He didn't get the result he wanted, but Real Salt Lake midfielder Luis Gil had a great game in the U.S. U-20's 4-1 loss to Spain in their FIFA U-20 World Cup opener on Friday, curling in a fantastic goal in the 77th minute and putting in the best performance of any American in the match.
Gil looked lively throughout, playing numerous gorgeous through balls, making dangerous on-the-ball runs and keeping his composure for the entire 90 minutes. His goal was an absolute thing of beauty, with the 19-year-old Southern California native curling a 24-yard left-footer past Spain's 'keeper and into the top right corner from just left of center.
Click here to see some (grainy) footage of Luis's goal. We'll try and update with higher quality video as soon as possible.
Update: Not sure how you could've read this far and missed it, but - just in case - check out Luis's goal up above. It's at the 3:37 mark.
If you're anything like me, when things in the soccer world are going well, life just seems to be a little bit better. It's hard not to leave Rio Tinto Stadium with a smile when your team earns three well-deserved points. If it seems like your post-game walk to the car has often been a happy one lately, that's because it has - teams that call Rio Tinto Stadium home have been extraordinarily successful as of late. Consider the following:
- RSL is on fire in MLS play right now. Since the beginning of May, the Claret-and-Cobalt have collected a league-best 16 points in just 7 matches. Along the way they've found the back of the net a whopping 17 times. At home they've taken 10 of a possible 12 points with a goal differential of +7.
- While all that MLS action was going down, RSL also managed to find success in U.S. Open Cup play. May/June saw two home contests, both won by RSL, both against lower-division foes, though it wasn't easy as both games went into extra time before Salt Lake could secure the victories. As in MLS play, goals have been plentiful for Real in the USOC as they've managed to score eight times in those two matches, with five of those goals coming in 60 total minutes of extra time played.
- The weather wasn't all that was hot on Tuesday night as the U.S. Men's National Team continued their torrid run of form in dispatching Honduras 1-0 in the CONCACAF Hexagonal. The U.S. men started their streak of good results on June 2 with a thumping of world soccer power Germany 4-3 in a final tuneup before three straight World Cup Qualifiers. After that they took their show on the road in Jamaica where a dramatic stoppage-time goal by Brad Evans gave the Red, White, and Blue three crucial road points. All eyes then focused on Seattle where the Nats easily handled Panama with perhaps their best showing in the last few years, setting the stage for this week's victory at Rio Tinto. That win was the U.S.'s fourth straight, giving the team all nine possible points in World Cup qualifying in June. With six games down and four to go, the U.S. is now in command of The Hex from the top of the table, two points ahead of Costa Rica and five points clear of Mexico. It's not over until it's over, but thanks to the current hot streak we all got to be a part of, the U.S. is a virtual lock for the 2014 World Cup.
It's interesting to note that the U.S. men and Real Salt Lake have found their recent success by different means. For the U.S. team, their success has come from stability - for the first time in a long time, lineups and player personnel decisions were consistent. For RSL, their success has come from versatility - with the crowded schedule, injuries, and international absences, most of the roster has seen minutes in MLS and/or U.S. Open Cup play. For the U.S. team, their scoring load has been shouldered by Jozy Altidore who has scored in all four of the States' recent wins, while for RSL, their scoring load has been spread far and wide - nine different players have scored since the start of May. This goes to show that what two teams need to be successful are not necessarily the same. It also illustrates the difference between a cluster of three games followed by a long break (where consistency is needed) vs. the constant grind of a nine-month MLS season (where flexibility is needed).
If you've missed out on these red-hot teams in their various competitions, don't fret - both clubs will be back at Rio Tinto shortly.
- RSL has three MLS home games in the next month, starting this Saturday with Seattle paying a visit. This is a great chance for RSL to continue their strong run in league play while climbing the table and also putting some distance between them and a Western Conference foe.
- Real will be contesting their U.S. Open Cup Quarterfinal match at home next Wednesday against Carolina. If you've never given the USOC a chance, this would be a good time to see what it's all about. We've seen two good matches already, but the U.S. Open Cup gets even more compelling starting now as teams realize that they're only a couple of wins away from a CONCACAF Champions League berth. You will see playoff-atmosphere soccer in this one, especially considering the winner hosts a USOC Semifinal against Portland or Dallas.
- The U.S. men will be back to Rio Tinto on July 13 for a Gold Cup tilt against Cuba. Granted, this won't be the strongest team the U.S. is capable of fielding, but it gives us a look at some up-and-coming players on the national scene. Nothing is for certain but this game could have a couple RSL players featuring prominently while the likes of Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey get a well-deserved vacation. Plus it's still high-level international soccer; if you haven't experienced international soccer, it has a unique vibe to it. Everyone needs to be a part of something like this at least once.
We've been blessed with lots of great soccer - and great teams - at Rio Tinto Stadium recently, and it's not over yet. See you out here!
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.
U.S. Men’s National Team Manager Jurgen Klinsmann sure seems like a fan of Salt Lake City.
Klinsmann was very complimentary of SLC and Real Salt Lake on Friday in a U.S. Soccer Q&A ahead of Tuesday’s World Cup Qualifier against Honduras at Rio Tinto Stadium. Good thing, too: After spending six days in town ahead of Tuesday’s qualifier, Klinsmann and the USMNT will return to Utah in just a few short weeks for its July 13 CONCACAF Gold Cup match against Cuba in Sandy.
Here’s what Klinsmann’s expecting from Tuesday’s sold-out Rio Tinto Stadium crowd:
”Everybody was thrilled to experience Seattle [where the U.S. beat Panama 2-0 on June 11]. Everybody said afterwards, ‘Wow, this was definitely the right decision to go all the way to the Northwest from Jamaica.’ We spent eight hours on the plane, but then we were thrilled because the support was just amazing and we expect the same at Rio Tinto Stadium. We know this is a very passionate crowd, they love soccer here in Salt Lake and what happens with Real Salt Lake similar to the Sounders is just wonderful. It shows how strong MLS has become, how strong soccer has become in this country. It’s more proof of it, and therefore we can’t wait to start that game. I’m sure the fans will carry us through the game, help us to push the envelope, help us keep the energy high and help get these three points that we badly need.”
U.S. Soccer published a nice video piece on Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando on Sunday ahead of Tuesday's World Cup Qualifier against Honduras at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Check it out to get Nick's thoughts on being with the national team, plus some added color from his U.S. teammates Tim Howard, Michael Bradley and Sacha Kljestan.
Real Salt Lake midfielder Luis Gil suffered a setback in the U.S. Under-20’s friendly win over Portugal on Friday, starting and coming off in the 40th minute after colliding heads with a Portuguese defender.
Gil joined the U-20’s last week for a training camp in Portugal ahead of the U-20 World Cup in Turkey. The U.S. is drawn into the tournament’s “Group of Death” with Spain, France and Ghana. The Stars-and-Stripes will open the tournament against Spain next Friday. The top two teams from each of the six groups and the top-four third-place teams in the tournament will advance to the Round of 16.
There’s no word yet on the severity of Gil’s injury. We’ll update as soon as we know more.
Update (5:45 p.m. MT on Friday): Sounds like Gil will be alright. According to a U.S. Soccer representative, the 19-year-old midfielder substition was merely precautionary.
RSL's Kyle Beckerman, Tony Beltran, Nick Rimando and Alvaro Saborio were all named on Friday to preliminary rosters for this summer's CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Beckerman, Beltran and Rimando were all named to Jurgen Klinsman's U.S. roster while Saborio was named to Costa Rica's preliminary team. The preliminary rosters will be trimmed down from 35 to to 23 ahead of the tournament's start in July. Managers will be allowed to call up to four players from the preliminary roster that were not initally on the 23-man roster following the tournament's Group Stage.
Both Saborio and Rimando will go on international duty prior to the Gold Cup, with Saborio leaving on Sunday to join Costa Rica for three World Cup Qualifiers and Rimando meeting up with the U.S. team on June 9 for its June 11 qualifier against Panama in Seattle and its July 18 match against Honduras here at Rio Tinto Stadium. Rimando is one of four 'keepers on the U.S.'s preliminary roster along with Houston's Tally Hall, D.C.'s Bill Hamid and Chicago's Sean Johnson. The RSL backstop figures to play a major role for the Stars-and-Stripes at the Gold Cup.
U.S. national team midfielder Jermaine Jones has been ruled out of Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier at Mexico due to an ankle injury, possibly opening the door for RSL captain Kyle Beckerman to start for the Stars-and-Stripes at Estadio Azteca.
Beckerman came on as a late game defensive substitute in the U.S.’s 1-0 win over Costa Rica on Friday, entering the match in the 89th minute for forward Herculez Gomez.
The Claret-and-Cobalt captain has experience at Estadio Azteca, playing a very solid 90 minutes and starting the play that led to the goal in the U.S.’s historic 1-0 friendly win over El Tri in Mexico City on Aug. 15, 2012.
At least one prominent media member thinks Beckerman will get the start on Tuesday, with Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl tweeting Sunday that he sees Beckerman coming into the midfield and Maurice Edu slotting in at center back.
Think we might see Edu in central defense, Beckerman replacing Jones vs Mexico.
— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) March 24, 2013
Beckerman, RSL defender Tony Beltran and RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando will suit up for the U.S. at Mexico on Tuesday night. The match will kickoff at 8:30 p.m. MT and will be broadcast live on ESPN and Univision.
With the proliferation of soccer-specific stadiums around the country, U.S. Soccer has more options than ever when it comes to hosting important matches on American soil. Today's announcement from U.S. Soccer that Rio Tinto Stadium will host the USA vs. Honduras in a CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying match - on top of another U.S. Men's National Team appearance during the Gold Cup - solidifies the notion that Sandy is one of the most coveted destinations for our national team.
So why does U.S. Soccer smile so brightly upon Utah, which is the country's smallest soccer market? Quite simply, it's about one thing: Home field advantage.
Historically, the Salt Lake area has shown some of the most pro-U.S. crowds anywhere - this is key when it comes to putting opponents at a disadvantage. We all hear the stories of the kinds of partisan crowds the U.S. faces when they go on the road in CONCACAF, and the crowd at Rio Tinto is the closest we in the U.S. come to paying back the favor. "When we ask the question 'where is the biggest support for us throughout the country?,' Salt Lake always comes up in that discussion," said U.S. men's head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. "It has been proven in the past that this is another venue where we can rock the boat."
The results bear out Klinsmann's sentiments. The U.S. National Teams - all ages and genders - are a combined 4-0-0 in Salt Lake City, including two victories for the men in two previous World Cup Qualifiers. They beat Costa Rica 3-0 in 2005 at Rice-Eccles Stadium and El Salvador 2-1 at Rio Tinto in 2009.
On top of the crowd support, the 4400-foot altitude tends to work in the U.S.'s favor, and it should again in June when they face a Honduras team that plays its home games at 250 feet above sea level. If the U.S. can get an early lead and force Honduras to chase the ball, the visitors will be at the mercy of Sandy's thin air.
Of the World Cup Qualifiers we've hosted here in Utah, this one is shaping up to be the most crucial to the U.S. Honduras currently sits at the top of the table in the hexagonal, having just beaten the U.S. in Honduras, and they are one of the favorites to qualify for next year's World Cup. Depending on what happens between now and then, the match at Rio Tinto could be a make-or-break game for the U.S. if they want to qualify for Brazil 2014.
If the past is any indication, if you're the U.S. and you're facing a must-win game, then this really is the place.
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.
Real Salt Lake has learned that star forward Alvaro Saborio's injury is not serious and that it shouldn't keep him out of Friday's U.S.-Costa Rica World Cup qualifier.
Saborio, who has all three of RSL's goals this year, bruised his knee while training with the Costa Rican national team ahead of Friday's game. Costa Rican media outlet Deportes Repretel reported on Wednesday that Saborio was doubtful to start on Friday's match due to the injury.
Friday's qualifier will kickoff at 8 p.m. MT from Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo. and will be broadcast live on ESPN. RSL players Tony Beltran, Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando are in the U.S. squad for the match.
Beltran, Beckerman, Rimando, Saborio and Abdoulie Mansally (Gambia) will all miss Saturday's RSL at FC Dallas match while on international duty. Both the U.S. and Costa Rica will play a second Hexagonal match on March 26, with the Stars-and-Stripes taking on Mexico at Estadio Azteca and Costa Rica hosting Jamaica.
Real Salt Lake forward Alvaro Saborio suffered a slight knee injury while training with Costa Rica and is doubtful to start Friday's World Cup qualifier at the U.S., according to a report from Costa Rican outlet Deportes Repretel.
RSL has been in touch with the Costa Rican federation regarding Saborio's injury and is monitoring the situation closely.
Costa Rica will take on the U.S. in a Hexagonal match at Dick's Sporting Goods Park outside Denver on Friday night (8 p.m. MT; ESPN). The Costa Rican captain, Saborio has one goal and one assist in four appearances - all starts - against the Stars-and-Stripes. Costa Rica has a 3-0-1 record in those games.
Saborio's RSL teammates Tony Beltran, Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando are all in the U.S. squad for Friday's game.
Los Ticos will host Jamaica in another Hex match on March 26.