Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas will meet for the second time this season on Friday night, with the Claret-and-Cobalt heading to Texas in search of its second-ever win at FCD. Friday's game will kick at 7:00 p.m. MT and will be nationally broadcast on NBC Sports Network.
Here are a few storylines to watch ahead of the match:
RSL looking to stay atop the west; continue six-game unbeaten run
The Claret-and-Cobalt has emerged from its mid-summer slump, now going unbeaten in its last six games for a 4-0-2 record. RSL is also currently riding a three-game win streak in the month of August, defeating Colorado Rapids 2-1 on Aug. 2, downing D.C. United 3-0 on Aug. 9 and topping Seattle Sounders FC 2-1 on Aug. 16.
The win over the Sounders last Saturday moved the Claret-and-Cobalt to the top of the Western Conference and inserted RSL into the Supporters’ Shield race with an with a current 11-4-9 record and total of 42 points. RSL is currently tied for first in the league on points with Sporting Kansas City, but the MLS Cup foe has the slight edge with one more win than the Utah club to break the deadlock.
Real Salt Lake has a difficult end to the season with 10 games remaining – six on the road and four at home – all against competitive Western Conference teams. A win on Friday in Dallas will surely help keep the Claret-and-Cobalt in the conversation for both top spots, especially with Seattle only one point behind RSL and only nine points separating RSL and fifth-place Vancouver Whitecaps FC, who occupy the final playoff spot.
Will RSL be able to quell Dallas’ dangerous attack?
The Claret-and-Cobalt will have its hands full on Friday, when it takes on what some argue is the most dangerous attack in MLS. FC Dallas has been on a roll of its own, going unbeaten in its last nine games and winning three straight. Dallas enter Friday’s match coming off a 5-0 thrashing of San Jose Earthquakes at Buck Shaw Stadium last weekend. MLS rookie striker Tesho Akindele notched his first professional hat trick and forward Fabian Castillo recorded a brace in the 5-0 demolition. The Hoops’ attacking duo has been on fire lately, as Akindele has scored six goals in Dallas’ last six matches and Castillo has five goals and three assists in their last six.
RSL’s back line will have to be particularly aware of the dangerous duo, whose speed and confidence will be especially difficult in a hostile and sweltering environment on Friday.
Can RSL beat the odds in Texas?
RSL has struggled historically in Texas, recording its first-ever win in the Lone Star State last year. The Claret-and-Cobalt defeated FC Dallas 3-0 on July 13, 2013 at Toyota Stadium, a win that also marked the club’s 100th regular season victory in MLS. The Claret-and-Cobalt continued to make history in Texas this year, defeating Houston Dynamo for the first time at BBVA Compass Stadium with a 5-2 win on May 11.
Even though RSL has had recent success in Texas, the Claret-and-Cobalt won’t have history on its side as RSL posts a 1-11-2 record at Dallas across all competitions. In 12 regular season matches at FCD, RSL has only recorded nine goals while allowing 21. Despite RSL’s poor all-time record in Texas, the Utah club should be at full strength when the two sides meet on Friday, although the status of midfielder Javier Morales is still TBD. RSL was able to pull off last year’s 3-0 win with an unfamiliar lineup as Captain Kyle Beckerman, defender Tony Beltran, goalkeeper Nick Rimando and forward Alvaro Saborio were all unavailable due to international duty. Let’s hope a confident and healthy Real Salt Lake can work some magic and make it two in a row on Friday.
The last time Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas met in Texas, RSL won its first-ever match in the Lone Star State with a 3-0 rout on July 13, 2013. The victory also marked the Claret-and-Cobalt’s 100th regular season win in MLS. RSL MF Javier Morales, MF Ned Grabavoy and FW Olmes Garcia provided the goals in a match that was missing multiple key players – Captain Kyle Beckerman, DF Tony Beltran, GK Nick Rimando and FW Alvaro Saborio were all unavailable due to international duty.
Get pumped for Friday’s match by reliving all the action from last summer’s historic win.
Ahead of Real Salt Lake’s clash with FC Dallas at Toyota Stadium on Friday (7:00 p.m. MT, NBC Sports Network), check out MLSsoccer.com’s latest MLS Now segment. Andrew Wiebe takes a closer look at Dallas’ potent attack after the Texas side demolished San Jose Earthquakes 5-0 at Buck Shaw Stadium last weekend. FCD rookie striker Tesho Akindele notched a hat trick while forward Fabian Castillo ran rampant over the field, recording a brace, to improve the Hoops’ undefeated streak to nine games. The Claret-and-Cobalt – which has only beat Dallas once in Texas – will have its hands full on Friday if the speedy duo remain in their impressive form.
Is FC Dallas’ attack the most dangerous in MLS?
Real Salt Lake will look to stay unbeaten on the 2014 season on Saturday, hosting FC Dallas at 7:30 p.m. MT at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Here are a few storylines to watch ahead of Saturday’s match:
Can RSL tie the all-time record for longest unbeaten start to a season?
With a result on Saturday, RSL can move its unbeaten streak to 12 games in 2014. Should the Claret-and-Cobalt pick up a result, they’d tie the 1996 and 2010 LA Galaxy and 2000 Kansas City Wizards for the longest unbeaten streak to start a season in MLS history. It should be noted that all three of those teams had much better records through 12 games than RSL will, with the ’96 Galaxy posting a 12-0-0 mark in MLS’ shootout era and the 2010 Galaxy and 2000 Wizards both posting a 10-0-2 record.
Can Cassar continue his rise up the record books?
Real Salt Lake Head Coach Jeff Cassar could also make a bit of history on Saturday night, as a RSL result would tie him with 1996 LA Head Coach Lothar Osiander for the longest unbeaten streak to start a MLS managing career at 12 games. Sadly, Cassar can’t touch Osiander’s record through 12 games – the Galaxy’s inaugural coach was 12-0-0 in 1996.
Cassar faces off against former team
Saturday’s match will be a reunion of sorts for Cassar, who played for Dallas from 1996-97 and 2003-2006 and served as an assistant coach for the Hoops for the first half of the 2007 season before moving to RSL in May of that year. Cassar was hampered by injuries and served as a backup at times in Dallas, playing just 33 MLS matches in his six years in Texas.
Former teammates Cassar and Pareja set for matchup
Cassar and FC Dallas Head Coach Oscar Pareja’s relationship goes way back, with the two playing together in Dallas from 2003-2005, before Pareja retired to become an FCD assistant. Pareja spent the last two years as head coach in Colorado before moving this offseason to Dallas, where he played and coached from 1998-2011. The former Colombian international started his FCD tenure brightly but his side has fallen off of late, losing five of its last six matches.
Will Morales stay hot?
RSL maestro Javier Morales has been red hot recently, scoring four goals and adding two assists in the Claret-and-Cobalt’s last two matches. He’ll look to continue that recent success Saturday night against FCD, against whom he has three goals and six assists in 11 career regular season matches.
Real Salt Lake registered its first ever win in Texas last summer, when the team overcame the absence of four key players due to international duty to win 3-0 at FC Dallas on July 13, 2013.
Despite playing without Gold Cup participants Captain Kyle Beckerman, goalkeeper Nick Rimando, forward Alvaro Saborio and defender Tony Beltran, RSL still romped over FCD, getting a spectacular one goal, two assist performance from midfielder Javier Morales and tallies from Ned Grabavoy and Olmes Garcia to beat Dallas 3-0. The win was RSL’s 100th in regular season play and the team’s first in 23 matches in the Lone Star State. The match also marked Jeff Attinella’s debut, with the then-third-string ‘keeper coming on for an injured Josh Saunders, who suffered a torn ACL in the game.
RSL will again be without Beckerman, Rimando and Saborio this Saturday, when the Claret-and-Cobalt will host FC Dallas at 7:30 p.m. MT at Rio Tinto Stadium. Check out the highlights of last July’s win before Saturday’s match, and let’s hope for a similar result this weekend.
The Real Salt Lake-Arizona Academy kept rolling at the Generation adidas Cup on Friday night, beating hosts FC Dallas 3-0 at Toyota Stadium in the tournament’s semifinals to advance to Sunday’s GA Cup Final against Stoke City.
RSL dominated FCD in Friday’s semifinal, outshooting Dallas 22-3 to cruise to an easy victory. Sebastian “Bofo” Saucedo and Josh Doughty powered the Claret-and-Cobalt to victory, with Saucedo scoring a fantastic goal to put RSL up 1-0 in the 32nd minute and Doughty scoring in the 40th and 44th minutes to seal passage to Sunday’s final. Saucedo’s goal was stunning, with the Utah-native chipping a 35-yard lob over the FCD goalkeeper and into the back left corner of the net.
— Real Salt Lake (@RealSaltLake) April 19, 2014
RSL will take on Stoke City in the GA Cup Final at 10 a.m. MT on Sunday morning; the match will be streamed live on MLSsoccer.com. RSL and Stoke played a wild match in the tournament’s group stage, trading late goals to tie 2-2 in regulation before RSL prevailed in a penalty kick shootout.
Every member of the RSL family will have their sights set on Portland this weekend, with the Claret-and-Cobalt set to take on the Timbers in a huge match at JELD-WEN Field at 8:30 p.m. on CW30 on Saturday night.
While Portland is the center of the Real Salt Lake – and, frankly, MLS – universe this weekend, there are plenty of other matches around the league that will affect RSL’s place in the standings. We’ve listed those matches below, along with some info on who you should be pulling for.
Sporting Kansas City v. D.C. United – 6:00 p.m. MT on NBC Sports Network
This might be a tad difficult in the wake of D.C.’s win over RSL in the Open Cup Final on Oct. 1, but Claret-and-Cobalt fans should be rooting for United to pull the upset at Sporting Park on Friday night. Kansas City and RSL have identical records, with the Claret-and-Cobalt leading SKC in the Supporters’ Shield standings by virtue of the goals scored tiebreaker. A little breathing room couldn’t hurt, however – pull for Ben Olsen’s squad.
FC Dallas v. Seattle Sounders FC – 12:30 p.m. MT on NBC
All those games in hand didn’t go exactly to plan for Seattle, which has lost its last three matches by a combined margin of 10-2. Despite the recent run of poor for, the Sounders are still just one point behind RSL in the standings, sitting in fourth-place in the Western Conference. Pull for Dallas – which announced on Friday that Head Coach Schellas Hyndman won’t return to his post in 2014 – in this nationally televised contest in Frisco.
Colorado Rapids v. Vancouver Whitecaps FC – 4:00 p.m. MT on Altitude
Pretty simple calculus in this one. Do what you do so well, RSL fans: Root against the Rapids. A Colorado loss or tie would lock up a playoff spot for RSL. Pull for the ‘Caps to get a result on the road.
Houston Dynamo v. New York Red Bulls – 2:00 p.m. MT on UniMas
This one won’t impact the Western Conference race, but it does hold huge implications in the battle for the Supporters’ Shield. New York currently sits atop the league table with 53 points, ahead of Portland by virtue of the wins tiebreaker. If RSL is to have any hope of lifting the Supporters’ Shield this season, the Red Bulls will have to lose or tie one of their final two matches. Both are tough – New York finishes the season at home against what will be a desperate Chicago side – but Houston is a notoriously difficult place to play. Pull for the Dynamo to take all three at BBVA Compass Stadium.
LA Galaxy v. San Jose Earthquakes – 7:00 p.m. MT on ESPN
With San Jose effectively unable to pass the Claret-and-Cobalt in the West standings, pull for the Quakes to topple the Galaxy at the StubHub Center on Sunday. LA is inching up on RSL – just one point behind heading into the weekend – and it would be good for the Utah side if Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane and Co. dropped points to their California rival.
Make sure to tune-in to all of these matches this weekend. All five will be available to watch in Utah, with four on national TV and the fifth – Colorado v. Vancouver – on the Altitude network.
Best of all is that none of the above games conflict with the main event: RSL at Portland. 8:30 p.m. MT. CW30 and MLSsoccer.com as the Stream of the Week.
Real Salt Lake was able to earn a hard-fought point on Saturday, drawing FC Dallas 1-1 despite going down a man in the 17th minute.
Here are some interesting numbers from Saturday’s match:
Rio Tinto Stadium was sold-out on Saturday night, with 20,488 fans filling the RioT to capacity for the seventh time this season. The sellout was the third consecutive full house at the Sandy facility.
With Saturday’s draw, Real Salt Lake maintains the lead in the Western Conference with a total of 52 points, one point ahead of second-place Seattle Sounders FC.
The Claret-and-Cobalt remains competitive in the Supporters’ Shield race, currently sitting in second-place, one point behind the league-leading New York Red Bulls.
Real Salt Lake is currently looking to qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs for the sixth-straight year. The Claret-and-Cobalt could clinch its berth in the postseason before it plays its next game on Oct. 19 at Portland, as a San Jose loss or tie against Colorado on Wednesday would put RSL in the playoffs.
Should San Jose beat Colorado on Wednesday, RSL would clinch a postseason berth with a win at Portland on Oct. 19. The Claret-and-Cobalt would effectively clinch a spot in the postseason with a tie at Portland through tiebreakers held over San Jose.
A sixth-consecutive postseason qualification which would tie RSL for the second longest such streak in MLS history with the New York Red Bulls (Six years; 2003-2008), trailing only the New England Revolution (Eight years; 2002-2009). RSL’s current streak of five consecutive MLS Cup Playoff berths is the longest active run of postseason qualification in the league.
RSL was shown its sixth red card of the season on Saturday, when defender Abdoulie Mansally was ejected in the 17th minute for a late tackle on Dallas’ Jackson. The Claret-and-Cobalt is 1-2-3 in the six league games it’s gotten a red card in this year.
Forward Alvaro Saborio scored his 11th goal of the 2013 season in the 60th minute, working his way around three defenders to strike a half-volley inside the left post from 12 yards out. Despite playing in just 14 league games, Saborio is now in a three-way tie for fifth place in the MLS Budweiser Golden Boot standings.
In the 2013 MLS regular season, Real Salt Lake has a 9-2-4 record at home. The Claret-and-Cobalt is 73-31-38 all-time at home.
Saturday's match against FC Dallas pits a team desperate for a win and a chance at making the playoffs, the Texas side, and a team with one last chance to push for a chance at the Supporters' Shield, the Utah side. The difference becomes rather moot: Both are going to be fighting tooth and nail for a chance.
Jason Kreis told reporters after Tuesday's loss that he had to consider recent results when concocting the group that will take us into the playoffs. That won't be an easy task. Some have been very, very good; others have been poor at best. But when some of those excellent players are young and inconsistent, and some of those poor players are veterans and generally more consistent than not, you've got to wonder if the world has simply gone topsy-turvy for a month.
But it remains the case that we have a deep squad, and we have little reason to not use it now. We may as well throw all of the noodles at the wall to see what sticks, and Jason Kreis undoubtedly recognizes that. So who might he play on Saturday?
Chris Schuler will certainly get another run out, and maybe he'll be partnered by Brandon McDonald again. Both players showed well a week ago, and the calm with which they steadied the back line was admirable. Abdoulie Mansally might get a run on the left, and Lovel Palmer might get a run on the right. (I'd wager one or the other and not both.) Robbie Findley might be back in contention after a knee problem seemed to have kept him out of Tuesday. Finally, Luis Gil will almost assuredly be back in the lineup after having an emergency appendectomy on Sunday. (I mean, really — can't these kids keep their appendixes (appendices?) under control for a day?)
Speed demons, and how to slay them
The immediate options are thus: 1) Run an offside trap, or 2) Play a deeper defensive line to halt opportunities.
If we're playing a less experienced defensive setup, the offside trap seems an unwise gambit. A deeper defensive line, though, would create greater gaps between the defense and the midfield, which brings with it its own set of tactical issues.
But at this point in the season, the only direction in which we can really travel is upward, and only if we string together a great run of results. Our playoff spot is very nearly secured, and a proactive approach is necessary if we're to aim for a Supporters' Shield surprise.
It's a risky thing, but when you need a win, you really have to play for a win, consequences be damned. Let's move the defenders forward, be prepared for Dallas to break with pace, and let the match be its inevitably open self.