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29 December 12:15 pm

It has been a busy year in Utah sports, what with the Jazz starting the Quin Snyder era, the BYU and University of Utah football teams both reaching bowl games and the basketball teams at the Utah (9-2) and BYU (10-4) both having strong starts to the 2014-15 seasons.  That doesn’t even take into account all of the local athletes that took home medals at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

However, to the folks at Real Sports Live on ABC 4 Utah, one name stood out among the rest as Utah’s Sportsperson of the Year for 2014 – Real Salt Lake midfielder Kyle Beckerman.

Now, Beckerman didn’t earn the honor just for a Best XI-caliber season in helping Real Salt Lake reach the MLS Cup playoffs for the seventh consecutive season while posting a fifth consecutive year of at least 15 wins and 50 points.  But it certainly didn’t hurt his cause.

What truly stuck out for the RSL captain was his time with the U.S. National Team in 2014.  Beckerman started in eight of his nine appearances with the U.S. this year, including starts in all three Group Stage matches as the U.S. went 1-1-1 to advance out of the Group of Death against Germany, Portugal and Ghana.

The dreadlocked superstar was rewarded with a contract extension that will keep him with The Claret-and-Cobalt for years to come.

Also on the list of finalists was RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando, who broke the all-time MLS shutout streak, led Major League Soccer in goals against average and was also included on the U.S. World Cup squad.

For the full Year in Review show on Real Sports Live, click here.

26 December 4:41 pm

In a year that featured the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Real Salt Lake’s Kyle Beckerman still found his way to the spotlight in the winter-sport frenzied Wasatch front with his sojourn to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.  On Wednesday, the RSL midfielder was listed among the top Utah athletes by The Deseret News in a feature titled “These 14 Utahns reminded us why we love sports in 2014.”

Beckerman captained Real Salt Lake to its seventh consecutive playoff appearances, the longest active streak in the league.  He had three goals and three assists in 28 matches while earning his eighth consecutive selection to the MLS All-Star Game in eight seasons with RSL.  But the highlight of the year came when Beckerman was named to the U.S. National Team for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.  There, he started all three Group Stage matches as the U.S. went 1-1-1 to advance out of the Group of Death.

The 32-year-old Crofton, Maryland, native was awarded with a contract extension that will keep him with The Claret-and-Cobalt for years to come.

For the complete Deseret News list, click here.

22 December 11:18 am

The U.S. U-18 National Team split two matches with the German U-18 National Team in Spain as the youth squad concluded the 2014 year and RSL-AZ Academy products Sebastian Saucedo and Brooks Lennon were both key contributors for the U.S.

The duo were part of a 20-man roster called in by Head Coach Javier Perez for the 10-day camp in Marbella, Spain, that started on December 11 that featured two matches against Germany’s U-18s. 

In the first match on December 17, Saucedo started and played 78 minutes while Lennon subbed into the match in the 64th minute.  The tandem combined for a goal in the 76th minute, Saucedo setting up Lennon for the score, putting the U.S. at a 2-0 advantage late in the match.  The Americans would go on to win 2-1 after a stoppage-time penalty for Germany.

On Friday, the same two sides met again, this time with Lennon starting the match and playing 90 minutes while Saucedo came into the match in the 52nd minute.  Germany took a 2-0 lead into halftime and the U.S. scored in the 48th minute to pull the score back to 2-1, only to have Germany add another to its lead in the 69th minute.  The U.S. scored in the 90th minute, but could not manage an equalizer and fell 3-2.

The U.S. U-18s finished the year with a 5-7-1 record in international competition.

Saucedo signed with Real Salt Lake in July and spent the latter part of 2014 in training with the first team.  Meanwhile, Lennon plays for the RSL-AZ Academy U-18s, based in Casa Grande, Arizona.  

16 December 5:00 pm

 

Craig Waibel left two lasting impressions in the hours after he was announced as the new Real Salt Lake Technical Director.  And just like during his 11 seasons in Major League Soccer as a player, Waibel exuded confidence and humility in his newest role.

That should come as no surprise, though, as Waibel’s career not only included four MLS Cup titles, one Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and one Supporters’ Shield, but he was also named the MLS Humanitarian of the Year five times during his career. 

After an offseason that has already included much transition, with four key veterans and General Manager Garth Lagerwey all departing, Waibel hopes he can keep the stability in place that has seen RSL reach the playoffs in seven straight seasons while also putting his own stamp on the club.

“First and foremost, when you are given the opportunity to follow the most proven and successful general manager in our league history so far, the first instinct is ‘Wow.  I can’t believe this opportunity is coming up.’  When I went back and thought about it and looked at the path I’ve been on and the way I’ve gone about my work … it was a kind reward to be offered this position.  But it’s not one that I take as a present.  I don’t think it was given for any other reason than I earned it,” Waibel said.  “I take this with a lot of humility.  At the same time I take it head-on just like I always have.  I’ve never viewed myself doing a job and doing it poorly.  I don’t think this one’s going to be any different.”

Waibel came to RSL prior to the 2014 season as Head Coach Jeff Cassar pieced together his coaching staff for his first season at the helm.  Previously, Waibel spent three years as an assistant coach at the University of Michigan and the University of Washington, helping coach UW to the NCAA quarterfinals for the first time in school history.  With RSL he was charged with coaching defenders and his defense held the third-best goals against average in the league at 1.14. 

Now as Technical Director, he will continue the task of restocking the roster after the losses of veterans Nat Borchers, Robbie Findley, Ned Grabavoy and Chris Wingert.  Already, RSL has reacquired 2010 MLS Defender of the Year Jamison Olave and the club’s further plans to fill those voids have already been set into motion.

“The focus will remain on the locker room.  It has to be a locker room that gets along and sees each other as equals.  Every team has special players.  The teams that win are the ones that figure out a way that the locker room treats each other as equals.  I think the group that we have believes in that,” Waibel said.  “We have to move forward and try and bring in those players that give us the character of the guys we lost.  I think we lost some very unique, special guys.  My job is to work with Jeff and the staff to make sure that we bring guys in that can continue to do what Nat and Ned and Chris did.  That is unify the locker room and really unify the fight on the field.”

Waibel is already hard at work in getting acquainted with his new role with the club.

Although he is still just 11 months into his time in Salt Lake, he already exudes pride in the Claret-and-Cobalt.  That has made the transition from the college game to the professional ranks in coaching easier and also should ease his transition to the front office.

“I love the fact that I get to wake and come in to a place that I believe in,” Waibel smiled.  “Not many people get to say that.”

12 December 5:19 pm

705 matches.  57 goals.  47 assists.

That is the cumulative stat line of the four Real Salt Lake stalwarts that will be donning other kits in 2015.

With Ned Grabavoy and Chris Wingert going to New York City FC in the Expansion Draft, Nat Borchers going to the Portland Timbers in a trade and Robbie Findley relocating to Toronto FC in the Re-Entry Draft on Friday, a significant chunk of the club’s roster over the last seven seasons will not be wearing the Claret and Cobalt in the coming season.

Over the course of the week all four had the opportunity to say good bye to the RSL family in their own way.

Nat Borchers
205 games played, 10 goals, 4 assists

 

Ned Grabavoy
159 games played, 10 goals, 14 assists

 

Chris Wingert
204 games played, 1 goal, 14 assists

Robbie Findley
137 games played, 36 goals, 15 assists.

12 December 10:20 am

Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando is among 10 finalists in CONCACAF's Goalkeeper of the Year voting and RSL fans have a chance to help him earn the honor.  Voting is open now at http://www.concacaf.com/2014-concacaf-awards-voting-fans, where fans can also vote for Player of the Year, Female Player of the Year, Coach of the Year and more.  

Fans will share an equal vote with the media and national team head coaches and captains.

Get out and vote, RSL fans.  And when you're done voting, get your friends to get out and vote.

11 December 12:22 pm

It was a whirlwind day at Rio Tinto Stadium on Wednesday as the shape of Real Salt Lake’s roster began to take form.  RSL lost Ned Grabavoy and Chris Wingert to New York City FC and Jason Kreis in the 2014 MLS Expansion Draft, but followed those departures with the addition of former MLS Defender of the Year Jamison Olave.  The 33-year-old Colombian makes his return to Salt Lake after two seasons with the New York Red Bulls and will serve as a replacement to Nat Borchers, who was traded earlier in the week to the Portland Timbers.

After things calmed at the club’s Sandy offices, RSL Head Coach Jeff Cassar joined the Bill & OC Show on ESPN 700 to talk about the evolution of the Real Salt Lake roster this week.

“It’s been very exciting.  I haven’t slept very much.  A lot of work, a lot of emotions running around this last week.  But I think everything worked out the way we hoped it would have,” Cassar said in the interview.  “Through this expansion process, it brings change.  You have to adapt.  You have to be planning ahead.  When you have a very good team, a very deep team, you know you’re going to lose some people that have been very instrumental in the success of RSL.  It’s not an easy time for us, but it’s a time that we had to plan for.”

While he lamented the loss of three key contributors to RSL’s success over the last seven years, Cassar also noted the return of Olave.  He said it was something that came together quickly as the team was mapping out its plan for the 2015 season.

“When we ended up having some resources to start thinking like this, it became evident that we wanted to bring Jamison back or someone like him.  And why not bring somebody back who has been with us, part of our family and such an imposing force?” Cassar said, also hinting that the club hasn’t stopped preparing to add more pieces to the puzzle.  “We are moving forward and already preparing for life after these players.  Adding Jamison right now is huge.  It’s a huge piece to add and there is more to come.”

To hear the entire interview, click the link below.

 

11 December 11:40 am

RSL Nation

I sit here with so many thoughts, emotions, and memories.  Yet I find it close to impossible to know what to say.  Its extremely difficult to say goodbye to something that's been so special to me. Even though that is exactly what I must do.  Words will never begin to describe the gratitude I have for my teammates, coaching staff, management, and supporters.  

We were a family. We collectively had a continued belief that ultimately led to our consistency as an organization.  What we built together was unique, a culture and atmosphere unlike any other.  

To our fans, I can never thank you enough for your support of myself and our team.  Without you, Real Salt Lake would never be where it is today.  You have supported me through my highs and lows, professionally and personally, and for that I will never be able to express how thankful I am.  I only hope it showed in my efforts on the field.  

We have succeeded and We have failed…..But we have done them together.  Wear those successes and failures with pride for everyone to see.  Those painful and oh-so-close failures make us stronger, and future successes that much more enjoyable.  

As I leave you, know that I am looking forward and not back, but the memories we have created together will never be lost, altered, or replaced. The only thing I hope I've accomplished in my time at RSL is the respect from you of how I have carried myself as a player, professional, and the person I've grown to be.  

Goodbye to all of you and Thank You for an unbelievable 6 years. 

#20 Ned Grabavoy 

09 December 3:32 pm

After seven seasons in Utah, Nat Borchers’ time with Real Salt Lake came to an end on Monday with the announcement that he had been traded to the Portland Timbers in exchange for Allocation Money.

Just hours after the announcement, he appeared on the Bill and OC Show on ESPN 700 in Salt Lake City and he spoke very highly of his time with the Claret-and-Cobalt.

“I learned a lot of lessons.  I definitely learned that when it comes to success on the field, there are a lot of things that have to happen off the field for the team to be successful,” Borchers said.  “For our group, off the field meant hanging out together.  It meant being a part of each other’s families.  It meant participating in each other’s lives and getting to know other guys on the team outside of the soccer field.  That made things really special for us and made our group very special.  That translated into so much of our success – just how well we knew each other, how much we loved playing for each other and fighting for each other.”

Borchers expressed a strong connection with the RSL fan base, one that was established early in his time with the club and only strengthened with each season.

“We’ve got nothing but gratitude toward the soccer community in Utah.  Since day one they brought us in and made us feel at home out here.  People are just so engaging and friendly and positive and excited about RSL,” he said.  “I’m just really proud that we were able to make that product a little bit better for the last seven years.  It gives the community a lot to talk about.  We’re incredibly grateful to the fans for rooting for us when we’re losing and cheering for us when we’re winning.  That’s just the sign of a fan base that’s here to stay and will be here forever.  I’m really looking forward to coming back here and watching games with my family and being part of this RSL family that’s so special.”

At some point, Borchers will return to Rio Tinto Stadium wearing the green of the Portland Timbers.  When that day comes and he faces off with his longtime teammates, he admitted that the feeling would be odd.

“I don’t look forward to that at all because I know it’s going to be a tough matchup and there’s going to be a lot of emotion involved,” Borchers said.

To hear the entire interview, click the link below.

 

01 December 11:17 am

It has been over two years since Real Salt Lake last played in the CONCACAF Champions League.  Now, after posting the fourth-best record in Major League Soccer for the 2014 season, RSL is on the cusp of receiving a spot into the coveted regional tournament.

There are four spots available for U.S.-based clubs and three have already been accounted for.  If the LA Galaxy wins MLS Cup over the New England Revolution on Sunday at the StubHub Center, the fourth will go to Real Salt Lake.

The four allotments go to the winner of the U.S. Open Cup, the Supporters’ Shield, the MLS Cup and the best regular season record in the conference opposite the Supporters’ Shield winners.  With Seattle Sounders FC winning the U.S. Open Cup and the Supporters’ Shield this year, they occupy one slot, while the Galaxy takes up the spot earned with the Supporters’ Shield win.  D.C. United had the best record in the Eastern Conference and is the third team in.

RSL finished the season with a 15-8-11 record (56 points) in Head Coach Jeff Cassar’s first year at the helm.  In earning the third seed in the Western Conference, Salt Lake is first in line for the Champions League berth should the Galaxy win MLS Cup.

This would be a great opportunity for the club to expand its regional brand and get back into the competition after a tough exit in the Group Stage in the 2012-2013 tournament.  RSL went 2-1-1 in that year’s Group Stage, falling just shy of 3-0-1 Herediano of Costa Rica to advance to the Quarterfinal Round.

In the 2010-2011 tournament, RSL reached the final on a storybook run through the Group Stage – which featured an epic 5-4 defeat to Cruz Azul in a downpour in Mexico.  In that tournament championship, RSL fell one goal short of becoming the first MLS club to win CONCACAF Champions League in its current format.  No other MLS club has reached the final, making the accomplishment stand out even more.

So while we all would much rather be in the match itself and having the club’s Champions League fate in the hands of RSL’s players, it instead lies with Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan and the LA Galaxy.  And although it would pain many to openly root for one of RSL’s Western Conference rivals, fans could still watch Sunday on ESPN with a bit of a rooting interest knowing that a Galaxy win would greatly benefit Real Salt Lake.  Kickoff on Sunday is scheduled for 1 p.m. MT.