MLS Regular Season
The last time Real Salt Lake and Columbus Crew met, RSL punished the Crew 4-0 at Rio Tinto Stadium on August 24, 2013. But now the tables are turned and RSL will be facing the Ohio club on its home turf at Crew Stadium.
RSL’s romp last year saw a brace from Captain Kyle Beckerman - his first multi-goal game since April 2008 - and goals from forward Devon Sandoval and midfielder Luis Gil. Sandoval and forward Olmes Garcia started up top together which is likely to be the case tomorrow as well. Get pumped for tomorrow’s match by reliving all the action from last summer’s goal-fest.
Real Salt Lake will look to bounce back after suffering its first defeat of the 2014 season last week against Seattle. RSL travels to Columbus on Wednesday to face the Crew at 5:30 p.m. MT at Crew Stadium.
Here are a few storylines to watch ahead of Wednesday’s clash:
How will RSL react after suffering its first loss of the season?
With Real Salt Lake ending its 12-game unbeaten run last Saturday with a disheartening 4-0 loss at Seattle, many will be looking to see how the team responds after its first non-result. With only three days between Seattle and Columbus, the Claret-and-Cobalt hasn’t had much time to dwell on the defeat. With the focus now on the Crew, RSL will have an opportunity to showcase its character in the way the team comes out on Wednesday night.
How will RSL’s toughest stretch of games – three in eight days – affect Wednesday’s lineup?
Real Salt Lake is currently facing its toughest stretch of games this year, playing a total of three matches in eight days. The Claret-and-Cobalt face Columbus only three days after playing a tough road match in Seattle. RSL will have another quick turnaround after Wednesday, hosting Western Conference rival Portland Timbers on Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium. Head Coach Jeff Cassar will have to choose whether or not to rest some tired legs in Columbus ahead of what always tends to be a heated and physical affair between RSL and Portland.
RSL currently facing a lack of options at midfield and forward
With Captain Kyle Beckerman, goalkeeper Nick Rimando and forward Alvaro Saborio’s absences continually looming over RSL, it couldn’t have been a worse time for the injury bug to bite. RSL forward Joao Plata, who has scored six goals and notched three assists in nine appearances this year, reinjured his hamstring against FC Dallas a little more than a week ago. The dynamic and speedy Ecuadorian did not travel to Seattle and is still doubtful for Wednesday’s match at Columbus. Cassar’s only option could be the up top pairing of Devon Sandoval and Olmes Garcia – the same duo that started against Seattle.
Will RSL be able to find the back of the net?
With a scoreless draw against FC Dallas and getting shutout at Seattle, Real Salt Lake has now gone 219 minutes without finding the back of the net. With the news of RSL forward Alvaro Saborio’s broken foot (which will keep him out 3-4 months) and the ongoing recovery of Plata, RSL’s forward depth will be tested for longer than originally planned for. Wednesday’s match against the Crew couldn’t be a better time for Devon Sandoval and Olmes Garcia to gain a little confidence and find the back of the net for the Claret-and-Cobalt for the first time this year.
Real Salt Lake will look to continue its unbeaten start to the season on Saturday, travelling to Seattle to face the Sounders at 2:00 pm. MT at CenturyLink Field.
Here are a few storylines to watch ahead of Saturday’s clash:
Will RSL break the all-time record for longest unbeaten start to a season?
If Real Salt Lake produces a result on Saturday, the Claret-and-Cobalt will enter the MLS record books, breaking the record for longest unbeaten streak to start a season at 13 games. RSL tied the all-time record last Saturday, earning a 0-0 draw against FC Dallas to join the 1996 and 2010 LA Galaxy and 2000 Kansas City Wizards atop the record books.
RSL Head Coach Jeff Cassar will also be looking to take sole possession of a MLS record on Saturday. Cassar is currently tied with 1996 LA Head Coach Lothar Osiander for longest unbeaten streak to start a managerial career at 12 games. A result at Seattle on Saturday would give Cassar the record on his own.
First-place on the line in battle between top two teams in MLS
It’s early days yet, but Saturday’s match could have a significant impact on the 2014 Western Conference and Supporters’ Shield races. Seattle currently sits atop both tables with 26 points, two points ahead of second-place RSL, which has a game in hand on the Sounders. With the way things are shaping up in MLS, all three matches between these two sides figure to be crucial for the playoff race, with Saturday’s contest the first test.
With both teams suffering major absences due to the World Cup, whose depth will shine?
RSL and Seattle will both be missing key players on Saturday due to international absences and injuries. Saturday’s contest will be the third straight match that RSL will be without Captain Kyle Beckerman and goalkeeper Nick Rimando and the third straight contest that Seattle will be missing leading goal scorer Clint Dempsey and young right back DeAndre Yedlin. All four players have been named to U.S. Manager Jurgen Klinsmann’s final 23-man World Cup roster and will be heading to Brazil next month.
RSL has also been without striker Alvaro Saborio for its last two matches. Saborio was with the Costa Rican national team in World Cup preparation camp before suffering a broken fifth metatarsal in his right foot on Thursday. The injury will keep Saborio out for the next 3-4 months.
Plata doubtful for Saturday
RSL forward Joao Plata has been on fire for the Claret-and-Cobalt this season, scoring six goals (tied with Saborio for the team lead) and notching three assists in nine appearances this year. Unfortunately for RSL, Plata might not have a chance to showcase his skills at Seattle on Saturday after injuring his left hamstring in last week’s match against FC Dallas. Plata – who missed three games earlier this year with an injury to the same hamstring – is doubtful for Saturday’s contest. RSL Head Coach Jeff Cassar will have forwards Devon Sandoval, Olmes Garcia and Robbie Findley to choose from to start on Saturday. All three have yet to find the back of the net for the Claret-and-Cobalt this year.
The latest edition of ABC 4's Crossbar Challenge dropped on Real Sports Live on Sunday night, with Dunny taking on the always-intense Cole Grossman on the heels of his start against Colorado and ahead of his start in Saturday's draw with FC Dallas.
Check out the extended, Director's cut of this week's Crossbar Challenge above. Don't have 27 minutes? Watch the shorter version here.
Real Salt Lake will look to stay unbeaten on the 2014 season on Saturday, hosting FC Dallas at 7:30 p.m. MT at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Here are a few storylines to watch ahead of Saturday’s match:
Can RSL tie the all-time record for longest unbeaten start to a season?
With a result on Saturday, RSL can move its unbeaten streak to 12 games in 2014. Should the Claret-and-Cobalt pick up a result, they’d tie the 1996 and 2010 LA Galaxy and 2000 Kansas City Wizards for the longest unbeaten streak to start a season in MLS history. It should be noted that all three of those teams had much better records through 12 games than RSL will, with the ’96 Galaxy posting a 12-0-0 mark in MLS’ shootout era and the 2010 Galaxy and 2000 Wizards both posting a 10-0-2 record.
Can Cassar continue his rise up the record books?
Real Salt Lake Head Coach Jeff Cassar could also make a bit of history on Saturday night, as a RSL result would tie him with 1996 LA Head Coach Lothar Osiander for the longest unbeaten streak to start a MLS managing career at 12 games. Sadly, Cassar can’t touch Osiander’s record through 12 games – the Galaxy’s inaugural coach was 12-0-0 in 1996.
Cassar faces off against former team
Saturday’s match will be a reunion of sorts for Cassar, who played for Dallas from 1996-97 and 2003-2006 and served as an assistant coach for the Hoops for the first half of the 2007 season before moving to RSL in May of that year. Cassar was hampered by injuries and served as a backup at times in Dallas, playing just 33 MLS matches in his six years in Texas.
Former teammates Cassar and Pareja set for matchup
Cassar and FC Dallas Head Coach Oscar Pareja’s relationship goes way back, with the two playing together in Dallas from 2003-2005, before Pareja retired to become an FCD assistant. Pareja spent the last two years as head coach in Colorado before moving this offseason to Dallas, where he played and coached from 1998-2011. The former Colombian international started his FCD tenure brightly but his side has fallen off of late, losing five of its last six matches.
Will Morales stay hot?
RSL maestro Javier Morales has been red hot recently, scoring four goals and adding two assists in the Claret-and-Cobalt’s last two matches. He’ll look to continue that recent success Saturday night against FCD, against whom he has three goals and six assists in 11 career regular season matches.
Real Salt Lake registered its first ever win in Texas last summer, when the team overcame the absence of four key players due to international duty to win 3-0 at FC Dallas on July 13, 2013.
Despite playing without Gold Cup participants Captain Kyle Beckerman, goalkeeper Nick Rimando, forward Alvaro Saborio and defender Tony Beltran, RSL still romped over FCD, getting a spectacular one goal, two assist performance from midfielder Javier Morales and tallies from Ned Grabavoy and Olmes Garcia to beat Dallas 3-0. The win was RSL’s 100th in regular season play and the team’s first in 23 matches in the Lone Star State. The match also marked Jeff Attinella’s debut, with the then-third-string ‘keeper coming on for an injured Josh Saunders, who suffered a torn ACL in the game.
RSL will again be without Beckerman, Rimando and Saborio this Saturday, when the Claret-and-Cobalt will host FC Dallas at 7:30 p.m. MT at Rio Tinto Stadium. Check out the highlights of last July’s win before Saturday’s match, and let’s hope for a similar result this weekend.
RSL defender Chris Wingert was last week's guest at Real Salt Lake's Friday Fan Forum. The New York native dishes on his childhood, how he got to RSL and trying to beat fellow defender Tony Beltran in a beep test. Get to know the Claret-and-Cobalt veteran a bit better by checking out his answers below.
And make sure to make it to this Friday's Fan Forum with RSL midfielder Cole Grossman. Friday Fan Forums take place after practice at Rio Tinto Stadium. Practice will start at 11:00 a.m. and normally lasts an hour, but the end time may vary.
Chris Wingert Fan Forum
I used to practice a lot with my dad at home. He’d take me out the majority of days that I didn’t have team practice or a game when I was young. He was always asking me to go out and train and I can remember up until about 9th grade sometimes I would resist a little bit and it was always us trying to find a balance between pushing without pushing too much. He was always supportive. Once I got into 10th grade I was really focused on trying to make the youth national team and I started asking my dad to go out and train. To this day I don’t think he’s ever said no to me.
I get nervous before every game. There are obviously different levels of anxiety and being nervous. But I think a little bit of that is good and usually once you are in the game you are able to focus and when you’re in a sport like soccer, you’re able to run around a little bit and some of the nerves go away. My college coach used to tell me that if you can just win a ball right away that it will get rid of your nerves a little bit, and I thought that has always helped – whether it’s to win a header or tackle or just get on the ball right away. In general it’s ok to do things with fear, it’s ok to have fear in anything in life. You can still go out and try to accomplish your goal.
I’m from Long Island, NY. It’s far, far away from here; greatest place on earth. I’m a little biased though.
I don’t know if I hate facing anybody, but in terms of who gives us problems and is just a real concern for us, I would say Robbie Keane. I think he’s probably the best around and just a really sharp guy in the box and we have to be wary of where he is.
My favorite food is New York pizza. I try not to eat too much pizza when I’m out here or anywhere really, but when I’m at home I can’t help it. A lot of carbs: pizza, bagels, egg sandwiches; that’s my go to when I’m at home with my family in New York.
We’ve had a lot of good games over the years. Certainly the Championship in 2009 was a great one. One of my favorites for sure was beating LA Galaxy here because it was at home – that was one of the highlights of my career.
We spend a limited amount of time worrying about our opponents. We’ll have a meeting in a little while and scout the team a little bit. We’ll try and talk about what formation they could possibly play and what their lineup might look like and go over some tendencies. As a defender, I definitely try and study a few things about the right-midfielder or right-winger that I might match up against the following day. But the majority of the time during the week is spent working on ourselves and worrying about us.
Tony [Beltran] covers a lot more ground than me, he makes me look bad. I’ll tell you a funny story. Tony went to St. Johns too, just for a year and I had already left. We would always have to go and run three miles in 18 minutes, it was our big test in the beginning of the year. It was incredibly hard to do and even if I was in the middle of the season here I don’t think too many guys could make that run. I was home a couple weeks ago and our college coach said, “Yeah, Beltran had the audacity to come in here and run a three-mile, 17 minutes.” That is unheard of because it’s like three 5:20 miles in row. We always do the beep test and a couple years ago I worked my butt off and I was living in Park City at altitude and I was going to try and win the beep test. Tony was coming off surgery and so he hadn’t really worked out at all. The two of us were left at the end and I was working so hard but he just waited till I finished and then he ran one more so he could beat me.
I’ve been so blessed and fortunate for things to turn out the way they did. I got released from Colorado [Rapids] and was heading to LA to sign with them. Their right-back Chris Albright had torn his ACL and they needed somebody, so I was headed out there. Robin Fraser, who’s our old assistant coach, called me and we were really close. Robin asked me, “Would you rather come to RSL?” I heard a lot of good things about Jason Kreis so I obviously ended up coming here. Even though they were record-wise the worst team in the league at the time and people were calling me crazy for not going out to LA (Beckham was arriving the same day); I had a feeling that Jason, Robin, and all the staff were going to turn things around. I wanted to be somewhere for a long time and Jason told me that that place was here. He told me, “Come here and we’ll be successful and we’ll turn things around.” He did. Fortunately for me, my best friend, our captain, and one of our best players in the history of this franchise got traded here three days later which was complete coincidence.
When we win I have a lot of fun at games. Nah, I’m always having fun. I love the game. Of course it’s disappointing if we’re not getting the result we want, sometimes that stuff happens. I try not to let if affect me as much as it does. I wish it didn’t have such an effect on my mentality that next week but we appreciate when you guys come out. When we’re playing in front of 20,000 screaming fans that is a dream come true. I’m having a lot of fun doing what I’m doing and I’m going to try and do it as long as I can.
I think Germany will win the World Cup. I don’t want them to win – obviously, I’d love the US to win and go as far as possible. I usually end up rooting for England and Holland a little bit, but if I had to put some money on it I’d bet on Germany.
Could we see a bald Jeff Cassar this fall?
If RSL makes the MLS Cup Playoffs, we just might.
The RSL boss told the guys from Extra Time Radio on Monday that he and follicly challenged RSL Goalkeeper Coach Daryl Shore made a bet a couple months back that should RSL qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs, Cassar will shave his head.
That could lead to a bit of symmetry on the RSL bench, as Cassar is currently the only member of RSL’s coaching staff with any amount of hair; Shore and fellow assistants Andy Williams, Craig Waibel and Paul Dalglish are all bald or sport a shaved look. It should be noted that RSL Strength and Conditioning Coach Dan Barlow has a nice head of hair.
“I wanted to have the best hair on the staff, so I set the bar really low,” Cassar joked during his ExtraTime interview. “But I made a bet with Daryl Shore, one of my assistant coaches, that if we make the playoffs I’m going to shave my head.”
We’ve got a preview of what Cassar could look like with a shaved head above. Gotta say, don’t think bald is Jeff’s best look.