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.
Real Salt Lake put Saturday’s season opening win over LA to bed on Tuesday, beginning to prepare for this Saturday’s MLS match at San Jose Earthquakes with a workout at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Saturday’s game will be San Jose’s MLS regular season opener, as the Quakes were one of three teams to have a bye on opening weekend. Of course, San Jose had a good reason to take last weekend off, with the team avoiding what would’ve been a tricky bit of schedule congestion ahead of Tuesday’s first leg of its CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal series against Mexican Club Toluca.
San Jose is taking its matchup with Toluca very seriously, and Quakes Head Coach Mark Watson is expected to run out a first-choice lineup for Tuesday’s first leg at Buck Shaw Stadium. Regardless of their attitude, advancing out of the quarters will be a tough ask for the Bay Area side, which will have to get by a Toluca team flying high through two months of the Liga MX Clausura season.
Tuesday’s match could affect how the San Jose lineup looks on Saturday against RSL, with a good result possibly prompting Watson to give some of his starters a breather on Saturday ahead of next Wednesday’s second leg in Toluca. A bad result tonight will likely shift San Jose’s focus back to MLS play, and would probably prod Watson to put out a full team on Saturday against the Claret-and-Cobalt.
Long story short, RSL fans: Pull for San Jose against Toluca tonight. Not only will you be showing solidarity with a fellow MLS club, but you’ll also be rooting for RSL on Saturday, if only indirectly.
San Jose will take on Toluca at 8:00 p.m. MT tonight on Fox Sports 2. Brian Dunseth – everyone’s favorite color commentator – will be on the call with excellent play-by-play man John Strong.
ABC 4’s Real Sports Live was in LA this weekend for RSL’s season opener, covering the Claret-and-Cobalt’s 1-0 victory at the Galaxy from front to back with plenty of postgame content.
Real Sports Live’s Bill Riley and Brian Dunseth sat down with new RSL Head Coach Jeff Cassar, goalkeeper Nick Rimando and defender Aaron Maund after the game, speaking with all three about their solid individual performances and the team’s impressive win.
Sunday’s Real Sports Live also featured a couple more pieces of Real Salt Lake content, with ABC 4’s Wesley Ruff sitting down for an in-studio interview with RSL President Bill Manning and Cassar and Dunny’s Crossbar Challenge airing on the show.
Real Sports Live’s postgame interviews with Cassar, Rimando and Maund are below.
Cassar and Rimando:
Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando was at it again on Saturday night, playing out of his mind to preserve a 1-0 season opening win for RSL at LA Galaxy.
Rimando made nine saves on Saturday, several of them fantastic. Nicky saved his best stop for last, saving the Claret-and-Cobalt's win with a penalty kick stop on Galaxy forward Robbie Keane after RSL defender Tony Beltran was controversially whistled for a foul in the box on LA substitute Rob Friend.
"In that moment, it just felt [like] somebody wanted to take the game away a little bit," Rimando said after the game. "I knew [Keane] likes to stutter step and I waited as long as I could. [I] went to my right, reacted and was lucky to make the save."
Saturday's PK stop means that opponents have only put 41 of 61 attempted regular season PK's past Rimando. His 32.8 percent success rate on penalties is the best such rate in league history. The veteran backstop is now only three shutouts away from tying Kevin Hartman for the all-time MLS record with 112 clean sheets.
Check out Rimando's PK stop above.