MLS Regular Season
Real Salt Lake is set to continue its home stand on Saturday night, when it will host the San Jose Earthquakes at 7:30 p.m. MT at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Here are a few interesting storylines ahead of Saturday’s game:
Javier Morales: The boss of San Jose
RSL midfielder Javier Morales has had a ton of success against San Jose, registering five goals and five assists in 11 career regular season games against the ‘Quakes.
Morales’ domination against San Jose isn’t in question. Whether or not he’ll get a chance to continue it on Saturday is. The 33-year-old Argentine playmaker went the full 90 last Saturday and played all 120 minutes in RSL’s 3-2 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup win over Atlanta on Tuesday and could be in line for a rest tomorrow.
Ned Grabavoy v. Frank Yallop
Saturday’s match will pit RSL midfielder Ned Grabavoy against his former coach and current San Jose manager Frank Yallop. Grabavoy played for Yallop in 2008 in San Jose before getting waived by the ‘Quakes on the eve of the 2009 season. RSL picked up Grabavoy the same day that San Jose dropped him, with the midfielder helping the Claret-and-Cobalt to its MLS Cup that same season.
Khari Stephenson faces off against former team
Real Salt Lake midfielder Khari Stephenson – who scored an insane goal in extra time on Tuesday night to give RSL the win – will be facing off against his former team on Saturday night. The Jamaican midfielder played for San Jose for two-and-a-half years before joining RSL this offseason, scoring eight goals and notching eight assists in 69 regular season appearances for the ‘Quakes.
RSL looking to make it two in a row over San Jose
Prior to last season – when RSL lost all three of its games against San Jose – the Claret-and-Cobalt hadn’t lost to San Jose in six-straight meetings and nine out of its last 10 games against San Jose.
RSL is looking to run its unbeaten streak over San Jose to two on Saturday; the Claret-and-Cobalt got a brace from forward Alvaro Saborio to beat San Jose 2-0 at Buck Shaw Stadium in the season opener on March 3.
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."
Good times in Real Salt Lake's last game at San Jose: A Saborio brace, the birth of the Sabo-Plata love affair and - most importantly - a Claret-and-Cobalt win.
Check out the full highlights from RSL's March 3 season opening win at Buck Shaw Stadium above.
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:
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.
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.
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).
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.
Real Salt Lake outshot the Fire 20-12 on Saturday night, putting nine shots on goal to Chicago’s two.
Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson made eight saves – several of them spectacular – to limit RSL to just one goal on Saturday night.
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.
As told to Sam Stejskal
- The way I spend my time has kind of evolved a lot in the last few months because I just bought a house here. I’ve been learning how to become a responsible homeowner and seeing how much work there is to do around the house. It’s been fun, it’s a lot of work, but it’s rewarding work because I’m putting it into something that I value, that I care about. It’s kind of funny remembering kicking the soccer ball around my parents’ house, kicking it against the wall, breaking things. I mean they were saints. That must have driven them crazy because any time someone drops something on the floor and doesn’t pick it up it drives me nuts.
- Outside of that the majority of the way I spend my time, my biggest hobby or pastime is reading. It’s kind of nice that what I do for a profession allows me a lot of time to read. It’s something I grew up doing, something I’ll always do.
- Picking out a favorite book is tough. I have favorite authors, but that changes too. A lot of times the last book I read is my favorite book. I just finished re-reading The Great Gatsby; I wanted to do that before the movie came out. Right before that was The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton and before that I read Lolita by Vladimir Nabakov.
- Two of my best friends are U.S. Olympic speed skating hopefuls Jonathan Garcia and Matt Hickson. They’re both long track skaters and this year is an Olympic qualifying year. Jonathan does the 1,000 and 1,500 meters and Matt does the 500, he’s a sprinter. The trials are at the end of December; Jonathan actually would’ve qualified with his times from last year had it been an Olympic qualifying year.
- Jonathan and I are actually roommates. It’s interesting because we’re both athletes, we’re both competing towards a common goal but it’s different because his sport is individual and mine is more tea-oriented. Obviously we get along famously, but I take a lot from his training regimen, dietary stuff that he’s really into, and try to incorporate that into my life. It’s great living with another athlete because we have that common ground of both wanting to take care of ourselves.
- I’ve kind of kept this under wraps, but I performed at Ballet West here in Salt Lake in December 2011. Robbie Russell and Nat Borchers were rehabbing from surgeries and they were rehabbing with Ballet West Principal Michael Bearden. The three of them became good friends and I was very close with Robbie and Nat and I are very close so I became friends with Michael through those two. The Ballet does a couple of performances of The Nutcracker and then they do a spoof of it and this particular year, the spoof was sports themed. He asked me if I wanted to be a part of it and I said sure. I thought it’d be fun, something outside of the box and something where I’d get to hang around with pretty girls, to be honest. I went and saw them perform and I was blown away by their athleticism, by their grace and everything so I wanted to see how they trained, hang out with them and get to know their sport. It actually ended up being a lot more than I thought I’d signed up for. We did a full-on three-minute routine that Michael choreographed and it was like a Spanish dance that incorporated me juggling a ball with two ballerinas around me. I have video, but I’ll never show it to anybody, though I think I actually showed Chris Schuler once… But yeah, it was tons of fun. I’ve never been so nervous, not even for soccer games.
- I was a history major initially in college. It was tough, I was so young – entering college I was just 17 – and so focused on soccer that I just didn’t really think about it, to be honest. I just didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life outside of soccer and so that kind of seemed like a safe avenue, a lot of the other guys on the team were doing it and I like history so at the time it seemed practical. But then after I got a little bit older and started to think about the future a little bit more, I just realized, why don’t I just stick with what I love to do outside of soccer? So I came back to English. It made sense. So I’m going to the University of Utah now to finish up my degree. I went on a bit of a hiatus when the National Team stuff came up this winter, but I’m hoping to get back in soon and finish up the year I have left.
- It was pretty exciting how quickly everything happened with the National Team this winter. The season ended and I didn’t expect it, but a few days before Christmas I found out that I’d be going to the biggest camp of my life. It was so much fun playing with the guys, just being in a situation with a lot of my peers from around the league. At a MLS-based camp everyone has the same goals, you’re there, you’re competing, you’re flying around trying to impress so it was really fun. The trainings were fantastic, it was really demanding and it was cool to be involved with the National Team, especially since Kyle Beckerman was there.It meant the world to me that he was in camp, he’s such a great guy and a great leader so that really helped. Then camp came and went and I thought I held my own and I was pleased with the effort I put in. When I got called into the last qualifying camp because there were a couple of injuries, to know that I was just outside and so close was a really good feeling. It’s great that I got called in for those, but I have to keep focusing on the things that got me there in the first place and hopefully I can get back.
- I kind of go back and forth on whether I want to stay in soccer after my playing career ends. It’s tough, that’s one thing that keeps me up at night and I’m sure it keeps a lot of soccer players up at night. On the one hand I love soccer so much, it’s such a huge part of my life and it would be very strange to just completely walk away from the game. But on the other hand I would love to be able to prove that I can be successful in something completely unrelated to soccer, something that I’ve done on my own and away from the sport. So we’ll see, I don’t know quite yet.
- This is my sixth year in Utah. It is different than where I’m from in L.A. It’s funny, when I first found out I was coming here a lot of people were sympathetic. They were like ‘I’m sorry you’re going to Utah, such a bummer.’ I remember the first day I got here, it was a rough winter and there was a ton of snow. I was walking to the grocery store, trying to get something to eat from the hotel I was staying at just thinking, ‘Where am I?’ But I learned quickly that this place is a hidden gem. It’s fantastic and I love it. It’s certainly a slower pace of life than L.A., but the pace suits me. The people here are just so nice and so welcoming and I really feel like the community has embraced my presence here and the team’s presence here. It’s just such a fun thing to be a part of and I am extremely happy in Salt Lake.
Real Salt Lake has made Rio Tinto Stadium a nightmare for every MLS team but one: The Chicago Fire. The Windy City club is the only team with a winning record in Utah, posting a 3-2-2 mark against the Claret-and-Cobalt in the Beehive State.
RSL will try to correct that mark on Saturday, when it will host the Fire at 7:00 p.m. at Rio Tinto Stadium. Until then, read about the several RSL players and staff that have connections to the Fire and Chicago area.
Ned Grabavoy - Midfielder
Born in Joliet, Ill., the RSL playmaker showed his skill when he led Lincoln-Way Central High School in New Lenox, Ill. to two-straight state championship games. In his senior season, the midfielder won the 2000 Gatorade and NSCAA/adidas National High School Player of the Year awards. Grabavoy also hit the winning penalty kick that gave RSL the shootout victory at Chicago in the 2009 Eastern Conference Final.
Chris Schuler - Defender
Schuler played his club soccer for the Chicago Magic, which happens to be the same squad that produced RSL GM Garth Lagerwey and midfielder Ned Grabavoy. The defender served as a four-year captain for the club, winning the State Cup Championships from 2001-2004.
Kwame Watson-Siriboe - Defender
Watson-Siriboe was drafted by the Chicago Fire in the second round of the 2010 MLS SuperDraft. As a rookie, he appeared in 10 league matches. The center back made his professional debut alongside current RSL Assistant Coach C.J. Brown against Colorado on April 3, 2010.
C.J. Brown - Assistant Coach
Brown retired from the playing field in October 2010 after 13 seasons with the Chicago Fire. He was the last remaining “Fire Original” from the team’s 1998 inaugural campaign. The defensive standout helped lead Chicago to the 1998 MLS Cup and four Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup titles. He was inducted into the club’s “Ring of Fire” on May 9, 2012 ahead of RSL’s scoreless draw against the Fire at Toyota Park.
Andy Williams - Head Scout
Before Williams joined RSL, he was a member of the Chicago Fire from 2003-2004. “Bomma” helped the squad win the 2003 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup title and scored eight goals and added 13 assists in 59 games with the Fire.
Garth Lagerwey - General Manager
Lagerwey grew up in Elmhurst, Ill. and played club soccer for the Chicago Magic. The RSL GM attended York High School where he was a two-time Illinois all-state goalkeeper.
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.
It's been an exciting couple of days for Major League Soccer - my Twitter feed has been replete with words like "NYC", "Queens", "Yankees", "$400 million", "oil baron", and other words synonymous with big money. But for a moment, I'd like to talk about a subject that might be the soccer opposite of the New York expansion news: Ned Grabavoy. Real Salt Lake fans know better than most what Grabavoy's game is all about: Honest, hard work on both sides of the ball. He's rarely in the headlines. He's rarely in the spotlight. He's rarely up for Goal of the Week. What you get from "Grabs" is a solid, consistent effort, tidy possession, and hard tackles.
But this week the media is all abuzz with Grabavoy news, thanks to his two goals that led to RSL's lighting-up of Chivas USA on Sunday at the Home Depot Center. Don't get me wrong - it's a remarkable story to be sure. To put it in perspective, Grabavoy is in his 10th year in MLS and he has scored 10 goals. In other words, a ten-year veteran added 20% to his career goal total in 90 minutes. That's headline-worthy stuff, but I don't want to let the goals overshadow the rest of his game, because Sunday night Grabavoy was very, very good.
Take a look at Ned's passing chalkboard against Chivas. Ignore the completion percentage (more on that later) and ask yourself where most of his passes came from. The answer is, everywhere! This is what a box-to-box midfielder does - he covers all the length and width he can, helping in possession when his team has the ball and looking to win the ball back when his team doesn't. Speaking of winning the ball, Grabavoy was extraordinarily effective at that versus Chivas: His five tackles won were second-most on the team, just one behind Chris Wingert. Most of us probably would have expected that honor to belong to one of the other fullbacks or maybe Kyle Beckerman. But on Sunday, it was Grabavoy who did most of the midfield ball-winning for RSL.
Grabavoy also had RSL's best pass completion rate with 36 of 43 (83.7 percent) passes completed. That's no easy task on this team - Beckerman has lead MLS in this category for the last 2.5 seasons. Normally 84% isn't a great number, so why was it the best mark in this game? Well, the answer has everything to do with how Chivas chose to play defense. Their always-entertaining coach "Chelis" Sola elected to compress all his players into the smallest possible area in order to disrupt RSL's passing game. Honestly, it worked well; with the playable area of the field so small, every time an RSL player received a pass there he had a Chivas player nipping at his heels before he could line up a good pass. That led to a lot of incomplete passes. However, we also saw the downside of Chivas' defensive scheme: It left a lot of room behind the defense for attackers to use to run onto through balls, something Salt Lake players did with success all night (including Grabavoy, obviously).
It's a remarkable night when any RSL player nets a brace, but I would be remiss if I let Ned Grabavoy's goals overshadow his excellent overall performance on both sides of the ball.
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.