Portland's fans unveiled quite the tifo for Tuesday night's U.S.-Belize Gold Cup match, unfurling several huge banners and a green, "Cascadia" Uncle Sam just prior to the start of the Stars-and-Stripes' 6-1 Group C win at Jeld-Wen Field.
You know by now that the U.S. is coming to Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday for a Group C doubleheader. RSL's Kyle Beckerman, Tony Beltran, Nick Rimando and the rest of Jurgen Klinsmann's side will take on Cuba at 1:00 p.m. MT, with Claret-and-Cobalt forward Alvaro Saborio and Costa Rica playing Belize immediately afterwards at 4:00 p.m. The game will be a great chance - the second one this summer, of course - for Salt Lake fans to put a unique stamp on a national team match. Portland did it last night - let's get after it in our own way on Saturday.
The latest "Soccer Smarts with Professor Leo" dropped earlier on Tuesday. Give it a watch and learn all you need to know about the CONCACAF Gold Cup, which will come to Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday, when the U.S. takes on Cuba at 1:30 p.m. and Costa Rica faces off against Belize at 4:00 p.m. in a Group C doubleheader at the Sandy facility.
RSL Captain Kyle Beckerman (U.S.), defender Tony Beltran (U.S.), goalkeeper Nick Rimando (U.S.) and forward Alvaro Saborio (Costa Rica) will all be available for selection on Saturday. Click here to get your tickets.
Currently with the U.S. national team on Gold Cup duty, Real Salt Lake captain Kyle Beckerman and goalkeeper Nick Rimando did an interview with Fox Soccer on Sunday. Part of that interview? Take 20 seconds to draw a picture of the other.
Kyle's drawing of Nick is on the left, while Nick's picture of Kyle is on the right. Check the artwork out on U.S. Soccer's Instagram and above.
We're at just about the halfway mark of the 2013 season and midseason awards columns are starting to roll out.
ESPN FC's Jeff Carlisle's gave RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando some love in his awards column on Monday morning, naming the veteran 'keeper his MLS Goalkeeper of the Year. Nice call, Jeff: Amongst goalkeepers with at least 10 starts, Rimando leads the league in save percentage, wins and goals against average and is near the top in shutouts and saves.
Of course, Rimando brings much more than solid numbers to RSL. As Carlisle points out:
"The veteran netminder's contribution transcends mere numbers. RSL's rebuilding project saw the departure of former Defender of the Year Jamison Olave while injuries to Kwame Watson-Siriboe and Chris Schuler have also prevented RSL from fielding anything remotely resembling a consistent backline. All of which points to Rimando's experience and organization in keeping RSL among the league's defensive leaders."
Currently with the U.S. national team, Rimando will return to RSL following the conclusion of the CONCACAF Gold Cup at the end of July. He'll likely be in action at Rio Tinto Stadium with the U.S. squad this Saturday, when the Americans will take on Cuba at 1:30 p.m. in the first match of a Gold Cup doubleheader that will see RSL forward Alvaro Saborio and Costa Rica take on Belize at the RioT at 4:00 p.m. Get your tickets to the Gold Cup doubleheader here.
On the back of a match struck by experimentation, Jason Kreis's side has been hit once again by international absences. Heading into tomorrow's match against the Philadelphia Union, the concerns weigh on the mind, but solid squad depth should play an easing role.
The 4-3-3: Did it work?
When we take a look back at last weekend, we will rightly wonder if the switch to a 4-3-3 worked. It's a difficult question to answer with the sort of win we found, as it wasn't particularly a win that was down to the system. That said, we saw that it has some potential, particularly in pushing players in wide areas. It did lack a bit of thrust from the midfield, and the strikers were increasingly isolated; whether this is down to a systemic issue or to personnel is difficult to say without further evidence.
That noted, we're not likely to see it again tomorrow unless we're making a second-half adjustment. It would be reasonable to assume that Jason Kreis wasn't looking to change the diamond, but to explore other options for adjustments as needed.
Absence makes the heart grow something-something
Four incredibly important players will be absent for this match and for a few more: Nick Rimando, Tony Beltran, Kyle Beckerman, and Alvaro Saborio are all off with international absences, and when you're missing four crucial players, things get — shall we say — tricky. Continuity becomes an issue, as does a drop-off in performance. But critically, some tactical decisions will be involved as well.
Josh Saunders may be a fine goalkeeper, but Nick Rimando is superb when playing with a high-line defense in front of him, as he is quick and good with his feet. Saunders is less of both of those things, though he is certainly a good shot-stopper. A bit more caution from the defenders will be necessitated, and perhaps this will force the defensive midfielder to sit back a little further to allow less room to exploit.
Yordany Alvarez, who will almost certainly be in for Beckerman, lacks the vision and precision of Beckerman, but his break-up play is superb, and he's not a slouch in attack. With him dropping back, the outside midfielders will need to tuck in a bit more, and the full backs will need to push a bit more forward to snuff out wide play.
Saborio's absence certainly affects the attack, but as importantly as anything, he serves as an escape for the midfield and defense in difficult situations. While he may lose the ball from a high-risk pass, his position higher up the pitch obviates much of the risk faced when the opposition receives the ball in dangerous positions. Without him in the side, the ball is more likely to be played to strikers in wide positions, which are more difficult to attack from for a side like ours.
Patching the holes
Those absences aren't damning. Saunders, Palmer and Alvarez should slot in rather naturally, even if things change as a result. All permutations of our striking pairs are now tested and have their positives and negatives, so Saborio's absence is not nearly so worrying. The defense is solidifying after a fine performance from Aaron Maund. It's all getting there — but while we're patching holes, we want to be succeeding through the summer glut.
Real Salt Lake returns to MLS action on Wednesday, when it will take on the Philadelphia Union at Rio Tinto Stadium. Wednesday's match will kickoff at 8:00 p.m. with Independence Day fireworks following the game.
Here are a few interesting storylines to watch ahead of Wednesday’s match:
RSL on a tear
Saturday’s 1-0 victory against Toronto extended RSL’s active club-record win streak to 7 consecutive games in all competitions (4-0-0 MLS, 3-0-0 U.S. Open Cup). During the month of June, RSL went 6-0-0 in MLS/USOC play, outscoring its opponents 17-3.
No brotherly love
Real Salt Lake has never lost to Philadelphia, posting a 2-0-3 mark in five league matches against the Union. The Claret-and-Cobalt is a perfect 2-0-0 against the Union at Rio Tinto Stadium, beating Philadelphia 3-0 in Sandy on May 8, 2010 and 2-1 on Sept. 3, 2011.
Rio Tinto Stadium regains “Fortress” status
After losing six home games in 2012, RSL has re-established the RioT as “The Fortress” this season, posting a 9-1-2 record across all competitions. RSL is now 69-13-21 in its last 103 home games dating back to the beginning of 2008, Jason Kreis’ first full season. In that span, RSL has outscored opponents by 128 goals (191-71), with a 55-10-23 regular season mark, 6-1-1 CCL record, 3-1-1 playoffs, 4-1-0 Open Cup and 2-0-1 in international exhibitions.
100 in sight
A victory on Wednesday would be Real Salt Lake’s 100th MLS regular season win. Head Coach Jason Kreis notched win No. 100 in all competitions with last week’s Open Cup win over Carolina, with Saturday’s win at Toronto his 101st all-time in regular season, playoff, CCL and USOC play.
Both teams will be without several players on Wednesday night due to CONCACAF Gold Cup call ups.
RSL will be without all-time leading scorer Alvaro Saborio for the second straight match after he departed for the Costa Rican national team ahead of Saturday’s win at Toronto; that victory at BMO Field was the last match for likely a month for a trio of RSL’s US internationals Captain Kyle Beckerman, defender Tony Beltran and goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
Philadelphia will be without two players, losing MLS leading scorer Jack McInerney to the U.S. national team and midfielder Keon Daniel to the Trinidad & Tobago squad.
Real Salt Lake won again on Saturday, getting a first half goal from midfielder Yordany Alvarez to beat Toronto FC 1-0 at BMO Field.
Here are some interesting numbers from the match:
The number one had plenty of significance for RSL on Saturday. The win was RSL’s first in 11 tries in Canada across all competitions; Alvarez’s goal was his first in MLS play for the Claret-and-Cobalt and the team’s first MLS goal at BMO Field; defender Aaron Maund turned in a solid performance in his first MLS start for RSL; and the victory keeps RSL in first-place in both the Supporters’ Shield and Western Conference races.
Saturday’s win was RSL’s seventh-straight across all competitions. The Claret-and-Cobalt is 9-0-1 in its last 10 matches across all comps and 10-1-1 in its last 12 games in all competitions since the start of May. RSL has outscored its opponents 31-11 since the start of May, good for a +20 goal differential.
This weekend’s victory was RSL’s 99th in MLS regular season play. The Claret-and-Cobalt is now 99-103-68 in regular season action. The Utah side is 68-43-35 in regular season action since the start of its MLS Cup winning season of 2009.
Saturday’s shutout was the 105th of RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando’s career. Rimando – who has six league shutouts this year – needs seven more shutouts to pull even with Kevin Hartman’s 112 for the all-time MLS clean-sheet lead.
Saturday’s clean-sheet was the Claret-and-Cobalt’s third-consecutive in all competitions. RSL hasn’t given up a goal in 372 minutes, last conceding in the 18th minute of its 120-minute 5-2 U.S. Open Cup fourth-round win over the Charleston Battery on June 12.
By scoring on Saturday, Alvarez became the 11th RSL player to score in MLS play this year, surpassing the 10 players that scored for the Claret-and-Cobalt in league action in 2012. Counting Open Cup play, RSL has had 13 players score goals this season.
Maund became the 24th RSL player to start a league game this year on Saturday. Considering the Claret-and-Cobalt’s first-place standing, that’s a remarkable show of depth. RSL started 23 different players in league action in all of last season.
Real Salt Lake returns to MLS action on Saturday, when it will take on Toronto FC at BMO Field. Saturday's match will kickoff at 11:00 a.m., but - due to FCC regulations - will be shown on CW30 on a tape delay, with the television broadcast kicking off at 12:00 p.m.
Here are a few interesting storylines to watch ahead of Saturday's match:
On the road again
Saturday's game will be RSL's first road contest since its 4-1 win at Chivas USA on May 19. The Claret-and-Cobalt just finished a highly succesful seven-game home stand with Wednesday night's 3-0 US Open Cup Quarterfinal win over the NASL's Carolina RailHawks. RSL was dominant during its extended run in Sandy, posting a 6-0-1 record in MLS and USOC play. The Utah side has been good on the road this year, earning a solid away mark of 3-4-1 and winning two of its last three games away from the friendly confines of Rio Tinto Stadium.
The Claret-and-Cobalt has always struggled in Canada, going winless in its 10 matches north of the border. RSL is 0-1-1 in the Great White North this season, tying Vancouver Whitecaps FC 1-1 at BC Place on April 13 and losing a 3-2 heartbreaker at the Montreal Impact on May 11. RSL is 0-3-2 in MLS play at Toronto FC and has never scored a goal in regular season play at BMO Field.
Saturday's match is RSL's third in a stretch of four games in 12 days. Given the short turnaround and the long trip the team took following Wednesday's Open Cup victory - not to mention the absences of Alvaro Saborio and Luis Gil due to international duty - it wouldn't be a stretch to see a bit of a different lineup take the field on Saturday. We'll see what Head Coach Jason Kreis rolls out at BMO Field, but don't be surprised if we see a few new faces in the First XI.
Bye, bye Beckerman, Beltran and Rimando
RSL Captain Kyle Beckerman, defender Tony Beltran and goalkeeper Nick Rimando will all leave RSL for U.S. national team Gold Cup duty immediately following Saturday's game. The trio could be gone a while; the U.S. is expected to make a deep run in the Gold Cup, which doesn't end until July 28.
Toronto FC, like Carolina Railhawks, are probably going to sit back a bit tomorrow. And by a bit, I certainly mean a lot: At this point, a point for Toronto FC would be a favorable result. As a result, the two matches could take on a similar look from the outset.
Obviously Toronto FC and Carolina Railhawks are sides with rather different makeups, and there's little doubt that Canadian side will field their best possible team. But with some real deficiencies from Toronto this season (and in previous seasons, perhaps a bit sadly), they may well approach things in a similar fashion.
How'd it work against Carolina?
Lower-league opposition, as said so often, can be tricky to handle. Evidence of that can be seen in the Railhawks, who, even with a weakened side, kept RSL from gaining too much advantage. The chances weren't flowing, and it was through a bit of magic — and a perceptive strike from Tony Beltran — that the scoring opened up. An unmarked player out wide cutting inside is a valuable tool against a bunkering opposition, as it disrupts man-marking efforts and can often allow an open look at goal. It just takes that extra bit of sharpness to finish the goal — something Beltran showed in droves — and RSL can take the front foot.
Carrying form forward
Real Salt Lake are a side to be feared (or at least fretted about), such is the resplendency of their recent form, but that so rarely means much once the match kicks off. The onus, then, is on Jason Kreis's side to push on with things and to ignore form in favor of attention to detail. While that's fine from a conceptual point, that's not quite specific enough to practice.
Onus up front
When the opposition deploys with a defense-first strategy in mind, it's vital that the attacking players stretch play as much as possible. With Alvaro Saborio out, having again left for international duty, the forwards will be of a somewhat quicker make — perhaps a Findley-Plata pairing would be in order, as both would be capable of quickly stretching play on both axes. This shouldn't be undervalued, even if no striker scores tomorrow: It's about the chances that emerge from other players capitalizing on the stretched nature of the defense.
It just wasn't meant to be for Luis Gil and the U.S. U-20's against Ghana on Thursday.
Gil put in a yeoman's effort, but it wasn't enough as the U.S. defense was overrun by the Ghanaian attack in a 4-1 loss to the Black Satellites. The loss ended the FIFA U-20 World Cup for the Americans, who will leave Turkey after a pair of 4-1 losses to Spain and Ghana and a 1-1 draw against France.
Gil will now make the long journey back to Real Salt Lake. He is expected to be available for Wednesday's 8:00 p.m. kick against the Philadelphia Union at Rio Tinto Stadium.