Real Salt Lake will travel to the Windy City this weekend, taking on the Chicago Fire at 6:30 p.m. MT on Saturday night at Toyota Park. Here are a few storylines to watch ahead of the match, which will be broadcast live on CW30.
Rimando again aims for history
After coming agonizingly close last week, RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando will again look to make history on Saturday, needing one more shutout to tie retired ‘keeper Kevin Hartman for the all-time MLS regular season clean-sheet record at 112. Rimando only has two more chances to tie the record before his likely May 14 departure to the U.S. Men’s National Team ahead of this summer’s World Cup in Brazil.
RSL looks to stay unbeaten
It hasn’t always been perfect, but – at 3-0-5 – RSL remains the lone undefeated team in MLS, looking to extend its unbeaten start to nine games against the Fire on Saturday. RSL is currently on a 12-game regular season unbeaten streak dating back to last September, the second-longest regular season unbeaten streak in club history. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, a result on Saturday would make RSL just the eighth team in MLS history to start a season unbeaten in its first nine games.
Just how they drew it up
RSL and Chicago have both drawn quite a bit this year, with the Claret-and-Cobalt tied for second in the league with five draws and Chicago tops in MLS with six ties. Combined, the two clubs have tied an astonishing 11 times in 15 total matches this year. RSL and Chicago have also tied their last two meetings with each other, drawing 1-1 at Rio Tinto Stadium last year and playing to a scoreless draw in May 2012 in Chicago.
As detailed on this very site earlier this week, there are plenty of connections between these two teams, with no less than 10 players, coaches or technical staff members on both sides of the contest having close connections to other city or organization. Some of the most notable connections include current Chicago defender and former RSL man Lovel Palmer, current Chicago/ex-RSL Assistant Coach C.J. Brown and RSL’s Chicago-area natives Ned Grabavoy, Chris Schuler and Garth Lagerwey.
Can RSL improve upon tough history against Chicago?
Real Salt Lake has struggled historically against the Fire, posting a 3-6-7 all-time regular season record – one of RSL’s worst against any team – against Chicago. Given that record, it’s no surprise that RSL hasn’t done all that well in Chicago, posting a 1-4-3 record in the Windy City, with the club’s only win at the Fire coming on July 8, 2010.
MLSsoccer.com's Dan Haiek and Matt Doyle previewed Saturday's Real Salt Lake at Chicago tilt, taking a look at dangerous RSL forward Joao Plata and suspended Chicago forward Qunicy Amarikwa in their Scouting Report video series.
Give the above video a watch before Saturday's 6:30 p.m. MT kick. As always, it's worth the time.
RSL’s last trip to Chicago wasn’t much to write home about, with the teams playing to a sleepy scoreless draw at Toyota Park on May 9, 2012.
So, instead of showing the highlights from that slow affair – or last year’s 1-1 draw between the sides here at Rio Tinto Stadium – we’ll bring back a RSL classic: The highlight tape from the Claret-and-Cobalt’s 2009 Eastern Conference Final victory at Chicago.
Watch and enjoy above ahead of Saturday’s tilt between RSL and the Fire at Toyota Park.
Real Salt Lake will hit the road again this week, traveling to Chicago to take on the Fire on Saturday at Toyota Park (6:30 p.m. MT, CW30).
Plenty of members of both RSL and the Fire have connections to the other side, with no less than 10 total players, coaches and technical staff members either having played for the other organization, or having ties to the other city.
Check out the full list of RSL-Chicago connections below:
Real Salt Lake:
Kwame Watson-Siriboe: Drafted in the second round by the Fire in 2010 MLS SuperDraft, Watson-Siriboe played 10 league games for Chicago before moving to Real Salt Lake halfway through the 2012 season.
Ned Grabavoy: The 30-year-old Grabavoy was born and raised in the Chicago area, where he played for notable youth club Chicago Magic, led Lincoln-Way Central High School to two-straight Illinois State Championship games and was named the 2000-01 Gatorade National High School Player of the Year.
Chris Schuler: Like Grabavoy, Schuler grew up in the Chicago area, playing for Chicago Magic youth club and starring at Waubonsie Valley High School. Schuler spent a bit of time in the Fire’s sytem, playing for the Chicago Fire Premier USL-Premier Development League club during the summers of his college years.
Andy Williams: RSL Assistant Coach Andy Williams spent a pair of seasons with the Fire, playing 49 games in Chicago in 2003 and 2004 before getting picked up by RSL in the 2004 MLS Expansion Draft. While in Chicago, Williams actually spent time as a roommate of RSL Goalkeeping Coach Daryl Shore, who was then the Fire’s GK Coach.
Daryl Shore: Claret-and-Cobalt Goalkeeper Coach Daryl Shore was a longtime member of the Fire organization, leading Chicago’s goalkeepers from 2000-2009. Shore helped Chicago to the 2000, 2003 and 2006 Open Cup titles and 2003 MLS Supporters’ Shield.
Garth Lagerwey: Like Grabavoy and Schuler, RSL GM Garth Lagerwey grew up in the Chicago area, playing for the same Chicago Magic youth club and earning plaudits as a prep player at York High School. Lagerwey’s parents still live in the Chicago area, and are actually Fire season ticket holders.
Lovel Palmer: Chicago’s starting right back, Palmer spent one memorable season in Salt Lake, appearing in 21 games across all competitions for the 2013 team that came oh-so-close to bringing home some major hardware.
Kyle Reynish: Reynish spent five seasons in Salt Lake as backup to Nick Rimando. Now 30, Reynish signed as Chicago’s backup this offseason. He appeared in 14 games across all competitions for RSL.
Clint Mathis: A newly minted assistant under Chicago Head Coach Frank Yallop, Mathis had two stints as an RSL player, playing with the team in its inaugural season of 2005 and again from 2008-09. Mathis appeared in 74 games across all competitions for RSL, scoring five goals, adding 11 assists and helping the Claret-and-Cobalt to the 2009 MLS Cup title.
C.J. Brown: A longtime Chicago Fire player, Brown joined the RSL coaching staff as an assistant in 2011 after retiring as a Fire player the previous season. Brown went back to Chicago this offseason, joining Yallop’s staff as the first assistant last December.
The latest edition of the Crossbar Challenge dropped on ABC 4’s Real Sports Live on Sunday night, with Dunny taking on “Believe” anthem originator, RSL fan and Rancid drummer Branden Steineckert.
Dunny and Branden had a very wide-ranging interview, talking for nearly 45 minutes at the shoot at Rio Tinto Stadium on Friday. You can check out the 34-minute extended cut of the Crossbar Challenge above. Don’t have that kind of time? Watch the nine-minute version that ran on Real Sports Live on Sunday night here.
ABC 4’s Real Sports Live was all over RSL’s 2-2 Saturday draw against Vancouver Whitecaps FC, covering the match front-to-back on their Sunday night show.
Claret-and-Cobalt midfielder Ned Grabavoy and defender Tony Beltran sat down with Brian Dunseth and Bill Riley after the game for part of that coverage, both giving honest, forthright assessments of RSL’s disappointing draw.
Check out their interviews in the above video.
Real Salt Lake will look to stay unbeaten in the 2014 season on Saturday, when it will host Canadian side Vancouver Whitecaps FC in a 7:30 p.m. MT tilt at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Here are a few storylines to watch ahead of Saturday’s match:
Rimando looks to make history
Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando can make history on Saturday, as he’s just one shutout away from tying retired goalkeeper Kevin Hartman for the all-time MLS shutout record with 112 career regular season clean-sheets. The Wall of the Wasatch has three shutouts in just five games this season, tied with Houston’s Tally Hall and Sporting KC’s Eric Kronberg for most in the league.
RSL aims to extend club-record unbeaten streak
RSL has gotten off to a fantastic start in 2014, posting an unbeaten 3-0-4 record through its first seven games. The lone remaining unbeaten team in MLS, this is RSL’s longest-ever unbeaten run to start a season. The Claret-and-Cobalt’s current regular season unbeaten streak of 11 games dating back to last September’s win at Vancouver is the second-longest in club history, behind the 18-game regular season unbeaten run compiled from July 2010-April 2011. Should RSL pick up a result on Saturday, it would become just the ninth team in MLS history to start a season unbeaten in its first eight games.
Could Cassar move up the record books?
Real Salt Lake Head Coach Jeff Cassar’s seven-game unbeaten streak to start his managerial career is one of the best in MLS history, tied for third in league history with ex-Chicago Manager and current Montreal Head Coach Frank Klopas. Cassar can move into a tie for second with a result on Saturday, as an eight-game unbeaten streak to start a head coaching career would bring him even with the late Tom Fitzgerald, who started 8-0-0 after taking over the Columbus Crew midway into the 1996 season. Should RSL get a result on Saturday, Cassar would have the longest unbeaten run to start a coaching career in MLS’s non-shootout era; Lothar Osiander started his MLS coaching career 12-0-0 with LA in 1996.
Will Plata return to the starting lineup?
Real Salt Lake forward Joao Plata made his return from injury last week, coming off the bench in the second half after missing three games due to a left hamstring strain. The dangerous Ecuadorian has been dynamite this season, registering two goals and two assists in just 230 minutes. We could see him return to the starting XI on Saturday, something that would no doubt give RSL a boost against the dangerous ‘Caps.
Last home game for international trio?
Saturday’s match could be the last home game for quite some time for three of RSL’s biggest players, as Rimando, Captain Kyle Beckerman and forward Alvaro Saborio could all be with their respective national teams ahead of the World Cup prior to the Claret-and-Cobalt’s next home match on May 17 against Colorado. FIFA mandates that clubs release players for pre-World Cup camps on May 14. Should all three players make their country’s World Cup roster, the next possible home game they would be available for wouldn’t be until July 4 against New England, over two months from now.
Real Salt Lake has had a good deal of success against Vancouver Whitecaps FC, posting a 4-2-2 all-time record against the Canadian side. RSL is currently on a four-game unbeaten run against the ‘Caps dating back to 2012. The Claret-and-Cobalt won its last match against Vancouver, using a reserve-laden side to top Whitecaps FC 1-0 at BC Place last September.
Check out highlights of last September’s victory above. RSL faces Vancouver again on Saturday, hosting the ‘Caps at Rio Tinto Stadium at 7:30 p.m. MT.
Real Salt Lake’s Ned Grabavoy had a fantastic interview on the Pitch Pass podcast last night, speaking out about his family, home life, love of Chicago sports teams and his goal celebration after scoring in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Portland, something that’s generated a bit of conversation in Salt Lake over the last few days.
Here’s what Ned had to say about the celebration, which you can watch right here.
“It was just shaking the dice, I was trying to just throw the dice,” he said. “I feel like the first six or seven games I’ve been around the box and haven’t been doing as well with the finishing, so I’ve kind of been pushing for a goal a little bit and wanting to get on a little run. Sometimes you get streaky and get a couple goals in three, four games so all I was trying to do was roll the dice and get hot a little bit. I think someone tried to jump on my back and tackle me a little bit, so I had to drop him and try to throw the dice again.”
On whether he was rolling the dice like he was playing craps, or like he was playing Yahtzee:
“I don’t know what I was trying to roll, but it was something good to get hot and get the team hot and trying to get going,” he said. “When you score a goal and you start to run towards a corner where your fans are screaming, you blackout a little bit and you lose your thought process and kind of grab the first thing that comes to your mind. I don’t plan these things out in advance, just kind of do whatever.”
Go listen to the entire 25-minute interview. It’s a good picture into the life of the always-quotable Grabavoy, who was certainly in fine form for the segment. You can skip directly to the Grabavoy by clicking the “Segment 2: Ned Grabavoy” box in the YouTube window above.