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sam stejskal

14 August 12:52 am

When ESPN: The Magazine approached RSL about doing a photo shoot with the Claret-and-Cobalt’s famously ripped center back Jamison Olave, those of us on staff only wondered one thing: Would The Mag be more interested in taking pictures of Olave’s truck-sized thighs (Shout-out to Sisqo) or of his cannonball-like calves?

While the photographers captured the Colombian’s entire body in their shoot, it looks like ESPN’s editors were more interested in Olave’s thighs, asking the 2010 and 2011 MLS Best XI defender about his tree trunk upper legs.

“My teammates tease me, asking if I got silicone implants in my quads,” Olave said in the issue. “I know they’re impressed.”

Make sure you check out the entire Olave spread by picking up a copy of ESPN: The Magazine when it hits newsstands later this week. 

07 August 12:33 pm

There’s no doubt that RSL turned in a lackluster offensive performance in last Saturday’s 1-0 loss at Colorado. The team looked tired, disjointed and struggled to create chances throughout, really only getting two good looks at goal in the entire match.

RSL’s biggest struggles came in the attacking third. Despite holding advantages in possession, total number of passes completed and percentage of passes completed across the entire field, RSL was completely outclassed in the final third, attempting and completing a fraction of the passes Colorado attempted and completed in the attacking area. 

Check out the below table for a more detailed look: 

  RSL Colorado
Possession 51.6% 48.4%
Passing stats - Entire field 334/420 293/409
Passing stats - Final third 27/51 76/115

On the surface, this might not make a whole lot of sense - Shouldn't RSL's advantages in possession, total number of passes completed and passing percentage lead to corresponding advantages in final third numbers? 

Well, no. Here's why: After scoring the first - and only - goal of the game in the 38th minute, Colorado - which had the possession advantage at halftime - backed off a bit. They allowed RSL to knock the ball around in the back, which boosted the Claret-and-Cobalt's possession number and improved the team's passing stats across the entire field. But by backing off, Colorado was able to maintain a tighter defensive shape in the final third. That compact shape made it hard for RSL to enter the attacking area (explaining the Utah side's low number of passes attempted in the final third) and, once they got there, made it difficult for the Claret-and-Cobalt to have success (explaining the team's poor passing conversion rate in the final third). 

Don't expect RSL to repeat last Saturday's poor final third performance in this weekend's match at Vancouver. The team wasn't quite right at Colorado, playing its third game in an eight day stretch which saw them make a midweek trip to Costa Rica. The players got a short break this week, taking Monday and Tuesday off before resuming training on Wednesday. That downtime should allow them to be both physically and mentally refreshed for the game at Whitecaps FC, something that should pay dividends at BC Place.

06 August 12:42 pm

Remember CONCACAF Champions League 360, the fantastic series that documented RSL’s run through the Knockout Stage of the 2010-2011 CCL?

Well we’re doing that again, this time documenting RSL’s run through the entire 2012-2013 CCL. We have a new name (we’re calling this edition of the series “Chasing the Crown: RSL in the CCL”) and a new videographer (in-house man Nick Lamping takes over from MLSsoccer.com’s Scott Riddell), but we’re all very confident that the series will be just as good as it was the first time around.

We’ll publish a pair of episodes documenting RSL’s trip last week to Costa Rican champions C.S. Herediano, giving you an inside look at the team from the moment we took off for Costa Rica, through the 1-0 loss and back to the moment we landed in Salt Lake.  We'll post more episodes for each of the three remaining Group Stage matches and - if RSL makes it - the Knockout Stage, too.  

The first episode drops today. Don’t miss it. 

Update: The video went live a couple of hours ago. Check it out here.

01 August 6:16 am

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica – Yeah, 10-man RSL’s 1-0 CONCACAF Champions League loss at C.S. Herediano on Tuesday night was rough. But just in case any of you are currently on the ledge, remember, the result is far from the end of the world.

Sure, RSL missed a valuable opportunity – one of just four, in fact – to pick up points in the reformatted CCL Group Stage, leaving the club firmly behind the eight-ball in Group 2.

But it’s not that bad: RSL basically still controls its own fate. If the team wins its final three Group 2 games – one against Herediano at Rio Tinto Stadium and a home-and-home series with Panamanian club Tauro FC – they should finish first in the group and be through to the Knockout Round.

“All-in-all it’s not the worst result,” RSL captain Kyle Beckerman said after the game. “We can definitely bounce back from this.”

The only thing that would stop RSL from advancing to the Knockout Stage if the team wins all three of its remaining group games would be losing a tiebreaker with Herediano. The CCL’s first tiebreaker is, of course, goal difference.

Thankfully, the Claret-and-Cobalt is in pretty good shape there. Despite playing both down a man and with a patchwork backline after starting center backs Nat Borchers (ejection in the 58th) and Jamison Olave (injury in the 63rd) went off early in the second half, RSL managed to keep the score at 1-0 on Tuesday night.

That will hopefully be important come Oct. 23, when RSL takes on Herediano at Rio Tinto Stadium in what could essentially be a Knockout Stage play-in game in the Group 2 finale.

“We feel that if we take care of business in our next two matches against Tauro, if we can have success in those matches; losing 1-0 is not the worst place to be,” RSL head coach Jason Kreis said at his postgame press conference. “Herediano comes to our place in October, and only being down a goal, it would essentially become a head-to-head competition. We don’t think we’re in the worst spot in the world – we certainly don’t like where we are – but we’re not in the worst spot in the world.” 

31 July 8:43 am

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica – Well, it’s finally here: Gameday. We’re less than 12 hours away from RSL beginning CONCACAF Champions League play with the Group 2 opener at Costa Rican champion C.S. Herediano.

Kickoff’s at 8 p.m. MT at the Estadio Nacional. You can watch the match live on Fox Soccer Channel and CONCACAF.com and listen in on ESPN700 AM and 102.6 La Gran D.  

It’s an absolutely gorgeous day here in San Jose. The sun’s out, the weather’s warm, there’s a nice little breeze and it’s not even that humid. The players don’t have much on their schedule leading up to tonight’s match. Other than a quick meeting and a few team meals, they’re free to do whatever they want – just as long as it’s not strenuous.

I’m going to go ahead and predict a 1-0 RSL win, with the goal coming from the Claret-and-Cobalt’s calescent Costa Rican, Alvaro Saborio.

Feel free to leave a prediction of your own below. Whoever picks correctly wins a virtual pat on the back from yours truly. 

30 July 2:21 pm

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica - We're getting closer and closer to RSL's Champions League opener. Just under 30 hours away now. 

RSL photographer Ray Taggart took some cool shots - including the above photo - at today's training session. We've compiled the best into a gallery. Check it out here

While you're at it, check out RealSaltLake.com's written report from today's practice. It's chock-full of info. 

We'll be back with more later in the day. 

30 July 8:13 am

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica - Good morning from beautiful - if slightly overcast - Costa Rica. Just one more day until RSL starts CCL play. 

The team is scheduled to train at the Estadio Nacional this morning, the same stadium that the game will be held in tomorrow night. Built in 2011, the Estadio Nacional seats 35,000 and has a natural grass surface. RSL forward Alvaro Saborio is very familiar with the venue, having scored the first goal in the stadium's history in a friendly match between Costa Rica and China on March 26, 2011. Estadio Nacional is not C.S. Herediano's usual home venue - that'd be Estadio Eladio Rosabel Cordero, a 8,000-seater with a turf field located about 10 miles north of San Jose - but the team will play all of its home CONCACAF Champions League matches there. 

A little more on C.S. Herediano: The bartender at the hotel told me last night that Herediano is - and I quote - "so-so." He was pretty adamant that they're not at the same level as other Costa Rican clubs L.D. Alajuelense and Saprissa, which RSL beat in the semifinals of the 2010-2011 CCL. Of course, he also told me that he's a proud Saprissa fan, so he may have been a bit biased.

That's the kind of cutting-edge analysis you'll only find it at The Sovereign, folks. 

We'll be back with much more written and video content later today. Make sure to stay tuned for all of the latest. 

29 July 10:21 pm

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica - Less than 48 hours until RSL starts its CONCACAF Champions League run at Costa Rican club C.S. Herediano. Don't know about you, but I'm getting pretty pumped, you guys. 

As you can see from the dateline, I'm coming at you from Costa Rica. It took us a little while to get down here - our flight took off from Salt Lake at 10:30 a.m. - but we did travel in style, flying on a chartered plane with all the amenities. Big thanks to RSL's owners for springing for that.

The entire squad is safe and sound, resting ahead of tomorrow morning's training session and Tuesday's Group 2 opener. A total of 20 players made the trip, giving head coach Jason Kreis a little bit of flexibility for the 18-man roster that will dress on Tuesday. 

That's all for now. Big day tomorrow. We'll have tons of content coming out on both the website proper and here at The Sovereign. Be sure to check it all out. 

28 July 2:47 pm

Only three days left until RSL opens CCL play at C.S. Herediano. Excited yet? 

With Vancouver out of the way after last night's 2-1 win, we can now turn all of our attention to C.S. Herediano, which RSL will take on in the Group 2 opener at Costa Rica's National Stadium on Tuesday. 

We're keeping things light today, linking to RealSaltLake.com's official guide to C.S. Herediano. Check out the article - it contains almost everything you'll need to know about the Costa Rican champs ahead of Tuesday's big game. 

28 July 12:43 pm

One of my favorite moments from Real Salt Lake’s 2-1 win over Vancouver last night came about halfway through the second half, when RSL center back Kwame Watson-Siriboe flat out jumped over ‘Caps forward Darren Mattocks to win a header.

The athletic play caused quite the reaction in the press box, drawing more than a few oohs and aahs and causing a couple of members of the media to sit back in their chairs and straight up laugh.

Watson-Siriboe was his usual down-to-earth self when talking about the play after the game, somewhat downplaying the high-flying header.

“It was a 50-50 ball, Mattocks decided to go in and I just went 100 percent,” he said. “I had to go 100 percent because if I didn’t then there was a possibility of Mattocks hurting me, so as I went up I saw the ball and I just leaped.”

“I was very focused when I landed,” he added. “There was actually a play earlier in the game he elbowed me in the chest so it was kind of a payback where if he wants to go 50-50 and play hard yolu know we can do that

The play was a bit of a role-reversal for Mattocks, who nearly jumped over a Toronto FC defender to score an incredible goal at BMO Field on July 11. That fact wasn’t lost on Watson-Siriboe, who had a little laugh himself when asked if he’d seen the Vancouver attacker’s header against TFC.

“It’s the heat of the moment,” Watson-Siriboe said with a chuckle. “MLS is very athletic and one of my good traits is I guess I have good jumping ability.”

Clearly.