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17 June 8:21 am

One of our favorite parts of John Brooks’ game-winning goal for the U.S. last night was the celebration.

No, we’re not talking about Brooks’ celebration – though his weird, I don’t know what to do with myself so I’m just gonna go lie down over here thing was pretty good. We’re talking about Jurgen Klinsmann and Nick Rimando’s hug on the bench.

10 out of 10, dudes. Robin van Persie and Louis van Gaal could learn a couple of things from you two.

RSL Head Coach Jeff Cassar had our favorite quote about the celebration. 

Nick had a really nice follow-up tweet, too. Just really well done all around. Bravo.

16 June 12:05 pm

The latest video in the Soccer Smarts with Professor Leo World Cup series takes a look at the group stage - the opening round-robin tournament featuring all 32 participating nations.

15 June 11:09 am

Andy's first post since arriving in Natal, Brazil with the American Outlaws ahead of tomorrow's U.S. v. Ghana match - kick at 4 p.m. MT on ESPN

Road to Natal

After a 32 hour journey, I’m safely in Brazil. The last two days have been spectacular and tiring, an exciting taste of what’s to come.

My first 2014 World Cup experience actually happened in Salt Lake City, at Rodizio Grill in Trolley Square. There, my friends and I attended a party thrown by the restaurant to watch Brazil’s opening match against Croatia. As I entered, a few Brazilians danced the Samba, waiting for the big event to begin, but it quickly got too crowded for that. It seemed as if the entire Brazilian population of Salt Lake City suddenly appeared, and it was significantly more than Rodizios expected. We all stood shoulder to shoulder. As the game began, the whole place shook as all Brazilians, and especially the young ones who attended, practically yelled the Brazilian anthem in unison. Then, when Neymar scored the equalizing goal, all stood up and cheered as one, with air horns and vuvuzelas and screaming and dancing and all. More celebrations came on Fred’s penalty, though perhaps more reservedly as the room sensed that it was an unfair decision. It was a veritable sea of yellow, though just a hint of what I would experience as I arrived in Brazil.

The next morning, I took a Delta flight to Houston, the meeting spot of the American Outlaws before taking a charter to Brazil. I found some fellow AO members at baggage claim and we desperately wanted to watch the rematch of last year’s final: Spain-Netherlands. However, there was just one establishment in the entire Houston airport complex featuring a TV that was outside of security, a literal hole-in-the-wall named the “Stadium Bar and Grille.” For those of you who will ever go to Houston, a tip: avoid the Stadium Bar. It has remarkably terrible food, exactly the kind you’d expect from a school cafeteria. Its only redeeming element was a single TV, which about 15 of us crowded around to watch the game. Two fans, especially, were notable: one was a Dutch man, who seemed almost too shocked at the proceedings to celebrate. Only the smile on his face and occasional hand gestures told the story of his inner emotions as he watched quietly. The other was actually my roommate, randomly assigned to me during the trip. He’s from Nebraska, and unfortunately lost his luggage when the airline sent the luggage to IAD (Washington DC) rather than IAH (Houston). He’s scheduled to receive it tomorrow, but we may have to share some supplies in the meantime.

As the day went on, and more and more U.S. fans arrived in Houston, I heard a wider variety of stories. The American Outlaws have grown greatly in the last four years, and I’ve met people from a wide variety of locales: some from large chapters (like Los Angeles, Washington DC, and San Francisco), and some from places as small as Carney, Nebraska, home of the smallest AO chapter with a population of just 35,000. We all waited to check in for our chartered flight at 8:30 to Natal, and as we waited to board, I looked up from my writing and decided to join a circle juggling a soccer ball. While the information phone may have been in danger from our touches, we didn’t particularly care.

The flight, a nine hour journey from Houston to Natal, Brazil, was an interesting experience in itself. We were served “dinner” at 2:30 AM due to delays, and as some tried to sleep, others tried to revel in the excitement of the times. Everyone, though, celebrated at the end of the flight, getting together for a rousing “We Are Landing in Brazil!” chant.

After getting through customs and grabbing our luggage, we were taken by bus to our hotel in Natal, a 35 minute ride from the airport. As visible on TV during the Mexico-Cameroon match, Natal has experienced heavy rain in the last two days. It’s clear that this is a rarity for the Natalians; indeed, I’m told Natal only receives rain 16 out of the 365 days per year. As we drove by, I saw kids making “mud angels” in the puddles, their parents waving to the bus filled with Americans.

The U.S.-Ghana game isn’t until Monday, meaning we have a day to get settled and learn about our surroundings here in Natal. Another dispatch from Brazil soon!

Andy

14 June 11:28 am

Think RSL players are feeling the World Cup? 

Watch the Claret-and-Cobalt's Colombian forward Olmes Garcia and Colombian-American midfielder Sebastian Velasquez celebrate their country's second goal in today's Group C match against Greece. Video courtesy of RSL Ecuadorian forward Joao Plata's Instagram account.

Garcia, Velasquez, Plata and the rest of the RSL squad will be in action tonight, taking on the NASL's Atlanta Silverbacks in U.S. Open Cup play at 6 p.m. MT at Atlanta Silverbacks Park. Watch a live stream of the match right here on RealSaltLake.com. 

13 June 2:41 pm

Bone up on the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil with the first video in this year's Soccer Smarts with Professor Leo World Cup series.

13 June 9:31 am

Real Salt Lake defender Chris Wingert got in on the World Cup prognosticating this week, providing some insight for The Shin Guardian’s fantastically thorough U.S.-Ghana preview.

Here’s Wingert on how the U.S. should look to start the game against the Black Stars:

“I would say the US has to stay disciplined.  Our chances will come if we stay patient and defend well–similar to the game against Nigeria.  If we get involved in a track meet early and don’t defend with numbers, I think we’ll get exposed.”

And here’s the RSL left back on what to watch when the U.S. is defending set pieces:

“In the game against Nigeria the US looked to have a few guys playing zone defense on Nigeria’s corner kicks.   Personally, I’m not a big fan of playing zone when defending set pieces.  It allows the attackers to get a free run at the ball since nobody is responsible for impeding these runs.   If you have a great ball-winner in the air (maybe like an Omar Gonzalez) then it might be smart to leave him free and let him hunt the ball.  All the other attackers should be accounted for with individual defenders in my opinion.”

Be sure to check out The Shin Guardian’s entire preview here. Read it, you’ll learn something. 

12 June 5:05 pm

Real Salt Lake kicks off its participation in the 101st Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup tournament on the road, taking on the NASL’s Atlanta Silverbacks in a fourth-round match at Atlanta Silverbacks Park at 6:00 p.m. MT on Saturday. The match will be streamed live on RealSaltLake.com and broadcast live on ESPN 700.

Here are a few storylines to watch ahead of Saturday’s clash:

RSL out for revenge after coming up short in the 2013 U.S. Open Cup Final

Real Salt Lake will be looking to make amends after letting the 2013 U.S. Open Cup Championship slip away last year, falling 1-0 to D.C. United in the Championship match at Rio Tinto Stadium on Oct. 1, 2013. Reaching last year’s Final was the furthest the Claret-and-Cobalt had gone in the tournament, besting previous runs to the Quarterfinals in 2006 and 2011. Real Salt Lake posts an even record in Open Cup play, recording nine wins and nine losses all-time. The Claret-and-Cobalt has fared better against lower division teams, unsurprisingly, posting a 5-2-0 record. Both of RSL’s losses came at the hands of NASL side Minnesota United FC.

Real Salt Lake boasts multiple connections to NASL

Real Salt Lake has three players on its current squad that have previously played in NASL, specifically the Tampa Bay Rowdies. Claret-and-Cobalt goalkeeper Jeff Attinella played for the Tampa Bay Rowdies from 2011-2012, helping lead the Rowdies to the NASL title in 2012 while finishing second in NASL MVP voting and earning a spot on the league Best XI. RSL midfielder Luke Mulholland played for the Rowdies from 2012-2013, helping win the NASL title in 2012 with Attinella and became the first player to be named to the NASL Best XI in back-to-back seasons. RSL defender Kwame Watson-Siriboe spent a year with the Rowdies in 2011 in a year-long loan with the Chicago Fire.

RSL Head Coach Jeff Cassar also has a connection to the Atlanta Silverbacks, spending a year with the NASL side in 2002 before returning to MLS’s FC Dallas the following year.

Can RSL forward Devon Sandoval carry over last year’s successful Open Cup form into 2014?

Real Salt Lake forward Devon Sandoval shined in the 2013 U.S. Open Cup in what was his first year with RSL. The New Mexico native ended the tournament as the Claret-and-Cobalt’s leading goalscorer, recording three goals in two appearances. The target forward scored in RSL’s 3-2 win over the Atlanta Silverbacks and bagged a brace in the club’s 5-2 win over Charleston Battery. RSL forwards Alvaro Saborio and Joao Plata finished second in scoring with two goals apiece.

RSL to be the first MLS team to play at Atlanta Silverbacks Park

Real Salt Lake will be the first Major League Soccer team to play at Atlanta Silverbacks Park on Saturday. The unfamiliarity with the turf field, and the team itself, will be an added element to the match along with mounting injuries and World Cup absences.

The Silverbacks, coached by former U.S. international Eric Wynalda, currently sit in eighth-place in the NASL standings with a 3-5-1 record this season. Silverbacks forward Jaime Chavez, leads the team and league in goals scored with five, and is coming off a two-goal performance against NASL side Indy Eleven. The Silverbacks have struggled defensively this year, conceding a total of 20 goals in nine games played. In 2013, the Silverbacks reached the NASL Championship match but fell 1-0 to the New York Cosmos.

12 June 12:13 pm

Real Salt Lake kicks off participation on the 101st Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup tournament on Saturday, taking on NASL’s Atlanta Silverbacks at 6:00 p.m. MT at Atlanta Silverbacks Park. Saturday’s match will be streamed live on RealSaltLake.com and broadcast live on ESPN 700.

Saturday’s match will be the second year in a row that RSL has faced Atlanta in its opening match of the tournament. The Claret-and-Cobalt hosted Atlanta on May 28, 2013 at Rio Tinto Stadium, which resulted in a thrilling 3-2 win in extra time for the Utah side.

Check out the highlights from that wild and rainy match that jumpstarted RSL’s run to the 2013 Open Cup Final.

11 June 3:14 pm

Really cool illustration work by Devin Dulany for Howler magazine's online piece on RSL Captain Kyle Beckerman and USMNT teammate Jermaine Jones

Entitled "Our Dreaded Midfield" and written by Mike McCall, the piece details how - after years of being viewed as fighting for one spot in the starting lineup - Beckerman and Jones just might team up together in Jurgen Klinsmann's XI in Brazil.

It's a really nice read; certainly worth the time for all you Beckerman fans out there. Here's the money quote, given by Klinsmann after he started both Beckerman and Jones in the midfield in the U.S.'s 2-1 win over Nigeria on Saturday: 

“I saw a lot of work that they did, tremendous cleaning up all over the place,” Klinsmann said in his post-match press conference. “We know Kyle, and that’s his specialty, to protect his teammates and run endless miles for the team. Jermaine in that half position has more freedom to go forward so he can kind of switch back and forth with Michael Bradley, and he knows that there’s someone behind him there, so ‘If I lose the ball in my run, Kyle is going to clean up for me.’ It worked out really well.”