Fantastic video by Real Salt Lake videographer slick Nick Lamping ahead of Saturday's 7:30 p.m. kickoff between RSL and LA.
Three key absences for Real Salt Lake sounds a difficult proposition to handle, but options for each position — in the midfield, in defense, and up front — could mean RSL is in a better tactical position than one might readily imagine ahead of Saturday's home match against LA.
No Luis Gil means we'll be looking for a midfielder to take his place. Two options readily present themselves: Sebastian Velasquez has shown well this season and is stepping up in the system, but Khari Stephenson provides veteran experience and looked strong last week. The most reasonable approach, to my mind: Stephenson starts, Velasquez comes off the bench. Stephenson can manage the game well in midfield and provide a safe outlet; Velasquez can come on late and be his creative, spark self.
No Chris Schuler leads to a continuation with either Kwame Watson-Siriboe or Carlos Salcedo. Both have showed well so far, and Watson-Siriboe was massive against a pesky San Jose side. Watson-Siriboe had a rocky start to his season, but should he continue to impress, worries about an injured Chris Schuler might ease somewhat. Carlos Salcedo is a natural bench option with an eye on a Wednesday start.
No Alvaro Saborio leaves us again wondering about a tactical scenario. Is the Plata-Findley pairing for real? Can it work? It's hard to deny that chances have been created, and Saturday saw us looking somewhat near very, very good. Olmes Garcia could be an option but is likely to be eased back from injury, while Devon Sandoval might not yet be the sort of player that can dominate the Galaxy defense. But Plata-Findley presents its own challenges from a tactical perspective, but if those can be overcome, it's hard to argue with the selection.
It all leaves Real Salt Lake in an interesting position against one of MLS's better sides, but it leaves a good tactical position open. With the tendencies of Plata and Findley to drift wide, opportunities for midfielders emerge. Javier Morales is in fine form, Ned Grabavoy is in the best goalscoring form of his career, Khari Stephenson has a cannon of a foot and Kyle Beckerman can swing in the late shots himself.
The surprise? The Findley-Plata pairing could be one of our better options up front, regardless of injury concerns and international duty. The win against San Jose, however poor they've been this season, is partly owed to the results of effective movement up top, drawing defenders into poor positions and creating channels for midfield runs. Seeing more of that on Saturday would be precisely the sort of thing RSL needs to handle the Galaxy.
Real Salt Lake is set to continue its home stand on Saturday night, when it will take on the LA Galaxy at 7:30 p.m. at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Here are a few interesting storylines ahead of Saturday’s match:
RSL out for revenge
Real Salt Lake and the Galaxy have already met once this season, with RSL coming out flat and giving up two early goals to fall to LA 2-0 at Rio Tinto Stadium on April 27.
RSL has posted a strong 5-1-1 record across all competitions since that match, but a bad taste still lingers. The Claret-and-Cobalt will want to remove that once and for all on Saturday with a win in its second – and final – home game of the regular season against the rival Galaxy.
While RSL has been hot since the April 27 meeting at Rio Tinto Stadium, LA has been in a slide, posting a 2-5-0 mark across all competitions since taking all three points on the Wasatch Front five weeks ago.
LA was blown out in its last match, giving up four second half goals to fall 5-0 at the New England Revolution on Sunday. After that performance, it’s a safe bet that the Galaxy will come into Saturday’s game focused and very, very hungry for a result.
Morales successful against Galaxy
Much like he does against San Jose, RSL midfielder Javier Morales has a very strong track record against the Galaxy, scoring five goals and tallying five assists in 12 career regular season games against LA.
Morales gave San Jose fits last week, scoring a goal and adding an assist in RSL’s 3-0 win over the Quakes last Saturday. The Claret-and-Cobalt is hoping he’ll be able to match that performance this weekend as he looks to strengthen his solid track record against the Galaxy.
The away team has won the last four games between Real Salt Lake and LA dating back to RSL’s 3-1 win at the Galaxy in the 2012 season opener. That’s a very odd statistic in any series, let alone one in which both teams are traditionally tough at home.
RSL, obviously, will be hoping to end that mark on Saturday with a win over its longtime Western Conference rival.
Both sides will be missing key players on Saturday due to international duty. RSL will be without three players, missing forward Alvaro Saborio (Costa Rica) and defender Abdoulie Mansally (Gambia) due to World Cup Qualifiers and midfielder Luis Gil (U.S.), who is with the U.S. Under-20’s ahead of this month’s FIFA U-20 World Cup. LA will be without star forward Robbie Keane (Ireland) and defender Omar Gonzalez (U.S.) for World Cup Qualifiers and U.S. U-20 Oscar Sorto. The Galaxy could also be without U.S. U-20 forward Jose Villarreal depending on when he departs for the team’s pre-World Cup camp.
Real Salt Lake's April 27 match against the LA Galaxy didn't go so well - the Claret-and-Cobalt conceded two early goals and couldn't break down LA's defense, eventually falling 2-0 at home to the back-to-back defending champs.
RSL takes on LA at Rio Tinto Stadium for the second - and final - time this regular season at 7:30 on Saturday night. The Claret-and-Cobalt will be looking to exact a bit of payback on its longtime rival. Help the team out - show up early, wear red and, of course, be loud.
Former LA Galaxy icon David Beckham announced his retirement on Thursday, letting the world know that he's hanging it up for good after his current team, France Ligue 1 champs Paris Saint-Germain, completes its season next weekend.
Beckham played against Real Salt Lake eight times in his 5 1/2 years with LA (and once against RSL while with Real Madrid), registering two goals and four assists in all competions against the Claret-and-Cobalt. The English midfielder played all 120 minutes for LA in RSL's MLS Cup 2009 win and was classy enough to come into the RSL locker room afterwards to congratulate the Claret-and-Cobalt on its shootout victory.
While we're a little bit late, we were able to unearth the video of Beckham congratulating RSL. Give it a watch above.
It would be painfully easy to focus on the very poor start to the 2-0 loss against LA Galaxy on Saturday night, but what's tactically more interesting (and less depressing) is the nature of RSL's response to the challenge.
Three at the back
It's not the first time we've seen Jason Kreis shift things around for a three-man back line, and there's something slightly worrying about the necessity of that trend — but when it came time for, as he called them, "desperate measures," there wasn't a moment of hesitation.
But if we look at the Opta chalkboards, we see that it might be more accurate to call it two at the back — Tony Beltran essentially played as an attacking winger, mirroring Ned Grabavoy on the pitch and getting involved in much action. Of course, it's difficult to derive positional arguments out of the late harried action on Saturday night, but there's something to be said for your right back dictating play on the attacking flank.
Beckerman pushed up
Rather than looking toward a nominally more attacking 3-4-3, Kreis went toward a 3-5-2 that saw Kyle Beckerman pushed further up the pitch than usual. Yordany Alvarez came on — essentially for Lovel Palmer, although the order of substitutions speaks ever-so-slightly differently — and was deployed centrally in a vaguely anchoring role. Beckerman moved further up, and given his work rate and energy on the night, it's hard to fault Kreis. It was a strong response late on from the captain, and he covered an immense amount of ground as desperation set in and LA Galaxy sat deeper and deeper.
Dealing with the bus
Real Salt Lake have obviously problems when 11 opponents are sat in the defensive end of the midfield, but they're hardly alone in this. Breaking down a well-organized side like LA Galaxy is difficult on any given match day, but it's rendered tougher when the opposition is handed an early lead to protect.
It should be said, though, that RSL had a great response to that defensive challenge, and with two players hitting the woodwork in the final 30 minutes and five shots blocked — three of which were in the box — it doesn't seem so much a matter of figuring out how best to break down a deep, dedicated defensive line, but how to finish around them. There's certainly some reason for encouragement in that respect.
Real Salt Lake couldn’t rebound from a slow start against the LA Galaxy on Saturday night, giving up two early goals to fall to the Southern California side 2-0 at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Here are a few interesting numbers from Saturday’s match:
Real Salt Lake forward Olmes Garcia has hit the post/crossbar four times in five appearances this year. Garcia hit the crossbar on Saturday, powerfully heading a corner kick over Galaxy ‘keeper Brian Rowe and off the bar in second half stoppage time.
The number of players who were late scratches from the RSL lineup on Saturday. Leading scorer Alvaro Saborio was taken out of the starting lineup due to a left quad injury initially suffered on Friday and fellow forward Robbie Findley was removed from the 18 due to a knee injury also originally sustained on Friday.
Real Salt Lake has now given up three goals in the first 15 minutes of matches this year after conceding in the 6th and 13th minutes on Saturday. The Claret-and-Cobalt did not allow a single goal in the first 15 minutes in all of 2012.
The number of career regular season appearances for Real Salt Lake captain Kyle Beckerman after he went the full 90 on Saturday. Beckerman’s appearance on Saturday moved him past RSL Head Coach Jason Kreis (305) and into a tie for 15th place in MLS history on the games played list. KB5 is now tied on 306 appearances with former LA Galaxy player Cobi Jones, who was at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday night as part of the Galaxy’s TV broadcast.
Sept. 25, 2011
Prior to Saturday night’s two-goal defeat, the last time that Real Salt Lake lost a home game by multiple goals in MLS play was on Sept. 25, 2011, when the 10-man Claret-and-Cobalt fell 3-0 to the Chicago Fire at Rio Tinto Stadium.
LA Galaxy have started their season off with some style, but there's plenty of opportunity for RSL to find success against them on Saturday night like they have so often before.
Stopping the midfield
First, the midfield's got to be stopped — Juninho and Marcelo Sarvas are an efficient pairing in the middle of the park for LA. Snuffing out their threat means we've got to keep our outside midfielders narrow, ready to pick off passes and prevent chances from being created. Additionally, they'll need to be aware of the defensive strength of Sarvas in particular. It's illustrative that he was successful in 10 of 13 tackles against Sporting KC last week. Stopping the midfield means both preventing attacking threats and avoiding defensive threats.
Second, the defense has to be constantly vigilant with Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan, should they play — and it's hard to imagine they wouldn't for a match like this. Donovan has wasted no time since returning to action, grabbing a goal and an assist last week. Still, the options LA Galaxy have up top aren't endless, and without both Keane and Donovan, it could be tempting for the defense to relax. This would be a mistake, especially with the set piece and long shot prowess of Juninho and the persistence of one Mike Magee.
Being afforded possession
Third, the whole of the side has to be prepared for a team that's willing to sit back a bit and let play develop. LA defeated last season's defensive standouts Sporting KC last week, winning 2-0 — this, despite completing considerably fewer passes and losing the possession battle. It's surprising for a team that has generally controlled possession in 2013, but it shows a willingness to adapt to the opposition that makes them a dangerous side to face. It's easy to imagine the Galaxy sitting back a little bit, picking their chances, and snuffing out ours — it wouldn't be the first time, and it won't be their last time. Playing around them will require some real control and skill on the ball — and it'll take our best passing and possession-oriented skills to ensure we don't allow silly chances.
IRVINE, Calif. – Real Salt Lake had the last training session of its California camp on Thursday morning, working on tactics and set plays ahead of Friday’s closed-door scrimmage against the L.A. Galaxy.
Thursday’s session had a serious tone. The team is clearly bothered by its 0-2-0 preseason record and seems motivated to put one in the win column at the Home Depot Center on Friday.
“I think it’s a really important game for us,” said rookie forward Devon Sandoval. “I think everybody knows that and I think the guys are very focused. Everyone looks pretty sharp and we’re hoping that things go well tomorrow.”
RSL will travel back to Salt Lake City immediately following Friday’s match, remaining in Utah for the weekend before heading to Arizona on Monday for the start of the FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup. The Claret-and-Cobalt will take on the New York Red Bulls in the DDC opener on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. MT.