RSL needs a win in order for a chance to finish third in the west
Real Salt Lake slipped into fourth-place in the Western Conference this weekend after the Claret-and-Cobalt played Portland Timbers to a 0-0 draw on Friday and FC Dallas defeated Colorado Rapids 1-0 on Saturday. The Texas club now sits in third-place with one more point than RSL (54) and a 16-11-6 record. In order for the Claret-and-Cobalt to earn a third-place finish and avoid the Knockout Round, RSL will have to record a win on Wednesday and have FC Dallas draw or lose to Portland on Saturday. If both clubs end the season even on points, the Hoops have the advantage in the first tiebreaker with two more wins than RSL with only one match remaining in the regular season.
RSL 0-2-0 against Chivas USA in 2014
Real Salt Lake will be looking for its first win against Chivas USA this year, with the Claret-and-Cobalt losing in both of the clubs’ previous encounters. In their first meeting of the year on June 28 at StubHub Center, RSL went down to ten men in the ninth minute after midfielder Luke Mulholland saw straight red for a tackle on midfielder Martin Rivero, and could not overcome a 35th minute goal scored by forward Erick Torres. RSL suffered a similar fate when it faced the Red-and-White in California again on Oct. 5, falling 1-0 as the visitors for a second time. Chivas USA’s success against the Claret-and-Cobalt this year has been surprising as the SoCal club has struggled mightily, going 8-18-6 in 2014 and is currently tied for last place in the Western Conference with Colorado Rapids.
RSL has found some success at home against the Goats, going 6-3-3 against the Red-and-White in Utah. RSL is also currently riding a two-game win streak at home against the SoCal club.
Regular season finale
Wednesday’s clash with Chivas USA will be the Claret-and-Cobalt’s final regular season match of 2014, with the club looking to improve its final record at home. Real Salt Lake has gone 10-1-5 at Rio Tinto Stadium this year, recording just one loss to the Portland Timbers on June 7, and is one victory away from tying its all-time best of 11 home wins. With a win on Wednesday, RSL will break its all-time single-season points at home record with 38, surpassing the 2010 record of 37. Real Salt Lake is also four tallies away from breaking its single-season home goals record of 34 which was notched in 2009.
Final match v. Chivas USA
Real Salt Lake will likely play its fellow 2005 expansion team, Chivas USA, for the last time on Wednesday night, as the SoCal club seems destined to suspend operations in 2015. It has been reported that Chivas USA will remain closed for two years while it takes the time to find new owners and fully rebrand. The Goats have struggled mightily in recent years, and will now miss the playoffs for a fifth-straight season.
Real Salt Lake has gone 12-12-4 all-time against Chivas USA in the regular season, posting a 6-3-3 home record and 6-9-1 road record. The two clubs met once in the playoffs in 2008, with RSL winning the first leg 1-0 at home and drawing 2-2 on the road to advance to the Western Conference Championship, where it ultimately fell to New York Red Bulls.
Real Salt Lake looking to clinch playoff berth on Sunday
With a win on Sunday at Chivas USA, Real Salt Lake will be able to clinch a seventh-straight playoff berth – the longest active streak in the league. A win in Southern California would also place the Claret-and-Cobalt one victory away from reaching the 15-win and 50-point plateaus for the fifth consecutive season.
Seattle Sounders FC (18-9-3, 57 points) and LA Galaxy (16-5-9, 57 points) have both clinched playoff berths, leaving just three open spots in the postseason. RSL currently sits third in the west with 49 points, with FC Dallas close behind with 48 and one more win than the Claret-and-Cobalt. Vancouver Whitecaps FC occupies the final playoff spot with 40 points, but also has Portland Timbers nipping at its heels with 39 points.
The Western Conference playoff picture can get either clearer or murkier after this weekend, with Vancouver hosting FC Dallas and Portland travelling to San Jose on Saturday, before RSL takes on Chivas USA on Sunday at 5:00 p.m. MT on CW30.
Can the Claret-and-Cobalt restore its road dominance over Chivas?
Real Salt Lake will look to restore its road dominance of Chivas USA on Sunday after falling to the SoCal club at StubHub Center in their first meeting of the year for the first time since 2009. Prior to the Claret-and-Cobalt’s 1-0 loss on June 28, RSL had five consecutive wins over the Red-and-White in California. Real Salt Lake is 12-11-4 against Chivas USA all-time in the regular season with a 6-8-1 regular season road record.
Chivas USA struggled mightily this year and is currently on a seven-game losing streak, with its last result coming on Aug. 16, a scoreless draw with Vancouver Whitecaps FC. The Goats have only notched four goals (all v. Seattle) since that Vancouver contest.
What will RSL’s lineup look like on Sunday?
In RSL’s last match, a 2-1 defeat at Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Real Salt Lake head coach Jeff Cassar made five lineup changes from its previous match against Colorado, a 5-1 win at Rio Tinto Stadium. RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando, defenders Tony Beltran and Chris Schuler, midfielder Ned Grabavoy and forward Sebastian Jaime were not included in the starting XI, with only Grabavoy and Jaime making the trip to Canada. RSL defenders Carlos Salcedo and Abdoulie Mansally filled in on the back line, while veteran center back Nat Borchers returned from suspension. RSL midfielder Luis Gil started at the left side of the diamond while striker Alvaro Saborio earned his first start back from injury up top. With RSL deciding to rest some of its regular starters in Vancouver, Cassar should have a full arsenal of healthy players to choose from for Sunday.
Real Salt Lake also produced a strong performance out a makeshift lineup in Tuesday’s friendly against Sacramento Republic FC. Both forward Robbie Findley and midfielder Sebastian Velasquez netted goals, while defender Rich Balchan put in an excellent showing at right back, earning the assist on Velasquez’s tally.
Real Salt Lake coaches and players have been vocal this week about that fact that lowly Chivas USA shouldn’t be taken lightly. Cassar will hopefully be able to put out what he thinks is RSL’s most dangerous lineup for a much needed, playoff clinching win.
Will Sunday be RSL’s last match at Chivas USA?
Recent reports have surfaced that Chivas USA will be shut down at the end of the 2014 season and will be up for sale. It is expected that the club will remain closed for two years while it takes the time to find new owners and fully rebrand. The club has struggled in recent years, which will now miss the playoffs for the fifth straight season with a current 6-18-6 record.
Real Salt Lake’s date in Carson on Sunday could be the last time the Claret-and-Cobalt square off with its fellow 2005 expansion team in California. RSL will face the Red-and-White one more time in its last game of the 2014 season on Oct. 22 at Rio Tinto Stadium.
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.
Everyone should have their eyes glued to their TVs this weekend as the MLS regular-season comes to a close with clubs still vying for playoff spots and the Supporters’ Shield. This weekend’s results hold major implications as to whether or not RSL will win the Supporters’ Shield or the Western Conference and who the Claret-and-Cobalt will face in the Western Conference Semifinals.
Real Salt Lake will be bystanders this weekend as the Claret-and-Cobalt finished its regular-season with Wednesday’s 2-1 win over Chivas USA. Wednesday’s win clinched a top-two West seed for RSL, meaning the Claret-and-Cobalt will play away in the first leg of the Western Conference Semifinals on Nov. 2 or Nov. 3 before returning home to Rio Tinto Stadium for the West Semi second leg on Nov. 6 or Nov. 7. Real Salt Lake could still play any of the West playoff teams of Portland, LA Galaxy, Seattle Sounders FC or Colorado Rapids in the West Semifinals.
RSL currently sits in first-place in the Supporters’ Shield race and Western Conference with a total of 56 points, 16 wins and 57 goals scored.
With so much at stake this weekend, here is a list of all the key matches that affect RSL and who you should be rooting for:
Philadelphia Union vs. Sporting Kansas City – 1:00 p.m. MT on NBC Sports Network
The Claret-and-Cobalt will need Sporting Kansas City to lose or draw at PPL Park in order for RSL’s Supporters’ Shield hopes to stay alive. Sporting Kansas City currently sits in second-place in the Eastern Conference with a total of 55 points, one point behind the New York Red Bulls. If Kansas City draws Philadelphia and ends up tied with RSL on points and wins, the Claret-and-Cobalt would place ahead based on the goals for tiebreaker, granted Kansas City doesn’t score 12 goals. The Philadelphia Union is facing a must-win situation in order to keep their postseason aspiration alive. This one’s easy: root for the Union.
Chivas USA vs. Portland Timbers – 8:30 p.m. MT on MLS Live
The Portland Timbers are the only team that can push RSL out of first-place in the Western Conference. A win for the Timbers at the StubHub Center would guarantee Caleb Porter’s squad first-place in the Western Conference and put an end to the Claret-and-Cobalt’s chance at the Supporters’ Shield. Portland currently has a total of 54 points, meaning a draw against Chivas USA would be enough to keep RSL first in the Western Conference. A Chivas USA win or draw might seem unlikely with their current record of 6-19-8, but everyone loves to root for the underdog. Let’s hope the Goats can end the season on a higher note and produce a result at home.
New York Red Bulls vs. Chicago Fire – 3:00 p.m. MT on UniMas
This one won’t impact the Western Conference, but it does hold huge implications in the battle for the Supporters’ Shield. Real Salt Lake sits atop the league table narrowly leading New York by the goals for tiebreaker with 57 goals to New York’s 53. Any result by New York against Chicago will officially end the Claret-and-Cobalt’s run for the Supporters’ Shield. Chicago enters the match desperate for a win in order to keep its own playoff hopes alive. Pull for Mike Magee to keep his scoring form and work some magic at Red Bull Arena.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. Colorado Rapids – 6:00 p.m. MT on MLS Live
This match won’t affect RSL’s standing in the Western Conference but it can affect who RSL will face in the Western Conference Semifinals. Colorado will need a draw or a win in order to officially clinch a playoff berth. If RSL finishes in first-place it will take on the winner of the fourth-place vs. fifth-place knockout game. If RSL finishes in second-place, it will face the third-place team in the West. If Colorado does earn a result at Vancouver, its playoff placement won’t be determined until after the final MLS regular-season game between Seattle and LA. Colorado would need a win and for LA and Seattle to draw in order to clinch third-place which would most likely mean a Rocky Mountain Cup semifinal series, assuming RSL finishes in second-place. A RSL vs. Colorado playoff game would be the first of its kind. Who to root for? Follow your heart.
Seattle Sounders FC vs. LA Galaxy – 7:00 p.m. MT on ESPN
The final match of the MLS regular-season will definitely be an entertaining one with the former MLS champions taking on Western Conference rival Seattle Sounders FC. Seattle is suffering an epic blowout to end its regular-season, losing its last four matches by a combined margin of 12-2. Despite Seattle’s recent run of poor form, they have already clinched a playoff berth. This match will determine whether or not Seattle or LA will avoid the fourth-place vs. fifth-place knockout game. LA and Seattle will want to grab as many points as possible to put as much room between them and the red line. Who to root against? Both.
Real Salt Lake closed the regular season with a victory on Wednesday night, beating Chivas USA 2-1 to head into the MLS Cup Playoffs with a 16-10-8 regular season record.
Here are a few interesting numbers from RSL’s regular season campaign:
Real Salt Lake finished the regular season with 57 goals, the highest total in club history and the most in MLS ahead of this weekend’s final round of regular season matches. New York Red Bulls and LA Galaxy are the only squads with even a mildly realistic chance of catching the Claret-and-Cobalt, with New York currently on 53 goals and LA on 52 goals.
RSL closed the 2013 regular season with 56 points, one shy of the club record of 57 set last season. The Claret-and-Cobalt is currently in first-place in both the Western Conference and Supporters’ Shield standings, though the team needs some help this weekend to hold those spots. In order to win the Shield, Sporting KC will have to lose/draw at Philadelphia on Saturday, Portland will have to lose/draw at Chivas USA on Saturday and New York will have to lose to Chicago on Sunday. For RSL to win the West, Portland would have to lose/draw at Chivas USA on Saturday.
Real Salt Lake finished the 2013 season with a 6-7-4 away record, tying the club record for most away points in a season initially set in 2012.
RSL was one of – if not the – deepest teams in MLS this year, with 27 players seeing first-team MLS minutes, including a club record 26 players starting at least one game. RSL’s depth was put to good use in the huge amount of games missed by regulars due to injury, international call-ups and suspensions.
A league-leading six RSL players – Alvaro Saborio, Javier Morlaes, Robbie Findley, Ned Grabavoy, Olmes Garcia and Luis Gil – scored five or more league goals this year. Thirteen Claret-and-Cobalt players scored at least one regular season goal this year, with 15 total players pitching in goals when including U.S. Open Cup play.
RSL hit the 15-win and 50-point plateaus for the fourth-consecutive year this season, becoming the first club in MLS history to accomplish said feat. The LA Galaxy have since joined RSL in the exclusive club.
Real Salt Lake will play its final game of the 2013 MLS regular season on Wednesday night, hosting Chivas USA at 7:00 p.m. MT at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Here are a few storylines to watch ahead of Wednesday’s contest:
RSL battling for outside shot at Supporters’ Shield; Playoff seeding on the line
A ton is on the line for Real Salt Lake in the Supporters’ Shield and Western Conference races this week. Everything starts on Wednesday, with RSL needing a win to stay alive in the chase for the Shield and a result to have hope of winning the West.
RSL gunning for season sweep of Chivas USA
Real Salt Lake will be looking to complete a season sweep of Chivas USA on Wednesday, having already beaten the Southern California side 1-0 at Rio Tinto Stadium on April 20 and downing the Goats 4-1 at the StubHub Center on May 19.
The Claret-and-Cobalt has only swept Chivas USA once before, going 2-0-0 against its expansion brethren in the 2011 season.
Saborio, Morales look to continue success v. Goats
Real Salt Lake stars Alvaro Saborio and Javier Morales have both had a great deal of success against Chivas USA, with Saborio notching four goals and two assists in eight career regular season games against the Goats and Morales scoring one goal and registering five assists in 12 regular season games against the Southern California side. They’ll look to continue that success in Wednesday’s important contest.
It's been an exciting couple of days for Major League Soccer - my Twitter feed has been replete with words like "NYC", "Queens", "Yankees", "$400 million", "oil baron", and other words synonymous with big money. But for a moment, I'd like to talk about a subject that might be the soccer opposite of the New York expansion news: Ned Grabavoy. Real Salt Lake fans know better than most what Grabavoy's game is all about: Honest, hard work on both sides of the ball. He's rarely in the headlines. He's rarely in the spotlight. He's rarely up for Goal of the Week. What you get from "Grabs" is a solid, consistent effort, tidy possession, and hard tackles.
But this week the media is all abuzz with Grabavoy news, thanks to his two goals that led to RSL's lighting-up of Chivas USA on Sunday at the Home Depot Center. Don't get me wrong - it's a remarkable story to be sure. To put it in perspective, Grabavoy is in his 10th year in MLS and he has scored 10 goals. In other words, a ten-year veteran added 20% to his career goal total in 90 minutes. That's headline-worthy stuff, but I don't want to let the goals overshadow the rest of his game, because Sunday night Grabavoy was very, very good.
Take a look at Ned's passing chalkboard against Chivas. Ignore the completion percentage (more on that later) and ask yourself where most of his passes came from. The answer is, everywhere! This is what a box-to-box midfielder does - he covers all the length and width he can, helping in possession when his team has the ball and looking to win the ball back when his team doesn't. Speaking of winning the ball, Grabavoy was extraordinarily effective at that versus Chivas: His five tackles won were second-most on the team, just one behind Chris Wingert. Most of us probably would have expected that honor to belong to one of the other fullbacks or maybe Kyle Beckerman. But on Sunday, it was Grabavoy who did most of the midfield ball-winning for RSL.
Grabavoy also had RSL's best pass completion rate with 36 of 43 (83.7 percent) passes completed. That's no easy task on this team - Beckerman has lead MLS in this category for the last 2.5 seasons. Normally 84% isn't a great number, so why was it the best mark in this game? Well, the answer has everything to do with how Chivas chose to play defense. Their always-entertaining coach "Chelis" Sola elected to compress all his players into the smallest possible area in order to disrupt RSL's passing game. Honestly, it worked well; with the playable area of the field so small, every time an RSL player received a pass there he had a Chivas player nipping at his heels before he could line up a good pass. That led to a lot of incomplete passes. However, we also saw the downside of Chivas' defensive scheme: It left a lot of room behind the defense for attackers to use to run onto through balls, something Salt Lake players did with success all night (including Grabavoy, obviously).
It's a remarkable night when any RSL player nets a brace, but I would be remiss if I let Ned Grabavoy's goals overshadow his excellent overall performance on both sides of the ball.
A former RSL beat reporter for multiple outlets, Jeremy Horton is a regular contributor to RealSaltLake.com and helps cover the team for ESPN 700 AM.
Four goals for Real Salt Lake in the most open match of the season speaks well of the performance on the night, but the 4-1 scoreline over Chivas USA ignores the task facing the defense on Sunday night — as well as a tactical shift that changed the game in the second half.
Wide open: Defense steps up
The first half and much of the second half against Chivas USA last night saw Real Salt Lake playing in perhaps the most open match they've seen all season. Chances were flying back and forth, and by and large, RSL had the better of the opportunities. But some points of frustration will inevitably emerge the very back-and-forth nature of the match and the fact that it took going up 3-1 for a win to look genuinely secure.
The defense deserves real recognition for the manner in which they dealt with the Chivas attack, with Nick Rimando particularly earning plaudits for two reaction saves in the second half. But Chris Wingert, Carlos Salcedo, Nat Borchers, and Tony Beltran all stepped up to the challenge well and compensated for a more attacking mentality from RSL.
Findley on: Dynamic changes
When Robbie Findley came into the match, Chivas USA had just started to pick their heads up and respond to the challenge in front of them. With Plata and Sandoval both looking a bit tired, the home side was controlling play more readily and unafraid to push players forward in search of an equalizer. Findley's arrival on the scene saw him pushing ahead of a high line defense, with through balls and passes over the top being played into him.
With Findley screaming past the defense, they attempted to adapt and were forced back into their earlier look that had seen them concede two goals. It wouldn't be inaccurate to say that he changed the dynamic of the match. Now, that's not to say that he shouldn't have scored once, twice or maybe even three times, but when his impact is so palpable otherwise, a little forgiveness is in order.
Wingert up: Interception machine
When Chris Schuler earlier this season picked up 8 interceptions, I batted my eyes a bit with surprise. But after turning to the chalkboards last night, I could scarcely believe my eyes: Chris Wingert, who I'd already thought had a very good match, made 17 interceptions. That means that every five minutes or so, Wingert stepped into the line of a pass and regained possession for RSL. That's no small feat.
Those moments can be somewhat attributed to a poor Chivas side, but it's one thing to be poor and another to be made to look so. Had Wingert played more passively and not stepped into passing lanes, it would have been an entirely different game. Given Chivas had 18 shots — though only six on-target — allowing more opportunities would have been, at best, regrettable.