Stopping LA Galaxy — Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan are the chief targets, but others remain dangerous — is not a simple task. But that's exactly the task Real Salt Lake will be tasked with on Sunday when they launch their playoff campaign.
It's of real importance that the opposition midfielders be allowed minimal time on the ball. The more time Galaxy midfielders (and forwards dropping into deep positions) are given to find a killer pass, the greater the likelihood that we'll concede a goal. This doesn't necessitate the high pressure one might expect from other sides in MLS — instead, we can keep the same pressuring tactics we normally deploy, with our pressure increasing as the opponent nears our half. By approaching it in this way, we can avoid problems stemming from late overcommitment.
Following from that, we must also avoid getting hit in transition phases: We're facing a side that finds great joy in those moments. As a relevant example, three of their four goals they scored in a 4-2 win against us came with few of their players even in our half, let alone involved in the attack. It's a style that's afforded to them by the great individual skill of a few players and the willingness by others to remain in defensive positions during those moments. When your counterattack runs essentially three or four on six opposition players and ends in a goal scored, you're likely to find greater success.
Because of the threat offered by LA Galaxy on set pieces, RSL will need to be slightly more cautious when playing in the opposition half than they'd prefer to be. Creativity is a must, but an awareness of danger and willingness to sprint back to recover — from all players and not just those with more defensive roles — is necessary. As such, we must be willing to exercise patience in the opposition half, and in the final third we must take our chances quickly. Anything else presents too much risk for an unlikely reward.
Goal.com named Real Salt Lake’s Nick Rimando its Goalkeeper of the Year on Thursday, giving the honor to RSL’s veteran ‘keeper over Portland’s Donovan Ricketts.
Media voting for the MLS Allstate Goalkeeper of the Year Award closes on Friday, with the winner set to be announced early next month.
Ahead of this weekend’s clash between Real Salt Lake and LA Galaxy in the first leg of the Western Conference Semifinals, we look back at the storied history between RSL head coach Jason Kreis and LA head coach Bruce Arena.
Despite their large age-difference, Jason Kreis and Bruce Arena have crossed paths over the past 20 years, starting at the college level.
Kreis attended Duke University, starting in 1991, and regularly faced off against ACC foe the University of Virginia, which was then coached by Bruce Arena. The fierce college soccer rivalry often ended with Bruce Arena and the Cavaliers coming out on top.
Kreis on the Field
Kreis and Arena would meet again, this time in Major League Soccer with Kreis as a player for the Dallas Burn and Real Salt Lake and Arena as a coach for D.C. United and New York Red Bulls. Throughout this player-coach period, the two met 10 times with Kreis notching five goals and recording a 4-6-0 record against Arena-led sides.
Arena called Kreis up to the U.S. national team several teams during his tenure, with the RSL boss earning seven of his 14 career international caps under Arena in 1999 and 2000. Kreis started three of the seven games he appeared in for Arena, scoring his lone international goal and picking up a yellow card in 256 minutes of action under the LA coach/GM.
Jason Kreis became Real Salt Lake’s head coach on May 3, 2007 and in his first game at the helm, faced off against a Bruce Arena-led New York Red Bulls side, with the teams playing to a thrilling 3-3 draw at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Kreis won his first match as RSL boss against Arena on June 13, 2009 when Real Salt Lake defeated the LA Galaxy 2-0 at the Home Depot Center. The four previous meetings between Kreis and Arena had resulted in ties.
Kreis achieved the ultimate victory over Arena when RSL and LA faced off in MLS Cup 2009, with the Claret-and-Cobalt defeating the Galaxy 5-4 in a penalty shootout after a 1-1 draw at Qwest Field in Seattle.
Arena got a measure of revenge in 2011, defeating Real Salt Lake in that year’s Western Conference Final, on his way to leading the Galaxy to the 2011 MLS Cup title. Arena went on to lead the Galaxy to another MLS Cup title in 2012.
All-time, Kreis is 6-6-4 when coaching against an Arena-led squad.
RSL v. LA Galaxy
Real Salt Lake and LA Galaxy have met a total of 27 times across all competitions with the Claret-and-Cobalt posting a 10-11-6 record against LA. RSL is 10-10-5 against the Galaxy in MLS regular-season play.
Since Bruce Arena became head coach of the Galaxy on Aug. 18, 2008, Kreis and RSL are 6-6-3 against the LA side.
StubHub Center hasn’t exactly been a house of horrors for Real Salt Lake over the years.
Previously known as the Home Depot Center, RSL has performed very well at the Southern California home of the LA Galaxy and Chivas USA, posting an 11-15-3 all-time record at the Carson, Calif. facility. RSL went 1-1-0 at StubHub Center this regular season, beating Chivas USA 4-1 on May 19 and losing to the Galaxy 4-2 on Aug. 16in Carson.
Prior to the Aug. 16 loss at the Galaxy, RSL had won an astonishing five-straight games at StubHub Center, beating Chivas USA three times and the Galaxy twice. By comparison, RSL has won five-straight MLS games at home on just three occasions in the club’s nine-year history.
One potential reason for RSL’s success at StubHub Center: The team’s numerous Southern California connections. RSL has eight players with ties to SoCal, with goalkeeper Nick Rimando (Montclair), defender Tony Beltran (Claremont), midfielder Luis Gil (Garden Grove), defender Kwame Watson-Siriboe (Chino Hills) and forward Benji Lopez (San Diego) all hailing from the area and midfielder Ned Grabavoy, forward Robbie Findley and goalkeeper Josh Saunders all spending time with the Galaxy earlier in their careers.
Let’s hope the whole roster feels comfortable at LA in Sunday’s Western Conference Semifinal first leg. Kick is at 7:00 p.m. MT on ESPN.
The Western Conference’s final four was set on Wednesday night, with fourth-seed Seattle Sounders FC downing fifth-seed Colorado Rapids 2-0 at CenturyLink Field in the West’s Knockout Round to move to the Western Conference Semifinals against top-seed Portland Timbers.
The Seattle-Portland series will kick on Saturday at 8:00 p.m. MT at CenturyLink Field on NBC Sports Network. The winner of the Sounders-Timbers semifinal will take on the winner of the RSL-LA Western Conference Semifinal winner in the Western Conference Final series.
Real Salt Lake stacks up relatively well against the West’s remaining playoff teams this regular season, with the Claret-and-Cobalt registering a 4-3-2 combined league record – 5-3-2 in all competitions – against the Galaxy, Timbers and Sounders.
RSL was 1-2-0 against the Galaxy in the regular season. RSL and LA will play the first leg of their Western Conference Semifinal at 7:00 p.m. MT at StubHub Center on Sunday night on ESPN. The sides will meet next Thursday, Nov. 7 at 7:00 p.m. MT at Rio Tinto Stadium for the series’ second leg – get your tickets today.
Let's see RSL make it happen again this year, starting with the Western Conference Semifinal against LA. The two-legged series will kickoff this Sunday at 7:00 p.m. MT on ESPN at the StubHub Center. RSL's will host the second leg, with the date still to be determined.
There's no better way to get ready for Saturday's Real Salt Lake-Chicago Fire matchup than by watching the highlights from the Claret-and-Cobalt's shootout victory at the Fire in the 2009 Eastern Conference Final. Great game and a great video - give it a look above.
I'm convinced that true rivalries must have more than just a geographic component. There needs to be a strong element of competitiveness between the rivals, and the nail-biting nature of the games between Real Salt Lake and the Colorado Rapids have added to the richness of the Rocky Mountain Cup. There have been so many great moments in the Rocky Mountain Cup over the years; bulletin board material, last-minute game-winning goals, big-time saves, questionable calls, questionable no-calls, red cards, and skirmishes, just to name a few.
My favorite RMC moment – so far – was the RSL-Colorado game on Oct. 24, 2009, the final day of regular season play that year. It wasn't so memorable because of the game itself – RSL won 3-0 – but everything else that went on that night. Let me set the stage for you.
Going into the final day of the 2009 season, one playoff spot was up for grabs. As the day's games kicked off, that final spot belonged to none other than the Rapids who were sitting on 40 points. Right on their heels were FC Dallas, D.C. United, and Toronto FC, each with 39 points. RSL was the final team with a mathematical chance at the playoff spot with 37 points. In order for RSL to make the playoffs, they would need to leapfrog the three aforementioned teams and beat the Rapids. A win by either Dallas, D.C., or Toronto would automatically eliminate RSL.
That afternoon, before heading to Rio Tinto, RSL fans eagerly tuned into the early game on the East Coast: Toronto at New York. We were able to sit back and relax after not too long thanks to a brilliant showing by New York. The Red Bulls scored early and often, thrashing Toronto 5-0 to eliminate TFC from playoff contention at 39 points. One down, three to go.
Then it was off to Rio Tinto where, coincidentally, the final three games that would determine RSL's fate (Colorado at RSL, Dallas at Seattle, D.C. at Kansas City) all kicked off at roughly the same time. Facing a must-win situation, RSL came out flying. Robbie Findley hit pay-dirt twice in the first half hour, ending the drama early as it became apparent that Colorado didn't have the horses to equalize on this night. RSL went on to win 3-0, putting them level with Colorado at 40 points but ahead based on tiebreakers. Two down, two to go.
While RSL was putting a bow on their game, things were getting interesting elsewhere. Dallas gave us an early scare at Seattle when Atiba Harris put them up 1-0, but the expansion Sounders scored twice early in the second half and hung on to win, knocking Dallas out of playoff contention. Three down, one to go.
The D.C. at Kansas City game was going along fine at 1-1 with RSL owning the tiebreaker over D.C. Then suddenly, it looked like the clock had struck midnight and RSL would turn back into a pumpkin - Julius James put D.C. ahead in the 82nd minute. From then on it was all Kansas City on the offensive, but it appeared D.C. would hold on. At this point, almost every member of the media at Rio Tinto was ignoring the final minutes of RSL's win and we were all glued to the TV watching KC and D.C. Then, in second-half stoppage time, RSL got the miracle they needed - a controversial handball gave the Wizards a penalty on the last kick of the game. Claudio Lopez buried it, ending the match 2-2 and putting RSL through to the playoffs.
Without those four matches going exactly the right way, RSL would have watched the playoffs from the couch. Instead, they went on to win MLS Cup. It was a magical night all around, and it's officially my favorite Rocky Mountain Cup game of all time.
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
RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando earned his 100th career regular season shutout on Sunday at San Jose.
Here are a few of the best saves Nick's made during his RSL career. Some of these stops are truly incredible - I got the chills re-watching them.