The Real Salt Lake-Arizona Academy U-16’s and U-18’s wrapped up the U.S. Soccer Development Academy Playoffs last week, with the U-16’s advancing to the quarterfinals while the RSL-AZ U-18’s were eliminated from postseason play.
The RSL-Z U-16’s – reigning U.S. Soccer Development Academy National Champions – finished at the top of their group with a 2-0-1 record and total of six points, earning first-place based on goal differential. The U-16’s opened group play with a 3-1 victory over New Jersey Soccer Academy 04 all thanks to a hat trick from Claret-and-Cobalt FW Sebastian Saucedo. The youngsters then went on to defeat Georgia United 5-2, powered by another hat trick from Saucedo, and finished the week off with a 2-0 loss to St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri. The RSL-AZ U-16 squad will look to retain their title, hosting its quarterfinal match at home in Casa Grande, Arizona on either July 7 or 9. The exact date, time and opponent will be announced at a later date.
The RSL-AZ U-18’s did not fare as well as their younger counterparts, finishing second in their group with a 1-1-1 record and total of four points. Seattle Sounders FC U-18’s finished first with a perfect 3-0-0 record to advance to the quarterfinals. The RSL-AZ U-18’s opened up group play with a 1-1 draw against Indiana Fire and went on to earn three points with a 4-3 win over Concorde Fire. In the final group stage match, needing a win to advance to the quarterfinals, the RSL-AZ U-18’s fell 3-1 to Seattle after taking the lead early in the second half. The RSL-AZ U-18’s finished the regular season with an 18-4-5 record, the best record in history for a U-18 team at Grande Sports World.
We wrote after the U.S.’s tie against Portugal that RSL Captain Kyle Beckerman’s strong performances for the Americans were becoming routine.
Now, with the U.S. through to Round of 16, Beckerman’s solid outings are more than just routine, they’re expected.
Beckerman was steady as ever for the U.S. in its 1-0 loss to Germany on Thursday, hardly putting a foot wrong in 90 minutes against Die Mannschaft. The heart-and-soul of the Claret-and-Cobalt, Beckerman was excellent defensively, tying for first on the team with two interceptions, leading all non-defenders with three clearances and tying for third on the team with a pair of tackles. His biggest defensive play probably came in the 79th minute, when he stripped forward Mario Gotze on the edge of the box to snuff out a dangerous German chance.
Beckerman was nearly as good in possession, finishing second on the team with 38 successful passes and a 93 percent passing accuracy. Importantly, Beckerman consistently looked forward while on the ball, often turning out of trouble to find Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones or another teammate higher up the field.
Kyle will have another chance to shine on Tuesday, when the U.S. takes on Belgium in the Round of 16. Kick is at 2:00 p.m. MT in Salvador. The match will be broadcast live on ESPN.
The opportunity for Real Salt Lake fans to send Claret-and-Cobalt players to the 2014 AT&T MLS All-Star Game is winding down. Fans have two weeks left to vote for the seven RSL players that are on the “Fan XI” ballot. Real Salt Lake is facing some stiff competition for the final roster spots, so they need as many votes as possible. Let's spread the word and show MLS how deserving all seven RSL players named to the fan ballot are of representing the best of the league in Portland.
Throughout the next week we will be rolling out 2014 highlight videos of all seven players nominated. First up, here are some of the best RSL moments of 2014 for US internationals Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando. Vote HERE for RSL through July 11.
Real Salt Lake returns to MLS action on Saturday, taking on Chivas USA at StubHub Center at 8:30 p.m. MT.
Here are a few storylines to watch ahead of Saturday’s clash:
Can Real Salt Lake return to its winning ways?
Heading into the MLS World Cup break, the Claret-and-Cobalt hit a bit of a slump, going winless in its last four matches. Real Salt Lake played FC Dallas to a scoreless draw on May 24 at Rio Tinto Stadium, suffered its first loss of the season at Seattle Sounders FC, a 4-0 defeat on May 31, drew 1-1 at Columbus Crew on June 4 and fell 3-1 to Portland Timbers at home on June 7. With nearly a month off to regroup and reenergize, RSL should be hungry to claim three points this weekend.
Will Real Salt Lake continue its road dominance of Chivas USA?
The Claret-and-Cobalt have done well in recent years when facing Chivas USA on the road. The Utah club is currently riding a five-game win streak against The Goats when in Southern California. RSL’s last loss while visiting Chivas came on May 9, 2009, a 1-0 loss at then-named Home Depot Center. RSL has also boasted some high-scoring wins while on the road, routing Chivas USA 3-0 and 4-0 at the then Home Depot Center in 2012 and defeating the Red-and-White 4-1 in their sole meeting in SoCal in 2013.
Who will start up top against Chivas on Saturday?
Excluding RSL striker Alvaro Saborio who is out with a fractured foot, RSL boss Jeff Cassar will have a choice of healthy forwards when the Claret-and-Cobalt travel to Southern California this weekend. RSL’s leading scorer Joao Plata appears to be fully recovered from his hamstring injury along with Robbie Findley who has worked his way back from knee surgery undergone in the offseason – Findley started RSL’s U.S. Open Cup match against Atlanta Silverbacks on June 14. Cassar will also have target forward Devon Sandoval and the speedy Olmes Garcia to choose from as well. The first year coach has started five different pairings up top so far this season, with only Findley yet to earn an MLS start this year.
Real Salt Lake continues to deal with injuries
Real Salt Lake midfielder Ned Grabavoy is recovering from a strained right glute suffered in RSL’s last match before the MLS World Cup break, a 3-1 loss to Portland Timbers. If Grabavoy misses Saturday’s game, RSL midfielder Cole Grossman is likely to fill in at the bottom of the midfield diamond. Grossman subbed on for Grabavoy after he suffered the injury against Portland, which might mean RSL Head Coach Jeff Cassar will roll out a similar looking lineup from that night with midfielders Luis Gil and Luke Mulholland on the outside and Argentine playmaker Javier Morales at the top of the diamond.
Real Salt Lake Captain Kyle Beckerman joined The Dan Patrick Show on Tuesday morning, talking with Dan and the guys about the U.S.'s draw with Portugal on Sunday, Cristiano Ronaldo and the etiquette on jersey swaps at the end of matches.
The best part of Kyle's interview came when Dan asked if he'd cut his dreads to guarantee a win over Germany. His response? A quick yes, of course.
Check out Kyle's entire interview from this morning's show up above.
Traveling to and from Manaus is, even in the best of times, a challenge. Manaus’ raison d'être is its usefulness as a port city in the middle of the Amazon jungle; it boomed in the early 20th century as a distribution point for a growing rubber industry and now has a population around two million. It’s very literally only accessible by plane or boat, there are no roads and the stadium was constructed at huge cost using only materials that could be delivered in either of the two aforementioned ways.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the best of times. This was the World Cup, and so the travel was a nightmare. I’ll spare you the gory details, as I suspect travel horror stories are just as boring for the listener as fantasy sports stories and fishing tales. The basics, though: answering a 1:30 AM wakeup call for a 9 AM Natal-to-Manaus flight, getting to the airport at 9 PM for a 5 AM Manaus-to Natal departure. We were the lucky ones; the trip has been split into two planes, creatively named Plane 1 and Plane 2. I’m on Plane 1, the Plane 2 prisoners left at 12 PM and 2 PM respectively for the above planes. This means they spent roughly 24 hours waiting in airports. Cue the sad trombone.
Once arriving, we were taken on a Manaus city tour by bus. Our tour guide, Marlon, largely passed the time by sharing local Manausian jokes. The best one: “When you do wrong on Earth, where do you go? You go to hell. When you do wrong in hell, where do you go? You go to Manaus.”
Manaus splits time between the seasons of “undesirably hot” and “egg-cooking-on-concrete hot”. Luckily we were still in the former stage, yet it was still over 100 degrees and over 80 percent humidity during the pre-match party. The game, mercifully, was at night, because the temperature was raised by the more than 40,000 spectators at the match.
It’s really difficult to objectively describe a USMNT match as when attended with the American Outlaws. The problem is that every minute contains an emotion raised to the millionth power. Faith: The “I Believe That We Will Win” chant, one so powerful and catchy Brazilians have asked me multiple times to teach them the words. Competitiveness: Every time the Portugal fans tried to get a chant going, AO made their best effort to drown it out with one of their own (I’m not sure how effective it was on TV, but it was extremely powerful from within that end of the stadium). Elation: Both U.S. goals, one to get the draw for the US and one to get the win. Despair: Allowing the Portuguese to score the latest goal in regulation in World Cup history.
After that, we were bussed to the airport. At about 1 AM, I wandered around and found several hundred USMNT fans passed out, sleeping on the tile floors. The Amazon had exhausted us all.
Sports are great because they’re proxies of the human condition, compressed into two to three hour blocks. Yesterday’s match against Portugal was one of the greatest examples of that in US history, and the American Outlaws experience just magnified it even more. I’m so lucky to be here.
It’s all becoming a little bit routine, isn’t it?
Nearly every single time RSL Captain Kyle Beckerman steps onto the field for the U.S. Men’s National Team, he turns in a workmanlike, stable and – ultimately impressive – performance.
Sunday’s 2-2 draw against Portugal was no exception, with Beckerman starting and playing the full 90 against Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. As always, Beckerman was solid tactically, positioning himself expertly and providing plenty of solid cover in front of the American backline. His four interceptions were second only to center back Matt Besler’s five and his two clearances were tied for fourth overall and tied for first among U.S. midfielders.
The defensive midfielder was also solid in possession, completing 53 of 58 passes, good for a 90 percent completion rate. Beckerman’s 53 successful passes were second on the team to fellow midfielder Michael Bradley and his 90 percent success rate was fourth on the squad on Sunday.
Most importantly, Beckerman gave the U.S. a victory in the critical “Midfield Battle for Hair Dominance” on Sunday, crushing Portugal’s mohawked midfielder Raul Meireles in the tackle and in the tresses.
As always, the Men In Blazers have more:
Beckerman and the U.S. will return to action on Thursday, taking on Germany at 10 a.m. MT with their Round of 16 hopes on the line.
Real Salt Lake midfielder Ned Grabavoy joined The Bill & OC Show on ESPN 700 yesterday, to get his take on the U.S.’s dramatic 2-1 win over Ghana. The RSL veteran had some great insight and analysis of the match and of course had nothing but praise for teammate Kyle Beckerman. Below are a few snippets of the interview but the whole thing is worth listening to here.
On Kyle’s performance:
“I think he was the best player on the field. I know I’m biased but coming from a position that is a little bit of an inglorious position for me, Kyle was absolutely unbelievable in that game. I think he plays the position a little bit differently for the U.S. because the players around him, but a guy that has to stay home a bit more for the U.S. and really clean up things, and can’t really get involved in the attack like he likes to for RSL. But at the same time maybe that’s asked of him a little bit more for the U.S. and I thought he did an unbelievable job in there and did everything that was asked of him and more.”
Grabavoy also approved of U.S. Manager Jurgen Klinsmann’s decision to use the diamond midfield formation – the signature of RSL – that allowed what he thinks are the four best two-way midfielders to be on the field at the same time. But Grabavoy wouldn’t be surprised if the German coach mixes things up in the next match against Portugal on Sunday.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he did especially knowing that a point in the next game maybe gets you through. For me as a coach, I think maybe I would think of switching shapes, but at the same time...he is a guy that claimed to always stay on the front foot and he’s going to try and be as aggressive as he can going forward. So I just think it remains to be seen, but I wouldn’t be surprised to maybe see them shift towards a 4-2-3-1. Maybe you play Beckerman and [Jermaine] Jones deep in the midfield with [Michael] Bradley in front of them.”
Even with injuries to Jozy Altidore and Matt Besler, the RSL midfielder claims the Americans “couldn’t be in a better position” heading into Sunday’s clash in Manaus.
Wow, what a 48 hours! It still hasn’t completely hit me yet that I’m in Brazil (!), watching the US Men’s National Team play in the World Cup (!) Let’s start from where we left off in the last post.
Early Sunday, the rain continued pouring in Natal, to the point that flooding became an issue in the streets. As we collected our tickets from the FIFA Ticketing Center, our taxis had to plow through the water. It seemed about a foot deep in some places, though the news channels here showed locations where people were in up to their waists. Luckily, the rain stopped later that day, allowing the city to dry out somewhat.
That night was the official US Soccer night-before party, and I’m incredibly impressed with how US Soccer put the event together. They actually converted a used car showroom into a pop-up “arena” for the night, filled with gigantic TVs everywhere, plenty of food and drink for the huge crowd, and a DJ and Brazilian band. The crowd for the event was great too: we started off with some US soccer chants, then the group just got into the music: crowdsurfers and energy everywhere.
On game day, us American Outlaws were bussed to a pizza-and-sushi restaurant (yes, really) near the stadium. That was another amazing experience: as a convoy of the Brazilian military sent to protect us watched on, we chanted and sang the National Anthem and God Bless America. Passing busses of Brazilians snapped photos and cheered us on. It was incredible. When the time came, a group of thousands made the March to the Match, again passing happy and surprised Brazilians in their streets.
The new Arenas das Dunas is beautiful; it was a remarkably intimate experience for a large stadium that seats over 40,000. Part of the credit for that goes to the Brazilian hosts, who made every effort to chant along with a majority US crowd. The group of Brazilians in front of me had a difficult time learning to pronounce “I believe that we will win”, but they eventually figured out a reasonable facsimile. The Dempsey goal was a flash: neither the crowd nor the Ghanaian defense believed that it could happen so quickly. Then progressed 80 minutes of hell. Jozy and then Besler got injured. Dempsey went down. Ghana bore down on the US left side, attacking Beasley to nearly calamitous effect.
Ghana eventually got their goal, and the Ghana crowd erupted, and rightly so: it was a great goal. For the last 10 minutes, the stadium buzzed. As you all know, John Brooks scored, and everyone lost it. The best description: So. Many. Hugs. We all bussed back to the hotel, all still in a daze, all of us not quite believing that the US had finally beaten Ghana and given themselves a great chance to advance out of the group.
We now have five days off in between games, during which I’ll be exploring more of Natal before heading off to Manaus. What a happy five days it will be.