You know by now that Real Salt Lake will be kicking off its 2014 MLS campaign on Saturday at LA Galaxy.
What you might not know is that the Galaxy have another, bigger game on tap a few days after Saturday’s opener. LA will begin its CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal series against Club Tijuana next Wednesday, hosting Los Xolos at StubHub Center in the series’ first leg. The Galaxy won’t play in MLS that following weekend, taking a bye ahead of the March 18 return leg at Tijuana.
Bruce Arena, Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane and co. will surely approach Saturday’s opener with an eye on their upcoming CCL matchup. How – or if – that affects how they run out this weekend against the Claret-and-Cobalt remains to be seen, but it’s certainly something to keep an eye on ahead of Saturday’s opener.
Real Salt Lake and LA Galaxy have long been Western Conference foes, with each meeting between the sides always a battle. LA Galaxy has won MLS Cup four times, including back-to-back wins in 2011 and 2012 and has been crowned Western Conference Champions six times. So when Real Salt Lake and LA Galaxy last met in the 2013 Western Conference Semfinal series, the stakes were high and the rivalry never more intense.
Real Salt Lake defeated LA Galaxy 2-1 on aggregate in the two-legged series to advance to the Western Conference Championship series. RSL headed into the second leg down a goal after losing 1-0 at LA. The Claret-and-Cobalt took full advantage of its opportunity to stage a comeback in front of its home crowd at Rio Tinto Stadium, getting goals from two surprising players to defeat LA 2-0 in a thrilling, extra time affair.
RSL midfielder Sebastian Velasquez opened the scoring in the 35th minute, notching his first career goal to tie the aggregate 1-1. The goal was beautifully constructed, beginning with midfielder Javier Morales finding unmarked defender Chris Wingert on the left flank. Wingert collected the ball, took a touch toward the end line and whipped in a fantastic cross, picking out the onrushing Velasquez at the top-left corner of the box. The 5-foot-7 Velasquez took it from there, brilliantly snapping a header inside the near post to put RSL on the board.
RSL went on to hit the woodwork two times in regulation – once by defender Chris Schuler in the 74th minute and then by forward Alvaro Saborio four minutes later. In the 85th minute, the Claret-and-Cobalt had a controversial goal called back when Morales’ free kick found the back of the net but referee Baldomero Toledo called a foul on Schuler in the box, disallowing the goal.
The two sides headed into extra time deadlocked in a 1-1 tie on aggregate. RSL netted the game-winner in the 102nd minute when Schuler picked the perfect time to score his first goal of 2013. Morales had the assist, curling a free kick in from the left flank that Schuler – who made a marvelous run from the top of the box – side-volleyed in from the right edge of the six, sending Rio Tinto Stadium into euphoria.
The stakes won’t be as high when RSL and LA meet again in Saturday’s season opener, but the memory of the last meeting still lingers. The four-time MLS Cup Champions will be sure to seek revenge at home and RSL will be looking to make a statement that 2013 was no fluke.
Re-live RSL's win in the thrilling second leg of last year's Western Conference Semifinal above.
Arguably the most accomplished player in the history of the league, New York Red Bulls Designated Player Thierry Henry has long been a fan of Real Salt Lake.
Henry has professed his admiration for RSL before, telling media ahead of RSL’s meeting against New York in 2012 that the Claret-and-Cobalt are – with LA – “the best team in this league, by a distance” and that they “outplay you, they cross, they score, what are you going to do? You have to accept it.”
He was at it again this preseason, praising RSL to Fox Soccer’s Kyle McCarthy at MLS’s Media and Marketing tour last month.
“Salt Lake is the best team in the league in terms of playing and passing the ball,” Henry told McCarthy, who used the quote on Tuesday in his RSL season preview at Fox Soccer blog Inside MLS. “Kansas City won last year, but if you watched the game and you watched Salt Lake, they can play. The lost [Jamison] Olave, they lost [Fabian] Espindola, they lost Will Johnson. Everybody was like, hmm, they will struggle. They had an identity. They didn’t struggle. And you can say they were unfortunate to lose the final.”
That’s some pretty high praise from a man who’s been around the game a bit. McCarthy has a little more color from Henry, and plenty of quotes from RSL Captain Kyle Beckerman in his RSL season preview on Inside MLS. The piece is very well done, and definitely worth a read. Check it out here.
Public service announcement, Real Salt Lake fans: RSL GM Garth Lagerwey’s Reddit “Ask Me Anything” on /r/MLS has been rescheduled to Wednesday at 10 a.m. MT.
Lagerwey was initially scheduled to hold his AMA on Thursday afternoon, but had to switch due to some shuffling in the AMA lineup over at /r/MLS. Make sure you hop in tomorrow and ask Garth anything your heart desires – we’ll do our best to make sure he answers all of your questions, hair-related or otherwise.
Real Salt Lake won’t have an easy start to the Jeff Cassar era, with the Claret-and-Cobalt scheduled to open its 2014 MLS regular season campaign with a brutal slate of matches.
RSL will play four of its first six matches on the road, traveling to LA for Saturday’s season opener, taking on San Jose at the always unfriendly Buck Shaw Stadium on March 15, playing at defending MLS Cup champion Sporting KC on April 6 and traveling across the country to take on Philadelphia on April 12.
RSL’s early season home games won’t be a cakewalk either, with the Claret-and-Cobalt hosting the Galaxy in the home opener on March 22, taking on Michael Bradley and revamped Toronto FC on March 29 and welcoming 2013 Western Conference Final opponent Portland Timbers to Rio Tinto Stadium on April 19.
The average 2013 point total for RSL’s first seven opponents comes out to 49.57 points, the seventh-highest mark in the league across the first seven matches. That average, however, is skewed somewhat by the inclusion of Toronto FC, which had just 29 points last year – third-fewest in the league – but is projected for far more than that in 2014 after adding Bradley, DP’s Jermain Defoe and Gilberto and Brazilian national team goalkeeper Julio Cesar this offseason.
In fact, only one of the six teams ahead of RSL in this category – Colorado, which clocks in at fourth in the league at 50.57 – also have Toronto on their schedule in their first seven games. None of the teams ahead of RSL have Chivas USA or D.C. United on tap for their first seven games; Chivas and D.C. were the only teams to finish below Toronto in the standings last year.
All of this means that we’ll need to keep our expectations in check for the start of the season. RSL has a very tough opening schedule, and it’ll be incredibly difficult to get off to a flying start. A tough beginning shouldn’t be much cause for concern however – RSL was 2-3-2 after seven games in 2013, and managed to put in a decent season.
In honor of Real Salt Lake opening its 10th season this Saturday at LA, The Salt Lake Tribune on Monday opened voting on three polls concerning RSL history. Fans can vote on RSL’s all-time starting XI, rank the team’s top-10 moments and rank the top-10 goals in franchise history.
Click here to vote in the polls. The Tribune will post the results in an online presentation ahead of the Claret-and-Cobalt’s March 22 home opener against the Galaxy.
Exciting news, Real Salt Lake fans: RSL GM Garth Lagerwey will be holding a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” on /r/MLS next Thursday at 1 p.m. MT, ahead of the Claret-and-Cobalt's MLS season opener at LA next Saturday.
Those participating in the AMA will be able to ask Garth any question they’d like in real time. He’ll answer as many as he can get to. Make sure that someone asks Garth about the above hairstyle. Thing’s wilder than anything Sebastian Velasquez has ever even dreamed of doing.
The Real Salt Lake-Arizona Academy U-17 team finished first in Central Region qualifying for the 2013-14 Generation adidas Cup with a 4-1-0 record. The Generation adidas Cup is Major League Soccer’s annual elite youth tournament for U-17 academy teams. The Claret-and-Cobalt will now compete in a national event in April alongside other academy and international teams.
Here are a few interesting numbers from the five Generation adidas Cup qualifying matches.
Total number of goals scored by the RSL Academy team, which was the highest number of goals scored in Generation adidas Cup qualifying. FC Dallas was second with a total of nine goals.
The number of different players that scored for the Claret-and-Cobalt. RSL saw goals from FW Sebastian Saucedo, M/F Josh Doughty, M/F Diego Silva, FW Brooks Lennon, MF Terrell Lowe, MF Evan Waldrep, MF Tate Schmitt, D/F Miles Stray, FW Kris Fourcand and MF Tyler Feeley.
RSL notched the two highest goal scoring performances in Generation adidas Cup qualifying. Seven goals were scored against FC Dallas on February 14th and five were scored against Sporting Kansas City on October 14th.
The number of consecutive matches in which FW Sebastian Saucedo found the back of the net.
The Claret-and-Cobalt’s total goal differential, which was the highest in Generation adidas Cup qualifying.
In the latest sign that the season is just around the corner, the Professional Referees Organization (PRO) released on Tuesday the referee assignments for MLS’s opening weekend.
Real Salt Lake drew Silviu Petrescu for its March 8 opener at LA. Petrescu is an experienced official who was named the 2012 MLS Referee of the Year. He was the man in the middle for several RSL games in 2013, most notably officiating RSL’s 4-3 loss at New York on July 27. Petrescu was very quick to the whistle in that match, calling an astounding 46 total fouls – including a season-high 28 on RSL – and showing seven yellow cards.
Rounding out Petrescu’s March 8 crew are linesmen Daniel Belleau and Phil Briere and fourth official Mathieu Bourdeau.
TUCSON – After taking the day off on Sunday, Real Salt Lake got back to work on Monday, hitting the training fields for another practice session ahead of Wednesday’s Desert Diamond Cup match against FC Tucson.
Monday’s training officially marked the start of the final week of preseason training for the Claret-and-Cobalt, which will return to Utah on Sunday and train in Sandy next week ahead of the March 8 opener at LA. RSL Head Coach Jeff Cassar is looking for a few things from the last week of preseason camp, with full match fitness topping the list.
No RSL player has gone 90 minutes yet in the Desert Diamond Cup, with Cassar playing the starters 60 minutes and making mass substitutions at the hour mark in both of the first two DDC games. Expect that to change in the final two games in Tucson.
“In these last two games we’re looking to get closer to 90 minutes for everybody in each game,” Cassar said. “It’s time to start to gear up towards what our lineup will look like against LA.”
RSL will return to action on Wednesday, when the team will take on USL-Premier Development League side FC Tucson at 6:00 p.m. MT in the final group game of the Desert Diamond Cup. Wednesday’s game will be streamed live here on RealSaltLake.com and MLSsoccer.com.