MLS Regular Season
Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando sat down with KUTV 2's Shauna Lake last week for the channel's "Person 2 Person" series, which features in-depth interviews with some of the most interesting people in Utah.
Rimando's interview aired on Sunday night on Channel 2. No worries if you missed it - you can watch the entire interview above and catch some exclusive, online-only bonus content here.
Rimando departed Salt Lake City on Sunday to join the U.S. national team in Seattle ahead of Tuesday's World Cup Qualifing match against Panama. Rimando will be on the U.S. squad for the Stars-and-Stripes' June 18 World Cup Qualifier against Honduras at Rio Tinto Stadium. The veteran backstop will miss RSL's U.S. Open Cup fourth-round match against the Charleston Battery on Wednesday night at Rio Tinto Stadium while on international duty. He will not miss any MLS action.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Real Salt Lake has a good history against the LA Galaxy, posting a 9-9-5 regular season mark against its Western Conference rival.
We've put together four of the Claret-and-Cobalt's "Signature Moments" against LA ahead of Saturday's 7:30 kick between the sides at Rio Tinto Stadium. Check 'em out below.
March 10, 2012 - RSL opens the 2012 season with a 3-1 win at the defending champion Galaxy.
Nov. 6, 2011 - It's not a happy memory, but no catalog of RSL-LA meetings would be complete without mentioning the Galaxy's 3-1 victory over the Claret-and-Cobalt in the 2011 Western Conference Final.
March 26, 2011 - RSL MF Andy Williams scores in the second minute - one of the quickest goals in club history - as RSL thrashes LA in the 2011 MLS home opener.
Nov. 22, 2009 - RSL's proudest moment: Beating LA in penalty kicks to lift the 2009 MLS Cup.
Nice video from the good folks over at MLSsoccer.com previewing Saturday's RSL-LA slugfest.
Fantastic video by Real Salt Lake videographer slick Nick Lamping ahead of Saturday's 7:30 p.m. kickoff between RSL and LA.
Three key absences for Real Salt Lake sounds a difficult proposition to handle, but options for each position — in the midfield, in defense, and up front — could mean RSL is in a better tactical position than one might readily imagine ahead of Saturday's home match against LA.
No Luis Gil means we'll be looking for a midfielder to take his place. Two options readily present themselves: Sebastian Velasquez has shown well this season and is stepping up in the system, but Khari Stephenson provides veteran experience and looked strong last week. The most reasonable approach, to my mind: Stephenson starts, Velasquez comes off the bench. Stephenson can manage the game well in midfield and provide a safe outlet; Velasquez can come on late and be his creative, spark self.
No Chris Schuler leads to a continuation with either Kwame Watson-Siriboe or Carlos Salcedo. Both have showed well so far, and Watson-Siriboe was massive against a pesky San Jose side. Watson-Siriboe had a rocky start to his season, but should he continue to impress, worries about an injured Chris Schuler might ease somewhat. Carlos Salcedo is a natural bench option with an eye on a Wednesday start.
No Alvaro Saborio leaves us again wondering about a tactical scenario. Is the Plata-Findley pairing for real? Can it work? It's hard to deny that chances have been created, and Saturday saw us looking somewhat near very, very good. Olmes Garcia could be an option but is likely to be eased back from injury, while Devon Sandoval might not yet be the sort of player that can dominate the Galaxy defense. But Plata-Findley presents its own challenges from a tactical perspective, but if those can be overcome, it's hard to argue with the selection.
It all leaves Real Salt Lake in an interesting position against one of MLS's better sides, but it leaves a good tactical position open. With the tendencies of Plata and Findley to drift wide, opportunities for midfielders emerge. Javier Morales is in fine form, Ned Grabavoy is in the best goalscoring form of his career, Khari Stephenson has a cannon of a foot and Kyle Beckerman can swing in the late shots himself.
The surprise? The Findley-Plata pairing could be one of our better options up front, regardless of injury concerns and international duty. The win against San Jose, however poor they've been this season, is partly owed to the results of effective movement up top, drawing defenders into poor positions and creating channels for midfield runs. Seeing more of that on Saturday would be precisely the sort of thing RSL needs to handle the Galaxy.
Real Salt Lake is set to continue its home stand on Saturday night, when it will take on the LA Galaxy at 7:30 p.m. at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Here are a few interesting storylines ahead of Saturday’s match:
RSL out for revenge
Real Salt Lake and the Galaxy have already met once this season, with RSL coming out flat and giving up two early goals to fall to LA 2-0 at Rio Tinto Stadium on April 27.
RSL has posted a strong 5-1-1 record across all competitions since that match, but a bad taste still lingers. The Claret-and-Cobalt will want to remove that once and for all on Saturday with a win in its second – and final – home game of the regular season against the rival Galaxy.
While RSL has been hot since the April 27 meeting at Rio Tinto Stadium, LA has been in a slide, posting a 2-5-0 mark across all competitions since taking all three points on the Wasatch Front five weeks ago.
LA was blown out in its last match, giving up four second half goals to fall 5-0 at the New England Revolution on Sunday. After that performance, it’s a safe bet that the Galaxy will come into Saturday’s game focused and very, very hungry for a result.
Morales successful against Galaxy
Much like he does against San Jose, RSL midfielder Javier Morales has a very strong track record against the Galaxy, scoring five goals and tallying five assists in 12 career regular season games against LA.
Morales gave San Jose fits last week, scoring a goal and adding an assist in RSL’s 3-0 win over the Quakes last Saturday. The Claret-and-Cobalt is hoping he’ll be able to match that performance this weekend as he looks to strengthen his solid track record against the Galaxy.
The away team has won the last four games between Real Salt Lake and LA dating back to RSL’s 3-1 win at the Galaxy in the 2012 season opener. That’s a very odd statistic in any series, let alone one in which both teams are traditionally tough at home.
RSL, obviously, will be hoping to end that mark on Saturday with a win over its longtime Western Conference rival.
Both sides will be missing key players on Saturday due to international duty. RSL will be without three players, missing forward Alvaro Saborio (Costa Rica) and defender Abdoulie Mansally (Gambia) due to World Cup Qualifiers and midfielder Luis Gil (U.S.), who is with the U.S. Under-20’s ahead of this month’s FIFA U-20 World Cup. LA will be without star forward Robbie Keane (Ireland) and defender Omar Gonzalez (U.S.) for World Cup Qualifiers and U.S. U-20 Oscar Sorto. The Galaxy could also be without U.S. U-20 forward Jose Villarreal depending on when he departs for the team’s pre-World Cup camp.
Real Salt Lake's April 27 match against the LA Galaxy didn't go so well - the Claret-and-Cobalt conceded two early goals and couldn't break down LA's defense, eventually falling 2-0 at home to the back-to-back defending champs.
RSL takes on LA at Rio Tinto Stadium for the second - and final - time this regular season at 7:30 on Saturday night. The Claret-and-Cobalt will be looking to exact a bit of payback on its longtime rival. Help the team out - show up early, wear red and, of course, be loud.
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.
One criticism Real Salt Lake faced last season was that the team seemed too dependent on Alvaro Saborio to score. The Costa Rican international scored 39 percent of RSL’s goals in 2012, an undeniably huge portion – and one that was too big for some.
If you're a team with one player carrying too much of the load, it can really throw things for a loop if the player takes a step back in form or gets injured. So when Saborio went down with an injury at the end of April, many people – including me – thought RSL would struggle to score goals and win games. Well, six weeks later, we've been proven wrong.
Since the beginning of May, RSL has amassed 13 points in just six league matches, tied for the best mark in MLS. The team has stepped it up defensively, conceding just one goal a game in that time. But lest you think it's only the defense that's leading to results, in those same six matches RSL is hanging 2.33 goals per game on its opponents, with Sabo only playing 28 minutes since April. In the midst of all that, RSL also put up a U.S. Open Cup win. Here are a couple of points on scoring that have stood out to me this year - and especially recently - that have RSL poised to do very well through the rest of 2013:
- There are plenty of scoring chances being generated. RSL leads MLS by a country mile in shots on goal with 88 - that's a whopping 20 shots more than second place FC Dallas.
- Nine RSL players have already scored in league play this year. In 2012, only 10 players scored all year. RSL should easily surpass that number - I expect Khari Stephenson and Sebastian Velasquez will open their accounts soon, and the center backs are due to poke home a set piece one of these games.
- Speaking of sharing the wealth, as I mentioned above, Sabo scored almost 40 percent of RSL's goals last year. This year he's only scored 20% of them. And it's not like the overall team production is down - RSL 2013 is on pace to outscore the 2012 edition.
- All five strikers on the roster have scored this year. The four not named Saborio have all scored in the last six games.
- On an individual level, Ned Grabavoy has already matched his career-best for goals in a season and we're not even halfway through the year.
- Javier Morales is still dynamic. He’s already matched his scoring total – three – from last year and his assist number is right on last season’s pace.
I attribute the offensive success this year - and most notably over the last six matches - to two things: First, a strong commitment by attacking players to put themselves into spots where they can score. Jason Kreis alluded to this in his postgame press conference last Saturday night by saying that RSL struggles to score when they don't get enough numbers in the penalty box. Second, I think the superior depth of the 2013 squad has caused everyone to raise their game, especially in training. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that when you train at a higher level, you tend to play at a higher level. The fierce competition for minutes has certainly been effective in that regard.
There's still a lot of soccer left to be played, but all signs point to this team being one of the few that will be right in the thick of things at the very end.
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.