MLS Regular Season
With Vancouver coming to Rio Tinto Stadium tomorrow, Real Salt Lake will be looking to establish a strike partnership to carry forward with Alvaro Saborio out with injury.
Striking up a partnership: Olmes at the core
Leading scorer Alvaro Saborio is out for at least a few weeks, and that's certain to add a bit of stress to the RSL strike force. As a result, it's important that a partnership be struck up between the strikers available — whether this is Olmes Garcia and Devon Sandoval or Olmes Garcia and Joao Plata is difficult to say. It seems likely, though, that Olmes Garcia is at the center of considerations at this point, such have been his displays in this still-early season.
He presents different advantages with each option: Alongside Sandoval, Garcia could play a little deeper and more central, picking up on balls shook loose by the big man. Sandoval's also a disruptive figure, and we've seen him getting some joy with his ability to hold off an opponent. Alongside Plata, Garcia could be a more central figure around which Plata would pivot. The options are boundless.
There's always a chance Garcia doesn't get the start, but if he's fit, the odds seem pretty good. He's the most flexible option of the three potentially available, and with RSL's attack still developing and building anew, that flexibility may be enough to sway considerations. He's also the only one of the three with a goal, and in every match he's played, he's looked dangerous and likely to score further goals.
We're not unfamiliar with how Vancouver Whitecaps FC is looking this season, largely because we played against them only — what — three weeks ago? It's a funny thing, this somewhat-randomized intra-conference play. As a result, there shouldn't be any real surprises — and hopefully no strangely decided penalty kicks with which to contend. This should be particularly useful when considering Vancouver's attacking options. Truth be told, RSL looked pretty good against Vancouver, but improving on that will be a high priority.
First to the gates
Something like that, right? The onus is on Real Salt Lake to control the proceedings and to score first. It's an obviously desirable thing, but as we've seen, this side has trouble breaking down teams defending deep. Particularly without Alvaro Saborio out there to disrupt defenders through hold-up play, there's an inherent difficulty in breaking down those walls — unparking the bus, as it were. Scoring first and early forces Vancouver to abandon any designs to sit back and defend.
ABC4's Dana Greene filed a hilarious report on Thursday night featuring several RSL personalities ahead of Saturday's Star Wars Day at Rio Tinto Stadium. Give it a watch - and May the 4th be with you.
Really, really fantastic stuff out of Portland, where the Timbers and the Make-A-Wish Oregon made 8-year-old Atticus Lane-Dupre's dream of playing the MLS side at Jeld-Wen Field come true on Wednesday.
Atticus - who was diagnosed with cancer last fall - and his Green Machine teammates were treated to the full gameday experience on Wednesday, with more than 3,000 rowdy fans cheering them on as they took down Portland 10-9. Atticus scored four goals - nutmegging former RSL midfielder Will Johnson on one - and was named Man of the Match.
Thanks, Portland. And thank you, Atticus.
Known throughout the galaxy for his tactical wisdom and (inter)stellar man-management, Real Salt Lake Head Coach/Jedi Master Jason Kreis is also a gem in the media. Here are a few of his best quotes, as interpreted by Yoda ahead of Saturday's Star Wars Day at Rio Tinto Stadium match between RSL and Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
Kreis: “The Team is the Star.”
YodaKreis: “The star, the team is. Yes, hmmm.”
@JasonKreis on Twitter: “A thought: adversity always reveals people's character. So why shouldn't we look at it as an opportunity? A chance to show who/what we are!”
YodaKreis: “Adversity always reveals people's character. So look at it as an opportunity why should we not, hmm? Who and what we are, it is a chance to show!”
Kreis: “It’s amazing how much can be accomplished if no one cares who gets the credit.”
YodaKreis: "Amazing how much can be accomplished if no one cares who gets the credit, it is. Herh herh herh."
Kreis: "Do not bear this great challenge before us as a burden, but rather rejoice in it, soak it up, and know that together we can accomplish anything."
YodaKreis: "Bear this great challenge before us as a burden, do not. But rather, rejoice in it, soak it up and accomplish anything, know that together we can. Yeesssssss."
Kreis: "Professional sports lead to big egos. We do not have room or time for that."
YodaKreis: "To big egos professional sports lead. Room or time for that we have not. Hmmmmmm."
Kreis: "The victorious performance itself is merely the demonstration of championship character."
YodaKreis: "Merely the demonstration of championship character, the victorious performance itself is. Yes, hmmm."
@JasonKreis on Twitter: “Always striving to give our best.”
YodaKreis: “To give our best always striving. Yeesssss.”
Kreis: “I don’t like it and if I had refereed that I wouldn’t have made that call, but I don’t referee, I coach, and hopefully I’ll stay that way.”
YodaKreis: “I like it not and if I had refereed that I would not have made that call, but referee I not, I coach, and hopefully, stay that way, I will. Yes, hmmm.”
From left to right: Real Salt Lake Head Coach Jason Kreis as Luke Skywalker, Assistant Miles Joseph as Han Solo, Goalkeeping Coach Jeff Cassar as Chewbacca and Assistant C.J. Brown as Lando Calrissian.
May the 4th be with you.
You’ve seen the poster and you’ve seen the Twitter pictures; you may have even spotted him at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Until now, though, you may not have known the identity of Real Salt Lake’s favorite bounty hunter, Garrett Davis. A RSL season ticket holder since the inaugural season in 2005 and a huge Star Wars fan, Davis attends every Claret-and-Cobalt home match in a full-body, RSL-themed Boba Fett suit.
With that sort of commitment to both club and Empire, you can imagine how excited Davis was when he first heard that RSL would be hosting Star Wars Day at Rio Tinto Stadium for this Saturday’s match against Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
“I have a hard time describing it,” he told RealSaltLake.com on Tuesday. “My wife said it perfectly: Just saying I’m excited about Saturday’s match is an understatement. It’s definitely two of my passions, it’s a match made in heaven. It’s like peanut butter and jelly, having RSL and Star Wars together. I’ve seen other teams in different leagues do something like this and I always thought it’d be great to have here and I’m really excited to be a part of the festivities. My brother called me to let me know I was on the poster and I was absolutely ecstatic to be a part of it.”
For those who don’t know, Boba Fett is a villainous bounty hunter who first appeared in the second Star Wars film, The Empire Strikes Back. Davis began putting his Fett costume together last season, when he bought his helmet, painted it Claret and Cobalt and started wearing it to games. He even got it signed by most RSL players at last year’s “Meet the Team” event, several of whom – most notably noted Star Wars fan Tony Beltran – got a kick out of the head gear.
He took things up a notch this season, buying the full-body suit to match his helmet. And, despite his character’s evil tendencies – Boba Fett pals around with Darth Vader and Jabba the Hutt in George Lucas’s iconic series – Davis has been embraced by RSL fans, who often pose for pictures with him at home games.
“It’s been incredible,” he said of the fan reaction to his costume. “Even last year when I just had the mask it was great. This year, with the full suit, it’s just been incredible. It’s been really fun to take pictures with other fans and the reception’s always great when I’m walking into the stadium with friends and family.”
Davis – who said he’s “a little nervous” about wearing the suit to the stadium in the summer heat – will participate in Saturday’s “May the 4th be with you” festivities as the RSL Season Ticket Holder of the Game. You’ll have a chance to catch him on the Rio Tinto Stadium big screen before the match as he leads the Parade of Kings out onto the field.
“It’s a fun way to combine two passions of mine and a fun way to express my fandom to the club,” he said. “Putting together the costume with the RSL colors and logo shows some extra passion, I guess. Luckily, it hasn't driven away my wife and she still comes to games with me."
It would be painfully easy to focus on the very poor start to the 2-0 loss against LA Galaxy on Saturday night, but what's tactically more interesting (and less depressing) is the nature of RSL's response to the challenge.
Three at the back
It's not the first time we've seen Jason Kreis shift things around for a three-man back line, and there's something slightly worrying about the necessity of that trend — but when it came time for, as he called them, "desperate measures," there wasn't a moment of hesitation.
But if we look at the Opta chalkboards, we see that it might be more accurate to call it two at the back — Tony Beltran essentially played as an attacking winger, mirroring Ned Grabavoy on the pitch and getting involved in much action. Of course, it's difficult to derive positional arguments out of the late harried action on Saturday night, but there's something to be said for your right back dictating play on the attacking flank.
Beckerman pushed up
Rather than looking toward a nominally more attacking 3-4-3, Kreis went toward a 3-5-2 that saw Kyle Beckerman pushed further up the pitch than usual. Yordany Alvarez came on — essentially for Lovel Palmer, although the order of substitutions speaks ever-so-slightly differently — and was deployed centrally in a vaguely anchoring role. Beckerman moved further up, and given his work rate and energy on the night, it's hard to fault Kreis. It was a strong response late on from the captain, and he covered an immense amount of ground as desperation set in and LA Galaxy sat deeper and deeper.
Dealing with the bus
Real Salt Lake have obviously problems when 11 opponents are sat in the defensive end of the midfield, but they're hardly alone in this. Breaking down a well-organized side like LA Galaxy is difficult on any given match day, but it's rendered tougher when the opposition is handed an early lead to protect.
It should be said, though, that RSL had a great response to that defensive challenge, and with two players hitting the woodwork in the final 30 minutes and five shots blocked — three of which were in the box — it doesn't seem so much a matter of figuring out how best to break down a deep, dedicated defensive line, but how to finish around them. There's certainly some reason for encouragement in that respect.
Real Salt Lake couldn’t rebound from a slow start against the LA Galaxy on Saturday night, giving up two early goals to fall to the Southern California side 2-0 at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Here are a few interesting numbers from Saturday’s match:
Real Salt Lake forward Olmes Garcia has hit the post/crossbar four times in five appearances this year. Garcia hit the crossbar on Saturday, powerfully heading a corner kick over Galaxy ‘keeper Brian Rowe and off the bar in second half stoppage time.
The number of players who were late scratches from the RSL lineup on Saturday. Leading scorer Alvaro Saborio was taken out of the starting lineup due to a left quad injury initially suffered on Friday and fellow forward Robbie Findley was removed from the 18 due to a knee injury also originally sustained on Friday.
Real Salt Lake has now given up three goals in the first 15 minutes of matches this year after conceding in the 6th and 13th minutes on Saturday. The Claret-and-Cobalt did not allow a single goal in the first 15 minutes in all of 2012.
The number of career regular season appearances for Real Salt Lake captain Kyle Beckerman after he went the full 90 on Saturday. Beckerman’s appearance on Saturday moved him past RSL Head Coach Jason Kreis (305) and into a tie for 15th place in MLS history on the games played list. KB5 is now tied on 306 appearances with former LA Galaxy player Cobi Jones, who was at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday night as part of the Galaxy’s TV broadcast.
Sept. 25, 2011
Prior to Saturday night’s two-goal defeat, the last time that Real Salt Lake lost a home game by multiple goals in MLS play was on Sept. 25, 2011, when the 10-man Claret-and-Cobalt fell 3-0 to the Chicago Fire at Rio Tinto Stadium.
LA Galaxy have started their season off with some style, but there's plenty of opportunity for RSL to find success against them on Saturday night like they have so often before.
Stopping the midfield
First, the midfield's got to be stopped — Juninho and Marcelo Sarvas are an efficient pairing in the middle of the park for LA. Snuffing out their threat means we've got to keep our outside midfielders narrow, ready to pick off passes and prevent chances from being created. Additionally, they'll need to be aware of the defensive strength of Sarvas in particular. It's illustrative that he was successful in 10 of 13 tackles against Sporting KC last week. Stopping the midfield means both preventing attacking threats and avoiding defensive threats.
Second, the defense has to be constantly vigilant with Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan, should they play — and it's hard to imagine they wouldn't for a match like this. Donovan has wasted no time since returning to action, grabbing a goal and an assist last week. Still, the options LA Galaxy have up top aren't endless, and without both Keane and Donovan, it could be tempting for the defense to relax. This would be a mistake, especially with the set piece and long shot prowess of Juninho and the persistence of one Mike Magee.
Being afforded possession
Third, the whole of the side has to be prepared for a team that's willing to sit back a bit and let play develop. LA defeated last season's defensive standouts Sporting KC last week, winning 2-0 — this, despite completing considerably fewer passes and losing the possession battle. It's surprising for a team that has generally controlled possession in 2013, but it shows a willingness to adapt to the opposition that makes them a dangerous side to face. It's easy to imagine the Galaxy sitting back a little bit, picking their chances, and snuffing out ours — it wouldn't be the first time, and it won't be their last time. Playing around them will require some real control and skill on the ball — and it'll take our best passing and possession-oriented skills to ensure we don't allow silly chances.