MLSsoccer.com's Matt Doyle and Dan Haiek gave Saturday's Real Salt Lake-Seattle Sounders FC matchup the Scouting Report treatment. Give it a watch ahead of tomorrow's 7:30 p.m. kick at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Real Salt Lake has a good history against the LA Galaxy, posting a 9-9-5 regular season mark against its Western Conference rival.
We've put together four of the Claret-and-Cobalt's "Signature Moments" against LA ahead of Saturday's 7:30 kick between the sides at Rio Tinto Stadium. Check 'em out below.
March 10, 2012 - RSL opens the 2012 season with a 3-1 win at the defending champion Galaxy.
Nov. 6, 2011 - It's not a happy memory, but no catalog of RSL-LA meetings would be complete without mentioning the Galaxy's 3-1 victory over the Claret-and-Cobalt in the 2011 Western Conference Final.
March 26, 2011 - RSL MF Andy Williams scores in the second minute - one of the quickest goals in club history - as RSL thrashes LA in the 2011 MLS home opener.
Nov. 22, 2009 - RSL's proudest moment: Beating LA in penalty kicks to lift the 2009 MLS Cup.
Nice video from the good folks over at MLSsoccer.com previewing Saturday's RSL-LA slugfest.
Fantastic video by Real Salt Lake videographer slick Nick Lamping ahead of Saturday's 7:30 p.m. kickoff between RSL and LA.
Three key absences for Real Salt Lake sounds a difficult proposition to handle, but options for each position — in the midfield, in defense, and up front — could mean RSL is in a better tactical position than one might readily imagine ahead of Saturday's home match against LA.
No Luis Gil means we'll be looking for a midfielder to take his place. Two options readily present themselves: Sebastian Velasquez has shown well this season and is stepping up in the system, but Khari Stephenson provides veteran experience and looked strong last week. The most reasonable approach, to my mind: Stephenson starts, Velasquez comes off the bench. Stephenson can manage the game well in midfield and provide a safe outlet; Velasquez can come on late and be his creative, spark self.
No Chris Schuler leads to a continuation with either Kwame Watson-Siriboe or Carlos Salcedo. Both have showed well so far, and Watson-Siriboe was massive against a pesky San Jose side. Watson-Siriboe had a rocky start to his season, but should he continue to impress, worries about an injured Chris Schuler might ease somewhat. Carlos Salcedo is a natural bench option with an eye on a Wednesday start.
No Alvaro Saborio leaves us again wondering about a tactical scenario. Is the Plata-Findley pairing for real? Can it work? It's hard to deny that chances have been created, and Saturday saw us looking somewhat near very, very good. Olmes Garcia could be an option but is likely to be eased back from injury, while Devon Sandoval might not yet be the sort of player that can dominate the Galaxy defense. But Plata-Findley presents its own challenges from a tactical perspective, but if those can be overcome, it's hard to argue with the selection.
It all leaves Real Salt Lake in an interesting position against one of MLS's better sides, but it leaves a good tactical position open. With the tendencies of Plata and Findley to drift wide, opportunities for midfielders emerge. Javier Morales is in fine form, Ned Grabavoy is in the best goalscoring form of his career, Khari Stephenson has a cannon of a foot and Kyle Beckerman can swing in the late shots himself.
The surprise? The Findley-Plata pairing could be one of our better options up front, regardless of injury concerns and international duty. The win against San Jose, however poor they've been this season, is partly owed to the results of effective movement up top, drawing defenders into poor positions and creating channels for midfield runs. Seeing more of that on Saturday would be precisely the sort of thing RSL needs to handle the Galaxy.
Real Salt Lake is set to continue its home stand on Saturday night, when it will take on the LA Galaxy at 7:30 p.m. at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Here are a few interesting storylines ahead of Saturday’s match:
RSL out for revenge
Real Salt Lake and the Galaxy have already met once this season, with RSL coming out flat and giving up two early goals to fall to LA 2-0 at Rio Tinto Stadium on April 27.
RSL has posted a strong 5-1-1 record across all competitions since that match, but a bad taste still lingers. The Claret-and-Cobalt will want to remove that once and for all on Saturday with a win in its second – and final – home game of the regular season against the rival Galaxy.
While RSL has been hot since the April 27 meeting at Rio Tinto Stadium, LA has been in a slide, posting a 2-5-0 mark across all competitions since taking all three points on the Wasatch Front five weeks ago.
LA was blown out in its last match, giving up four second half goals to fall 5-0 at the New England Revolution on Sunday. After that performance, it’s a safe bet that the Galaxy will come into Saturday’s game focused and very, very hungry for a result.
Morales successful against Galaxy
Much like he does against San Jose, RSL midfielder Javier Morales has a very strong track record against the Galaxy, scoring five goals and tallying five assists in 12 career regular season games against LA.
Morales gave San Jose fits last week, scoring a goal and adding an assist in RSL’s 3-0 win over the Quakes last Saturday. The Claret-and-Cobalt is hoping he’ll be able to match that performance this weekend as he looks to strengthen his solid track record against the Galaxy.
The away team has won the last four games between Real Salt Lake and LA dating back to RSL’s 3-1 win at the Galaxy in the 2012 season opener. That’s a very odd statistic in any series, let alone one in which both teams are traditionally tough at home.
RSL, obviously, will be hoping to end that mark on Saturday with a win over its longtime Western Conference rival.
Both sides will be missing key players on Saturday due to international duty. RSL will be without three players, missing forward Alvaro Saborio (Costa Rica) and defender Abdoulie Mansally (Gambia) due to World Cup Qualifiers and midfielder Luis Gil (U.S.), who is with the U.S. Under-20’s ahead of this month’s FIFA U-20 World Cup. LA will be without star forward Robbie Keane (Ireland) and defender Omar Gonzalez (U.S.) for World Cup Qualifiers and U.S. U-20 Oscar Sorto. The Galaxy could also be without U.S. U-20 forward Jose Villarreal depending on when he departs for the team’s pre-World Cup camp.
San Jose Earthquakes are back in town for the first time since they knocked Real Salt Lake out of the Western Conference lead in June 2012, but this time, the visitors are struggling to find even the faintest of footing.
Shots fired: Real Salt Lake are leading the league in shots taken and shots on goal, and while that's nice, it's interesting that San Jose is not far behind in either metric. They've taken 10 fewer shots, so one has to wonder why they haven't been scoring. Indeed, it would be worrying if Jason Kreis wasn't paying attention to that fact — though one should be sure he is. There's a palpable feeling that San Jose are dangerous — one needs only look at shot charts to see why. This necessitates the defense protects Nick Rimando as capably as possible.
Speaking of defense, deciding between Kwame Watson-Siriboe and Carlos Salcedo for the partnership with Nat Borchers can't be easy. After 120 minutes on Tuesday and 90 minutes on Saturday, Carlos Salcedo might miss out. That's simply a lot of time out there, and he's worked hard the entire time. But he has acquitted himself well in the early days of the season, and Jason Kreis has shown a penchant for retaining players in form. With Chris Schuler likely to miss out, the decision comes down to today and how well the two recovered from a grueling Open Cup match.
Recovery will be a big consideration for Kreis everywhere on the pitch. Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales and Carlos Salcedo all played full minutes in both recent matches, and some rotation might necessarily take place. Sebastian Velasquez, Luis Gil, and perhaps some faces less often seen could be in line for minutes. But once again, inconsistency in play is a natural extension of inconsistent lineups.
Lineup concerns are one thing, but considering RSL's relative success despite those inconsistencies, there's not much reason for grave concern. The rotation might even be a good thing for those players who haven't seen as much time — but who exactly that might be is up for debate.
Less-used players might end up with time. Enzo Martinez and David Viana haven't played any matches yet in 2013 (and Enzo not at all), Khari Stephenson has only started a third of the matches he's played in, and Kwame Watson-Siriboe has played in only a handful of matches. Should some of the players with less experience play against San Jose, they'll have to be extra aware — especially considering that San Jose's not afraid to shoot.
San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch joined On Frame on Thursday night to look ahead to Saturday's RSL-Earthquakes matchup, talk U.S. Open Cup and discuss San Jose's year thus far.
The veteran 'keeper said something particularly interesting about the Earthquakes "Goonies" mentality, telling Brian Dunseth and Trey Fitz-Gerald that he thinks the "Goonies" mantra needs "to be put to rest."
When Real Salt Lake takes the field against the Atlanta Silverbacks in the third round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday, they won't be treating it like a glorified friendly. RSL hasn't seen great success in America's oldest soccer tournament, but they are determined to finally make an impact. Last season was a new low: At home, in front of one of the largest crowds to ever witness an Open Cup match, RSL crashed out of the tournament 3-1 at the hands of NASL's Minnesota Stars. This week, team coaches and management have expressed their displeasure with last year's Open Cup performance.
"I think our coach set the tone," said general manager Garth Lagerwey. "That was possibly the worst game of his coaching tenure at RSL. We have to do better. If we want to advance, it starts Tuesday."
The message from last year's disappointment has apparently made its way down to the players. Goalkeeper Josh Saunders, who was not with the team in 2012, joked with reporters that he "hasn't heard anything about" the Stars debacle.
Sebastian Velasquez was a rookie last year, and he had plenty to say about what's going to be different this time around.
"We're coming in different from last year," the player said. "I feel like maybe we didn't take it as serious as we should have. Last year it seemed like our minds weren't in it."
The lack of seriousness last year can be attributed to a bit of complacency that came with facing an NASL opponent. Today the loss serves as a reminder that anyone can beat anyone, regardless of division.
"If you come in and think, 'this is a minor-league team; they're not as talented are we are,' that's how you get tripped up," said Lagerwey.
Head Coach Jason Kreis is the kind of coach who's not going to let his team make the same mistake two years in a row, so it stands to reason that his squad won't be complacent as they take on the Silverbacks.
Several other factors could also help spur on RSL this Tuesday: They have a guaranteed home match in the fourth round if they win, another good crowd is expected on Tuesday, player resources aren't stretched thinner by CONCACAF Champion's League dates, and the squad is noticeably deeper this time around.
"The thing about this team is that any guy that gets put out there is going to give the same performance as a regular starter," said Velasquez. "I think everybody's ready to play, everybody's ready to get minutes, everybody's ready to show the coach that we're on this team for a reason."
The favorable schedule in the tournament, the depth of the squad, and the painful lessons learned last year have Real Salt Lake aiming for big things in a competition they haven't traditionally done well in.
"We're ready, we're focused, we're ready to come out tomorrow and move to the next round," said Velasquez. "This year we want to win the Cup."
A 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.
The Real Salt Lake Women will play the first of three games at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday, when they'll host the Provo-based Utah Starzz at 1:00 p.m. MT at the Sandy facility ahead of the Claret-and-Cobalt's 7:00 p.m. MLS home match against the Chicago Fire. The RSL Women will also play at Rio Tinto Stadium on June 8 and July 3 ahead of RSL MLS matches.
ABC4's Dana Greene did a nice report on the Real Salt Lake Women on Wednesday night, talking with team members Sara Cowley, Kendra Halterman, Annie Hawkins and Jacqui Rimando - yes, that Rimando - about the team's history, it's affiliation with RSL and Saturday's home opener.
Check out ABC's report above and get your tickets to Saturday's match at the Rio Tinto Stadium box office, by calling 801-727-2700, or by clicking HERE.