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sam stejskal

27 July 12:46 pm

News Photo: Dane Richards of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC kisses…

Real Salt Lake’s back four is going to have their hands full with Vancouver attackers Dane Richards and Darren Mattocks at Rio Tinto Stadium on Friday night.

Mattocks and Richards are both blazing fast, capable of flying down the flanks and terrorizing opposing fullbacks.  The Jamaican internationals have both had success in recent games, with the recently-acquired Richards scoring the opener in the Whitecaps’ 2-1 win over league-leading San Jose last Sunday and Mattocks bagging two goals – including this incredible high-flying finish – against Toronto on July 11.

The No. 2 overall pick in this year’s SuperDraft, Mattocks leads Vancouver with six goals in just 12 MLS games. Richards – who was acquired from New York earlier this month – has two goals and two assists in 20 league appearances in 2012.

RSL head scout Andy Williams is very familiar with both players, playing with Richards numerous times on the Jamaican national team and following Mattocks closely since the talented rookie’s college days.

“As everyone knows, both of them are really, really fast,” Williams told RealSaltLake.com. “I think Dane is more of a winger and Mattocks is more of a forward who finishes pretty well – his goal scoring record is pretty good. Dane has a lot more experience so I’m pretty sure our guys are used to Dane more than Mattocks. Hopefully tonight we can keep them both contained, because Vancouver really likes to use their speed a lot.”

RSL’s outside backs will be responsible for checking Richards, who – as Williams mentioned – plays as a winger. It will be important for the Claret-and-Cobalt’s fullbacks to keep Richards honest, pushing forward when possible in order to force Richards – who isn’t a very good defender – back into Vancouver’s half.  

“The thing with both of them is that they’re not great defenders,” Williams said. “So if our outside backs attack they have to follow. If our fullbacks stay home then you run the risk of both of them staying in behind or getting in on goal.”

Mattocks is a bit of a different animal. He plays more centrally than Richards and will primarily matchup against RSL’s center backs and defensive midfielder. The Claret-and-Cobalt will need to be aware of his darting runs behind the defense and not allow him to turn while on the ball so he can run at goal.

“The center backs will have their hands full,” Williams said, “but I think they’ll match Mattocks."

27 July 11:21 am

Less than eight hours left until RSL kicks off against Vancouver at Rio Tinto Stadium.

Just four days left until Real Salt Lake begins its run through the CONCACAF Champions League at C.S. Herediano.

That quick turnaround means you should expect a few changes from the regular lineup for tonight’s league game against Vancouver, with RSL head coach Jason Kreis likely to sit a few of his usual starters with an eye on Tuesday’s Group 2 opener.

A few candidates to start Friday’s match on the bench include team captain Kyle Beckerman, defender Jamison Olave, playmaker Javier Morales and forward Alvaro Saborio. I highly doubt that Kreis will sit all four of those players against the third-place ‘Caps, but with Beckerman playing 34 minutes in Philadelphia in Wednesday’s All-Star game, Olave picking up a slight injury in last weekend’s win over Colorado and with Morales and Saborio logging big minutes thus far in 2012, it’d be naïve to think all four would start.

Putting regulars on the bench would give some reserves a rare opportunity to play significant minutes. Midfielder Sebastian Velasquez and center back Kwame Watson-Siriboe are both candidates for the first XI, as is forward – and Salt Lake City native – Justin Braun, who has yet to make his first appearance for RSL after being acquired from Montreal on July 11.

Let’s hope the reserves are ready. As I’ll go into further detail on later today, Vancouver is a very solid team and the Claret-and-Cobalt will need to put in a strong effort if they want to pick up their third straight home win. 

25 July 10:47 pm

RSL captain Kyle Beckerman played a starring role in Wednesday's MLS All-Star game, threading a gorgeous through ball to set up Eddie Johnson for his 91st minute game-winner in the All-Stars' 3-2 victory over UEFA Champions League title-holders Chelsea FC at PPL Park.

Beckerman played the final 34 minutes on Wednesday night, coming into the match in the 57th minute for Seattle midfielder Osvaldo Alonso. Captain Kyle was incredibly effective and efficient from his position directly in front of the back four, completing an astounding 21 of 21 passes, winning one tackle and making two interceptions against the Blues.

"I got some good minutes in the second half, and it was a great night to be part of this game," Beckerman told the Salt Lake Tribune after the game. "This is an experience I'll cherish and I hope there are many more."  

Beckerman returns to Salt Lake on Thursday. It's unlikely that he'll play on Friday against Vancouver, with head coach Jason Kreis hinting after practice on Wednesday that he'd hold Beckerman out against the Whitecaps in order to save him for Tuesday's CCL opener at Costa Rican club C.S. Herediano if the midfielder played significant minutes in the All-Star Game. 

One player who definitely won't play on Friday is Vancouver center back Jay DeMerit. The veteran defender played all 90 minutes on Wednesday, meaning it's unlikely he'll even be on the gameday roster when RSL takes on the 'Caps at Rio Tinto Stadium at 7 p.m. MT on Friday night. 

25 July 3:50 pm

Only six days away from RSL at C.S. Herediano in the CONCACAF Champions League.

In this post, we’ll take a look at some of the logistics of RSL’s group and the tournament itself. Quick programming note before we dive in, though. I had the pleasure of recording a pre-CCL podcast with James Edward of the Deseret News, Michael Black of MLSsoccer.com and Jeremy Horton of Goal.com today. That will go live some time tomorrow. Be sure to give it a listen. 

On to the good stuff:

New format                                                                                                                      

CONCACAF made big changes to the CCL this winter, eliminating the old Preliminary Round – in which 16 teams would face off in a home-and-home series – and putting all 24 of the qualifying sides directly into the Group Stage. The teams have been organized into eight groups of three squads each. Every team will play four games in the Group Stage – a home-and-home series against the other two teams in the group – with only the top team advancing to the quarterfinals.

The new format is a big change from what RSL experienced during the 2010-2011 Group Stage. That tournament had four groups of four teams each in the Group Stage. Every team played six Group Stage games and the top two teams from each group – RSL won theirs – advanced to the quarterfinals.  

The changes to the format mean that every Group Stage game carries an added importance, as the mathematical odds of moving into the Knockout Stage are lower when only one out of three teams advances than when two out of four teams advance.

Group 2 info

Real Salt Lake is in Group 2 with Costa Rican champions C.S. Herediano and Panamanian champs Tauro F.C. It’s one of the tougher groups in the tournament, but RSL certainly has a good chance of advancing into the Knockout Stage.

Both Herediano and Tauro are still in preseason and have experienced roster turnover during their summer break. Chances are neither squad will be completely comfortable with their new roster when they face RSL for the first time in the Group Stage – and they definitely won’t be in midseason form. Here’s to hoping the Claret-and-Cobalt can take advantage. 

25 July 3:24 pm

It may be a couple of weeks old, but this video - produced by Adidas and featuring RSL players Alvaro Saborio, Tony Beltran and Luis Gil - is well worth a watch, if only for the looks on the players' faces when they see the new Adidas Predators for the first time. 

25 July 9:12 am

1) My adjustment to Utah has actually been pretty slow. I’ve been looking for an apartment for about a month now – it seems like an eternity – so that’s kind of stressing me out a bit. But the guys are cool. I’ve had Kyle Beckerman, Nick Rimando, Nat Borchers, Tony Beltran and C.J. Brown helping me out a lot and the club’s been great so far.

2) I love being at RSL. On the field it’s great. The guys are very, very tight, they work hard, nobody has an ego and everyone pushes each other towards the common goal. I think it’s a very, very positive environment here. You get a lot of positive feedback, whereas in other situations if you make a mistake people might yell and throw their hands up and be like, ‘Damn, what are you doing?’ and then you start to get down on yourself. People are very encouraging here. They always push you to get better.

3) C.J. Brown has been a huge influence on my career. When I was drafted by Chicago in 2010 he was the Fire’s captain and him, center back Wilman Conde and goalie Jon Busch – who I call my uncle – really took me under their wing and helped me out. 

4) C.J. in particular was always there for me in tough times. There were occasions in Chicago when I started thinking about whether or not I was actually a good player and he always kept me focused through those situations.

5) C.J.’s been big in helping me get adjusted to RSL, too. I’m still trying to learn the team’s system and he’s taken me under his wing again, giving me film on the team, telling me about how they defend as a unit and working with me on the field every day after full training wraps up.

6) Honestly, I’m surprised I’ve gotten big minutes since I came here. I didn’t play much at all in Chicago and I thought I would come here and have to get used to the style before I saw the field. But the staff seems to have a lot of confidence in me. When I got my first start for RSL, coach Kreis told me to go out there, play confidently and don’t be fearful. I did exactly that and it’s carried over. He’s given me a lot of confidence.

7) I have a very positive attitude. A lot of people don’t know, but I’ve been through a lot in life. One of my best friends growing up passed away and it was very hard on me. But it made me realize that I have nothing to fear. I’ve got nothing to lose and I’ve got nothing to be scared of. I’m fearless – I feel like nothing can stop me.

8) I’m California born and bred and I’m Cali to the bone.

9) I definitely need to get to one of those Thursday night Twilight concerts downtown.

10) Contrary to what some people in Chicago say, I’m not obsessed with Mike and Ike’s.

 

24 July 2:48 pm

We're only one week away from RSL's 2012-13 CONCACAF Champions League opener at Costa Rican champions C.S. Herediano. 

Frankly, those of us here in the RSL offices are going to have a hard time waiting for next Tuesday's 8 p.m. MT kickoff. We're really excited about RSL's impending run through the CCL and we're guessing you are too - which is why we'll be posting CCL-themed content everyday from now until the Group 2 opener. 

We'll publish a lot more information on Herediano and the new CCL format later in the week. For now, we'll let you take a walk down memory lane with the fabolous Champions League 360 videos produced by MLSsoccer.com during RSL's run through the Knockout Stage and to the Final of the 2010-11 CCL. You can watch the first episode above. Links to every video in the fantastic series are below: 


Quarterfinals - Part 1

Quarterfinals - Part 2

Quarterfinals - Part 3

Quarterfinals - Part  4

Quarterfinals - Part  5

Quarterfinals - Part  6


Semifinals - Part 1

Semifinals - Part 2

Semifinals - Part 3

Semifinals - Part 4

 

Finals - Part 1

Finals - Part 2

Finals - Part 3

Finals - Part 4

Finals - Part 5

Finals - Part 6

 

23 July 12:31 pm

One story that was slightly overlooked in the aftermath of Saturday’s Subaru Rocky Mountain Cup clinching win over Colorado was that, with the win, RSL goalie Nick Rimando moved past Zach Thornton and into No. 2 all-time on the MLS career wins list with 132 victories.

Rimando was deferential when asked about moving past Thornton, telling reporters after Saturday's match that his achievement wasn’t nearly as important as RSL’s 2-0 victory.

“Right now that’s not as important as the win,” Rimando said. “The team won today, I didn’t win. On offseason we could talk about awards, stats, etc., but tonight the team won, and I’m happy because it was much needed. We want to continue to move forward. We don’t look at stats; we look at how the game goes and we were organized and fought hard.”

Rimando, 33, still has a long way to go to catch Kevin Hartman for the No. 1 spot, trailing the 38-year-old FC Dallas starter by 44 wins.