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
Toronto FC Head Coach Ryan Nelsen had a bit of a go at Real Salt Lake on Tuesday, telling reporters at TFC’s media availability that he thinks that Claret-and-Cobalt forward Alvaro Saborio should be suspended for his challenge on LA’s A.J. DeLaGarza (video above) in Saturday’s 1-1 draw.
Nelsen’s the latest to hop in on the debate, which began on Saturday when LA’s Bruce Arena, Landon Donovan and Omar Gonzalez called for Saborio to be suspended in postgame comments after the RSL-LA match at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Nelsen commented on Saborio after fielding questions about TFC midfielder Jackson, who Nelsen predicted will likely get suspended for this elbow to DC’s Davy Arnaud.
“That could have broken his leg,” Nelsen said of Saborio’s challenge in a report by Sportsnet’s John Molinaro. “If Jackson gets suspended, you’d like to hope that a [player] who has nearly broken a guy’s leg is going to get suspended as well. You never know, though. I don’t make up the rules.”
Nelsen also commented on TFC’s early season schedule on Tuesday, calling it “probably the toughest start of any team in the whole of the league.”
Here’s Toronto’s start: at Seattle, v. DC, at RSL, at Columbus, v. Colorado, at Dallas.
Here’s RSL’s: at LA, at San Jose, v. LA, v. Toronto, at Kansas City, at Philadelphia.
And, just for good measure, here’s Colorado’s: at New York, v. Portland, v. Kansas City, at Vancouver, at Toronto, v. San Jose.
We’ll let you be the judge.
Real Salt Lake will host a revamped Toronto FC side on Saturday, welcoming the 2-0-0 Canadian club to Rio Tinto Stadium for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff. The match will feature a battle of two of the best central midfielders in MLS, with RSL Captain Kyle Beckerman facing off against TFC Designated Player Michael Bradley.
While Bradley is widely considered the better of the two players – he starts ahead of Beckerman on the U.S. Men’s National Team – one RSL player sees things a little bit differently. Claret-and-Cobalt defender Nat Borchers thinks Beckerman is the better than Bradley, and said as much during his Monday appearance on “The Bill and Hans Show” on ESPN 700.
Nat’s full quote is below. Click here to listen to his full interview.
“I think Bradley is a very similar player to Kyle Beckerman, except I think Kyle’s a better player. Both of those players are getting paid to score goals, assist on goals and to do the dirty work defensively. You look at Bradley, he’s not afraid to track runners back into his own half, not afraid to press defenders forward into their half. He’s all over the place and he can cover an amazing amount of ground. To quantify what he does on the pitch is really more about wins and losses than goals or assists. He just does so much for his team, just like Kyle Beckerman does for us.”
Well said, Nat.
As always, ABC 4’s Real Sports Live did a great job of covering Real Salt Lake on Sunday night, going in-depth on the Claret-and-Cobalt’s home opening 1-1 draw with the LA Galaxy.
RSL defender Nat Borchers appeared on this week’s show, talking about Saturday’s match with ABC 4’s Wesley Ruff. Check out Nat’s interview above.
Nice work from MLSsoccer.com's Matt Doyle and Dan Haiek previewing Saturday's RSL-LA tilt. Check out their scouting report above.
As told to Sam Stejskal
- I grew up in Preston, England. Obviously football is just so popular there, so I started as soon as I can remember with a ball at my feet. Played with my primary school team, my high school team, but my whole time in England I never got picked up by a professional team’s academy. So I went and played for my local college team, Preston College Football Academy. Before going there I knew that they went on a yearly trip to America and the ultimate goal for that trip was for players to get scholarships to university. University football in England is not the same as it is in America, it’s a lot better in America because university sports aren’t a big deal in England. So, I had two options, either to stay in England, work and play in like the fifth tier and try and work my way up, or try and come out to America. I had my heart set on that, and got a scholarship offer from Wingate University in North Carolina after my English team played at a President’s Day tournament in Phoenix.
- Wingate was definitely a lot different than what I was used to. I didn’t even know where the college was located before I started, I didn’t really know what I was in for, so once I got there it was a lot different. One of the good things that helped me was that we had a big freshmen class and a lot of them were from England and Ireland, so we had a good core group of close friends so I didn’t feel too far away from home.
- In college I picked up the nickname “Dutch.” I guess Mulholland was just too long of a name for everyone to keep calling me in training, so one of my friends just started calling me “Dutch” because of the “Holland” in my name. It just stuck. The majority of my college friends would still refer as Dutch.
- My first year as a pro with [Wilmington Hammerheads] in USL in 2011 I was making peanuts money, so I asked for a second job. The head coach there put me in touch with the woman who owned the postgame pub where everyone would go to and also owned a law firm across the street. So I started working at the pub as a waiter and a bartender, and then one of the secretaries over at the law firm quit, so she asked me if I could be a secretary. I said sure and I was a lawyer’s secretary/bartender/soccer player for a couple of months, so that was interesting.
- It would’ve been nice to after my first year at Wilmington if I could’ve made the jump to MLS. It was a bit unfortunate actually, because after I got done with Wilmington I was going to go to Philadelphia Union for a Reserve League game. My PDL coach was an assistant coach there at the time so he was keen on getting me in and the head coach was too, but then they had a bad hurricane that weekend so the game got cancelled and I didn’t end up going. The next week Minnesota signed me for the rest of the NASL season and I ended up going there.
- Something similar ended up happening when I got done with Minnesota. My agent told me that New England wanted me to come in and practice with them for a few days. They hadn’t made the playoffs but were still training, and I had just got done in Minnesota, just won the championship and thought three days won’t hurt. I went in, but days before I got there the head coach got fired. So when I went in it was only the assistant coach. It wasn’t really anything too strenuous, but I was hoping I’d done enough to get an invite back for preseason. But after that was all said and done, they hired the new head coach and he got rid of all the backroom staff so it was like I’d never really been there. That was disappointing, but at the same time from that loan spell at Minnesota I attracted Tampa’s interest and they signed me on a one-year deal with a club option for a second season. I had a good first year there and they were keen on keeping me, so I stayed at Tampa for another year.
- I kept in touch with Jeff Attinella last year after he and I played together in Tampa in 2012. I’d check in just to see how he was doing, and he would always tell me to keep doing what I’m doing in the league. He told me that RSL was interested and then before the end of the season my agent told me that there was a discovery rights claim on me from RSL. So I knew they were interested, and I was obviously delighted with that. Over the offseason we were able to come to an agreement on a contract and I came in for preseason in January and felt right at home ever since.
- I’ve definitely been delighted with my start to the season. To get in the first game at LA, coming off the bench as the first sub and getting a taste for it, and obviously 10 minutes into the game scoring a goal, it would’ve been a dream start, but it is what it is now. It’s still baffling in regards to how that goal got disallowed, but I was just over the moon from the support from the fans that got into it and welcomed me to the club. That we got the win as well on the road, it was a great feeling to start the season off. Then getting the goal last week felt like a just reward after the first week.
- I don’t know that there was any inspiration behind my celebration after scoring. Obviously I enjoy playing my football and the best part about playing football is scoring goals, so I enjoy them when I do score. That was just a little dance that I’ve been doing recently in my celebrations so I thought I’d bust it out. And obviously we have [Joao] Plata and [Olmes] Garcia and they always like to dance so I feel comfortable around them, just showing them what my moves are or whatever, so it was all fun.
- I was very surprised with the big ovation I got at the fan event at Scheels this week. Completely delighted, very glad that the fans there were very welcoming to me. It means a lot you know, especially as a new player on the team. Coming from Tampa we had big huge support there, and it was sad to leave, but at the same time it was very exciting to move on up. The fact that the fans have been so great and warmed to me already has made it even better, and I’m really looking forward to getting out in front of them this Saturday.