We’re five days away from MLS Cup 2013 between Real Salt Lake and Sporting Kansas City at Sporting Park.
Start Cup week off right with our favorite RSL Rewind, taking you back to RSL’s MLS Cup 2009 win over the LA Galaxy in Seattle. Five days, people. Five days.
Today’s date should stand out in the minds of Real Salt Lake fans as it marks the fourth anniversary of the Claret-and-Cobalt’s momentous 2009 MLS Cup win. On November 22, 2009, Real Salt Lake defeated LA Galaxy 5-4 on penalty kicks in front of 46,011 fans at Qwest Field in Seattle to win the club’s first title.
The game ended deadlocked at 1-1 after extra time, with goals from LA Galaxy forward Mike Magee in the 41st minute and an RSL equalizer in the 64th minute from forward Robbie Findley. The match then advanced to penalty kicks. LA Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Saunders, who now wears Claret-and-Cobalt, made two saves on RSL’s Kyle Beckerman and Andy Williams. LA Galaxy star Landon Donovan sent his kick high over the bar while RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando made two saves on LA’s Jovan Kirovski and Edson Buddle, the latter of which set up RSL’s Robbie Russell to score the game-winning penalty kick.
Sunday’s second leg match against Portland Timbers will provide Real Salt Lake with another opportunity to advance to MLS Cup. Several veterans remain from the 2009 Cup winning team, with Beckerman, Rimando, Findley, Nat Borchers, Javier Morales, Ned Grabavoy, Tony Beltran and injured defender Chris Wingert all a part of the team that lifted the trophy in 2009.
That experience and leadership will definitely come into play as the RSL family heads into one of the most intense environments in MLS on Sunday for the Western Conference Championship second leg – Portland's JELD-WEN Field.
LA Galaxy trends toward a less creative midfield, and even from the flanks this is largely the case. This provides a platform for three or four attacking players to showcase their abilities in tonight's Western Conference Semifinal second leg, and when your primary attacking pair is Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane, there's plenty of that. But with the opponent in a more defensive midfield, RSL will have an opportunity to utilize their creative midfield to attempt a breakthrough.
Javier Morales will look toward finding the gaps between the midfield and the defense, which inevitably pushes back the LA Galaxy midfield a bit too as they attempt to cover his movement. This opens up space in other places, which proves vital. He'll also be important for set pieces, but our reluctancy to capitalize on set pieces won't help us there. He may instead look to go directly at goal with free kicks, and who could blame him? He's scored some screamers.
Sebastian Velasquez is likely to step into Ned Grabavoy's spot on the left, and this will give him room to make diagonal runs to and away from the flanks. He'll need to capitalize in spaces vacated by Morales as he embarks on runs with and without the ball.
Luis Gil will be tasked with a bit more defensive work than usual in Grabavoy's absence, but he too will need to embark on runs. With Tony Beltran to his right, he'll be involved in plenty of interchanges with the fullback as they look to move the ball forward from the right.
Kyle Beckerman will need to be as aware as ever but eminently willing to capitalize on opportunities to break forward. His passing is never in question, and that'll be vital tonight.
Tony Beltran, as above, will need to work with Luis Gil on the right flank to move the ball forward, but he'll also need to make those overlapping runs on the right side to be effective. But beyond that, he'll have to be ready to burst back in defense. He showed incredibly well against Landon Donovan last weekend, and he'll almost surely have to do so again.
Chris Schuler will, with any luck, not be forced into so many last-ditch tackles and clearances. Instead, we'll be hoping for some balance from Schuler as he steps forward to make an interception before splaying the ball to a full back.
Alvaro Saborio pushes the side forward in important ways, but his biggest role will be in helping the midfield transition into the attack. It's a role that is masked by his goalscoring contributions (which are equally important and follow as a result of this play) — his distributive properties may not lead to high-percentage passing, but he is a chance creator.
His mystery partner remains in question. Robbie Findley offers speed, which is an obviously important factor, but he also offers a willingness to track back and at pace. Joao Plata, on the other hand, offers more finesse in attack but less counterattacking opportunity. In most factors, they end up at about sixes. Olmes Garcia offers a more mysterious option, but it's hard to see him starting, as he hasn't made the bench for the last few matches.
Seriously, no one wants another LA-Houston MLS Cup.
RSL can nip that potential matchup in the bud by advancing past the Galaxy in Thursday's Western Conference Semifinal second leg. Get out to Rio Tinto Stadium early, wear red and be loud.
Real Salt Lake will be without one of its most prominent players in Thursday's Western Conference Semifinal second leg, as midfielder Ned Grabavoy will miss the match due to a left hamstring strain picked up in Sunday's 1-0 first leg loss at LA.
RSL Head Coach Jason Kreis told media on Wednesday that Grabavoy will not play due to the injury. The veteran midfielder left Sunday's match in the 61st minute after picking up the knock earlier in the match.
Grabavoy had a career year in the 2013 regular season, scoring five goals and tallying five assists in 32 appearances - 29 of which were starts - for the Claret-and-Cobalt. Look for Sebastian Velasquez to be a candidate to replace Grabavoy in the starting lineup on Thursday.
This is likely old hat for most of you, but - just in case - we wanted to outline the scenarios that will see RSL advance past the second leg of the Western Conference Semifinals at Rio Tinto Stadium on Thursday.
Here we go. RSL will advance past LA and into the Western Conference Final against either Portland or Seattle with:
- A win by two or more goals after 90 minutes on Thursday night
A win by one goal in regulation on Thursday, followed by:
- Winning outright after completion of the two, 15-minute extra time periods
- Winning a penalty kick shootout, should extra time end with the sides still tied
The Claret-and-Cobalt's season will end on Thursday with any other outcome.
The winner of the RSL-LA Western Conference Semifinal will advance to the Western Conference Final against the winner of the Portland-Seattle semi. The Timbers lead the Sounders 2-1 after last Saturday's first leg; Portland will host Seattle in the decisive second leg at 9:00 p.m. MT on Thursday. The two-legged Western Conference Final series will begin this Sunday, Nov. 10, with the lower remaining seed hosting the first leg.
Real Salt Lake dropped the first leg of its Western Conference Semifinal series with the LA Galaxy on Sunday night, losing 1-0 at StubHub Center.
Here are a few interesting numbers from the match:
Real Salt Lake and LA Galaxy have now met in the playoffs three times, posting a 1-2-0 record against the California side in the postseason. Before Sunday’s loss, the Claret-and-Cobalt beat the Galaxy in penalties in MLS Cup 2009 in Seattle and lost 3-1 to LA in the 2011 Western Conference Final in Carson.
With Real Salt Lake’s 1-0 loss to LA Galaxy, the Claret-and-Cobalt must win the series’ decisive second leg on Thursday at Rio Tinto Stadium in order to have a shot at advancing to the Western Conference Final. If the teams are tied on aggregate at the end of regulation in Thursday’s second leg, there will be a pair of 15-minute extra time periods. If the teams remain tied following extra time, the series will be decided by a penalty kick shootout.
Sunday’s match marked the fourth time this season that Real Salt Lake did not start a match in its usual diamond formation. The Claret-and-Cobalt were 3-0-0 in the previous three times they departed from the diamond setup, beating Toronto FC 1-0 at BMO Field on June 29, topping FC Dallas 3-0 at Toyota Stadium on July 13 and beating the Houston Dynamo 1-0 at Rio Tinto Stadium on Aug. 10.
Real Salt Lake now posts a 5-9-1 road at LA Galaxy in all competitions. Before Real Salt Lake’s 4-2 loss to LA Galaxy at StubHub Center on Aug. 17, the Claret-and-Cobalt had won five straight games at the StubHub Center (formerly known as the Home Depot Center). RSL had gone 5-0-0 (2-0-0 against LA; 3-0-0 against Chivas USA) at the Carson facility since the start of the 2012 MLS season.
Real Salt Lake and LA Galaxy have now scored the exact number of goals – 45 – against each other across all MLS competition.
Real Salt Lake has recorded a 5-3-4 record at home against LA Galaxy and will host the defending MLS Cup champions this Thursday at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Real Salt Lake trained on Saturday for the final time ahead of Sunday’s Western Conference Semifinal first leg at LA, putting in a light – but spirited – training session at a StubHub Center practice field ahead of Sunday’s 7:00 p.m. MT kick against the Galaxy.
Nothing major to report from training, though there was a light-hearted shooting contest that took place at the end of the session.
Check out the video above to see some footage from today’s practice and be sure to tune-in to the first leg on ESPN on Sunday night at 7:00 p.m. MT.
MLSsoccer.com's Matt Doyle and Dan Haiek put out another fine edition of The Scouting Report ahead of Sunday's Western Conference Semifinal series first leg between Real Salt Lake and LA Galaxy at StubHub Center. Their keys? Chris Schuler and Nat Borchers v. Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan and Javier Morales v. Juninho.
Check out the video above. Well worth a watch.