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?
Real Salt Lake has announced that it will be hosting a special “Yoga on the Pitch” event at Rio Tinto Stadium on Thursday, June 26.
In conjunction with We Are Yoga in Salt Lake City, RSL fans will have the opportunity to participate in an hour-long yoga session led by renowned instructor Jami Larson on the field at Rio Tinto Stadium. Real Salt Lake defender Chris Wingert will also be partaking in the class and will hold an autograph session afterwards. The Yoga on the Pitch event is open to people of all ages and levels.
Admission to the Yoga on the Pitch event on June 26 will be included in a purchased ticket to Real Salt Lake’s July 4th home match against New England Revolution. Fans can purchase their ticket(s) here using the promo code: YOGA.
*Please bring identification to check into the Yoga on the Pitch event. Only those who have purchased tickets to the July 4th tickets using the YOGA promo code will be admitted into Rio Tinto Stadium. Families or groups that have purchased tickets together will able to check-in under one name.
Timeline for Yoga on the Pitch
Thursday, June 26 at Rio Tinto Stadium
5:30 - Doors open; check-in begins at the west side entrance of the stadium
5:45 - Field access
6:00 - Yoga session begin – yoga mats are permitted
7:00 - Yoga session ends
7-7:30 - Autograph session with RSL defender Chris Wingert and Leo the Lion. Participants will be limited to having one item signed.
The last time Real Salt Lake and Columbus Crew met, RSL punished the Crew 4-0 at Rio Tinto Stadium on August 24, 2013. But now the tables are turned and RSL will be facing the Ohio club on its home turf at Crew Stadium.
RSL’s romp last year saw a brace from Captain Kyle Beckerman - his first multi-goal game since April 2008 - and goals from forward Devon Sandoval and midfielder Luis Gil. Sandoval and forward Olmes Garcia started up top together which is likely to be the case tomorrow as well. Get pumped for tomorrow’s match by reliving all the action from last summer’s goal-fest.
Real Salt Lake will look to bounce back after suffering its first defeat of the 2014 season last week against Seattle. RSL travels to Columbus on Wednesday to face the Crew at 5:30 p.m. MT at Crew Stadium.
Here are a few storylines to watch ahead of Wednesday’s clash:
How will RSL react after suffering its first loss of the season?
With Real Salt Lake ending its 12-game unbeaten run last Saturday with a disheartening 4-0 loss at Seattle, many will be looking to see how the team responds after its first non-result. With only three days between Seattle and Columbus, the Claret-and-Cobalt hasn’t had much time to dwell on the defeat. With the focus now on the Crew, RSL will have an opportunity to showcase its character in the way the team comes out on Wednesday night.
How will RSL’s toughest stretch of games – three in eight days – affect Wednesday’s lineup?
Real Salt Lake is currently facing its toughest stretch of games this year, playing a total of three matches in eight days. The Claret-and-Cobalt face Columbus only three days after playing a tough road match in Seattle. RSL will have another quick turnaround after Wednesday, hosting Western Conference rival Portland Timbers on Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium. Head Coach Jeff Cassar will have to choose whether or not to rest some tired legs in Columbus ahead of what always tends to be a heated and physical affair between RSL and Portland.
RSL currently facing a lack of options at midfield and forward
With Captain Kyle Beckerman, goalkeeper Nick Rimando and forward Alvaro Saborio’s absences continually looming over RSL, it couldn’t have been a worse time for the injury bug to bite. RSL forward Joao Plata, who has scored six goals and notched three assists in nine appearances this year, reinjured his hamstring against FC Dallas a little more than a week ago. The dynamic and speedy Ecuadorian did not travel to Seattle and is still doubtful for Wednesday’s match at Columbus. Cassar’s only option could be the up top pairing of Devon Sandoval and Olmes Garcia – the same duo that started against Seattle.
Will RSL be able to find the back of the net?
With a scoreless draw against FC Dallas and getting shutout at Seattle, Real Salt Lake has now gone 219 minutes without finding the back of the net. With the news of RSL forward Alvaro Saborio’s broken foot (which will keep him out 3-4 months) and the ongoing recovery of Plata, RSL’s forward depth will be tested for longer than originally planned for. Wednesday’s match against the Crew couldn’t be a better time for Devon Sandoval and Olmes Garcia to gain a little confidence and find the back of the net for the Claret-and-Cobalt for the first time this year.
Real Salt Lake Captain Kyle Beckerman sat down with ABC4's Bill Riley prior to being named to the U.S.'s final 23-man World Cup roster. The RSL veteran discusses his journey to the USMNT and fulfilling his childhood dream of representing the U.S. in a World Cup. As if you needed any more excitement leading up to Brazil, check out the great interview above.
Real Salt Lake will look to continue its unbeaten start to the season on Saturday, travelling to Seattle to face the Sounders at 2:00 pm. MT at CenturyLink Field.
Here are a few storylines to watch ahead of Saturday’s clash:
Will RSL break the all-time record for longest unbeaten start to a season?
If Real Salt Lake produces a result on Saturday, the Claret-and-Cobalt will enter the MLS record books, breaking the record for longest unbeaten streak to start a season at 13 games. RSL tied the all-time record last Saturday, earning a 0-0 draw against FC Dallas to join the 1996 and 2010 LA Galaxy and 2000 Kansas City Wizards atop the record books.
RSL Head Coach Jeff Cassar will also be looking to take sole possession of a MLS record on Saturday. Cassar is currently tied with 1996 LA Head Coach Lothar Osiander for longest unbeaten streak to start a managerial career at 12 games. A result at Seattle on Saturday would give Cassar the record on his own.
First-place on the line in battle between top two teams in MLS
It’s early days yet, but Saturday’s match could have a significant impact on the 2014 Western Conference and Supporters’ Shield races. Seattle currently sits atop both tables with 26 points, two points ahead of second-place RSL, which has a game in hand on the Sounders. With the way things are shaping up in MLS, all three matches between these two sides figure to be crucial for the playoff race, with Saturday’s contest the first test.
With both teams suffering major absences due to the World Cup, whose depth will shine?
RSL and Seattle will both be missing key players on Saturday due to international absences and injuries. Saturday’s contest will be the third straight match that RSL will be without Captain Kyle Beckerman and goalkeeper Nick Rimando and the third straight contest that Seattle will be missing leading goal scorer Clint Dempsey and young right back DeAndre Yedlin. All four players have been named to U.S. Manager Jurgen Klinsmann’s final 23-man World Cup roster and will be heading to Brazil next month.
RSL has also been without striker Alvaro Saborio for its last two matches. Saborio was with the Costa Rican national team in World Cup preparation camp before suffering a broken fifth metatarsal in his right foot on Thursday. The injury will keep Saborio out for the next 3-4 months.
Plata doubtful for Saturday
RSL forward Joao Plata has been on fire for the Claret-and-Cobalt this season, scoring six goals (tied with Saborio for the team lead) and notching three assists in nine appearances this year. Unfortunately for RSL, Plata might not have a chance to showcase his skills at Seattle on Saturday after injuring his left hamstring in last week’s match against FC Dallas. Plata – who missed three games earlier this year with an injury to the same hamstring – is doubtful for Saturday’s contest. RSL Head Coach Jeff Cassar will have forwards Devon Sandoval, Olmes Garcia and Robbie Findley to choose from to start on Saturday. All three have yet to find the back of the net for the Claret-and-Cobalt this year.
Real Salt Lake will learn its fourth round U.S. Open Cup opponent tonight, as the NASL’s Atlanta Silverbacks and the NPSL’s Chattanooga FC will meet in the tournament’s third round, with the winner advancing to take on RSL next month.
If second-division Atlanta scores a win at Chattanooga, RSL will travel to face the Silverbacks in Georgia on June 14. If fourth-tier Chattanooga notches the upset, RSL will play at CFC on June 18. The winner of RSL’s fourth round game will play in the fifth round on June 24. On Friday, RSL will learn a scenario regarding a potential site and opponent for the fifth round.
Tonight’s match between Atlanta and Chattanooga will be streamed live online at 5:30 p.m. MT. Click here to watch.
Real Salt Lake Captain Kyle Beckerman did not feature in the U.S.’s 2-0 win over Azerbaijan on Tuesday night, with U.S. Manager Jurgen Klinsmann opting to play Jermaine Jones all 90 minutes at the base of the USMNT’s midfield diamond.
Klinsmann seemed to think highly of Jones’ performance in the U.S.’s rather listless win, praising the German-American midfielder in his postgame press conference.
“Jermaine has played throughout years different roles, maybe as an eight, meaning a little bit higher up, similar to Michael Bradley today,” Klinsmann said. “If we play a diamond like we did then it’s really important that he stays there and protects our two center backs, builds a triangle with them.”
“With his passing technique he can open up and switch a game right away, though today it was very difficult because he couldn’t hit any high balls [due to the wind]. But he understood that role. He said ‘Oh, I’ve played that I don’t know how many times, it’s not a big deal.’ And the way he recovers balls and is physical with the opponent is just one of his strengths that we hopefully see in Brazil, as well.”
Beckerman, of course, knows the base of the diamond position better than anyone on the U.S. roster, spending the last eight seasons playing the holding role for Real Salt Lake. He played as the holder in a diamond midfield for the U.S. in its 2-2 draw against Mexico on April 2, a role that seemed to allow Michael Bradley to advance further up the field than he did on Tuesday night while playing with Jones.
We’ll see if Beckerman gets a chance to start in any of the U.S.’s remaining tune-up matches ahead of the World Cup. The Americans will play three friendlies before opening Group G action against Ghana on June 16, taking on Turkey in New York on Sunday, facing Nigeria in Jacksonville on June 7 and playing Belgium in a closed-door match in Brazil on June 12.