TUCSON, Ariz. - Real Salt Lake announced earlier on Tuesday that rookie forward Devon Sandoval has signed with the first team. Sandoval, who trained with RSL for a week last summer, was absolutely thrilled to join the Claret-and-Cobalt, calling signing with the team "a dream come true."
Sandoval had another good anecdote about signing that didn't quite make it into the release:
"I was actually FaceTiming with my girlfriend when I [put pen to paper]," he said. "She wanted to take pictures and everything, so I got my iPad set up and took some pictures of it when I signed."
A self-described family guy, this isn't the first time that Sandoval has used technology to share a big moment with his loved ones. There was a camera rolling at the Sandoval home during the broadcast of MLS SuperDraft and - predictably - the place went nuts when RSL selected Devon. We're still trying to track down that video. Figure it'd make for pretty good viewing.
TUCSON, Ariz. - Injured Real Salt Lake defender Nat Borchers did his first on-the-ball work of the preseason on Monday, putting his cleats on for the first time and running through some simple cutting and passing drills with RSL's training staff.
Borchers, who had surgery on a tendon in his left quad this offseason, traveled with the Claret-and-Cobalt to Tucson on Feb. 11. Conservative estimates have the veteran center back returning to game action by mid-April. Chris Schuler and Kwame Watson-Siriboe have been the first choice center backs in Borchers' absence, with the pair expected to start RSL's 2013 MLS regular season opener at defending Supporters' Shield winners San Jose on March 3.
RSL next plays on Wednesday night, when it will take on the New England Revolution at 5:00 p.m. MT at Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium in the club's final FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup Group Stage match. The match will be streamed live on both RealSaltLake.com and MLSsoccer.com.
Real Salt Lake midfielder Luis Gil and the U.S. Under-20 national team will kick off the CONCACAF U-20 Championship with a Group A match against Haiti on Monday. U.S. Soccer produced a solid video preview of the tournament featuring Gil and U-20 Head Coach Tab Ramos.
Check out the video above and make sure to tune in to Fox Soccer Channel at 4:30 p.m. MT to see Gil and the U-20's take on Haiti.
Although Saturday's 1-2 loss to Seattle in the FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup was perhaps a bit disappointing, there are some interesting points to be taken from the deployments of RSL's midfielders and forwards.
Flattening the diamond
With Ned Grabavoy as the point man in the midfield diamond, the look changes rather significantly. This is, I think, by design. The wider players in the diamond — in this case, Sebastian Velasquez and Yordany Alvarez — pushed up to be nearly level with Grabavoy.
This enforced a more flat top of the diamond — especially in comparison to a Javier Morales, Will Johnson, Ned Grabavoy triumvirate in front of Kyle Beckerman. Creativity came from all three players in basically equal measure. With Grabavoy at times dropping deeper than Velasquez and Alvarez, the system almost took on a less diamond-looking approach, too.
It's notable because it helps destabilize the notion that Jason Kreis is a strict tactician who refuses to vary his approach. It was a bit subtle, but we see something a bit more untested with Grabavoy up top there.
Alongside the flattening of the diamond come some interesting decisions on player placement. It starts of course with Grabavoy in the top of the diamond, where he plays well as a linking distributor and less that magician. It continues: Yordany Alvarez on the side of the diamond, where he looked surprisingly creative, and Enzo Martinez in the deep-lying role, where he looks more of a playmaker than a destroyer, are the two standouts.
But tossing David Viana up top in the 75th minute is interesting, too: Robbie Findley, still being rested, remains uninvolved, and getting at least a player in the forward position was necessary. It's clearly not Viana's best position, but his ability to run at players with the ball at his feet and beat them on the dribble changes the dynamic of matches. It's something that, after the departure of Fabian Espindola, our current group of forwards lacks — except maybe Olmes Garcia, the unknown quantity — and having that tactical flexibility is essential.
It's a bit strange when the ostensibly first-team players are having trouble scoring goals, but it's what's out there right now. With that set of players — or something resembling that set — we've scored just once since since Oct. 6 against the LA Galaxy, and that was from Ned Grabavoy against the … LA Galaxy in a preseason match on Feb. 8. It's not a pressing issue, but it's one to scratch one's head about. If it continues into the season, there will be trouble, but that's a rather big "if" at this point.
It is worth noting that some of these younger guys have looked particularly bright: John Stertzer, Cole Grossman, Joao Plata — they've all looked better than perhaps first expected, and all three have scored goals.
TUCSON, Ariz. - Real Salt Lake will take on Seattle Sounders FC in Round 2 of the FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup on Saturday. The match will kick off at 4:00 p.m. MT at Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium and will be streamed live here on RealSaltLake.com and on MLSsoccer.com.
RSL drew its first Desert Diamond Cup match, jumping out to an early 2-0 lead on Wednesday against New York before letting the Red Bulls claw back for a 2-2 draw. Seattle won its first DDC game, beating New England 2-0 in Wednesday's early match.
Both RSL and Seattle are expected to run out strong lineups on Saturday. It should be a good match between the Western Conference rivals - they're certainly won't be any love lost. RSL and Seattle matches are traditionally chippy, and the Sounders already seem to be in a bad mood. Seattle got into it on a pair of occasions on Wednesday against New England, recieving six total cards and one ejection against the Revs.
Oh, by the way, a certain "Striker X" may feature for RSL on Saturday afternoon. Tune in at 4:00 p.m. to find out.
TUCSON, Ariz. - Former Real Salt Lake-Arizona Academy standout Jordan Allen will return to RSL preseason camp on Friday. Allen, a University of Virginia commit, trained with the Claret-and-Cobalt first team during the team's camp in Casa Grande, Ariz. from Jan. 21-28.
Allen left the RSL-AZ Academy in December to return home to Rochester, N.Y. The 18-year-old forward/defender is scheduled to remain with RSL for the duration of the FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup, which will run until next Saturday, Feb. 23.
The Claret-and-Cobalt will take on Seattle Sounders FC in both sides' second Desert Diamond Cup match on Saturday at 4:00 p.m. MT at Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium. The match will be streamed live on RealSaltLake.com and MLSsoccer.com. RSL drew New York 2-2 in its tournament opener on Wednesday night.
There’s been a lot of love shown on the Real Salt Lake Facebook page today, with plenty of fans sharing stories about how RSL kick-started their relationships.
RSL fan Kathryn Roethel reached out to us earlier this week about her Claret-and-Cobalt-colored love, asking if we could pass along a Valentine via The Sovereign to her boyfriend, Matt Rieck. Never ones to stand in the way of matters of the heart, we gladly obliged. Here’s Kathryn version of her and Matt’s story, which – oddly enough – Matt posted on Facebook this morning.
My boyfriend, Matt Rieck, became an RSL fan while living in Salt Lake City about four years ago. He bought season tickets and eventually convinced many of his friends to get season tickets, too. They went to every home game and traveled to many road games as well, including the 2009 MLS Cup. Matt had to leave Salt Lake when his job took him to San Diego two years ago, but he still travels to see RSL every chance he gets.
Matt is a college friend of my sister's, and we'd met several times over the years, but I live near San Jose. When RSL played the Earthquakes last April, Matt saw a chance to visit me -- under the guise of being in town for the game. We spent a wonderful day together, including a lesson in MLS rules so I could better enjoy the match. Matt even sketched out the field for me on a legal pad and labeled all the RSL players by name and position! (I still have the drawing.) By the time we got to the game, I was very much hoping he'd take the opportunity to hold my hand in the stands. Unfortunately for me, it was a pretty intense match, and RSL lost when the Quakes scored two goals in the 90th minute. Needless to say, there wasn't much occasion for hand holding! (I'm a big sports fan, too, so I understand these things!) I'm happy to say that Matt quickly recovered, though, and the loss turned out to be little more than an asterisk in the record book of fantastic first dates.
Matt let me borrow an RSL jersey that weekend (which I never returned!), and he's since given me one of my own. We still live in opposite ends of California (though, not for much longer!) and until then, we visit each other nearly every other weekend. On the weekends we're apart, we've been known to watch RSL games on TV "together," while talking on the phone. And we will be sitting in the RSL section of Buck Shaw Stadium for the season opener against the Earthquakes [on March 3] -- our first time back since our first date.
Happy Valentine’s Day to Kathryn, Matt and all you other RSL fans out there.
It's always difficult to take too much away from a preseason match without making profound leaps of logic, but two goals in the first five minutes of play certainly says something. Real Salt Lake came racing out of the gates and, while New York was unprepared, quickly put two goals in the back of the net before the Red Bulls fought back to tie 2-2. The factors that shaped the game are numerous, but let's focus on three of them.
RSL's two quick goals surely had something to do with the speed of the players involved, but the playmaking efforts of rookie midfielder John Stertzer and midfielder David Viana created quick opportunities. Viana's pass for the second goal was particularly sublime. The efforts of Viana were made slightly less effective as New York pushed further forward, with the midfield area becoming increasingly clogged. RSL's primary areas of safe possession shifted further back the pitch, leaving less room for midfielders to move the ball around the pitch.
You could almost see the cogs moving in Real Salt Lake's less-than-cohesive first-half back line: Carlos Salcedo and Aaron Maund worked well together, Lovel Palmer stayed back and kept things tidy on the left, and Josh Saunders made some fantastic stops when necessary. Rather than pushing forward, the defense looked to retain the ball rather safely. It's important they do that, but it did make for an incomplete showing.
The defending for the first goal conceded — a corner finished by former RSL defender Jamison Olave — was unorganized, though, while a failure to deal with a cross saw the second goal hammered in.
Plata's speed and acceleration
As important as the playmaking was for RSL's two goals, equally important was the speed of thought and speed of motion involved. Joao Plata, vital in both, showed not top pace over distance as one might see in a breakaway, but top acceleration in tight areas. This gave him a distinct advantage in pulling away from defenders, drifting wide in the box, and firing home. He had one goal and nearly had another, in part because of his speed.
Veteran heads shine through
When RSL's lineup switched over to a more widely experienced group, the match was drawn at 2-2 — that didn't change. But what did shift was the approach: Real Salt Lake went from being on the back foot to controlling play, from stopping chances to creating them.
It's difficult to definitively say whether this change in play was entirely down to the lineup shift for Real Salt Lake, given the half saw wholesale changes for New York, but it certainly can't have hurt. Real Salt Lake nearly instantly started looking like the creative, dominant team again — even if a few chances went begging and things didn't quite fire on all cylinders.