Real Salt Lake finds themselves at a bit of a crossroads for Saturday's match against Chicago Fire, and with that, coach Jason Kreis is forced into making some less-than-easy decisions.
Decision: With Chris Schuler set to miss out, Jason Kreis has a big decision on his hands: Does Carlos Salcedo, the young, relatively un-tested center back, start in his place, as he did against Chivas USA? Or does he opt for Kwame Watson-Siriboe, who has more experience but was suspended on Sunday? Salcedo is a solid defender despite his age, and he's showed well in his two full matches — well enough that handing him a start doesn't seem a particularly risky maneuver, and one which could well pay dividends in both the long and short term.
Decision: Alvaro Saborio has been training, but does that mean he's in line for a start? Devon Sandoval has proven a fine backup considering his relative inexperience and allows for a bit less impetus in bringing Saborio back into the fold. If precautions need to be taken, Kreis can rest a bit easier knowing Sandoval can step in.
Decision: Does RSL play with the typically high-line defense often seen at home? RSL's passing has been a bit more wayward than in 2012, and perhaps naturally so considering the more attacking bent of the midfield. This can be slightly problematic when playing with your defenders high up the pitch, as simple mistakes can lead to clear opportunities on goal. (For further reference, please see Chivas USA defending, May 19) With Salcedo in the mix, RSL would have a quick center back to partner Borchers.
Decision: With the US Open Cup home match against the Atlanta Silverbacks approaching on Tuesday, Kreis will be forced to think about rotation and approach. Chicago Fire are an opponent that might be tempting to rest players against. Winning in the Cup is a stated priority for the club, particularly as it paves a road back to CONCACAF Champions League, and ensuring that some players are available for it — or at least doing our best to do so — could weigh in the decision-making process.
Decision: Even with rotation taken into consideration, a question of who sits on the bench remains. It's a question that will plague Kreis for the remainder of the season: Who is the central backup? Who sits ready to enter midfield? Which strikers have done enough to make the bench? While the question is difficult now, it will only get more difficult as fitness improves.
As told to Sam Stejskal
- The way I spend my time has kind of evolved a lot in the last few months because I just bought a house here. I’ve been learning how to become a responsible homeowner and seeing how much work there is to do around the house. It’s been fun, it’s a lot of work, but it’s rewarding work because I’m putting it into something that I value, that I care about. It’s kind of funny remembering kicking the soccer ball around my parents’ house, kicking it against the wall, breaking things. I mean they were saints. That must have driven them crazy because any time someone drops something on the floor and doesn’t pick it up it drives me nuts.
- Outside of that the majority of the way I spend my time, my biggest hobby or pastime is reading. It’s kind of nice that what I do for a profession allows me a lot of time to read. It’s something I grew up doing, something I’ll always do.
- Picking out a favorite book is tough. I have favorite authors, but that changes too. A lot of times the last book I read is my favorite book. I just finished re-reading The Great Gatsby; I wanted to do that before the movie came out. Right before that was The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton and before that I read Lolita by Vladimir Nabakov.
- Two of my best friends are U.S. Olympic speed skating hopefuls Jonathan Garcia and Matt Hickson. They’re both long track skaters and this year is an Olympic qualifying year. Jonathan does the 1,000 and 1,500 meters and Matt does the 500, he’s a sprinter. The trials are at the end of December; Jonathan actually would’ve qualified with his times from last year had it been an Olympic qualifying year.
- Jonathan and I are actually roommates. It’s interesting because we’re both athletes, we’re both competing towards a common goal but it’s different because his sport is individual and mine is more tea-oriented. Obviously we get along famously, but I take a lot from his training regimen, dietary stuff that he’s really into, and try to incorporate that into my life. It’s great living with another athlete because we have that common ground of both wanting to take care of ourselves.
- I’ve kind of kept this under wraps, but I performed at Ballet West here in Salt Lake in December 2011. Robbie Russell and Nat Borchers were rehabbing from surgeries and they were rehabbing with Ballet West Principal Michael Bearden. The three of them became good friends and I was very close with Robbie and Nat and I are very close so I became friends with Michael through those two. The Ballet does a couple of performances of The Nutcracker and then they do a spoof of it and this particular year, the spoof was sports themed. He asked me if I wanted to be a part of it and I said sure. I thought it’d be fun, something outside of the box and something where I’d get to hang around with pretty girls, to be honest. I went and saw them perform and I was blown away by their athleticism, by their grace and everything so I wanted to see how they trained, hang out with them and get to know their sport. It actually ended up being a lot more than I thought I’d signed up for. We did a full-on three-minute routine that Michael choreographed and it was like a Spanish dance that incorporated me juggling a ball with two ballerinas around me. I have video, but I’ll never show it to anybody, though I think I actually showed Chris Schuler once… But yeah, it was tons of fun. I’ve never been so nervous, not even for soccer games.
- I was a history major initially in college. It was tough, I was so young – entering college I was just 17 – and so focused on soccer that I just didn’t really think about it, to be honest. I just didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life outside of soccer and so that kind of seemed like a safe avenue, a lot of the other guys on the team were doing it and I like history so at the time it seemed practical. But then after I got a little bit older and started to think about the future a little bit more, I just realized, why don’t I just stick with what I love to do outside of soccer? So I came back to English. It made sense. So I’m going to the University of Utah now to finish up my degree. I went on a bit of a hiatus when the National Team stuff came up this winter, but I’m hoping to get back in soon and finish up the year I have left.
- It was pretty exciting how quickly everything happened with the National Team this winter. The season ended and I didn’t expect it, but a few days before Christmas I found out that I’d be going to the biggest camp of my life. It was so much fun playing with the guys, just being in a situation with a lot of my peers from around the league. At a MLS-based camp everyone has the same goals, you’re there, you’re competing, you’re flying around trying to impress so it was really fun. The trainings were fantastic, it was really demanding and it was cool to be involved with the National Team, especially since Kyle Beckerman was there.It meant the world to me that he was in camp, he’s such a great guy and a great leader so that really helped. Then camp came and went and I thought I held my own and I was pleased with the effort I put in. When I got called into the last qualifying camp because there were a couple of injuries, to know that I was just outside and so close was a really good feeling. It’s great that I got called in for those, but I have to keep focusing on the things that got me there in the first place and hopefully I can get back.
- I kind of go back and forth on whether I want to stay in soccer after my playing career ends. It’s tough, that’s one thing that keeps me up at night and I’m sure it keeps a lot of soccer players up at night. On the one hand I love soccer so much, it’s such a huge part of my life and it would be very strange to just completely walk away from the game. But on the other hand I would love to be able to prove that I can be successful in something completely unrelated to soccer, something that I’ve done on my own and away from the sport. So we’ll see, I don’t know quite yet.
- This is my sixth year in Utah. It is different than where I’m from in L.A. It’s funny, when I first found out I was coming here a lot of people were sympathetic. They were like ‘I’m sorry you’re going to Utah, such a bummer.’ I remember the first day I got here, it was a rough winter and there was a ton of snow. I was walking to the grocery store, trying to get something to eat from the hotel I was staying at just thinking, ‘Where am I?’ But I learned quickly that this place is a hidden gem. It’s fantastic and I love it. It’s certainly a slower pace of life than L.A., but the pace suits me. The people here are just so nice and so welcoming and I really feel like the community has embraced my presence here and the team’s presence here. It’s just such a fun thing to be a part of and I am extremely happy in Salt Lake.
Real Salt Lake has made Rio Tinto Stadium a nightmare for every MLS team but one: The Chicago Fire. The Windy City club is the only team with a winning record in Utah, posting a 3-2-2 mark against the Claret-and-Cobalt in the Beehive State.
RSL will try to correct that mark on Saturday, when it will host the Fire at 7:00 p.m. at Rio Tinto Stadium. Until then, read about the several RSL players and staff that have connections to the Fire and Chicago area.
Ned Grabavoy - Midfielder
Born in Joliet, Ill., the RSL playmaker showed his skill when he led Lincoln-Way Central High School in New Lenox, Ill. to two-straight state championship games. In his senior season, the midfielder won the 2000 Gatorade and NSCAA/adidas National High School Player of the Year awards. Grabavoy also hit the winning penalty kick that gave RSL the shootout victory at Chicago in the 2009 Eastern Conference Final.
Chris Schuler - Defender
Schuler played his club soccer for the Chicago Magic, which happens to be the same squad that produced RSL GM Garth Lagerwey and midfielder Ned Grabavoy. The defender served as a four-year captain for the club, winning the State Cup Championships from 2001-2004.
Kwame Watson-Siriboe - Defender
Watson-Siriboe was drafted by the Chicago Fire in the second round of the 2010 MLS SuperDraft. As a rookie, he appeared in 10 league matches. The center back made his professional debut alongside current RSL Assistant Coach C.J. Brown against Colorado on April 3, 2010.
C.J. Brown - Assistant Coach
Brown retired from the playing field in October 2010 after 13 seasons with the Chicago Fire. He was the last remaining “Fire Original” from the team’s 1998 inaugural campaign. The defensive standout helped lead Chicago to the 1998 MLS Cup and four Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup titles. He was inducted into the club’s “Ring of Fire” on May 9, 2012 ahead of RSL’s scoreless draw against the Fire at Toyota Park.
Andy Williams - Head Scout
Before Williams joined RSL, he was a member of the Chicago Fire from 2003-2004. “Bomma” helped the squad win the 2003 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup title and scored eight goals and added 13 assists in 59 games with the Fire.
Garth Lagerwey - General Manager
Lagerwey grew up in Elmhurst, Ill. and played club soccer for the Chicago Magic. The RSL GM attended York High School where he was a two-time Illinois all-state goalkeeper.
There's no better way to get ready for Saturday's Real Salt Lake-Chicago Fire matchup than by watching the highlights from the Claret-and-Cobalt's shootout victory at the Fire in the 2009 Eastern Conference Final. Great game and a great video - give it a look above.
The Real Salt Lake Women will play the first of three games at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday, when they'll host the Provo-based Utah Starzz at 1:00 p.m. MT at the Sandy facility ahead of the Claret-and-Cobalt's 7:00 p.m. MLS home match against the Chicago Fire. The RSL Women will also play at Rio Tinto Stadium on June 8 and July 3 ahead of RSL MLS matches.
ABC4's Dana Greene did a nice report on the Real Salt Lake Women on Wednesday night, talking with team members Sara Cowley, Kendra Halterman, Annie Hawkins and Jacqui Rimando - yes, that Rimando - about the team's history, it's affiliation with RSL and Saturday's home opener.
Check out ABC's report above and get your tickets to Saturday's match at the Rio Tinto Stadium box office, by calling 801-727-2700, or by clicking HERE.
U.S. Soccer on Wednesday revealed the potential pairings and match locations for all 2013 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup fourth-round scenarios.
If Real Salt Lake beats the NASL Atlanta Silverbacks on Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. MT at Rio Tinto Stadium it will host either the San Jose Earthquakes or USL Charleston Battery in the fourth-round in Sandy on June 12. The Battery will host the Earthquakes in Open Cup third-round action at Blackbaud Stadium on Tuesday, with the winner advancing to take on the winner of the RSL-Silverbacks matchup in the fourth-round.
Tickets to RSL's third-round matchup against Atlanta on Tuesday night are available for purchase online, at the Rio Tinto Stadium box office or over the phone at 801-727-2700.
- RSL-AZ U-18 forward Benji Lopez - who trained with the Claret-and-Cobalt first-team for two of its three preseason camps - was called up to the U.S. U-18 MNT for its 10-day trip to Portugal for the 19th annual International Juniors tournament.
- The Real Salt Lake U-18's defeated Pateadores SC 4-1 on Saturday at Grande Sports Academy. Click through for a full game recap and pictures from the match.
- The Real Salt Lake U-16's had an even better go against Pateadores, beating the Southern California side 4-0 in Casa Grande on Saturday. Game recap and pictures.
- Current Southwest Division standings for our U-16 and U-18 teams. Both teams are currently in second-place in their division and battling for overall playoff seeding. Click the link for more info on the standings and seeding.
- GSA Exports is our newest feature. It's where we track the progress of our former players who are playing at the next level. Academy alums featured in MLS, the MLS Reserve League and in PDL over the last week. Read about them all here.
- RSL-AZ U-18 players Coco Navarro and Ive Burnett both featured in RSL's Reserve League loss at the Chivas USA Reserves on Monday, with Navarro playing the full 90 and Burnett coming on in the 23rd minute. Read about their performances here.
- Interested in becoming a RSL-AZ player? You'll have your chance as Academy coaches will be in Utah May 24-25 holding tryouts. Details here.
It's been an exciting couple of days for Major League Soccer - my Twitter feed has been replete with words like "NYC", "Queens", "Yankees", "$400 million", "oil baron", and other words synonymous with big money. But for a moment, I'd like to talk about a subject that might be the soccer opposite of the New York expansion news: Ned Grabavoy. Real Salt Lake fans know better than most what Grabavoy's game is all about: Honest, hard work on both sides of the ball. He's rarely in the headlines. He's rarely in the spotlight. He's rarely up for Goal of the Week. What you get from "Grabs" is a solid, consistent effort, tidy possession, and hard tackles.
But this week the media is all abuzz with Grabavoy news, thanks to his two goals that led to RSL's lighting-up of Chivas USA on Sunday at the Home Depot Center. Don't get me wrong - it's a remarkable story to be sure. To put it in perspective, Grabavoy is in his 10th year in MLS and he has scored 10 goals. In other words, a ten-year veteran added 20% to his career goal total in 90 minutes. That's headline-worthy stuff, but I don't want to let the goals overshadow the rest of his game, because Sunday night Grabavoy was very, very good.
Take a look at Ned's passing chalkboard against Chivas. Ignore the completion percentage (more on that later) and ask yourself where most of his passes came from. The answer is, everywhere! This is what a box-to-box midfielder does - he covers all the length and width he can, helping in possession when his team has the ball and looking to win the ball back when his team doesn't. Speaking of winning the ball, Grabavoy was extraordinarily effective at that versus Chivas: His five tackles won were second-most on the team, just one behind Chris Wingert. Most of us probably would have expected that honor to belong to one of the other fullbacks or maybe Kyle Beckerman. But on Sunday, it was Grabavoy who did most of the midfield ball-winning for RSL.
Grabavoy also had RSL's best pass completion rate with 36 of 43 (83.7 percent) passes completed. That's no easy task on this team - Beckerman has lead MLS in this category for the last 2.5 seasons. Normally 84% isn't a great number, so why was it the best mark in this game? Well, the answer has everything to do with how Chivas chose to play defense. Their always-entertaining coach "Chelis" Sola elected to compress all his players into the smallest possible area in order to disrupt RSL's passing game. Honestly, it worked well; with the playable area of the field so small, every time an RSL player received a pass there he had a Chivas player nipping at his heels before he could line up a good pass. That led to a lot of incomplete passes. However, we also saw the downside of Chivas' defensive scheme: It left a lot of room behind the defense for attackers to use to run onto through balls, something Salt Lake players did with success all night (including Grabavoy, obviously).
It's a remarkable night when any RSL player nets a brace, but I would be remiss if I let Ned Grabavoy's goals overshadow his excellent overall performance on both sides of the ball.
A former RSL beat reporter for multiple outlets, Jeremy Horton is a regular contributor to RealSaltLake.com and helps cover the team for ESPN 700 AM.
Real Salt Lake will learn on Tuesday night its opponent for its May 28 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup third-round match at Rio Tinto Stadium.
The North American Soccer League's Atlanta Silverbacks will take on the National Premier Soccer League's Georgia Revolution in the Open Cup second-round at 5 p.m. MT on Tuesday, with the winner of the Peach State matchup set to take on RSL in Sandy next Tuesday.
The Silverbacks-Revolution match will be streamed live beginning at 5 p.m MT. Watch the match live here.
Now in its 100th year, the U.S. Open Cup is the longest running soccer competition in the United States. The winner of the tournament qualifies for the CONCACAF Champions League, with this year's champion entering the 2014-14 continental competition.
Tickets are available at special prices for the May 28 Open Cup match and can be purchased online, at the Rio Tinto Stadium box office or over the phone at 801-727-2700. The game is included in the RSL Season Ticket Package as Bonus Game A.
Update: Real Salt Lake will face Atlanta on May 28 after the Silverbacks beat Georgia 3-2 on Tuesday night. Click here for more info.
Four goals for Real Salt Lake in the most open match of the season speaks well of the performance on the night, but the 4-1 scoreline over Chivas USA ignores the task facing the defense on Sunday night — as well as a tactical shift that changed the game in the second half.
Wide open: Defense steps up
The first half and much of the second half against Chivas USA last night saw Real Salt Lake playing in perhaps the most open match they've seen all season. Chances were flying back and forth, and by and large, RSL had the better of the opportunities. But some points of frustration will inevitably emerge the very back-and-forth nature of the match and the fact that it took going up 3-1 for a win to look genuinely secure.
The defense deserves real recognition for the manner in which they dealt with the Chivas attack, with Nick Rimando particularly earning plaudits for two reaction saves in the second half. But Chris Wingert, Carlos Salcedo, Nat Borchers, and Tony Beltran all stepped up to the challenge well and compensated for a more attacking mentality from RSL.
Findley on: Dynamic changes
When Robbie Findley came into the match, Chivas USA had just started to pick their heads up and respond to the challenge in front of them. With Plata and Sandoval both looking a bit tired, the home side was controlling play more readily and unafraid to push players forward in search of an equalizer. Findley's arrival on the scene saw him pushing ahead of a high line defense, with through balls and passes over the top being played into him.
With Findley screaming past the defense, they attempted to adapt and were forced back into their earlier look that had seen them concede two goals. It wouldn't be inaccurate to say that he changed the dynamic of the match. Now, that's not to say that he shouldn't have scored once, twice or maybe even three times, but when his impact is so palpable otherwise, a little forgiveness is in order.
Wingert up: Interception machine
When Chris Schuler earlier this season picked up 8 interceptions, I batted my eyes a bit with surprise. But after turning to the chalkboards last night, I could scarcely believe my eyes: Chris Wingert, who I'd already thought had a very good match, made 17 interceptions. That means that every five minutes or so, Wingert stepped into the line of a pass and regained possession for RSL. That's no small feat.
Those moments can be somewhat attributed to a poor Chivas side, but it's one thing to be poor and another to be made to look so. Had Wingert played more passively and not stepped into passing lanes, it would have been an entirely different game. Given Chivas had 18 shots — though only six on-target — allowing more opportunities would have been, at best, regrettable.