Real Salt Lake will take on Sporting Kansas City in a MLS Cup 2013 rematch on Saturday, with the Claret-and-Cobalt traveling to Sporting Park to take on the Eastern Conference power at 6:30 p.m. MT on ABC 4.
Saturday’s contest is the marquee matchup in MLS this weekend – you have fun up there on national TV, Portland and Seattle – and both sides are already amped for it.
“I’m excited,” RSL defender Tony Beltran told Bill Riley following RSL’s win over Toronto on Saturday. “I know the group is very excited. It’s going to be an interesting game, it’s going to be a fun game and I’m looking forward to it.”
Kansas City, as they are wont to do, took a bit of a different approach to express their – um – excitement ahead of Saturday’s match. Here’s Sporting midfielder Benny Feilhaber, following Kansas City’s 3-2 win at Colorado on Saturday:
Benny Feilhaber on @RealSaltLake: "They pride themselves on being the most possession-oriented team, but I don't know if I buy into that."
— Andy Edwards (@AndyEdMLS) March 30, 2014
And here’s KC forward Dom Dwyer, who scored a 92nd minute game-winner at the Rapids on Saturday:
— Andy Edwards (@AndyEdMLS) March 30, 2014
Real Salt Lake newcomer Luke Mulholland has made a big splash early in his RSL career, scoring one goal – and having another incorrectly called back – in four appearances this season, three of which have been off the bench.
We’ve gotten to know Luke a little bit here on RealSaltLake.com, sitting down with him a couple of weeks ago for our “10 things” feature. Brian Dunseth is the latest to go in-depth with the 25-year-old Englishman, taking him on in a Crossbar Challenge that aired on Sunday on ABC 4’s Real Sports Live.
Check out Dunny’s matchup with Luke above.
ABC 4’s Real Sports Live was at it again on Sunday night, airing plenty of killer Real Salt Lake content in the aftermath of the Claret-and-Cobalt’s 3-0 thrashing over Toronto FC.
Bill Riley and Brian Dunseth sat down for some one-on-one interviews after the match, with Bill sitting down with defender Tony Beltran and midfielder Luis Gil and Dunny chatting with defender Chris Schuler.
Check out the interviews below.
Beltran and Schuler:
U.S. Men’s National Team Manager Jurgen Klinsmann was at Rio Tinto Stadium for RSL’s 3-0 win over Toronto FC on Saturday, scouting U.S. internationals Kyle Beckerman, Tony Beltran, Luis Gil, Nick Rimando and Michael Bradley ahead of this Wednesday’s friendly against Mexico in Phoenix.
Klinsmann was kind enough to take a few minutes out of his schedule at halftime, stopping by the ABC 4 booth for a quick interview with Bill Riley and Brian Dunseth. Dunny spoke with Klinsmann about 20-year-old RSL midfielder Luis Gil, asking the USMNT boss what it would take for a young player like Gil to impress enough to earn a spot on this summer’s World Cup roster.
Here’s what Klinsmann had to say. You can check out his entire halftime interview above.
“Well, he already impresses us otherwise we wouldn’t have called him in for the January camp and wouldn’t have given him his first cap,” Klinsmann said. “He’s a kid that has a lot, a lot of potential, and so we need to help him to grow, help him to understand what it takes to raise his game to the next level. He knows that he has to learn to move more, and also always be aware defensively once he loses the ball. We want him to have that spirit to take people on because that’s his gift, to play his strengths, so we will keep watching him. We will see him improve, and he himself kind of decides the quickness of everything. Obviously the quicker younger players shoot through and show their qualities the better it is individually for them, but if it takes a slower pace then so be it, no problem.”
Real Salt Lake will take on yet another high-profile team on Saturday, hosting a revamped Toronto F C side at 7:30 p.m. MT at Rio Tinto Stadium .
Here are a few storylines to watch ahead of Saturday’s match:
Can RSL slow down new-look TFC?
Bolstered by the high-profile offseason additions of Michael Bradley, Jermain Defoe, Julio Cesar and Gilberto, Toronto FC has started 2014 with a bang, winning its first two matches for the first time in club history. Defoe has been particularly hot for the new-look Reds, scoring all three of the team’s goals in his first two games in the league. Of course, RSL has an unbeaten record of its own to protect on Saturday, entering the match with a 1-0-2 record through its first three regular season games.
Beckerman looks to continue climb up MLS record books with more success against TFC
RSL midfielder Kyle Beckerman has the most success of any RSL player against Toronto FC, tied for the team lead with two career goals against Toronto and leading RSL with three career assists in 11 career regular season games against the Reds.
Beckerman will also likely continue his climb up the MLS record books on Saturday. A start for the Claret-and-Cobalt captain would make him just the seventh player in league history to hit 300 career regular season starts. One of the six players in MLS history to hit the 300 start mark before Beckerman? RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando, who has 349 career starts.
How will RSL fare without Plata?
Real Salt Lake will be without dynamic forward Joao Plata on Saturday for the first time this season, with the Ecuadoran forward set to miss the game due to a hamstring injury suffered in last Saturday’s 1-1 draw against the Galaxy. Plata was fantastic in RSL’s first three matches, scoring two goals and adding two assists before leaving last week’s match in the first half after suffering his injury.
Expect Olmes Garcia to fill-in for Plata alongside striker Alvaro Saborio up top on Saturday. The two will have a tough test against a TFC backline that has been stingy so far this year, allowing just one goal in its first two games.
World Cup players on display
A few players from each team could very well be making big news in Brazil this summer, with RSL's Beckerman, Rimando and Saborio and TFC's Bradley, Defoe and Cesar all looking like decent bets to make it to the World Cup for their respective national teams. You'll have a chance to see all of them - along with RSL's darkhorse candidate for Brazil, midfielder Luis Gil - in action in one place on Saturday, a rare opportunity that more than likely won't present itself again this season.
Real Salt Lake will face a number of challenges against Toronto FC on Saturday, but of particular interest will be two types of moments from which we have been vulnerable.
Watch the counter
It is no secret that Toronto FC are going to try to beat us on the counter attack. It is what they’ve done twice this season to good effect, and it’s something they might see as something of a weakness in our constitution.
If you need convincing it’s something we can suffer from, look no further than this screenshot from Saturday’s draw against LA Galaxy.
Chris Wingert has just lost control of the ball and is struggling to get back in time. Nine players are inside the opposition half here, including Nat Borchers. Chris Schuler is only just inside our half and is not visible in this screenshot, but he’s there. The only remaining player is Nick Rimando, who, despite being the best goalkeeper in MLS, cannot defend an entire LA Galaxy attack on his own. The ensuing play is something we don’t need to repeat, but there is something strange about the way we’ve approached this one.
The solution isn’t to drop into incredibly deep positions at all times, but as a general rule, having nine players inside the opposition half when you’re playing a side with Robbie Keane in it is probably unwise. We all want to see attacking soccer, and we want to see our players committed in those moments. But what we don’t much want to see is anybody going one-on-one with Keane — or, in tomorrow’s match, Jermain Defoe. These are notably difficult players to defend.
Watch set pieces
Defending set pieces is a tough gig. We know that, and we certainly made sure LA Galaxy knew that with Alvaro Saborio’s goal last weekend. Marking individuals is never easy when they’re top quality, and we have two examples — one for and one against — that help illustrate that.
In our first example, Chris Wondolowski scores from a set piece thanks to some fine movement from him and a nice ball sent into the box.
San Jose has sent men forward to confuse our marking, and it certainly worked. This is sort of in their DNA, but it’s not some exclusive club that only hoof-and-run sides can get into.
In our second example, we have Alvaro Saborio as the scorer, with Joao Plata grabbing the assist. These two set pieces occurred roughly in the same part of the field, which is not entirely coincidental.
Plata’s pass to an unmarked Saborio was fantastic, but it was the movement of Saborio — or lack thereof — that confused the LA Galaxy defense and gave us our opportunity.
Both instances involve confusion in the box, and although they’re of different orders of magnitude, they come from the same place. Unexpected actions, whether it’s intelligent movement around a defender or simply letting defenders move away from their marking, are dangerous.
We’re facing a Toronto FC side who may try to capitalize on that. Our set piece defense has not been spectacular, but by the same token, it hasn’t been miserable. If we watch the fouls in these positions, we can cut out the most dangerous element, but it won’t always play out that way.
It will be important for defenders and, indeed, anyone marking on set pieces to stay aware and — to use a bit of a truism, “expect the unexpected.” After all, Michael Bradley’s not bad at those passes, and Toronto FC do have one or two very good strikers who will want to test us in these moments.
MLSsoccer.com's Jason Saghini broke down on Friday RSL forward Alvaro Saborio's goal in last Saturday's 1-1 draw against LA for his weekly Fast & Fluid Play of the Week.
As always, Saghini offered some solid analysis. Give his video a watch above.
Real Salt Lake forward Alvaro Saborio will be available for this Saturday’s game at Rio Tinto Stadium against Toronto FC after he was not suspended by the MLS Disciplinary Committee earlier on Wednesday for a yellow card foul picked up in Saturday’s 1-1 draw v. LA.
Toronto FC midfielder Jackson wasn’t so lucky, picking up a one game suspension from the Disciplinary Committee for his elbow on DC midfielder Davy Arnaud in TFC’s 1-0 win over United at BMO Field on Saturday. Jackson will not be available for the Canadian side on Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Message from MLS Disciplinary Committee to LA Galaxy and Toronto FC in wake of Saborío reprieve: your lobbying has no place here. #mls
— Inside MLS (@InsideMLS) March 26, 2014