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30 July 10:06 am

Real Salt Lake will travel to Denver this weekend, taking on the Colorado Rapids on Saturday at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in the deciding game of the 2013 Rocky Mountain Cup Presented by Mark Miller Subaru.

The Rapids - who got a little weird ahead of the April 6 match between the sides - started the hype machine for Saturday's match on Monday, calling their fans to "Defend the Fortress" by releasing the above video. 

We thought the phrasing was a little bit odd. Guess the Rapids don't know that Rio Tinto Stadium is The Original Fortress. 

Keep creepin', Colorado.

30 July 9:24 am

Looks like RSL's Kyle Beckerman, Tony Beltran and Nick Rimando caught up with ex-RSL man Will Johnson in Kansas City on Monday night ahead of Wednesday's MLS AT&T All-Star Game against Italian side AS Roma. 

The four seem to be lost in a riveting conversation... Maybe things are just too awkward for them now that their respective clubs are battling it out at the top of the Western Conference table and are set to meet three times this month. We're guessing they'll all show a little more emotion next Wednesday, Aug. 7, when Johnson and the Timbers come to town to take on the Claret-and-Cobalt at Rio Tinto Stadium in the Semifinals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup

29 July 2:44 pm

Despite getting three goals from Alvaro Saborio, Real Salt Lake lost in stoppage time for the second consecutive match on Saturday, falling 4-3 at the New York Red Bulls.

Here are a few interesting numbers from Saturday’s match:

3

Real Salt Lake forward Alvaro Saborio scored three goals on Saturday, completing his third career MLS hat trick with a fantastic goal in the 82nd minute. After Saturday’s performance, Saborio is now first in MLS among players with more than 207 minutes played with 0.85 goals per 90 minutes.

53.8

Saborio has seven goals on only thirteen shots on target this year, good for an insane scoring percentage of 53.8 percent.

28

Real Salt Lake was whistled for 28 total fouls on Saturday, the team’s highest total of the season. The previous high for the club was 17 fouls committed in the June 1 match against the San Jose Earthquakes.

94

New York Red Bulls midfielder Dax McCarty scored the game-winning goal in the 94th minute of play, marking the second consecutive match where RSL has give up a go-ahead goal in stoppage time.

6

Real Salt Lake forward Joao Plata’s well-timed pass – resulting in Saborio’s third goal of the match – marked Plata’s sixth assist of the season. Plata is now tied for seventh in the league in assists.

5.5

With 6 shots on goal against New York on Saturday, the Claret-and-Cobalt increased their average shots on goal to 5.5 per game, tops in the league.  The Montreal Impact are a distant second, at 5.25 shots on goal per game – an overall gap of 16 shots on target.

12

Despite having lost consecutive matches, Real Salt Lake maintains the best goal differential in the league, with a differential of +12.

7

For the second consecutive week, a match featuring Real Salt Lake resulted in a total of seven yellow cards.  Saturday’s match also marked the second straight match where an RSL player has been shown a yellow card within the first five minutes of play.

0

With the completion of the Gold Cup, the Claret-and-Cobalt no longer be without the services of goalkeeper Nick Rimando, midfielder Kyle Beckerman and defender Tony Beltran, giving the team zero players out on international duty.  Due to a red card suspension, however, Beltran will miss the Aug. 3 match at the Colorado Rapids.

29 July 10:55 am

Real Salt Lake's Nick Rimando, Kyle Beckerman, Tony Beltran and the rest of the U.S. national team were crowned CONCACAF Gold Cup champs on Sunday, beating Panama 1-0 in the tournament final at Soldier Field. 

Rimando went on a bit of an Instagram spree after the match, posting a bevy of pictures from the postgame locker room celebration. Check 'em out below: 

Rimando, Beckerman and Beltran are all traveling to Kansas City on Monday ahead of Wednesday's MLS AT&T All-Star Game against Italian side AS Roma. The RSL trio will return to the Claret-and-Cobalt on Thursday ahead of Saturday's decisive 2013 Rocky Mountain Cup Presented by Mark Miller Subaru match at the rival Colorado Rapids. 

26 July 2:49 pm

Real Salt Lake will look to bounce back from last weekend’s tough loss to Sporting Kansas City this Saturday, when it will take on the New York Red Bulls at 5:00 p.m. MT on ABC 4 at Red Bull Arena.

Here are a few storylines to watch ahead of Saturday’s contest:

RSL v, Jamison Olave, Fabian Espindola and Jonny Steele

Saturday’s match will pit the Claret-and-Cobalt against former RSL men Jamison Olave, Fabian Espindola and Jonny Steele. Olave and Espindola were dealt to New York this offseason in the same December trade, while Steele signed with the Red Bulls after RSL declined to pick up his option. The trio spent a combined 12 seasons with the Claret-and-Cobalt, with Olave and Espindola playing huge roles on the 2009 MLS Cup winning side and on the team that advanced to the final of the 2011 CONCACAF Champions League.

Return of Sabo

Star forward Alvaro Saborio will be available to make his return to the RSL lineup this weekend after playing just twice since April 20 due to a combination of international call-ups and injury. Saborio was most recently with the Costa Rican national team for the CONCACAF Gold Cup, re-joining RSL earlier this week after Los Ticos were eliminated by Honduras in the tournament’s quarterfinals on Sunday.

Real Salt Lake faces another top Eastern Conference team

Saturday’s match is RSL’s fourth-consecutive against a team in playoff position, and third time this month that it will face a top Eastern Conference side after taking on Philadelphia and Kansas City earlier in July. The Red Bulls currently sit in third-place in the East with 32 points from a 9-7-5 record.

A backline without Beltran and Wingert

Saturday’s game will mark the first-time in 74 games across all competitions that RSL will play without both Tony Beltran and Chris Wingert. Beltran is unavailable while with the U.S. national team for Gold Cup duty, while Wingert is out while serving the first game of a two game suspension.

Getting back on track

The loss Saturday night against Sporting Kansas City was Real Salt Lake’s first in 12 matches across all competitions. The last loss, prior to Saturday, was a 3-2 loss against the Montreal Impact on May 11 in Montreal. 

25 July 12:39 pm

18-year-old forward Benji Lopez signed a Homegrown contract with RSL last week. His welcome to the team? This unicorn mohawk, courtesy of midfielder Sebastian "Ruffio" Velasquez. 

Has to be one of the roughest cuts I've ever seen. Yikes. Credit to Javier Morales for calling for the clippers, Lalo Fernandez for the unique idea, and the one-and-only Seba Velasquez for the execution. 

25 July 11:06 am

Real Salt Lake will face off against former Claret-and-Cobalt players Fabian Espindola, Jamison Olave and Jonny Steele for the first time this Saturday, when RSL will take on the trio's New York Red Bulls at 5:00 p.m. MT at Red Bull Arena on ABC 4. 

RSL Head Coach Jason Kreis, defender Nat Borchers and midfielder Ned Grabavoy have already shared their thoughts on going up against the former RSL men. On Thursday, Espindola and Steele spoke to NewYorkRedBulls.com about facing off against their former team

"It's going to be special," Espindola said. "I know that they're a great team. They're going to play and be a tough team to beat."

"Everything about Real Salt Lake was good for me," he continued. "I have a lot of good things from my time there and I'm grateful for that team." 

Steele - who made his MLS debut as a member of RSL against the Red Bulls on March 17, 2012 - was also complimentary of the Claret-and-Cobalt. 

"Salt Lake is a small franchise but they do things right and things are professional," he said. "All around they've got great coaches and they've been succesful."

Espindola is particularly looking forward to the on-field battle between Olave and RSL maestro Javier Morales on Saturday. 

"I was just joking with [Olave] about how I'm going to laugh when I watch him and [Javier Morales] fighting," he said. "That's going to be funny. 

23 July 3:17 pm
As told to Sam Stejskal
  1. The last couple of weeks have been pretty hectic after getting my first games. A lot of my friends that I haven’t talked to in a while have been reaching out to me, I had my parents fly in last minute for the Sporting KC game, my in-laws came in, so it’s been pretty hectic, but it’s been fun too. I didn’t want to go the whole season and not feel like I was a part of the team and didn’t contribute in any way, so to get the opportunity to contribute is something that I’ve really appreciated.
  2. After I made my debut in the Dallas game it was pretty wild. Leading up to Kansas City I was just doing my best to kind of focus. I was on edge a little bit all week and I think I got my wife pretty annoyed with me, but it’s starting to settle in. This week I definitely feel a lot more comfortable; I’m not on pins and needles this week the way I was last week.
  3. It was tough not getting any games for four or five months and then getting thrown in there. I mean it still is tough; I have big shoes to fill with Nick and Josh. It’s kind of funny because I hadn’t been playing much in Reserve games either, so I hadn’t really gotten many minutes at all and just to get my first 90 minutes with RSL against a MLS team in a game where its first-place vs. first-place, sold-out stadium, and then to have everything go the way it did and the end to happen the way it did, I feel like I experienced at least five months worth of emotion in about 90 minutes.
  4. While it’s definitely been pretty crazy, I’m just appreciative that the staff trusts me enough to throw me into that situation. To be able to contribute to the team in a positive manner – which I feel like I’ve done so far – is something I’ve really, really appreciated.
  5. The support from the fans has definitely been incredible. I think coming in at Dallas and making a great save probably had something to do with that, because I can’t imagine the expectations were that high originally. But the team support as well has been really what has been helping me get through this. Nick has been reaching out to me a bunch, telling me to keep calm and play my game. Josh has been really supportive as well, which is obviously tough in his situation. And all the teammates have really shown a lot of faith in me. That they feel comfortable with me back there means everything. The support from really the whole RSL family has been pretty incredible, actually.
  6. Where I was in preseason and where I am now I think that I’m such a better ‘keeper. A lot of that is a credit to Nick and Josh, just watching them train, picking their brains every chance I can. Obviously working with [Goalkeeper Coach Jeff Cassar] has been great as well, but to be able to see these two guys up close and personal every day for five months, I’ve learned so much from them.
  7. We’re obviously in a pretty weird goalie situation here with four goalies on the roster. Josh has been a starter in this league for a long time, Nick is obviously the best goalie in the league and then there’s Lalo and I, so the goalkeeper situation I think had a chance to be pretty awkward and unsupportive because everyone’s competing for a certain spot. Thankfully, it’s been the opposite of that and I think that speaks really highly to the type of people that Nick and Josh both are.
  8. Honestly, coming out of college, I thought not making RSL and going to the minors was a huge setback. You don’t really know how hard it is to make it to this level right out of school. I was first-team All-American my junior year, I went overseas a couple of times and did really well, so I thought things were going to come pretty easy, to be honest and to go down to the minors right away and get drafted in the Supplemental Draft and not taken on the first day was a huge wakeup call. But it was a blessing in disguise. I went down to the Tampa Bay Rowdies and got 50+ games and gained a ton of experience. Obviously I got to stay in my hometown for two extra years, and that was awesome – playing professional soccer in your hometown, it doesn’t really get any better than that. So it was huge, I owe the NASL and the Rowdies a lot. Being able to get those games, playing one or two games every week for eight months was huge for my experience and I really think that it helped me get to the point I am now, even if just in the fact that I feel comfortable in the net in a game situation. The game Saturday was probably my 60th career professional game including the NASL; it’s a lot different when you’re playing in your 60th compared to if that was my first start as a pro.  
  9. I’m a huge Tampa Bay sports fan, so any chance I get I’m watching those teams in action. I have a Slingbox hooked up to the TV in my parents’ house, so I’ve been watching a lot of Rays baseball. I’m also spending a lot of time taking my dog to different trails and things like that. I’m trying to get a little bit of Utah life, the whole outdoors life, see what that’s like. Off the field, I just spend a lot of time with my wife. When the guys are getting together, I hang out with the guys, a lot of the single guys, so I’m sure my wife appreciates that. But I’ve just been trying to dive into Utah and getting used to how life is out here.
  10. I listen to all kinds of music; really it depends on my mood. But I am a country fan and I was 100 percent planning on going to go the Jason Aldean concert this weekend at Rio Tinto Stadium. I went to that concert actually twice in Tampa and had a great time. Obviously I’d rather be in New York with the team, though, and I’m happy I’ll be there this Saturday. But when I saw Jason Aldean coming and that we were away I was pretty excited about getting the chance to see him again. The plan is for my wife to go and take some videos for me, though. 
23 July 12:45 pm

Down a man, Real Salt Lake lost to Sporting Kansas City in the worst of ways by conceding very late into stoppage time on a set piece — but one might look at the side after Chris Wingert was sent off when looking for an explanation of the movement leading to the loss.
Set pieces
In the inimitable words of Alexi Lalas: Set pieces. One can blame refereeing errors all one likes, but referees don't force defensive errors. Not directly, at least — one might argue that Chris Wingert's presence in the box may have helped, but contemplating that puts us firmly in the realm of fantasy. Simply, the entirety of the team must do better on set pieces. We're surely improved from earlier in the season, but when you're on an at-best second-choice defensive group, it might be a little inevitable. Still, these are fundamentals.
Effects of the sending off
Sporting notably controlled the match from the time Chris Wingert left the match, holding possession advantages from the 70th-75th minute interval forward. It had, until that point, been a relatively back-and-forth affair, with neither team holding significantly more than 25% more possession in a given five-minute interval. Interestingly, RSL actually controlled an advantage in passing until the final 30 minutes of the match, during which Kansas City completed more passes than some terribly mediocre teams have against us this season — 165 of 188 for a staggering 87 percent accuracy. 100 of those successful passes were in the attacking half. When down a man, especially late on, some semblance of continuity could have saved Real Salt Lake at least a point.
(Possession intervals and other interesting stats can be seen on MLS's Golazo! beta: https://golazo.mlssoccer.com/matchcenter/2013-07-20-real-salt-lake-vs-sporting-kansas-city/stats
The diamond, down a man
It all comes to a head, then: Jason Kreis was forced to make a defensive substitution, which has been fairly opposite to his intentions throughout the rest of the season. He didn't have many options, and given the danger Sporting KC presented, one might say he made the right decision. But let us ponder for a moment what the match would have been like with two forwards — one playing deeper on the flank as Plata is inclined to — and three defenders. The problem rapidly became that RSL's midfield couldn't win the ball, and with a game plan that depends largely on pressure higher up the pitch, having only a single forward hurt.
When that forward is the ever-wily Olmes Garcia, the problem is magnified: Garcia, for all his magic and ability, is not a forward best-suited for a side down a man and almost entirely on the back foot. But the thought process is positive: Garcia's ability to run at defenders and create havoc is tactically profound, but it does require that he has either a forward partner to close down other options in a high press, or that he has one or two midfield players making runs at defenders as well. Neither was the case once he came on, and as a result, his pressure was largely cursory for the Kansas City back line to deal with.
regular contributor to RealSaltLake.com, Matt Montgomery runs the SB Nation blog RSL Soapbox. Follow Matt on Twitter @TheCrossbarRSL
23 July 9:36 am

It's one of the best features on MLSsoccer.com: Simon Borg takes a look at controversial refereeing decisions from the weekend and breaks them down, as only he can. 

This week's edition is - unsurprisingly - heavy on decisions from Real Salt Lake's tough 2-1 loss to Sporting Kansas City on Saturday. Mr. Borg offers his opinion on the calls and RSL Head Coach Jason Kreis' assesment of them. Give it a watch above.