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Match Recaps

14 June 10:35 am

Lower-league opponents in the U.S. are nearly always a tricky bag, and Charleston Battery further exemplified this rule. Compact, decisive, and quick, the Battery gave everyone a good scare when they scored the first two goals of the match. The question, then: How did Real Salt Lake adjust for their comeback?

Everyone got better. This is easy to say and hard to do, and it doesn't say much of anything from a tactical perspective. That said, it's difficult to execute any tactical decisions when you're looking at the worst you've been in some time. Everybody stepped up their quality in the second half.

A center back was removed. With the impetus on Real Salt Lake to get back into the affair, and with the Battery quite rightly sitting very deep and hoping to fend off an undoubtedly inevitable onslaught, two defenders almost seemed extraneous. Making his first club appearance — an admittedly poor one at that — Aaron Maund stepped off shortly into the second half and Jason Kreis switched the formation.

It took a quintessential attacking 3-4-3 to really break down the Battery defense. Joao Plata and Robbie Findley occupied the attacking flanks, with Devon Sandoval serving as a target man and grabbing two headed goals along the way. Javier Morales and Ned Grabavoy served as the more-attacking midfielders (they really did all attack) and Khari Stephenson and Kyle Beckerman sat deeper and more centrally. Chris Wingert tucked in slightly centrally to position himself better for runs down the middle, and Tony Beltran bombed forward from right back to stretch play.

We stretched play superbly. When we face a hyper-defensive side — and again, there's not an ounce of blame in that for Charleston in their strategy — we have historically struggled to break them down. With Findley and Plata wide to stretch play laterally and Devon Sandoval to stretch along the vertical axis, it became difficult for Charleston to ignore any of those three players up top. Given their proclivity for staying in central positions, this opened room for Plata and Findley to receive clever passes from the midfield and cut inside. Even when they weren't involved in goalscoring movement like that, both players were important to the fightback.

regular contributor to RealSaltLake.com, Matt Montgomery runs the SB Nation blog RSL Soapbox. Follow Matt on Twitter @TheCrossbarRSL

10 June 9:20 am

Real Salt Lake extended its unbeaten streak to five games across all competitions on Saturday night, beating the LA Galaxy 3-1 in front of a solid crowd at Rio Tinto Stadium.

Here are a few interesting numbers from the match:

0.9

Forward Olmes Garcia scored two goals in 29 minutes of action on Saturday to lead RSL to victory. The 20-year-old Colombian attacker now has four goals in 401 MLS minutes, giving him 0.9 goals per 90 minutes, the best rate in the league for anyone with more than one goal. Garcia has also hit the woodwork an astonishing four times this season.  

10

Real Salt Lake midfielder Khari Stephenson on Saturday became the 10th Claret-and-Cobalt player to score a goal in league play this year. RSL only had 10 scorers in league play in all of 2012.

5-1-1

Saturday’s win moved RSL to 5-1-1 in its last seven MLS matches, tied with Seattle for the best record in the league in that span. The Claret-and-Cobalt leads the league with 16 league points since the start of May.

17

RSL has scored 17 goals in its last seven MLS matches, the most in the league in that span. RSL is tied for first in the league with the Portland Timbers with 24 goals this season. The Claret-and-Cobalt has 20 goals in its last eight games across all competitions and has scored three goals in each of its last three matches across all comps.

2

RSL maestro Javier Morales had two assists on Saturday night. Javi now has five helpers this season, tied for second in MLS and just one behind Philadelphia forward Sebastien Le Toux for tops in the league. Morales now has five goals and seven assists in 13 career regular season matches against LA. 

43

Garcia's brace on Saturday was the 43rd multi-goal performance in RSL's 311 game history across all competitions. The Claret-and-Cobalt is 36-3-4 when someone finds the net multiple times.

03 June 5:39 pm

Fundamentals. If there's one thing that can be said about RSL's 3-0 win over San Jose on Saturday, it's that the fundamentals were there, and all three goals scored that day can be attributed to proper attention to those.

Finishing: Three goals were scored from eight on-target shots — a conversion rate of about 38 percent. On the season, we've averaged 22 percent conversion; clearly, this is an improvement. There was a good deal of talk last week about finishing and the fact that it needed improvement, and this was a good starting point for marked improvement. This sort of rate will need to be sustained over time.

One player who deserves a good deal of credit for improvement in finishing is Robbie Findley, whose well-taken shot from the left flank saw him with his first non-poached goal of the season. That isn't to say that there's a problem with poached goals, but finishing from a variety of positions is important. Javier Morales, too, deserves credit for his well-taken finish, and there's so much to be said about Ned Grabavoy's goalscoring exploits this season that it's difficult to start.

Defending: San Jose may be underperforming thus far this season, but attributing RSL's success to that fact belies the defensive effort involved. It was an interception by Tony Beltran that fell to Javier Morales that set in motion the first goal. The second goal came about after a long pass was won by Nat Borchers, and Tony Beltran set the movement in motion with a pass won fantastically well by Robbie Findley. A good combination from the ever-aware pair of Javier Morales and Ned Grabavoy to pick up possession after a heavy touch, starting the run that led to Findley's goal.

All three moments saw RSL win the ball at the edge of the defensive half and move forward dangerously, putting San Jose on the back foot. It's yet another reminder that sometimes, creating chances is down to picking up the ball and moving forward in numbers.

Counterattacking play: It's hard to separate the counterattack from defense. It's perhaps the beautiful intermingling of defense and attack — the thing that ties the two together and makes the game really tick. All three goals were scored from the counter.

Three passes took place before the first goal, and five passes led to the second and third goals. The first and third both came about as a result of rebounds from the defense, and they can be in part attributed to the fact that they were very much on the back foot. This is what the counterattack brings, and RSL capitalized on it well.

regular contributor to RealSaltLake.com, Matt Montgomery runs the SB Nation blog RSL Soapbox. Follow Matt on Twitter @TheCrossbarRSL

03 June 1:53 pm

Real Salt Lake turned in a dominant performance on Saturday night, scoring three first half goals to down the San Jose Earthquakes 3-0 at Rio Tinto Stadium.

Here are a few interesting numbers from Saturday’s home win:

4-1-1

Saturday’s win gave Real Salt Lake a 4-1-1 record in its last six matches, tied for the top mark in the league over that span with the Montreal Impact and Seattle Sounders FC. RSL’s 13 league points since the start of May stands alone as best in MLS.

14-6

RSL has outscored its opponents 14-6 over its last six league matches. The team’s +8 goal differential is tied for the best in the league over that span with the New England Revolution, which has outscored its opponents 11-3 over its last six MLS games, including a 5-0 win over the LA Galaxy on Sunday. 

6

Real Salt Lake midfielder Javier Morales – who had a goal and an assist on Saturday night – now has six goals and six helpers in 12 career regular season games against the Quakes. That’s the most goals Morales has against any one team and the second-most assists he has against any one side. The Argentine playmaker has the most goals and most assists in RSL-San Jose games as any player on either side of the rivalry.  

3

Midfielder Ned Grabavoy’s 33rd minute goal on Saturday night gave him three regular season goals in his last three league games, matching his total output in the five MLS seasons from 2008-2012. Grabavoy – whose three goals so far this year equals his career high for goals in a season – scored two goals in RSL’s 4-1 win at Chivas USA on May 19.

300

Morales and Claret-and-Cobalt captain Kyle Beckerman both played 300 minutes last week – 90 each in RSL’s MLS games against Chicago and San Jose and 120 in the club’s Open Cup win over Atlanta. 

29 May 4:22 pm

In predicting the lineup, few would have ventured playing Kyle Beckerman and Yordany Alvarez alongside each other as a distinctly possible option. Ever the man with a plan, Jason Kreis opted for surprise over, well, no surprise.
 
Doubling down
 
The choice involved in playing Beckerman and Alvarez together was rendered particularly interesting by two things: Alvarez had played at the side of the diamond in the past, and it must be said, he hardly impressed during those moments; and Beckerman has been a rock in the deep-lying spot, having not played on the side since 2008 or so.
 
Surprisingly to some, it worked very well. Our captain has shown a more attacking bent this season than in the past, and that he works in the side of the diamond should come as no real surprise. He's a flexible, dynamic sort of player. The question then becomes one of coordination and interaction and less about positional sense. Unsurprisingly, both traded spots with regularity, and Alvarez was as often on the left side of the diamond as he was at the base.
 
That rotation is an extension of the rotation we've already seen this season in the midfield through all parts — and that's not excluding Javier Morales, who, at times, has popped up at the base of the diamond. Clearly, each player that spends time in a position brings a different set of characteristics. It brings to the side an ability to operate dynamically and switch focus on-the-fly — for example, when Beckerman is further up the pitch and Morales is deeper, an opportunity to send a long pass in emerges; when it's reversed, play flows in a decidedly different manner.
 
Permutations, not partnerships
 
It comes down not to partnerships — this wasn't about Yordany Alvarez and Kyle Beckerman together — but to permutations of the larger whole. The permutations allowed by including two nominally defensive midfielders allow for important tactical variety. While finishing was again an issue, the midfield controlled the game.
 
Interestingly, the permutations allowed for with two nominally attacking midfielders and two nominally defensive midfielders produced some tactical moments we've not seen this group produce. When Velasquez and Morales went wide, Beckerman and Alvarez played centrally and filled the distribution role; when Morales dropped deep to pick up possession, Velasquez hopped up top to fill the space thusly vacated. When Ned Grabavoy came into the match, he simply popped up everywhere to maintain possession, freeing other midfielders for creative movement.
 
regular contributor to RealSaltLake.com, Matt Montgomery runs the SB Nation blog RSL Soapbox. Follow Matt on Twitter @TheCrossbarRSL
29 May 3:52 pm

It took a little longer than usual, but Real Salt Lake managed to win its Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup third round match on Tuesday night, beating NASL side the Atlanta Silverbacks 3-2 after extra time at Rio Tinto Stadium. 

Here are a few interesting numbers from Tuesday's match:

5

Tuesday night’s game was Real Salt Lake’s fifth Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match that went into extra time. The Claret-and-Cobalt played one Open Cup extra time game in 2005, another in 2006 and two in 2010.

9,644

9,644 hearty souls braved some nasty weather to attend Tuesday’s match, chanting and singing throughout the 120 minutes of rain, wind and soccer to help propel RSL to victory. Tickets to the June 12 Open Cup match against Charleston are on sale now and can be purchased at the Rio Tinto Stadium box office and over the phone at 801-727-2700. Tickets will be available for purchase online in the near future.

2008

Real Salt Lake Captain Kyle Beckerman played on the outside of the Claret-and-Cobalt’s midfield diamond on Tuesday night for the first time since the 2008 season, when he lined up in front of then-RSL captain Carey Talley. Yordany Alvarez played in Beckerman’s familiar holding midfield spot on Tuesday.

1

Real Salt Lake midfielder Khari Stephenson’s 101st minute goal – the eventual game-winner – was his first in a RSL uniform. Stephenson joined the Claret-and-Cobalt this offseason after spending the previous two-and-a-half years with San Jose.

June 12

Tuesday’s win advanced Real Salt Lake to the fourth round of the Open Cup. The Claret-and-Cobalt will host USL Pro side Charleston Battery in its fourth round match at Rio Tinto Stadium at 7:30 p.m. on June 12. The Battery beat the San Jose Earthquakes – which RSL will take on at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday night – 1-0 in South Carolina on Tuesday to advance to the fourth round.

9

The Battery has a long history of Open Cup success, finishing as runners-up to D.C. United in 2008, making the semifinals in 1999 and 2004 and reaching the quarters in 2007, 2009 and 2010. The Battery has beaten MLS teams nine times in its Open Cup history. 

26 May 8:32 am

Real Salt Lake couldn’t quite hold on against the Chicago Fire on Saturday night, taking the lead through forward Alvaro Saborio in the 78th minute before seeing Chicago forward Quincy Amarikwa equalize in the 84th to tie the Fire 1-1 at Rio Tinto Stadium.

Here are a few interesting numbers from Saturday’s draw:

209

Saturday night’s game was the 209th career regular season match that RSL captain Kyle Beckerman and RSL defender Nat Borchers have played together, moving them past former New England teammates Shalrie Joseph and Matt Reis and into first-place on the list of teammates that have played the most games together.

Borchers and Beckerman played together in Colorado from 2003-2005 before reuniting at Real Salt Lake when Borchers signed with the club ahead of the 2008 season. In all, Borchers – who has 236 regular season appearances – has only played 27 times without Beckerman in front of him.

Thanks to Peter Hirdt of the Elias Sports Bureau for the notes on Beckerman and Borchers.

30,033

RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando became just the fourth player in league history to reach 30,000 career regular season minutes played on Saturday night. The Claret-and-Cobalt ‘keeper – who went the full 90 on Saturday – has now played 30,033 regular season minutes, trailing only New York goalkeeper Kevin Hartman (37,620), former New England attacker and current Houston Assistant Coach Steve Ralston (33,142) and Vancouver goalie Joe Cannon (30,731) on the all-time minutes played list.

332

Rimando’s appearance on Saturday was the 332nd regular season appearance of his career. He is now tied for eighth-place in MLS history with former RSL midfielder and current Head Scout Andy Williams on the career appearances list. Rimando is third amongst goalkeepers in games played, trailing only Hartman (416) and Cannon (342).

68-32

RSL dominated the match on Saturday, holding a 68-32 percent possession advantage over the Fire. RSL attempted 574 passes to the Fire’s 246 – a difference of 328 – and hit on 87 percent of its passes compared to Chicago’s 74 percent completion rate.

20-12

Real Salt Lake outshot the Fire 20-12 on Saturday night, putting nine shots on goal to Chicago’s two.

8

Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson made eight saves – several of them spectacular – to limit RSL to just one goal on Saturday night.

24 May 2:39 pm

Real Salt Lake finds themselves at a bit of a crossroads for Saturday's match against Chicago Fire, and with that, coach Jason Kreis is forced into making some less-than-easy decisions.

Decision: With Chris Schuler set to miss out, Jason Kreis has a big decision on his hands: Does Carlos Salcedo, the young, relatively un-tested center back, start in his place, as he did against Chivas USA? Or does he opt for Kwame Watson-Siriboe, who has more experience but was suspended on Sunday? Salcedo is a solid defender despite his age, and he's showed well in his two full matches — well enough that handing him a start doesn't seem a particularly risky maneuver, and one which could well pay dividends in both the long and short term.

Decision: Alvaro Saborio has been training, but does that mean he's in line for a start? Devon Sandoval has proven a fine backup considering his relative inexperience and allows for a bit less impetus in bringing Saborio back into the fold. If precautions need to be taken, Kreis can rest a bit easier knowing Sandoval can step in. 

Decision: Does RSL play with the typically high-line defense often seen at home? RSL's passing has been a bit more wayward than in 2012, and perhaps naturally so considering the more attacking bent of the midfield. This can be slightly problematic when playing with your defenders high up the pitch, as simple mistakes can lead to clear opportunities on goal. (For further reference, please see Chivas USA defending, May 19) With Salcedo in the mix, RSL would have a quick center back to partner Borchers.

Decision: With the US Open Cup home match against the Atlanta Silverbacks approaching on Tuesday, Kreis will be forced to think about rotation and approach. Chicago Fire are an opponent that might be tempting to rest players against. Winning in the Cup is a stated priority for the club, particularly as it paves a road back to CONCACAF Champions League, and ensuring that some players are available for it — or at least doing our best to do so — could weigh in the decision-making process.

Decision: Even with rotation taken into consideration, a question of who sits on the bench remains. It's a question that will plague Kreis for the remainder of the season: Who is the central backup? Who sits ready to enter midfield? Which strikers have done enough to make the bench? While the question is difficult now, it will only get more difficult as fitness improves.

regular contributor to RealSaltLake.com, Matt Montgomery runs the SB Nation blog RSL Soapbox. Follow Matt on Twitter @TheCrossbarRSL

20 May 4:05 pm

Four goals for Real Salt Lake in the most open match of the season speaks well of the performance on the night, but the 4-1 scoreline over Chivas USA ignores the task facing the defense on Sunday night — as well as a tactical shift that changed the game in the second half.

Wide open: Defense steps up

The first half and much of the second half against Chivas USA last night saw Real Salt Lake playing in perhaps the most open match they've seen all season. Chances were flying back and forth, and by and large, RSL had the better of the opportunities. But some points of frustration will inevitably emerge the very back-and-forth nature of the match and the fact that it took going up 3-1 for a win to look genuinely secure.

The defense deserves real recognition for the manner in which they dealt with the Chivas attack, with Nick Rimando particularly earning plaudits for two reaction saves in the second half. But Chris Wingert, Carlos Salcedo, Nat Borchers, and Tony Beltran all stepped up to the challenge well and compensated for a more attacking mentality from RSL.

Findley on: Dynamic changes

When Robbie Findley came into the match, Chivas USA had just started to pick their heads up and respond to the challenge in front of them. With Plata and Sandoval both looking a bit tired, the home side was controlling play more readily and unafraid to push players forward in search of an equalizer. Findley's arrival on the scene saw him pushing ahead of a high line defense, with through balls and passes over the top being played into him.

With Findley screaming past the defense, they attempted to adapt and were forced back into their earlier look that had seen them concede two goals. It wouldn't be inaccurate to say that he changed the dynamic of the match. Now, that's not to say that he shouldn't have scored once, twice or maybe even three times, but when his impact is so palpable otherwise, a little forgiveness is in order.

Wingert up: Interception machine

When Chris Schuler earlier this season picked up 8 interceptions, I batted my eyes a bit with surprise. But after turning to the chalkboards last night, I could scarcely believe my eyes: Chris Wingert, who I'd already thought had a very good match, made 17 interceptions. That means that every five minutes or so, Wingert stepped into the line of a pass and regained possession for RSL. That's no small feat.

Those moments can be somewhat attributed to a poor Chivas side, but it's one thing to be poor and another to be made to look so. Had Wingert played more passively and not stepped into passing lanes, it would have been an entirely different game. Given Chivas had 18 shots — though only six on-target — allowing more opportunities would have been, at best, regrettable.

regular contributor to RealSaltLake.com, Matt Montgomery runs the SB Nation blog RSL Soapbox. Follow Matt on Twitter @TheCrossbarRSL

20 May 10:10 am

Real Salt Lake closed out its three-game road trip strongly on Sunday night, getting a brace from midfielder Ned Grabavoy and a goal each from forwards Joao Plata and Robbie Findley to down Chivas USA 4-1 at the Home Depot Center.

Here are a few interesting numbers from Sunday’s game:

2

Real Salt Lake midfielder Ned Grabavoy scored two goals on Sunday night, giving him the first multi-goal game of his MLS career. The goals snapped a long goalless streak for Grabavoy, who hadn’t scored since Oct. 29, 2011, when he found the back of the net in RSL’s 3-0 win over Seattle in the first leg of the 2011 Western Conference Semifinal. Grabavoy’s last regular season goal prior to Sunday’s brace came on Oct. 16, 2010, when he tallied in RSL’s 2-0 win over FC Dallas at Rio Tinto Stadium. Grabavoy now has 10 regular season goals in his career.

8-2-1

Real Salt Lake is an impressive 8-2-1 against Chivas USA since the start of the 2009 season. RSL has outscored the Rojiblancos 21-5 during that span.

5-0-0

Real Salt Lake is 5-0-0 in both its last five games at Chivas USA and in its last five games at the Home Depot Center, which serves as the home of both Chivas and the LA Galaxy. RSL’s streak at Chivas dates back to the start of the 2010 season, with the Claret-and-Cobalt outscoring the Goats 14-2 during its 5-0-0 run. RSL’s perfect run at the Home Depot Center began in the 2012 season opener and consists of three wins at Chivas and two wins at the Galaxy.

1

Forward Joao Plata scored his first goal in a RSL uniform on Sunday night, slotting home past Chivas USA goalkeeper Dan Kennedy to give RSL a 2-0 lead in the 48th minute of the Utah side’s win. Along with his one goal, Plata is tied for the league lead with four assists this season.

9

Nine Real Salt Lake players have scored goals in MLS play this year. That’s just one less than the 10 players who scored MLS goals for the Claret-and-Cobalt in 2012.

March 26, 2011

Grabavoy’s fourth minute goal was the quickest goal scored by RSL since March 26, 2011, when former midfielder and current Head Scout Andy Williams scored in the second minute of RSL’s 4-1 home win over the LA Galaxy.

Sept. 29, 2012

Prior to Sunday’s match, the last time RSL scored at least four goals in a game was on Sept. 29, 2012, when forward Alvaro Saborio notched a hat trick to power the Claret-and-Cobalt to a 4-0 victory at Chivas USA.

4

Real Salt Lake has now scored multiple goals in four-consecutive MLS games dating back to the team’s 2-0 home win over Vancouver Whitecaps FC on May 4. The last time RSL scored multiple goals in four-consecutive MLS matches was in May 2010, when the Claret-and-Cobalt tallied at least twice in five-straight league games. It should be noted that RSL has been without injured leading scorer Alvaro Saborio for the entirety of its current streak.

0

Real Salt Lake defender Chris Schuler did not play on Sunday night, bringing the total number of RSL players who have played in all of the Claret-and-Cobalt’s MLS matches to zero. Prior to Sunday night, Schuler had played every possible MLS minute for RSL.