Real Salt Lake lost a tough one at Seattle on Friday, falling 2-0 to the Sounders at CenturyLink Field.
Here are a few interesting numbers from the match:
Friday’s crowd of 55,107 at Seattle was the largest crowd RSL has ever played in front of. Seattle is now 6-0-0 when playing in front of home crowds of at least 55,000 people.
Friday’s shutout broke RSL’s streak of 23 consecutive games across all competitions scoring a goal. The last time Real Salt Lake was shutout prior to Friday night was on April 27, when the Claret-and-Cobalt fell 2-0 to the LA Galaxy at Rio Tinto Stadium. RSL still leads MLS in goals scored with 52 through 29 regular season games.
Friday’s loss broke RSL’s five-game unbeaten streak on artificial turf. The Claret-and-Cobalt’s last loss on turf came on Aug. 11, 2012, when RSL fell 2-1 at Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
Friday’s loss dropped Real Salt Lake out of first place in both the Supporters’ Shield and Western Conference races. RSL now trails Seattle by one point in both the West and MLS races, with the Sounders holding two games in hand on the Utah side.
RSL’s five remaining MLS opponents have an average of 37 points this year. That total would place behind eight teams in the Western Conference and would be tied for 15th in the league table.
Real Salt Lake again proved their offensive prowess on Friday, getting four goals to down the Portland Timbers 4-2 at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Here are a few interesting numbers from Friday’s match:
Friday’s 4-2 win and the team’s 4-0 win over Columbus on Aug. 24 mark the first time in RSL history that the team has scored four or more goals in consecutive regular season matches. The Claret-and-Cobalt has now scored a total of 11 goals in its last three matches, with seven of those goals coming against a usually-stingy Portland side.
Real Salt Lake forward Alvaro Saborio scored his tenth goal during MLS play on Friday – only his thirteenth appearance of the season. Saborio’s 0.83 goals per 90 minutes is tops in MLS among players with more than eight games played.
The Real Salt Lake fan base flexed its muscles once more on Friday, with the capacity crowd of 20,252 marking the fifth sellout at Rio Tinto Stadium this year.
By scoring on Friday, RSL midfielder Luis Gil became the sixth Claret-and-Cobalt player to reach the five goal plateau this year. Gil joins Saborio, midfielder Javier Morales, midfielder Ned Grabavoy, forward Robbie Findley and forward Olmes Garcia as the six RSL players who have found the back of the net five or more times during MLS play. RSL only had two players hit the five goal mark in 2012.
Friday’s win marked the club’s 14th victory of the season, most in the league. Real Salt Lake is now one win away from reaching the 15-win, 50-point plateau for a fourth-consecutive year, something that’s never been done in league history. The Utah side is in good position to also set a new franchise record for wins in a season – the record is seventeen, held by the 2012 team.
With his bicycle kick goal past goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts on Friday, Morales tied his career-high with seven goals on the season. Morales’ seven goals are good for second on the team – he leads RSL with ten assists in MLS play.
Real Salt Lake’s four goals in Friday’s match increased its league-leading goal total to 52 goals during the 2013 season. The L.A. Galaxy are a distant second, having scored 43 goals on the season.
Real Salt Lake forward Joao Plata notched two assists on Friday, giving him a total of eight assists in MLS play, good for fifth in the league. The 21-year-old Ecuadorian finds himself on the assist leaderboard despite only starting in 16 of the club’s 28 games.
Real Salt Lake put the hurt on Columbus on Saturday night, scoring three second half goals to beat the Crew 4-0 at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Here are a few interesting numbers from Saturday’s contest:
Real Salt Lake’s four goals on Saturday night gave the team 48 regular season goals this year, breaking the club record of 46 regular season goals set in 2012. The Claret-and-Cobalt still has seven regular season matches remaining this year – plenty of time to add to its new record.
April 12, 2008
Real Salt Lake Captain Kyle Beckerman’s two-goal performance on Saturday night was his first multi-goal game since he bagged two goals against D.C. United on April 12, 2008. Beckerman’s brace was the 45th multi-goal game by a RSL player in club history. The Claret-and-Cobalt is now 37-4-4 all-time when a player scores multiple goals in a match.
RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando earned his 107th career regular season shutout on Saturday night. Rimando is now just five clean-sheets shy of tying Kevin Hartman for the all-time MLS shutout record. The veteran ‘keeper has eight shutouts this year; 71 of his 107 career regular season clean-sheets have come in a RSL uniform.
Rimando also moved into third-place in MLS history in minutes played on Saturday night. The “Wall of the Wasatch” has now played 30,753 minutes in 340 career regular season matches, all of which have been starts. He trails only Hartman (37,260) and the retired Steve Ralston (33,142) on the all-time MLS minutes played chart. Rimando is now tied for fifth on the all-time MLS appearances list with former D.C. man Jaime Moreno and is one start away from moving into a tie for third-place on the all-time starts list with Vancouver goalie Joe Cannon.
Real Salt Lake has now scored nine goals in its last three games in league action. That’s an absurd total – one that’s good for an average of three goals per game.
A 4-0 win over Columbus Crew for Real Salt Lake will surely have everyone in good spirits, and with good reason: Never did RSL look like anything other than the far better side. There is no exaggeration when Jason Kreis called it his side's "most complete performance" of the year.
Columbus's biggest threats on the night were surely Dominic Oduro and Federico Higuain. Neither were particularly threatening to RSL's dominance on the night, with Higuain's impact frustrated to the point that he opted to get sent off instead of continuing in the match. Throughout, Columbus Crew took only a single on-target shot and but three off-target shots. There will be plenty of talk about the attack, and rightly so, but just as vital as the speed with which we re-won possession.
Patience is a virtue, I think
That first goal for Real Salt Lake was one which seemed it would never come. Columbus Crew were resolute in their defending and more than content to let us keep the ball, and but for a deflection, they would have gone into the half having not conceded. What the first half saw, then, was two sides demonstrating immense patience: RSL continued their attack without panicking, and Crew continued their defense without wavering.
And by and large, there was something nice about that — perhaps because Real Salt Lake had breached the defense once, it was made more palatable. But once the Crew decided that, should they desire any result at all, they'd have to be at least slightly more adventurous. The second goal came perhaps as a result, more or less, of that: It was not so much that they had pushed too far forward, but that they failed to track any sort of run. It was as static as the Crew could have looked.
For a team playing — again — its third game in an eight-day stretch, it was encouraging to see those who played full matches in the two preceding matches — Tony Beltran, Nat Borchers, Ned Grabavoy, and Javier Morales, with Chris Wingert close behind — making constant attacking runs. The players who came in looked not just fresh, but eager to be involved. That sort of attitude is difficult to teach and is surely a testament to the squad that has been built.
That movement led to dangerous opportunities throughout the first half, and when the second half rolled around, it led to a further three goals for the home side. Running out winners has rarely been so literal a phrase. A special word should be reserved for Olmes Garcia and Devon Sandoval, who formed a strong, solid partnership, with both players making those essential runs.
Rimando to Beltran; Beltran to Findley; Findley to Velasquez; Velasquez to Beckerman; Beckerman to Velasquez; Velasquez to Wingert; Wingert to Grabavoy; Grabavoy to Morales; Morales to Gil; Gil to Grabavoy; Grabavoy to Morales; Morales to Velasquez; Velasquez to Grabavoy; Grabavoy to Gil.
Gil to goal.
Real Salt Lake’s third goal in its 4-0 romp over Columbus on Saturday night was an absolute beauty. Finishing off a 14-pass sequence that began with ‘keeper Nick Rimando and went through nine of the Claret-and-Cobalt’s 11 players, the move was a master-class in attacking soccer, featuring quick, one-two passing, heady dribbling and an excellent finish from Luis Gil.
Check out the entire 36-second sequence above.
Real Salt Lake pulled off an improbable come-from-behind draw on Wednesday night, getting a 93rd minute goal from substitute midfielder Cole Grossman to tie the Portland Timbers 3-3 at JELD-WEN Field despite playing the final minutes with just 10 men.
Here are a few interesting numbers from Wednesday’s match:
Real Salt Lake defender Nat Borchers and Cole Grossman both scored their first goals of the season on Wednesday night, giving RSL 14 different players that have found the back of the net in league play this year. That total is tied for tops in the league with Chivas USA and Montreal Impact. RSL has had 16 different players score in all competitions this year, six more than the 10 Claret-and-Cobalt players that scored in MLS, U.S. Open Cup and CONACACAF Champions League action in 2012.
Wednesday’s three goal performance gives RSL 25 MLS road goals this year, tops in MLS. Only one other team in the league has as many home goals as RSL has away goals, with Vancouver Whitecaps FC notching 25 goals at home thus far. In addition to leading the league in road goals, RSL is in first place in MLS in road goal differential (+2) and total goals (44).
Wednesday’s result moves RSL to 5-6-3 on the road this year. The Claret-and-Cobalt’s 18 road points is tied with Sporting Kansas City for most in the league.
Wednesday’s result extended RSL’s unbeaten run on turf to five games. RSL is 1-0-2 on turf this season, tying Vancouver 1-1 at BC Place on April 13 and beating New England 2-1 at Gillette Stadium on May 8 before tying Portland on Wednesday. RSL will play on turf three more times this year, taking on Seattle Sounders FC at CenturyLink Field on Sept. 13, traveling north of the border to take on Vancouver at BC Place on Sept. 28 and returning to Portland to take on the Timbers at JELD-WEN Field on Oct. 19.
Cole Grossman’s last appearance with the first-team prior to his shift on Wednesday came 141 days earlier, when he started and played 77 minutes in RSL’s 2-0 loss at FC Dallas on March 23. Grossman suffered a concussion in that match and – though he had made several appearances in the 18 since – had not appeared in a game since. His eight minute cameo on Wednesday was Grossman’s second appearance with RSL after he was acquired by the team this offseason.
Because it's really what was on everybody's minds after the match, let's talk about the formation shift Jason Kreis rolled out and its effectiveness for this team.
To start, it was a fairly European 4-2-1-3 — or as some might term it, a 4-2-3-1 — but whatever way you describe it, there were two deeper midfielders, Ned Grabavoy and Kyle Beckerman; an attacking midfielder sitting essentially in the attacking half, Javier Morales; a central striker, Alvaro Saborio; and two wide players in attacking positions, Olmes Garcia and Joao Plata. The difference between the two formational descriptions rests on the roles of Garcia and Plata. Neither played exactly like a traditional winger, nor did they play exclusively like strikers in wide positions. In reality, the formation is somewhere betwixt the two.
Now, this may be because they weren't entirely effective in their positions. Jason Kreis was critical of the two in his post-match press conference, saying of the formation's future for RSL: "…If we’re going to continue forward ... we’ve got to get those players moving more. I don’t like them standing on their outside backs and getting themselves marked." Now, this doesn't necessarily mean either deserve blame for this, as it was a new approach for the squad and one that requires a great deal of understanding for proper execution. It did present some promise.
What, exactly, does the future hold for Real Salt Lake's formational approach? In the short-term, it's hard to see us moving away from the diamond, on which we have built our core. It's an excellent fit for many reasons — from Javier Morales's consistent mobility to the ability of deeper midfielders to impact play with dynamic runs, there's a lot to be positive about. The diamond may not be here long-term — two, three years down the road, say — but it's hard to see a distinct shift now.
Still, the tactical flexibility afforded by the change in approach is indisputable. If we are able to sufficiently gain an understand in another system, and we're able to utilize it effectively in the attack — not just in defense — we'll be better able to counteract the stale defensive outlays teams send out to put a stopper on us. Should we be able to effectively shift to a three-forward setup, we can instantly widen play in a significant way; should we shift back, we could attack down the middle more effectively. Both systems afford defensive width, and both systems allow for quality play in transition, so we don't lose any particular advantage as a result.
Should Real Salt Lake continue down this road? It would seem a good one to at least venture down a little further. We have wide attacking players who can make a significant impact, and we have a collection of midfielders who will fight for every ball and cover as much ground as anyone in the league. It's a good fit — but it has to work in a sustainable, long-term sense. And given we haven't seen it work fully yet, there remain questions aplenty
Real Salt Lake won its second match in four days on Saturday, getting a penalty kick goal from Alvaro Saborio to beat the Houston Dynamo 1-0 at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Here are a few interesting numbers from Saturday’s match:
Saborio’s goal on Saturday was his sixth in four games since returning from international duty ahead of RSL’s July 27 match at New York. The Claret-and-Cobalt’s all-time leading scorer, Saborio now has nine goals and two assists in 11 league games and 11 goals and four assists in 13 games across all competitions this year. Saborio’s nine league goals are tied for fifth in MLS; the four players with more goals than him have played between nine and 13 more league games than he has. The Costa Rican international leads the league amongst players with more than one strike with 0.88 goals per 90 minutes. He is now 15-for-16 on penalty kicks in all competitions with RSL and has scored on nine of his 15 shots on goal this year. The Claret-and-Cobalt is now 34-6-8 in all comps when Saborio scores.
RSL Head Coach Jason Kreis departed from his usual diamond 4-4-2 formation on Saturday, starting the match in a 4-2-1-3 setup with Saborio, Olmes Garcia and Joao Plata playing up top. It was only the third time this year that Kreis began a match in a formation other than the diamond 4-4-2. RSL is a perfect 3-0-0 in those matches, beating Toronto 1-0 on June 29 and dominating Dallas 3-0 on July 13.
Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando earned the 106th clean sheet of his sterling MLS career on Saturday. The veteran ‘keeper – who has seven shutouts this year – is now only six clean sheets shy of Kevin Hartman’s all-time MLS shutout record.
With Saturday’s win, Real Salt Lake moved to 3-1-1 this year in the final matches of three-game in eight day stretches. Real Salt Lake will play three games in eight days two more times during the season – once beginning with the Aug. 17 match against the LA Galaxy, and again in late September to early October.
Six players age 25 or younger saw the field for the Claret-and-Cobalt on Saturday. Four of the six – forward Olmes Garcia (20), forward Joao Plata (21), midfielder Luis Gil (19) and defender Carlos Salcedo (19) – are 21 or younger.
Real Salt Lake has zero losses when outside backs Tony Beltran and Chris Wingert start together, as well as zero losses in games in which defender Carlos Salcedo appears. The Claret-and-Cobalt is now 10-0-1 across all competitions when both Beltran and Wingert start and 9-0-2 in all comps when Salcedo plays.
RSL is in sole possession of first-place in MLS in points, points per game, wins, goals scored, goals per game, goal differential, road goals and road goal differential.
Real Salt Lake advanced to its first Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final on Wednesday night, beating the Portland Timbers 2-1 in the USOC Semis at Rio Tinto Stadium to advance to the tournament’s title game on Oct. 1 at home against D.C. United.
Here are a few interesting numbers from Wednesday’s match:
Wednesday’s win moved RSL into its first ever Open Cup Final. The Oct. 1 final against D.C. United at Rio Tinto Stadium will be the first final ever contested or hosted in the state of Utah. Tickets are expected to go on sale to the game next week – get yours early and fill the RioT.
Wednesday’s crowd of 14,742 was the largest ever to see a U.S. Open Cup Semifinal in the modern/pro era, breaking the previous mark of 12,129 set by the minor-league Rochester Rhinos in 1996. Wednesday’s crowd was only the third semifinal in the modern/pro era to break the 10,000 mark.
Real Salt Lake forward Alvaro Saborio scored in the seventh minute of Wednesday’s game, heading a Kyle Beckerman cross off the post and into the back of the net to give the Claret-and-Cobalt the early lead. The goal was Saborio’s fifth in three games since returning to RSL from international duty ahead of the July 27 loss at New York. The Costa Rican international also had an assist in Wednesday’s match, giving him 10 goals and two assists in 12 appearances across all competitions this season. Real Salt Lake is now a dominant 33-6-8 in all competitions when Saborio scores.
Real Salt Lake defender Carlos Salcedo returned from injury to play the full 90 on Wednesday night. The 19-year-old center back turned in another solid shift for the Claret-and-Cobalt, helping the Utah side improve to 8-0-2 in his 10 appearances – nine of which have been starts – across all competitions this year.
Real Salt Lake has now won four games in this year’s Open Cup, doubling the two total wins it had in previous iterations of the tournament proper. RSL had other wins in Open Cup play in games, but only two in the tournament proper prior to this year.
Real Salt Lake's Rocky Mountain Cup-losing 2-2 draw at Colorado on Saturday was not the result of lackadaisical output, nor was it the result of injuries, nor of worrying fissures within the side's tactical makeup. What, then, was the cause?
Once again, Real Salt Lake conceded a game-tying goal from a hopeful cross; it is something we've seen repeatedly over the last three matches. In these cases, it's easy to point at the quality of defenders on display, but poor defenders in good positions are less likely to allow those sorts of goals. No, it's not an issue of the quality of defenders, but of the quality of defending take place. Nick Rimando rightly pointed at organization as an issue in the draw and the losses that preceded it. He's not at all wrong.
Goals in transition
Again, this is in part down to organization, but the issue starts further up the pitch. When the ball is lost cheaply at any position, the opposition is handed an opportunity to counter in numbers. They're also given an opportunity to send in hopeful crosses, as with the defense on the back foot, they are less capable of defending crosses into the box. We keep seeing it, and it's difficult to really solve with one fell swoop, but it's hurt us before, it hurt us this time, and it will hurt us again — even if we solve the issue.
It's a function, in part, of the way in which we play that we allow chances. As an attacking side that puts numbers forward — a tactical risk Jason Kreis admits — we must find the best way to deal with the transition, because it's going to happen.
A lack of defensive identity
This one perhaps is the cause of the preceding two points. When your defenders are unable to build rapport through playing time, understanding who exactly is where becomes a difficult proposition. A difficult question to answer: When last did we play the same defensive line in consecutive matches? The question boggles the mind. This season, we've seen Nat Borchers paired with Chris Schuler, Kwame Watson-Siriboe, Carlos Salcedo, Aaron Maund, and now Brandon McDonald. And we're only halfway through the season. Now, much of that change has been forced, but to go from having a genuine pairing that started the majority of matches in Borchers and Jamison Olave to this? There should be no surprise that we lack identity.
The question now: How do we create it? Who is closest? And will a pairing galvanize before the playoffs?