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?
Despite getting three goals from Alvaro Saborio, Real Salt Lake lost in stoppage time for the second consecutive match on Saturday, falling 4-3 at the New York Red Bulls.
Here are a few interesting numbers from Saturday’s match:
Real Salt Lake forward Alvaro Saborio scored three goals on Saturday, completing his third career MLS hat trick with a fantastic goal in the 82nd minute. After Saturday’s performance, Saborio is now first in MLS among players with more than 207 minutes played with 0.85 goals per 90 minutes.
Saborio has seven goals on only thirteen shots on target this year, good for an insane scoring percentage of 53.8 percent.
Real Salt Lake was whistled for 28 total fouls on Saturday, the team’s highest total of the season. The previous high for the club was 17 fouls committed in the June 1 match against the San Jose Earthquakes.
New York Red Bulls midfielder Dax McCarty scored the game-winning goal in the 94th minute of play, marking the second consecutive match where RSL has give up a go-ahead goal in stoppage time.
Real Salt Lake forward Joao Plata’s well-timed pass – resulting in Saborio’s third goal of the match – marked Plata’s sixth assist of the season. Plata is now tied for seventh in the league in assists.
With 6 shots on goal against New York on Saturday, the Claret-and-Cobalt increased their average shots on goal to 5.5 per game, tops in the league. The Montreal Impact are a distant second, at 5.25 shots on goal per game – an overall gap of 16 shots on target.
Despite having lost consecutive matches, Real Salt Lake maintains the best goal differential in the league, with a differential of +12.
For the second consecutive week, a match featuring Real Salt Lake resulted in a total of seven yellow cards. Saturday’s match also marked the second straight match where an RSL player has been shown a yellow card within the first five minutes of play.
With the completion of the Gold Cup, the Claret-and-Cobalt no longer be without the services of goalkeeper Nick Rimando, midfielder Kyle Beckerman and defender Tony Beltran, giving the team zero players out on international duty. Due to a red card suspension, however, Beltran will miss the Aug. 3 match at the Colorado Rapids.
Real Salt Lake’s 11-game unbeaten streak came to an end on Saturday night, falling to Sporting KC 2-1 at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Here are a few interesting numbers from Saturday’s match:
Despite Saturday’s loss, Real Salt Lake is still in first-place in the Supporters’ Shield and Western Conference races, one point ahead of SKC for the league lead and three points ahead of Portland in the West table. The Claret-and-Cobalt also remains in first in goals scored, goals conceded, goal difference, road goals and road goal difference.
Real Salt Lake midfielder Javier Morales suffered six fouls on Saturday, the most fouls he’s suffered in any one game this season. The Argentine playmaker has now been fouled 51 times this season, second in the league behind Dallas’s David Ferreira. Morales’s 3.25 fouls suffered per 90 minutes is the highest rate in the league amongst players with more than 1000 minutes played.
Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Jeff Attinella on Saturday became the 25th RSL player to start an MLS match in the 2013 season. Fellow Western Conference contenders Portland and FC Dallas each have only started 19 different players thus far in MLS play.
Real Salt Lake forward Robbie Findley tallied his fifth goal of the year on Saturday, equaling his total from the 2010 season – his last season with RSL before a two-year sojourn at English club Nottingham Forest.
The Claret-and-Cobalt now has an all-time record of 6-2-10 in home Fireworks games. The club’s prior defeat in a home Fireworks game came at the hands of Toronto FC on July 4, 2007.
Sporting KC’s Ike Opara scored the game-winning goal in the 97th minute of play on Saturday. The goal was the latest RSL has ever allowed.
Real Salt Lake made club history on Saturday night, getting goals from Javier Morales, Ned Grabavoy and Olmes Garcia to beat FC Dallas 3-0 at FC Dallas Stadium.
Here are a few interesting numbers from Saturday’s match:
Saturday’s win was Real Salt Lake’s 100th in MLS regular season play. The Claret-and-Cobalt is now 100-103-69 all-time in regular season action.
Saturday’s victory was Real Salt Lake’s 11th-straight match in all competitions without a loss. The Claret-and-Cobalt is 9-0-2 in that span. RSL hasn’t lost since May 11, when it dropped a 3-2 result at the Montreal Impact.
Real Salt Lake’s 3-0 victory over FC Dallas marked the club’s first-ever win on Texas soil. The Utah side now has a 1-18-3 record across all competitions in the Lone Star State.
24-year-old goalkeeper Jeff Attinella made his first MLS appearance on Saturday night, replacing injured ‘keeper Josh Saunders in the 51st minute. Attinella made three saves during his 39-minute stint, including a parrying block of a point-blank header by Dallas forward Ramon Nunez in the 88th minute.
Real Salt Lake forward Olmes Garcia scored his fifth goal of the MLS season in the 90th minute of Saturday’s match. Garcia’s five goals in 547 minutes this year give him a rate of one goal per 109 minutes played – the next-best scoring rate by a member of the Claret-and-Cobalt is Alvaro Saborio’s one goal per every 164 minutes.
Including the victory over FC Dallas, Real Salt Lake now has a record of 4-4-1 on the road this year, with a road goal differential of +5. The only other teams with a positive road goal differential are Portland and Sporting KC, which are both at +2.
Real Salt Lake has now scored 32 goals in MLS play this season, tied with Philadelphia for the league lead. The club has scored two or more goals in 12 of its last 14 matches across all competitions.
With his blast into the top-right corner of the goal on Saturday, Real Salt Lake midfielder Ned Grabavoy has now put 28.6 percent of his scoring chances in the back of the net. Grabavoy has already exceeded his career high in goals scored, having scored four goals thus far in 2013.
Going to Texas and notching a win on our belt is no easy feat, but a 3-0 win over FC Dallas while deploying an untested formation? It's the stuff of dreams for Real Salt Lake, and we can point to tactics if we're looking for a cause.
At least on paper, it looked like was rolling out a 4-2-3-1, and parts of it made a good deal of sense. Luis Gil and Sebastian Velasquez played in wide attacking roles on either side of Javier Morales, and Robbie Findley operated as the lone forward. The attacking midfielders, on paper, seemed a fantastic use of personnel, while Findley's operating up top on his lonesome seemed a strange decision.
It didn't quite work out that way. Velasquez and Gil struggled to get heavily involved, and perhaps it was the unfamiliarity of the role that was problematic for the pair. Both thrive when they have passing options closer to them, and that simply wasn't the case. To connect well, Ned Grabavoy and Yordany Alvarez both had to push higher up the pitch, and Morales would have to swing to either side.
While both youngsters are capable of picking up the ball and running at players, it's not exactly a trait that fits the system — we thrive moving the ball from the inside-out while high up the pitch, then back in again to create danger — Saturday was a case of moving the ball outside deeper, then attempting to bring it back in again. This allowed defending wide players to stop the movement before any momentum could be had.
It was perhaps telling that Javier Morales had one of his finer games of the last three years, and his goal and assist (or, if you're including second assists, then he had two) were a mark of his work. Perhaps this came from the wider players occupying defenders more, giving Morales more time and space on the ball.
On a surface level, it would appear the formation worked, but it's difficult to say to what extent. A single win — or loss — doesn't speak to a formation's worth. But it is encouraging that Jason Kreis, typically a stalwart of the diamond 4-4-2, has significantly experimented with other formations this season. The tactical flexibility this affords should keep opponents guessing a bit more and less able to deploy a stymying tactical plan.
A discussion of the match wouldn't be complete without a note on Jason Kreis's key substitutions, as they really shifted the match in RSL's favor. By stepping back into the 4-4-2 and bringing Joao Plata on for Velasquez, the defense was forced to adapt; Plata's ability to run at players has wide impact.
And Olmes Garcia on for Robbie Findley really sounded the death knells for Dallas — with Findley having tired the defense for 70 minutes, Garcia came on and was handed an exhausted defense. With Dallas looking to recover a bit, they wanted to push players forward: Garcia didn't allow that. He picked up the ball in key positions and ran at defenders, he closed down superbly, and by and large, he was a player that impacted the game in a significant way.
Houston - The Real Salt Lake U-16 Academy team benefited from two lightning delays and rolled to a 3-1 victory over Albertson SC in the first group game of Finals Week on Sunday.
Both delays came in the second half, and for Real Salt Lake they couldn’t have had come at a better time. Before the first break, Albertson SC had equalized in the 60th minute and was riding a wave of momentum. The 17 minute delay crushed their spirit and RSL capitalized on this with the go-ahead goal in the 70th minute from Jose Hernandez. The second break came in the 79th minute for an extended period of 74 minutes. The break was detrimental once again to Albertson SC as RSL emerged the stronger side and scored an insurance goal in the 83rd minute when Bofo Saucedo chipped the goalkeeper from 30 out.
“I definitely think the first lightning break was a lucky break for us,” said captain Jason Eng. “They just tied it up and the momentum was with them,so we got a little lucky with the first break. The second one was the longest. Coach Mike did a good job and so did athletic trainer Marshall who kept us loose and made sure we stayed mentally prepared for the last bit.”
The mood around the team was reserved after the victory, as players and coaches knew the performance they showed tonight wouldn’t cut it in the next game.
“Overall not the best. Maybe similar to playoffs, but not the best start,” said assistant coach Freddy Juarez. “If it’s anything that indicates how the playoffs are, we hopefully will get gradually better as we go on in the tournament. Our style is possession and I don’t think we had too much of the ball today. It was difficult with the opponent we had, but overall we had 3 goals so that worked.”
With three points in hand, Real Salt Lake now sits at the top of Group 1. In the other group game, the Houston Dynamo played Texans SC to a scoreless draw.
Albertson SC came out of the gates and played a very high line with offensive pressure on every RSL defender. This caused numerous breakdowns in transition for RSL who wouldn’t get a handle on the game. However, even with their efforts, it took Albertson SC 18 minutes before they had their first shot that sailed well over the crossbar.
The near-miss woke up the RSL offense. They started to attack with purpose, stretched the field and held possession. Hernandez had RSL’s first shot in the 21st minute, but he pushed the ball wide left.
Eleven minutes later Fito Ovalle collected a ball in the middle and played a diagonal through ball to Diego “Diablo” Silva who was playing left midfield for the third time in the playoffs. He collected the ball on the 18, took a touch and chipped the goalkeeper for his third goal in the past four games.
“I feel great because since I have been playing up every game and I’ve been scoring,” said Silva. “I’m happy to get three points and happy to get my team to the top.”
After the goal RSL dropped the pace. Albertson SC took advantage of this and turned up the heat in front of the RSL goal. RSL goalkeeper Chase Bishov made two big stops in the 46th minute and 48th minute. Another save by Bishov in the 71st minute kept RSL up and goal and a 72nd minute substitution that brought on Evan Waldrep for Silva worked wonders.
Waldrep was aggressive, fast and most importantly made clean passes, never turning the ball over. Damian German had a look in the 74th minute, but his shot was saved. After the final delay, RSL’s defense came up big and absorbed the Albertson SC pressure which resulted in the counter that Saucedo scored.
Next game for RSL is against the Houston Dynamo on Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. CT/7:30 p.m. MT.
Real Salt Lake won again on Saturday, getting a first half goal from midfielder Yordany Alvarez to beat Toronto FC 1-0 at BMO Field.
Here are some interesting numbers from the match:
The number one had plenty of significance for RSL on Saturday. The win was RSL’s first in 11 tries in Canada across all competitions; Alvarez’s goal was his first in MLS play for the Claret-and-Cobalt and the team’s first MLS goal at BMO Field; defender Aaron Maund turned in a solid performance in his first MLS start for RSL; and the victory keeps RSL in first-place in both the Supporters’ Shield and Western Conference races.
Saturday’s win was RSL’s seventh-straight across all competitions. The Claret-and-Cobalt is 9-0-1 in its last 10 matches across all comps and 10-1-1 in its last 12 games in all competitions since the start of May. RSL has outscored its opponents 31-11 since the start of May, good for a +20 goal differential.
This weekend’s victory was RSL’s 99th in MLS regular season play. The Claret-and-Cobalt is now 99-103-68 in regular season action. The Utah side is 68-43-35 in regular season action since the start of its MLS Cup winning season of 2009.
Saturday’s shutout was the 105th of RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando’s career. Rimando – who has six league shutouts this year – needs seven more shutouts to pull even with Kevin Hartman’s 112 for the all-time MLS clean-sheet lead.
Saturday’s clean-sheet was the Claret-and-Cobalt’s third-consecutive in all competitions. RSL hasn’t given up a goal in 372 minutes, last conceding in the 18th minute of its 120-minute 5-2 U.S. Open Cup fourth-round win over the Charleston Battery on June 12.
By scoring on Saturday, Alvarez became the 11th RSL player to score in MLS play this year, surpassing the 10 players that scored for the Claret-and-Cobalt in league action in 2012. Counting Open Cup play, RSL has had 13 players score goals this season.
Maund became the 24th RSL player to start a league game this year on Saturday. Considering the Claret-and-Cobalt’s first-place standing, that’s a remarkable show of depth. RSL started 23 different players in league action in all of last season.
Real Salt Lake advanced to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Semifinal on Wednesday night, derailing the Carolina RailHawks 3-0 in the USOC Quarters at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Here are a few interesting numbers from the match:
Wednesday’s victory was the 100th in all competitions of RSL Head Coach Jason Kreis’s career. The Claret-and-Cobalt boss is now 83-65-50 in MLS regular season play, 4-5-5 in the MLS Cup Playoffs, 8-4-4 in the CONCACAF Champions League and 5-5-1 in the U.S. Open Cup.
Real Salt Lake fullbacks Tony Beltran and Chris Wingert both scored on Wednesday night, with Beltran putting the Claret-and-Cobalt on top late in the first half before Wingert doubled RSL’s advantage early in the second 45. Despite combining for over 30,000 minutes in the RSL careers, Wingert and Beltran only have two professional goals each. Wingert has one MLS goal and one Open Cup goal while Beltran has two Open Cup strikes.
Wednesday’s win was RSL’s sixth-consecutive victory, breaking the club record five-game winning streaks accomplished in 2010 and 2011. RSL has scored multiple goals in all six wins in the streak, outscoring its opponents by a 19-5 margin. The Claret-and-Cobalt is on an eight-game unbeaten run across all comps, last losing on May 11 at Montreal.
RSL forward Alvaro Saborio scored in the 85th minute on Wednesday night. The tally was his first-ever goal in Open Cup play and his 58th in 105 games across all competitions. RSL is now 32-5-7 in games in which Saborio scores.
Wednesday’s crowd of 10,287 was the fifth-highest attended game in Open Cup Quarterfinal history and the largest crowd of Wednesday’s four games. During the eight games at Rio Tinto Stadium between May 25 and June 26, nearly 136,000 fans passed through the turnstiles for RSL games in MLS (3-0-1, 75,250 fans), Open Cup (3-0-0, 39,500); and U.S. Men’s National Team (1-0-0, 20,250).
Real Salt Lake put in an incredibly professional performance on Saturday night against Seattle, bossing the game and beating the Sounders 2-0 at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Here are a few interesting numbers from the match:
Real Salt Lake now has 30 points this season, tied with Portland for the most in MLS. The Claret-and-Cobalt – which, it’s worth noting, has played more games than most teams in the league – has more wins than Portland and is technically in first-place in the league.
Saturday’s win was RSL’s fifth straight across all competitions dating back to its 3-2 victory over the NASL Atlanta Silverbacks in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup third-round on May 28. RSL is now unbeaten in its last seven games across all competitions.
Real Salt Lake outshot Seattle by the ridiculous margin of 17-2 on Saturday. Sounders FC’s first shot didn’t come until the 73rd minute; the Cascadia club’s only shot on goal was in the 82nd.
RSL Captain Kyle Beckerman became MLS’s all-time leader in fouls committed on Saturday night. He now has 478 career fouls in regular season play, one more than previous record holder/former MLS midfielder Jesse Marsch.
The number of team’s remaining in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Real Salt Lake will look to move into the tournament’s final four on Wednesday night, when it will host the second-division Carolina RailHawks at 7:30 p.m. at Rio Tinto Stadium. Get your tickets here.