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28 June 12:49 pm

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.

No, Canada

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. 

Lineup questions

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. 

28 June 12:13 pm

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.

regular contributor to RealSaltLake.com, Matt Montgomery runs the SB Nation blog RSL Soapbox. Follow Matt on Twitter @TheCrossbarRSL

27 June 11:52 am

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. 

27 June 11:22 am

Real Salt Lake advanced to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Semifinal on Wednesday night, derailing the Carolina RailHawks 3-0 in the USOC Quarters at Rio Tinto Stadium.

Here are a few interesting numbers from the match:

100

Wednesday’s victory was the 100th in all competitions of RSL Head Coach Jason Kreis’s career. The Claret-and-Cobalt boss is now 83-65-50 in MLS regular season play, 4-5-5 in the MLS Cup Playoffs, 8-4-4 in the CONCACAF Champions League and 5-5-1 in the U.S. Open Cup.

2

Real Salt Lake fullbacks Tony Beltran and Chris Wingert both scored on Wednesday night, with Beltran putting the Claret-and-Cobalt on top late in the first half before Wingert doubled RSL’s advantage early in the second 45. Despite combining for over 30,000 minutes in the RSL careers, Wingert and Beltran only have two professional goals each. Wingert has one MLS goal and one Open Cup goal while Beltran has two Open Cup strikes.  

6

Wednesday’s win was RSL’s sixth-consecutive victory, breaking the club record five-game winning streaks accomplished in 2010 and 2011. RSL has scored multiple goals in all six wins in the streak, outscoring its opponents by a 19-5 margin. The Claret-and-Cobalt is on an eight-game unbeaten run across all comps, last losing on May 11 at Montreal.

58

RSL forward Alvaro Saborio scored in the 85th minute on Wednesday night. The tally was his first-ever goal in Open Cup play and his 58th in 105 games across all competitions. RSL is now 32-5-7 in games in which Saborio scores.

10,287

Wednesday’s crowd of 10,287 was the fifth-highest attended game in Open Cup Quarterfinal history and the largest crowd of Wednesday’s four games. During the eight games at Rio Tinto Stadium between May 25 and June 26, nearly 136,000 fans passed through the turnstiles for RSL games in MLS (3-0-1, 75,250 fans), Open Cup (3-0-0, 39,500); and U.S. Men’s National Team (1-0-0, 20,250).  

26 June 10:36 am

Real Salt Lake will look to advance one step closer to the 2013 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup trophy on Wednesday night, when it will host a Quarterfinal match against the NASL’s Carolina RailHawks at 7:30 p.m. at Rio Tinto Stadium.

Here are a few interesting storylines ahead of Wednesday’s match:

RSL looking to make history

RSL has never advanced to the Open Cup Semifinals. The Claret-and-Cobalt made the Quarterfinals in 2006 and 2011, losing 2-0 to the Colorado Rapids in 2006 and bowing out 2-0 to FC Dallas in the 2011 tournament.

A win on Wednesday would put RSL in the Open Cup Semifinal for the first time in club history, moving the team one step closer to the title and the CONCACAF Champions League berth that goes along with it.

Kreis gunning for win No. 100

RSL Head Coach Jason Kreis is looking for win No. 100 on Wednesday night. The Claret-and-Cobalt boss has 99 wins in all competitions since retiring as a player to take over the team in May 2007, posing a 83-65-50 record in the MLS regular season, a 4-5-5 record in the MLS Cup Playoffs, a 8-4-4 record in the CONCACAF Champions League and a 4-5-1 mark in the U.S. Open Cup.

Sandoval aiming for Open Cup milestone

Though he’s only played in two Open Cup games in his career, Real Salt Lake rookie forward Devon Sandoval could very well become the Claret-and-Cobalt’s all-time leading USOC scorer on Wednesday night.

The second-round pick in this year’s draft has three goals in RSL’s first two Open Cup matches, scoring once in the team’s May 28 win over the Atlanta Silverbacks and adding two in the team’s June 12 victory over the Charleston Battery. He’s tied for the all-time RSL lead in Open Cup goals with Captain Kyle Beckerman, Kreis and former RSL midfielder and current Head Scout Andy Williams.

Lengthy home stand coming to a close

Wednesday’s match is RSL’s seventh and final of its massive home stand. The Claret-and-Cobalt has dominated during its extended run at Rio Tinto Stadium, posting a 5-0-1 record in MLS and Open Cup play since the home stand began on May 25 against the Chicago Fire.

RSL will hit the road this Saturday, when it will take on Eastern Conference foe Toronto FC at BMO Field at 11:00 a.m. Due to FCC regulations, CW30 will broadcast the game on an hour-long tape delay beginning at 12:00 p.m. The Claret-and-Cobalt will return home following the Toronto match, taking on the Philadelphia Union in a fireworks game at 8:00 p.m. next Wednesday, July 3. 

25 June 4:14 pm

Real Salt Lake faces the NASL leading Carolina RailHawks Wednesday in the Quarterfinals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Luckily for the Claret-and-Cobalt, midfielder Enzo Martinez played for Carolina earlier this year while on a short term loan, appearing in three games and totaling 74 minutes played, and had the scoop on the RailHawks.

Here is how the former North Carolina Tar Heel felt about the second-division side:

On what it was like to play for Carolina:

It was good. I got playing time, which I liked. I enjoyed all of the players. [They] Were really good guys. I played with like five or six of them from before so they are a good team, hard-working team, a humble team so it’ll be a good one.”

On Carolina forward Brian Shriver, who leads NASL with eight goals:

“He’s a great player. He’s a true number nine. When he gets an opportunity, he puts it in the back of the net. He’s got a lot of speed. I think both of their forwards combine well and know each other really well. I know Shriver from North Carolina so I think he’s a great player.”

On what fans can expect from the RailHawks at Rio Tinto Stadium on Wednesday night:

“I think they’ll be more open. When I played with them, even when we played away, they didn’t sit back. They tried to score goals and that’s what they do right. So I don’t think they’ll be sitting back too much. Maybe they’ll be smart about how they press, but not like Charleston.”

25 June 1:30 pm

Continuing a fine U.S. Open Cup run which has surely frustrated and delighted Jason Kreis in equal measure, Real Salt Lake faces yet another side from the lower leagues in the form of Carolina Railhawks on Wednesday at Rio Tinto Stadium. With both preceding matches in this run-up having taken 120 minutes to run their course, Kreis will be looking to ensure his side wins in regulation.

But how can it be done? It's simple, really. Stretch the play but don't get stretched yourself. And insofar as it is simple, it is also a difficult task, and one which requires a concerted effort to really pull together in a cohesive manner, as it invariably involves a slew of moving parts.

Let's start with some base-level assumptions: Carolina Railhawks will come in looking to win. That's an easy one. Perhaps the most tried-and-true method — and one that has nearly felled us twice in this competition this season alone — is to leave defenders and midfielders in retreated positions while one or (if they're feeling adventurous) two attackers attempt to capitalize on gaps in the defense. Let's operate under this assumption, as it seems the most likely.

The first question that must be answered: How can Real Salt Lake avoid getting caught in possession? The chances will likely spawn from Railhawks clearances or long passes from the defensive third, and they'll probably come after a good chance for an RSL attacker is scuppered at the last minute. It's when we'll be most eager to win the ball back (and naturally so) and we're more likely to commit somebody forward in search of regaining possession. And why not? Their defenders will almost certainly be on the back leg. But this creates a difficult scenario: If one or two players commit errors, the odds of a goal against skyrocket. If Carlos Salcedo or Nat Borchers makes an error there, the ball is free for the taking and even a moderately quick striker will be in on goal in no time. It's easy to simply say something like "Just don't make mistakes, boys," and hope that it works, but we all know (I would hope) that it's not so simple.

One solution, then: When the ball is lost in a good attacking area, retain confidence that you will soon be creating another and allow the opposition a little bit of harmless possession before regaining the ball; instead of pressing even harder than before, drop into more reasonable positions such that the defense is better supported. It's an exercise in prudence, and it's one we have sometimes suffered from. It's a difficult ask when you're among the best in the league at what you do — press hard in the midfield, gain possession, and create chances when the opposition isn't quite ready.

So now that we've quite obviously solved that unenviable task (sarcasm included for free here), let's move on to the other difficult question to answer: How can Real Salt Lake score goals without intense pressure in the attacking third to force errors? When the midfield and defense merge into one gelatinous (but remarkably solid) blob, the metaphorical parking of the bus makes goal creation intensely difficult.

The answer is simple, but the execution is certainly less so. The strikers, who are more likely to be attracting the attention of the central defenders, should be trading moments of stretching play laterally, drawing defenders wide or forcing a zonal shift. The former option allows more runs into the middle from midfielders; the latter allows unprotected full backs to get into play more readily. With one striker remaining in a central position and the other wide, a late run from anyone deeper than Javier Morales could lead to a tantalizing opportunity.

25 June 1:05 pm

The Real Salt Lake-Arizona Academy U-18's and U-16's are both in Dallas this week for the U.S. Soccer Developmental Academy Playoffs. Garrett Cleverly is on-site in Texas with RSL-AZ and will be providing regular updates on the teams through the conclusion of the playoffs on Friday. 

FRISCO, Texas - The Real Salt Lake-Arizona Academy U-18's dropped its opening game of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy Playoffs, 2-1, to St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri on Monday night. 

Picture gallery here

Down a goal with five minutes remaining, RSL subbed in Te Wihongi and it paid off moments later, when Wihongi crashed into the box and headed in the equalizing goal from a Isaias "Junior" Juarez cross. The celebration was short-lived, however, as St. Louis stormed back up the field after the restart and scored the game winning goal in stoppage time from a looping shot outside of the 18.

With the loss, RSL is not eliminated in the playoffs but need some help from the other teams in their group to remain alive. If St. Louis win another game, RSL will be eliminated from the playoffs.

St. Louis came out aggressive and strong in the opening minutes of the game. RSL's Corey Nemeth had a goal saving kick save in the 11th minute and 'keeper Cesar Cobos stopped a 1-v-1 in the 20th. RSL settled down a bit, but their opportunities in front of the goal were limited to shots from outside of the 18 and from the wing. RSL's best chance was in the 33rd minute when Andrew Brody countered and played a through ball to Benji Lopez. His turned and fired a shot that tailed just high. Cobos made another 1-v-1 save with minutes remaining to keep the game scoreless going into the half.

RSL made three subs during the halftime break and moved Jon Zabasajja back to CB. This proved to be vital as Zabasajja became a wall in the back, winning almost every header and making a key stop in the 60th minute when a St. Louis attacker broke free after Cobos came out for a tackle. The player took a shot and Zabasajja made a goal line stop to keep the game scoreless.

RSL's luck ran out in the 69th minute when a St. Louis player broke free. RSL defenders moved up for the offside trap but a well-timed run by the St. Louis player put him in behind, rounding Cobos and slotting the ball home to put RSL behind. RSL continued to struggle connecting the ball but found the break when Wihongi scored in the 86th minute.

St. Louis pushed forward after RSL's equalizer, finding the winner in second-half stoppage time. An ill-timed switch by the RSL defense gave a St. Louis player an open look, allowing him to chip the ball over the head of a leaping Cobos. RSL had one final chance but a low cross was easily cleared giving St. Louis the 2-1 victory.

The RSL U-18's next game is on Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. MT against the CASL Chelsea FC Academy. The U-16's kickoff their playoff slate at 6:15 p.m. MT against FC DELCO.

25 June 10:07 am

As fun as it's been to be a part of RSL's scintillating run of form in MLS play as of late, it's time to put that on hold for a few days. That's because a huge opportunity is knocking for the Claret-and-Cobalt this week: Their Quarterfinal matchup in the 2013 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. On Wednesday RSL will host the NASL's Carolina Railhawks at Rio Tinto Stadium with a trip to the Semifinals against either the Portland Timbers or FC Dallas on the line. Real has talked about the emphasis being put on the tournament this year - talk which has been backed up by strong lineups thus far - and this game will be no different. Expect RSL to trot out its best available lineup for this one, in spite of this being the team's second of four matches in just 12 days. And if you're Jason Kreis, that makes sense when you consider the following:

  • RSL is only three wins away from getting the CONCACAF Champion's League berth that goes to the winner of the U.S. Open Cup. When you consider the various paths that lead to a Champion's League spot, at the moment this one is by far the easiest.
  • The stars seems to be lining up for RSL. It's almost like some unearthly force wants Salt Lake to win the Cup. Kreis is fond of saying "fortune favors the bold", but sometimes fortune just favors the fortunate. Real has played all three of their Open Cup matches at home, and if they win, they will also host the Semifinal match. While the odds of winning a coin flip (which is how match venues are determined in the USOC) are 1 out of 2, the odds of winning four straight coin flips like RSL just did are only 1 out of 16. On top of that, Salt Lake also has yet to face an MLS opponent in Open Cup play.
  • The Quarterfinals is the farthest RSL have ever advanced in this tournament. A win on Wednesday would break new ground for the franchise.

As I wrote last week, any fan who hasn't experienced a U.S. Open match needs to get down to the stadium for this one. Both teams are going to be highly motivated since a win gets them two wins away from hoisting the trophy and their next match would be at home. Carolina will be a decided underdog against the MLS league leaders, but don't underestimate the RailHawks - they've done well in the tournament before and have already sent Chivas USA and the LA Galaxy packing this year. Carolina's roster is loaded with ex-MLS talent and plenty of young MLS players on loan, and their coach Colin Clarke is a familiar face in MLS circles, heading up FC Dallas from 2003-2006.

For RSL's part, fielding a strong lineup means they will be anxious to take command of the match early and not give Carolina a chance to get a late equalizer or winner. If a criticism can be made of RSL's Open Cup run so far, it's that both previous matches against lower-division opponents have gone to extra time. RSL eventually showed their quality in those matches, but they made for tense moments and extra work to be done. With four games in 12 days, Kreis won't be eager to see his team put in 120 minutes on Wednesday - strong emphasis will be placed and getting ahead and not allowing a comeback.

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.

25 June 10:00 am

"It's a trophy. I want to win that. I want to win a trophy this year for our club, for our fans, for everyone. So why not put a bunch of emphasis on it? Why not make our stand in the Open Cup?"

-Tony Beltran

Real Salt Lake is ready for tomorrow night's USOC Quarterfinal. Are you?