Real Salt Lake will open its 2014 home schedule on Saturday, when the LA Galaxy will come to Rio Tinto Stadium for a 2:00 p.m. kickoff.
The Galaxy aren’t worried about Saturday’s match just yet, however, what with the small matter of a CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal second leg at Mexican club Tijuana to attend to tonight. The Galaxy beat Xolos in the first leg of the series last Wednesday, topping the Baja California club 1-0 at StubHub Center.
Tonight they have a taller order: Hold off Tijuana in a hostile environment south of the border. LA will need a strong performance from its full complement of players if they’re to advance past Xolos and into the CCL Semifinals, where they would face the winner of the Sporting Kansas City-Cruz Azul series. The first leg of that series would be played on April 1, 2 or 3.
Tonight’s LA-Tijuana second leg kicks off at 8:00 p.m. MT. Watch it live on Fox Sports 2.
Good stuff from Real Salt Lake color commentator Brian Dunseth breaking down RSL's 3-3 draw at San Jose on Sunday night's Real Sports Live on ABC 4.
Check out Dunny's take on the game above.
Real Salt Lake continues it California road trip on Saturday night, taking on Western Conference foe San Jose Earthquakes at 8:30 p.m. MT on ABC 4 at Buck Shaw Stadium.
Saturday’s match is full of interesting storylines. Here are a few to watch out for:
RSL Head Coach Jeff Cassar looks for consistency after win in debut
Newly appointed Head Coach Jeff Cassar had a great first game in charge of the Claret-and-Cobalt, shutting out LA Galaxy 1-0 at StubHub Center in the 2014 season opener. With his first win under his belt, Cassar will look for consistency from his squad as RSL faces another tough road match in San Jose. With a few starting players suffering from injuries, it will be interesting see how the team responds and whether or not it can pull out a result against a very physical and challenging San Jose side.
RSL looks to snap San Jose’s 20-game home unbeaten streak
Real Salt Lake and San Jose Earthquakes last met at Buck Shaw Stadium on March 3, 2013, with RSL beating the Bay Area side 2-0. That match marked the last defeat the Quakes suffered at home, with the “Goonies” going on a 20-game home unbeaten streak across all competitions since. RSL players and coaches didn’t seem to know San Jose’s last home defeat came at their expense but they did remark about how difficult it is to play at Buck Shaw Stadium. The atmosphere in Santa Clara is sure to be heightened on Saturday, as it is the Quakes’ 2014 MLS season opener. Hopefully, RSL can pull off a repeat of last year and keep this storyline alive.
U.S. Men’s National Team players will face off against each other
A few Real Salt Lake and San Jose Earthquakes players are more familiar with each other than most, as both squads have players that are regular members of the U.S Men’s National Team. RSL U.S. internationals, midfielder Kyle Beckerman and goalkeeper Nick Rimando, have played alongside San Jose forward Chris Wondolowski and defender Clarence Goodson for the Stars-and-Stripes frequently. Most recently, they were all included in the national team’s annual January camp a few months back, along with RSL midfielder Luis Gil, who was in his first senior camp.
Having consistently played alongside your opposition might prove helpful this Saturday with the U.S. internationals intimately knowing each other’s strengths and weaknesses. It will be interesting to see which U.S. duo comes out on top.
Will San Jose’s CCL result affect its starting lineup vs. RSL?
San Jose was able to get a 1-1 draw against Toluca in the first leg of its CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal series on Tuesday. With the positive result, Quakes’ Head Coach Mark Watson could give his starters a bit of a break on Saturday with his focus on the team’s second leg next Wednesday in Toluca.
Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando continue climbing up the record books
Real Salt Lake stalwarts Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando continue their climb up the MLS record books this season, with both players set to achieve more career milestones this year.
RSL’s captain, Beckerman will crack the top-10 in MLS history in games played this season. Currently on 326 games played, he needs 16 appearances to become fifth in league history in appearances, and he should set himself up for a run at the top-three in 2015. He’ll also continue his rise up the games started list. Beckerman tied Tyrone Marshall for eighth all-time in MLS history with his start against LA Galaxy last weekend. He’ll likely end 2014 in fifth in this category, as well. Look for Becks to crack the top-five in MLS history in career minutes played this season, too.
Rimando is slightly ahead of Beckerman in the aforementioned categories. Currently in fourth in league history with 347 games played, Rimando should pass Jeff Cunningham (365) for third-all time and get within touching distance of Steve Ralston (378) for second. Rimando could become the all-time leader in games played early in the 2016 season, when he could conceivably catch current leader Kevin Hartman (416). Rimando should pass Ralston for second all-time in both games started and minutes played this season.
Of course, the biggest record in play for any RSL player this year is the all-time shutout mark. Rimando is second in MLS history with 109 clean sheets, just three behind Hartman for the all-time record. Here’s hoping that deficit will be two after this weekend.
Real Salt Lake faces a difficult task on Saturday: Defeat a San Jose Earthquakes side that hasn't lost at home in over a year. Given we were the last side to beat them at home, though, we can turn our focus toward more practical matters.
Watch the long ball
We have plenty of evidence that San Jose excels in situations where they don't have long spells of possession in advance of a goal. We've seen it over and over: They'll hoist a ball into the box, have one of their rather-large men get on the end of it, cause some havoc, and score.
Bypassing our midfield is the biggest threat we face. If we don't pay heed to long, direct passing -- or long, hopeful passing, as the case may be -- we'll be forcing our defenders to deal with some of the most difficult moments they'll face in MLS. It takes only a single pass for Steven Lenhart or Alan Gordon to have a prototypical moment in the box followed by a Chris Wondolowski poached goal for the damage to be done.
This starts at the front, too: While unreasonably high pressure or over-eagerness isn't the solution, standing off the midfield and allowing them long-ball opportunities could possibly be worse.
Watch for space
Against the Galaxy, we played a more direct style generally, and it worked well for us in the end. But we found our goal in a particularly probing moment, when our forwards were given opportunities to pull defenders out of position and generally cause problems. This was against two top-quality central defenders in Omar Gonzalez and Leonardo, which speaks highly of our movement.
We'll want to do exactly the same thing on Saturday against two defenders of slightly lower quality. Clarence Goodson and Victor Bernardez, both of whom are capable, will be vulnerable to the same types of movement. With a forward corps of Joao Plata and Alvaro Saborio, there's no reason why we can't continue to perform in the same way.
Jeff Cassar's substitution patterns will understandably be subject to some scrutiny in these early weeks of his career. How we reshape to approach a match from the 60th minute forward essentially shapes our game; a poor substitution and tactical decision, and we're in a difficult spot and struggling to regain any footing we had. A good substitution, and we can turn the game on its head.
Saturday saw three smart, effective substitutions: We brought in players who are hungry for playing time, capable on the ball, and who could have an attacking impact. The Jordan Allen substitution sticks out the most: He's a fast, bright attacking player, but most importantly, he can maintain possession. We saw exactly that, and his confidence on the ball made the game slightly easier for us to win in the end.
Don't succumb to the mind games
San Jose will hack us down, they'll bash us around in the area, and all-in-all, they'll do what they can to get inside our heads. Not literally, I hope.
It's hard to call it a tactical approach, but we'll need to keep our wits about us. We've lost these matches before because we get sucked into it like it's bad reality TV -- we can't let that happen. There is, of course, something tactically meaningful about retaining all 11 players in the game.
Real Salt Lake will take on the San Jose Earthquakes at 8:30 p.m. MT on ABC 4 at Buck Shaw Stadium on Saturday, with the Claret-and-Cobalt looking to put an end to San Jose's impressive 20-game home unbeaten run across all competitions with a victory in the Bay Area.
San Jose's last home loss came at the hands of Real Salt Lake, which got a pair of goals from forward Alvaro Saborio to down the Quakes 2-0 at Buck Shaw in the 2013 season opener. Check out both of Sabo's goals - in all their .GIF glory - below.
Here's the first:
Which was followed by a fantastic celebration:
And here's Sabo's second strike, setup by a marvelous pass from Kyle Beckerman:
It’s always good to see RSL players getting out in the community and brightening some days.
A couple of Claret-and-Cobalt players were at it this week, with goalkeeper Nick Rimando paying a special visit to a big fan on Monday and RSL midfielder Sebastian Velasquez visiting Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City on Wednesday.
Good on both guys – and all the other members of the RSL Family out there doing good – for giving some of their time to make a difference.
The last defeat the San Jose Earthquakes have suffered at home came at the hands – or feet – of Real Salt Lake when the clubs last met at Buck Shaw Stadium in the 2013 MLS season opener. Ever since the Claret-and-Cobalt downed the Bay Area side 2-0 on March 3, 2013, the Goonies have gone on a 20-game unbeaten streak at home. San Jose kept the streak alive this past Tuesday, when the Earthquakes managed a late draw with Toluca in their CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal series.
The opening win at San Jose in last year’s season opener provided a taste of what was to come for the Claret-and-Cobalt in 2013, as the club went on to qualify for the postseason for the sixth-consecutive year, advance to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final, become Western Conference Champions and make it to 2013 MLS Cup.
The San Jose match saw great performances from both RSL veterans and its new crop of young players. Claret-and-Cobalt forward Alvaro Saborio notched a brace with both goals scored in the second half, his 14th career brace. Newcomer forward Joao Plata – who made his RSL debut that night – assisted on Saborio’s first goal. Captain Kyle Beckerman – who made his 300th career regular season appearance – and wonder kid midfielder Luis Gil assisted on the second.
Plata entered the match in the 65th minute and made an immediate impact, providing the game-winning assist six minutes later. Plata collected a pass from defender Abdoulie Mansally near the midfield stripe, turning and chipping a fantastic through ball behind the San Jose back four. Saborio was quick to read the play, sprinting past an Earthquake player and running onto the ball just inside the box before burying his 15-yard half-volley inside the near post with his first touch.
Saborio went on to double the lead in the 85th minute with Gil starting the play, playing a square ball to Beckerman in the middle of San Jose’s defensive third. Beckerman then hit a no-look pass to Saborio in the left side of the box, setting up the Costa Rican international for a left-footed smash that found the inside of the far post.
Last year’s season opening match was also memorable for veteran RSL ‘keeper Nick Rimando, who earned his 100th regular season career shutout that night. Rimando, who currently has 109 shutouts, is only three away from tying the all-time MLS record held by retired goalkeeper Kevin Hartman with 112.
When the clubs meet again at Buck Shaw Stadium this Saturday, Real Salt Lake will be looking to snap that 20-game unbeaten streak at home and put on a performance that will hopefully continue to set the tone for what’s to come in 2014.
Re-live RSL’s fourth-consecutive season opening win above.
MLSsoccer.com has been running a fun video series over the last month or so, quizzing players around the league on their knowledge of MLS trivia.
The group hit RSL while the team was in Tucson for the Desert Diamond Cup preseason tournament, quizzing Nat Borchers, Nick Rimando, Kyle Beckerman, Luis Gil and Jordan Allen on a variety of topics. Borchers did particularly well on the MLS leading goalscorer quiz, dominating the topic - in alphabetical order, no less - to correctly name 17 of the league's 20 all-time top scorers.
Give the video a watch above and check out Rimando's effort here.
Update: MLSsoccer.com has published Beckerman's quiz attempt. Watch it here.
The San Jose Earthquakes got a decent result in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal series against Toluca on Tuesday night, getting a 95th minute goal from forward Alan Gordon to tie the Mexican side 1-1 at Buck Shaw Stadium.
The Quakes generated the majority of the chances on Tuesday, but couldn’t capitalize, getting punished when Toluca’s Raul Nava rocketed home an 18-yard volley in the 67th minute to give the visitors a 1-0 lead. Gordon pulled one back for the Quakes at the absolute death, heading home a Shea Salinas set piece to give San Jose hope heading into next Wednesday’s second leg.
Tuesday’s result should be enough for San Jose Head Coach Mark Watson to run out a full lineup for next week’s series finale in Guadalajara. That means that RSL could see a second-choice Quakes lineup when they take on the Bay Area side this Saturday night in San Jose, with Watson possibly choosing to rest some of his regulars with an eye on the second leg against Toluca.
Real Salt Lake has enjoyed a good amount of success in San Jose over the years, compiling a 4-4-1 regular season record at the Quakes. RSL won its last match at San Jose, getting a brace from forward Alvaro Saborio to top San Jose 2-0 in the 2013 MLS season opener.