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12 June 12:13 pm

Real Salt Lake kicks off participation on the 101st Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup tournament on Saturday, taking on NASL’s Atlanta Silverbacks at 6:00 p.m. MT at Atlanta Silverbacks Park. Saturday’s match will be streamed live on RealSaltLake.com and broadcast live on ESPN 700.

Saturday’s match will be the second year in a row that RSL has faced Atlanta in its opening match of the tournament. The Claret-and-Cobalt hosted Atlanta on May 28, 2013 at Rio Tinto Stadium, which resulted in a thrilling 3-2 win in extra time for the Utah side.

Check out the highlights from that wild and rainy match that jumpstarted RSL’s run to the 2013 Open Cup Final.

11 June 3:14 pm

Really cool illustration work by Devin Dulany for Howler magazine's online piece on RSL Captain Kyle Beckerman and USMNT teammate Jermaine Jones

Entitled "Our Dreaded Midfield" and written by Mike McCall, the piece details how - after years of being viewed as fighting for one spot in the starting lineup - Beckerman and Jones just might team up together in Jurgen Klinsmann's XI in Brazil.

It's a really nice read; certainly worth the time for all you Beckerman fans out there. Here's the money quote, given by Klinsmann after he started both Beckerman and Jones in the midfield in the U.S.'s 2-1 win over Nigeria on Saturday: 

“I saw a lot of work that they did, tremendous cleaning up all over the place,” Klinsmann said in his post-match press conference. “We know Kyle, and that’s his specialty, to protect his teammates and run endless miles for the team. Jermaine in that half position has more freedom to go forward so he can kind of switch back and forth with Michael Bradley, and he knows that there’s someone behind him there, so ‘If I lose the ball in my run, Kyle is going to clean up for me.’ It worked out really well.”

11 June 10:47 am

U.S. Soccer has released another series of videos, this time providing short highlight clips of for every player on the U.S. World Cup roster. With the big event kicking off tomorrow, get even more hyped by checking out some of Beckerman and Rimando’s best plays for the USMNT. You can find all 23 videos here.

11 June 10:39 am

RSL Head Coach Jeff Cassar took a quick break from the training field and film room on Tuesday night, rolling up to the Lionel Richie and Cee-Lo Green concert in a pretty rad tank top.

RSL assistant coaches Daryl Shore and Andy Williams were also at the concert. Andy thinks he and Cee-Lo look a bit alike. See any resemblance?

Cassar, Shore and Williams and the rest of the RSL coaching staff will run training sessions in Salt Lake on Wednesday and Thursday before departing for Atlanta ahead of Saturday’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match at the Silverbacks. 

10 June 2:40 pm

RealSaltLake.com is excited to introduce its new World Cup blog contributor, Andy Larsen. Andy will be travelling to Brazil with the American Outlaws, the official supporters group of the United States Men’s National Team, and chronicling his adventures for our Dispatch from Brazil series. All of Andy’s Dispatch from Brazil pieces will be posted on RealSaltLake.com’s The Sovereign and World Cup page.

We look forward to having Andy provide a glimpse into one of the greatest sporting events in the world!

First a little about Andy:

After years with a love for soccer as an RSL season ticket holder, Andy Larsen signed up with the American Outlaws to follow the USMNT around Brazil during the 2014 World Cup. As a writer, Andy is best known for his basketball work as the managing editor of Salt City Hoops, the ESPN Truehoop affiliate for the Utah Jazz. In addition to being the only credentialed Utah Jazz blog, Andy and his team of writers at Salt City Hoops also host a podcast and are featured guests each week on ESPN700.

Before Andy jets off to Brazil this week, he tackled U.S. Manager Jurgen Klinsmann’s controversial decision to exclude American stalwart Landon Donovan. Check out his first contribution below.

Will Landon Donovan’s absence from the World Cup haunt the U.S. in Brazil?

Last weekend, I attended one of Salt Lake’s fine Brazilian barbecue restaurants (or churrascarias). Naturally, having stacks of fine meat brought to me was delicious, and the experience was a treat.

Then, an irony hit me: in just 2 days, I’ll be visiting actual churrascarias, you know, in Brazil. Meanwhile, Landon Donovan won’t be, left off the 23-man roster to Brazil barring injury. How did this happen?

Let’s look at Donovan’s credentials: He’s MLS’s all-time leading goal-scorer (and impressively, primarily from a midfield position) in both regular season and playoffs. He ranks second in assists. He’s been on MLS’ Best XI 6 times, and he’s captured MVP, Golden Boot, Silver Boot, and Goal of the Year; essentially winning nearly every award there is to win. Importantly, he’s got the team hardware, too: In America’s domestic league, he’s won MLS Cup five times, Supporters’ Shield twice (runner up three times), and the US Open Cup.

Oh, imaginary contrarian, so his MLS resume isn’t enough? Let’s look at what he’s done for the USMNT: he’s the US’s all-time leading goalscorer and assistman, coming in second in appearances. He’s won Gold Cup four times, led the Confederations Cup run in 2009, was the 2002’s World Cup Young Player of the Tournament, and probably single-handedly saved the US from a group-stage exit in 2010 with his goals against Slovenia and Algeria.

In short, as Andres Cantor said after the most famous goal in US soccer history, “Landon Donovan es el major jugador en la historia de los Estados Unidos”.

And lest you think he’s over the hill, his 2013 performance proved otherwise: he was CONCACAF’s MVP for the USMNT’s Gold Cup win, scoring 8 goals in 11 appearances in 2013. That’s the very best yearly strike rate of his career (well, save for his 1-for-1 performance in 2000). And days after being snubbed from Klinsmann’s final roster three weeks ago, Donovan went on to break the MLS all-time goal record, scoring twice against the Philadelphia Union to give him 136 goals. Donovan added another one a week later, scoring against Chicago Fire.

Manager Jurgen Klinsmann has his own impressive resume, and the USMNT’s 12-game winning streak through 2012-2013 reveals that his tactical style works just as well in America as it did in Germany. But two weeks ago, Klinsmann decided that his vision for the club didn’t include Donovan; reports have suggested that the two haven’t seen eye-to-eye since Donovan’s call to Bayern Munich in 2009.

As a result, what could have been a synergistic relationship between two great international legends working together for US soccer glory has instead transformed into a referendum on Klinsmann’s managerial talents. Now that he’s made himself the unquestioned lead story, Klinsmann fairly will receive the blame should the US struggle in 2014 without Donovan.

Obviously, despite the decision, the World Cup goes on. The USMNT heads to Brazil for its most challenging test ever, and wherever the USMNT goes, so do the American Outlaws, the official supporter group of the team. I’ll be following along with them.

How did this happen? As a longtime RSL season ticket holder and soccer fan, I’d known for a long time I had to find a way to see soccer’s biggest event at some point in my lifetime. In 2012, I decided to start saving money for a trip to Brazil, and that year I put my name down on the already-full waiting list for the American Outlaws all-inclusive package. In January of this year, I got an email saying that a spot was open! I jumped at the chance, sent in my payment, and locked in to follow the USMNT wherever they ended up in the group stages of Brazil.

And what an itinerary! For most of the two weeks of the group stages, the home base of American Outlaws and therefore myself will be Natal: a relatively small Brazilian city in the northeast, famous for its beaches and sand dunes. Naturally, we’ll be there, loud and proud, for the US’s first game with Ghana. Then under a week later, we’ll take a chartered plane to the Amazon jungle to the city of Manaus, witnessing the USMNT battle Cristiano Ronaldo and his 10 Portuguese teammates. Finally, we’ll take a bus to Recife, and watch the US battle Germany, almost certainly for our nation’s World Cup life.

Along the way, I’ll be experiencing the thrill of the World Cup and Brazil – trying out a new language; visiting beautiful beaches, lakes, rainforests, and jungles; interacting with the citizens of Brazil and every other nation imaginable; and of course, trying out the local cuisine, including those famous churrascarias.

It’s just too bad Landon Donovan won’t be along for the ride.

10 June 10:37 am

U.S. Soccer recently released a great series of videos highlighting each American player in the final World Cup squad. Each video gives a glimpse into what each player is like on and off the field. Below are RSL's Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando's stories, but make sure to watch the whole series and get to know something about the entire team. Great job by US Soccer to build a connection between players and fans before Brazil.

Here's Kyle's piece: 


And Nick's:

09 June 2:47 pm

Real Salt Lake veteran GK Nick Rimando sat down with Brian Dunseth to discuss being named the U.S.'s final World Cup roster. The soon to be 35-year-old will be going to a World Cup for the first time in his extensive and impressive career. Rimando gives some great insight into what it will be like fulfilling his childhood dream. Check out the great interview above.

And if you missed Bill Riley's exclusive World Cup interview with Kyle Beckerman, you can watch that here.

The U.S. begins World Cup play on Monday, June 16 when it takes on Ghana in its first group stage match. The game will kick at 4:00 p.m. MT and will be broadcast live on ESPN.

06 June 5:02 pm

The USMNT take on Nigeria tomorrow in the final match of its World Cup "Send-Off Series." The Americans have two victories under its belt, defeating Azerbaijan and Turkey in its previous friendlies. Despite the wins, the Stars-and-Stripes are still looking to put in a complete performance. RSL midfielder Kyle Beckerman made appearance last weekend against Turkey, subbing on at the start of the second half for midfielder Jermaine Jones, while RSL 'keeper Nick Rimando remained on the bench. Let's hope both players get a look on Saturday in what will be one of the last chances to impress U.S. Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann. A preview from MLSsoccer.com can be found here.

And check out MLSsoccer.com's video preview with Andrew Wiebe and Greg Lalas above.

Match kicks at 4:00 p.m. MT on ESPN2.

06 June 3:41 pm

Real Salt Lake returns home to complete one of its toughest stretches of the 2014 season, playing host to Western Conference rival Portland Timbers on Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium at 8:00 p.m.

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

Will RSL continue its dominance over Portland?

Real Salt Lake has a pretty dominate history against the Portland Timbers, and is currently riding an 11-game unbeaten run against the Cascadia side. Portland’s only win came over three years ago, with the Timbers defeating RSL in April 2011 when the sides first met in MLS. RSL kept the undefeated streak going the last time to two sides met on April 19 at Rio Tinto Stadium, with RSL earning a 1-0 win thanks to a great Ned Grabavoy goal. The Claret-and-Cobalt posts an 8-1-3 mark across all competitions against the Pacific Northwest side and a 5-1-3 all-time regular season record against Portland.

Will Plata make his return on Saturday?

Lethal striker Joao Plata has missed the Claret-and-Cobalt’s last two matches due to a hamstring injury picked up against FC Dallas on May 24. The speedy Ecuadorian has six goals in nine appearances this year, tying him for the team lead with forward Alvaro Saborio. RSL has severely missed the absence of both Plata and Saborio, with no other forwards finding the back of net this season. RSL midfielder Luis Gil snapped the Claret-and-Cobalt’s scoreless streak at 275 minutes on Wednesday, when he scored in the 56th minute against Columbus.

Will RSL’s diverse attack against Portland endure?

Historically, RSL has had a very diverse attack against Portland with ten different players scoring and eight different players assisting on a total of 15 goals in the Utah side’s last seven matches against the Timbers (2013-14). RSL midfielder Javier Morales leads the way for RSL with three goals; followed by Saborio, Plata and Robbie Findley with two goals each; forward Devon Sandoval, midfielders Luis Gil, Cole Grossman and Ned Grabavoy, and defenders Chris Schuler and Nat Borchers all have one tally against the Cascadia club in that time frame. Captain Kyle Beckerman, Morales and Plata lead the way for RSL in assists, with three helpers each; Grabavoy, Gil, Findley, Saborio and midfielder Sebastian Velasquez all have one assist against Portland since the start of 2013.

Will the Claret-and-Cobalt return to the diamond midfield and normal starting lineup?

On Wednesday night in Columbus, Head Coach Jeff Cassar deviated from RSL’s standard diamond midfield for the first time this year, opting for a 4-2-3-1 formation instead. With RSL playing three games in eight days, the road test against the Crew was an opportunity to rest some starters ahead of its clash with Portland. Wednesday’s lineup featured an almost entirely new back line (Rich Balchan, Carlos Salcedo, Chris Schuler, Abdoulie Mansally), and marked the first career start for midfielder John Stertzer. With veteran defenders Chris Wingert, Tony Beltran and Nat Borchers rested, Real Salt Lake should look a bit more familiar on Saturday.

Last MLS match before World Cup break

Saturday’s match will be Real Salt Lake’s final MLS regular season match until June 28 when the Claret-and-Cobalt travel to California to take on Chivas USA at StubHub Center. That isn’t to say RSL won’t be busy in June though, since it will play its first Open Cup match against NASL’s Atlanta Silverbacks on June 14 in Georgia. But with the upcoming regular season break, RSL will want to end on a high note at home. Will RSL leave it all on the line on Saturday?