing a very solid 90 minutes and starting the play that led to the goal in the U.S.’s historic 1-0 friendly win over El Tri in Mexico City on Aug. 15, 2012.
At least one prominent media member thinks Beckerman will get the start on Tuesday, with Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl tweeting Sunday that he sees Beckerman coming into the midfield and Maurice Edu slotting in at center back.
Think we might see Edu in central defense, Beckerman replacing Jones vs Mexico.
— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) March 24, 2013
Beckerman, RSL defender Tony Beltran and RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando will suit up for the U.S. at Mexico on Tuesday night. The match will kickoff at 8:30 p.m. MT and will be broadcast live on ESPN and Univision.
A makeshift Real Salt Lake lineup couldn’t quite get a result at FC Dallas on Saturday night, conceding twice in the final 20 minutes to fall 2-0 to FCD.
Here are a few interesting numbers from the match:
Saturday’s result moved RSL to 0-19-3 in Texas. The Claret-and-Cobalt is now 0-11-2 across all competitions at Dallas.
Real Salt Lake defender Nat Borchers made his first appearance of the season on Saturday night, starting and playing 90 minutes. Borchers had missed RSL’s first three games while rehabbing from offseason quad surgery.
Real Salt Lake forward Olmes Garcia entered Saturday’s match in the 77th minute. It was the MLS debut for the 20-year-old Garcia, who signed with RSL in February.
Garcia nearly scored a goal with the first touch of his MLS career, snapping a diving header off the near post in the 78th minute.
Real Salt Lake defender Chris Schuler had nine interceptions on Saturday night. Schuler leads the league with 38 interceptions this year, 14 more than second-place Aurelien Collin of Sporting Kansas City.
Real Salt Lake has learned that star forward Alvaro Saborio's injury is not serious and that it shouldn't keep him out of Friday's U.S.-Costa Rica World Cup qualifier.
Saborio, who has all three of RSL's goals this year, bruised his knee while training with the Costa Rican national team ahead of Friday's game. Costa Rican media outlet Deportes Repretel reported on Wednesday that Saborio was doubtful to start on Friday's match due to the injury.
Friday's qualifier will kickoff at 8 p.m. MT from Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo. and will be broadcast live on ESPN. RSL players Tony Beltran, Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando are in the U.S. squad for the match.
Beltran, Beckerman, Rimando, Saborio and Abdoulie Mansally (Gambia) will all miss Saturday's RSL at FC Dallas match while on international duty. Both the U.S. and Costa Rica will play a second Hexagonal match on March 26, with the Stars-and-Stripes taking on Mexico at Estadio Azteca and Costa Rica hosting Jamaica.
Real Salt Lake forward Alvaro Saborio suffered a slight knee injury while training with Costa Rica and is doubtful to start Friday's World Cup qualifier at the U.S., according to a report from Costa Rican outlet Deportes Repretel.
RSL has been in touch with the Costa Rican federation regarding Saborio's injury and is monitoring the situation closely.
Costa Rica will take on the U.S. in a Hexagonal match at Dick's Sporting Goods Park outside Denver on Friday night (8 p.m. MT; ESPN). The Costa Rican captain, Saborio has one goal and one assist in four appearances - all starts - against the Stars-and-Stripes. Costa Rica has a 3-0-1 record in those games.
Saborio's RSL teammates Tony Beltran, Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando are all in the U.S. squad for Friday's game.
Los Ticos will host Jamaica in another Hex match on March 26.
Real Salt Lake hasn’t ever won at FC Dallas, but it does have plenty of ties to the club.
RSL Head Coach Jason Kreis, Assistants Jeff Cassar and Miles Joseph, General Manager Garth Lagerwey and Color Commentator Brian Dunseth all played in Big D, with Kreis and Lagerwey on the 1997 team that won the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, the club’s only major trophy to date.
Kreis in particular was very successful in Dallas, scoring 91 goals in 247 appearances for the then-Burn before moving to Real Salt Lake ahead of the 2005 season. Cassar had 33 appearances across two stints in Dallas, Lagerwey had 10 and Joseph and Dunseth both had nine.
Despite his obvious ties to the organization, Kreis indicated after training on Tuesday that the RSL-FC Dallas matchup no longer resonates with him like it used to. He’s clearly all Real Salt Lake, all the time.
RSL will take on FC Dallas at FC Dallas Stadium at 6:30 p.m. MT on Saturday. The match will be televised on ABC4 and Univision and will be broadcast on the radio on ESPN700 AM and 102.3 La Gran D FM/1600 AM.