Real Salt Lake is a veteran-laden team with loads of playoff experience. That much is known.
But just how much more experienced in the rigors of the MLS Cup Playoffs than any other team in MLS was on display in the first legs of the Western Conference Semifinal Series that were played over the weekend.
After play in the first legs, Nick Rimando’s 32 career postseason matches was more than the 11 starters from FC Dallas (30), the Columbus Crew (30) and the New England Revolution (29), even after Dallas had played two playoff games this year.
Of the eight Conference Semifinalists, no team comes close to touching the 171 total playoff games from Real Salt Lake’s starting 11 against the Galaxy. LA was the nearest competition with 130 career playoff matches, followed by D.C. United with 94 and Seattle Sounders FC with 87.
Real Salt Lake’s back six alone – Rimando, Tony Beltran, Chris Schuler, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert and Kyle Beckmeran – combine for 127 career postseason matches. That is significantly more than any other team’s starting 11 outside of the Galaxy.
Below is the full chart of the playoff experience for the starting lineups from the Western Conference semifinal first leg matches.
Real Salt Lake – 171
LA Galaxy – 130
D.C. United – 94
Seattle Sounders FC – 87
New York Red Bulls – 78
FC Dallas – 30
Columbus Crew – 30
New England Revolution – 29
Real Salt Lake forward Alvaro Saborio made quite the return on Saturday against Dallas, scoring the game-winner just 14 seconds after stepping onto the pitch. The appearance was Saborio’s first since suffering a broken fifth metatarsal in his right foot while with the Costa Rican national team at the end of May. The injury saw Saborio miss the 2014 FIFA World Cup and three months of MLS play (post-injury), with his last Claret-and-Cobalt appearance coming on May 11 in the club’s 5-2 win at Houston Dynamo. RSL’s all-time leading scorer worked incredibly hard to return from his injury as fast as possible and his dedication paid off with the incredible moment on Saturday. Saborio now has seven goals on the season and 59 career regular season tallies for the Claret-and-Cobalt
Relive the spectacle in all its glory above.
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.