MLS Regular Season
This Saturday (7:00 p.m. – CW30, ESPN700), Real Salt Lake looks to retake the lead in the Supporters’ Shield race as they host a desperate San Jose side. But that’s not all that is noteworthy ahead of this weekend’s clash. Rio Tinto Stadium is close to notching its sixth sellout of the season— only Maverik Mayhem Corner seats and Standing Room Only tickets remain — while going head-to-head with Utah’s biggest rivalry game: BYU vs. Utah.
The near-sellout has proved to be especially noteworthy, garnering an article in the Salt Lake Tribune earlier this week.
RSL Head Coach Jason Kreis sees the near-sellout as a sign of soccer’s growing influence in Utah.
"We’ve done this in the past, a near-sellout or sellout,” he told media when asked about going up against the BYU vs. Utah game. “I think it’s a pretty clear indicator of where we are in our sport and where we are with the support in this community. I think all of us feel extremely proud and extremely pleased with that support.”
The BYU vs. Utah game might be the biggest sports rivalry in Utah, but RSL fans aren’t letting this weekend’s critical match go unnoticed.
The players are having a little fun with it too, sharing their favorite sports rivalries in the video above ahead of Saturday's likely sellout at Rio Tinto Stadium and college football clash in Provo.
Real Salt Lake’s Supporters’ Shield hopes took a hit on Friday night, with the Claret-and-Cobalt’s 2-0 loss at Seattle dropping the Utah side out of first place, one point behind Sounders FC in the Western Conference and Shield races.
Seattle’s points lead and its two games in hand on RSL place the Sounders firmly in the driver’s seat for the Supporters’ Shield and Western Conference crowns. But that doesn’t mean the Claret-and-Cobalt is out of either race – far from it, in fact.
We’ve broken down the Supporters’ Shield race, analyzing the schedules of the top-five teams based on points per game. Check it out:
1 – Seattle Sounders FC
Current points: 49
Current points per game: 1.81
League standings: 1st
Points per game standings: 1st
MLS games remaining: 7
Maximum possible points: 70
Opponents’ average points: 43.14
Remaining schedule: Sept. 21 at LA, Sept. 29 v. NY, Oct. 5 at COL, Oct. 9 v. VAN, Oct. 13 at POR, Oct. 19 at DAL, Oct. 27 v. LA
Rundown: Seattle took charge in the Supporters’ Shield race by beating RSL, with the Sounders now controlling their own destiny with a maximum of 70 possible points. While Seattle is the current front-runner, the Sounders do have a very tough schedule down the stretch, with all seven of its matches coming against teams still fighting for their playoff lives. Among the Rave Green’s toughest remaning matches are this Saturday’s contest at LA, the Oct. 5 game at Colorado, the Oct. 13 match at Portland and the Oct. 27 regular season finale against the Galaxy.
2 – Montreal Impact
Current points: 45
Current points per game: 1.67
League standings: 4th (Ahead of KC, COL on tiebreaker)
Points per game standings: 2nd
MLS games remaining: 7
Maximum possible points: 66
Opponents’ average points: 37.14
Remaining schedule: Sept. 21 v. VAN, Sept. 25 v. HER**, Sept. 28 at CHI, Oct. 4 at HOU, Oct. 12 v. NE, Oct. 16 at LA, Oct. 19 v. PHI, Oct. 26 at TOR
Rundown: One of the surprise teams of the season, Montreal has put itself in a good spot to take home the 2013 Supporters’ Shield. The Impact’s seven remaining games are tied with Seattle for most in the league, and its 1.67 points per game average is second only to the Sounders. Montreal also has a relatively easier schedule compared to the other Shield contenders, with its opponents’ average of 37.14 points higher than only RSL’s and Kansas City’s totals. One potential stumbling block for the Impact could be fixture congestion: Marco Di Vaio and Co. will play eight times before the season ends, including a crucial CONCACAF Champions League match against Guatemala’s CD Heredia on Sept. 25.
3 – Real Salt Lake
Current points: 48
Current points per game: 1.66
League rank: 2nd (Ahead of NY on tiebreaker)
Points per game rank: T-3rd
MLS games remaining: 5
Maximum possible points: 63
Opponents’ average points: 37
Remaining schedule: Sept. 21 v. SJ, Sept. 28 at VAN, Oct. 1 v. DC*, Oct. 5 v. DAL, Oct. 19 at POR, Oct. 23 v. CHV
Rundown: RSL has one of the easier schedules among the Supporters’ Shield contenders, with its opponents’ average points clocking in at 37, second-lowest only to Sporting Kansas City. The downside: RSL only has five matches remaining in which to gain points, two fewer than fellow contenders Seattle and Montreal, one less than Kansas City and even with New York.
4 – New York Red Bulls
Current points: 48
Current points per game: 1.66
League standings: 3rd (Trailing RSL on tiebreaker)
Points per game standings: T-3rd
MLS games remaining: 5
Maximum possible points: 63
Opponents’ average points: 41
Remaining schedule: Sept. 22 v. DAL, Sept. 29 at SEA, Oct. 5 v. NE, Oct. 20 at HOU, Oct. 27 v. CHI
Rundown: New York is streaking at the moment, having won three matches in a row over DC, Houston and Toronto. While they’re hot, the Red Bulls have a difficult schedule remaining, with the five matches left on the schedule all coming against teams still in the playoff race. New York’s toughest remaining match is also the most important for its Supporters’ Shield hopes: Sept. 29 against the Sounders at CenturyLink Field.
5 – Sporting Kansas City
Current points: 45
Current points per game: 1.61
League standings: 5th (Trailing MTL on tiebreaker)
Points per game standings: 5th
MLS games remaining: 6
Maximum possible points: 63
Opponents’ average points: 31.83
Remaining schedule: Sept. 21 at TOR, Sept. 27 v. PHI, Oct. 5 at CLB, Oct. 9 at HOU, Oct. 18 v. DC, Oct. 23 v. OLI**, Oct. 26 at PHI
Rundown: Kansas City has a bit of work to do to climb closer to Seattle in the Supporters’ Shield race, needing wins on the road – Sporting plays four of its remaining six MLS matches away from home – to challenge the Seattle’s of the world. Thankfully for KC, its schedule is probably the easiest of the five teams listed, taking on lowly Toronto on Saturday, playing at Columbus on Oct. 5 and hosting league cellar-dwellers DC on Oct. 18.
MLSsoccer.com is in the midst of its annual 24 under 24 week, and, in honor of the occasion, published a "Between the Lines" video on the new wave of attacking talent in MLS. Real Salt Lake's Luis Gil features in the video, with MLSsoccer's Matt Doyle breaking down his game, along with those of Portland's Darlington Nagbe, Vancouver's Russel Teibert and New England's Kelyn Rowe.
Doyle breaks down the 19-year-old Gil beginning at the 4:45 mark of the video. The entire piece is worth a watch, though. Check it out above.
Real Salt Lake lost a tough one at Seattle on Friday, falling 2-0 to the Sounders at CenturyLink Field.
Here are a few interesting numbers from the match:
Friday’s crowd of 55,107 at Seattle was the largest crowd RSL has ever played in front of. Seattle is now 6-0-0 when playing in front of home crowds of at least 55,000 people.
Friday’s shutout broke RSL’s streak of 23 consecutive games across all competitions scoring a goal. The last time Real Salt Lake was shutout prior to Friday night was on April 27, when the Claret-and-Cobalt fell 2-0 to the LA Galaxy at Rio Tinto Stadium. RSL still leads MLS in goals scored with 52 through 29 regular season games.
Friday’s loss broke RSL’s five-game unbeaten streak on artificial turf. The Claret-and-Cobalt’s last loss on turf came on Aug. 11, 2012, when RSL fell 2-1 at Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
Friday’s loss dropped Real Salt Lake out of first place in both the Supporters’ Shield and Western Conference races. RSL now trails Seattle by one point in both the West and MLS races, with the Sounders holding two games in hand on the Utah side.
RSL’s five remaining MLS opponents have an average of 37 points this year. That total would place behind eight teams in the Western Conference and would be tied for 15th in the league table.
With a nearly full-strength side, Real Salt Lake travels to Seattle for a match that could tilt the scales in MLS, with effects cascading down the table should RSL lose out. Jason Kreis's side, then, has a difficult task in front of them, in a difficult stadium, against a difficult side.
It is important for RSL to notch a win against Seattle, but this will be one of the more difficult MLS matches for Kreis to manage. Should his side adopt an overly defensive posture, it might be difficult to grab that win — constitutionally, we're not a side that thrives when sitting back in an organized fashion. Should they adopt an overly offensive posture, it might be difficult to preserve any goalscoring advantage maintained. Thus, striking that balance will be the impetus laid before Kreis.
This largely becomes the role of the midfield to maintain that balance: The match ebbs and flows by the actions they take. The forwards are important in that they must follow the lead of the midfield and adapt their play, and the defenders are important in that they must respond to the threats that emerge as a result of the balance. But it is the role of the midfield to dictate it, and with three veterans certain to start, that shouldn't be too difficult.
Kyle Beckerman: He is the player through which all things must pass, whether it is directly (passes to and from him) or indirectly (play being dictated by him, whether by literal communication or by his movement). He'll be important in relaying play to wide players, and ensuring that play circulates through the midfield.
Ned Grabavoy: He is the player tasked with perhaps the most work of the three veterans, and he'll be required to both help out defending against wide players and to push play through the midfield. His ability to maintain possession will be vital here, particularly against the Sounders midfield; this will give all other players more time to adapt off-the-ball and to provide new outlets.
Javier Morales: He is the player responsible for creating the deadliest of chances and to stretch play laterally both through his movement and through his distribution to forwards. This will open room for the other midfielders — Grabavoy and the other central midfielder in the diamond, perhaps Luis Gil — and the forwards in the areas in which they can do the most damage.
No player has an easier job than any other on the night, but by ensuring that their responsibilities are fulfilled, the collective burden will be lifted, and the wall of 55,000 fans in Seattle can be disappointed once again.
Real Salt Lake will play on national television for the third and final time this regular season on Friday, traveling to the Pacific Northwest to take on Seattle Sounders FC at 8:00 p.m. on Friday night on NBC Sports Network.
Oddly enough, Friday’s match is RSL’s second-straight game that will be broadcast nationally, coming on the heels of the Claret-and-Cobalt’s 4-2 win over the Portland Timbers on Aug. 30 on NBCSN.
That game – as detailed here – rated very well, drawing approximately 70,000 more viewers than the average MLS match on NBC Sports Network so far this year. The match was a great spectacle for the league and RSL, showcasing the Claret-and-Cobalt’s attractive brand of play in front of an electric, sold-out crowd at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Observers around the country took a little bit more notice of RSL following the nationally televised Portland win, praising the team’s solid style, various individual players and Head Coach Jason Kreis.
— Sebastian Salazar (@SebiSalazarCSN) August 31, 2013
Real's name, Barça's game. #RSL
— Keith Hickey (@usarsnl) August 31, 2013
I'm just excited to see Salt Lake on national TV #MLS
— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) August 31, 2013
RSL absolutely rolling, with Gil, Grabavoy and Plata all playing well, supporting their established stars. They will be tough to stop.
— Ives Galarcep (@SoccerByIves) August 31, 2013
We're all lucky for Javi Morales being able to recover from that kind of serious injury and re-discover his previous level of play.
— Andy Edwards (@AndyEdMLS) August 31, 2013
That national notice is good for RSL – it boosts recognition for the club, putting the players and technical staff on the big stage they so richly deserve. It gives guys like Kreis, Nick Rimando, Javier Morales, Kyle Beckerman, Alvaro Saborio, Tony Beltran and Ned Grabavoy a larger platform for well-earned end-of-season recognition.
The best way for RSL to continue getting that increased recognition is to be on national TV more than three times a season. And the best way for RSL to get on national TV more? Other than continued fantastic results – thanks team, you’re the reason we’re all here – it’s all about you, the fan, tuning-in in droves when the Claret-and-Cobalt are on a national broadcast.
Do your part this Friday. Park yourself on the couch, belly up to the bar or roll over to your buddy’s place and turn that dial to NBC Sports Network – channel 695/34 on Comcast, 220 on DirecTV and 159 on Dish – to watch RSL battle Seattle for Western Conference and Supporters’ Shield supremacy at 8:00 p.m. MT at CenturyLink Field.
Most teams around the league struggle against MLS’s three Cascadian clubs. It’s not hard to see why: Seattle, Portland and Vancouver all have deep pockets, talented rosters, strong support, and play on difficult-to-deal with turf fields.
Of course, most teams around MLS aren’t Real Salt Lake.
The Claret-and-Cobalt has been dominant against the three Cascadian clubs over the last two seasons, posting a 10-2-4 record in all competitions against the Sounders, Timbers and Whitecaps since the start of 2012. RSL is unbeaten against the three sides so far this year, posting 4-0-2 record through four home games and two road matches against them in all comps.
RSL has also been very solid when playing on the road at Seattle, Portland and Vancouver, currently riding a four-game unbeaten streak in Cascadia. The Claret-and-Cobalt has a combined 2-1-4 road mark at the Sounders, Timbers and Whitecaps since the start of 2012.
Jason Kreis and Co. will put their solid run against the Cascadian clubs on the line this Friday, when they take on Seattle Sounders FC in a battle of the West’s top two teams at CenturyLink Field. Friday’s match – which has huge implications for both the Supporters’ Shield race and MLS Cup Playoff seeding – will kick off at 8:00 p.m. MT and will be broadcast nationally on the NBC Sports Network.
Should RSL earn a fifth-straight result in the Pacific Northwest on Friday, it'll have to do it in front of a huge crowd. Seattle – which usually restricts attendance at CenturyLink Field to a little under 40,000 – has opened up the entire stadium for Friday’s affair, with full capacity reaching upwards of 67,000.
— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) September 11, 2013
One last note: RSL’s 18 road points this year are tied for tops in the league with Kansas City, while Seattle enters Friday’s match on a team record 12-game regular season unbeaten streak at home.
Something could very well give on Friday. Make sure you tune-in to see it all unfold.
There was some chatter on Wednesday regarding whether or not RSL Captain Kyle Beckerman would be able to play in Friday’s crucial MLS contest at Seattle Sounders FC after going the full 90 for the U.S. in its 2-0 win over Mexico in Columbus on Tuesday night.
Beckerman answered that question pretty definitively upon his return to Salt Lake on Wednesday afternoon, indicating to reporters at the Salt Lake City International Airport that’d he’d be ready for Friday’s critical clash at CenturyLink Field.
Beckerman said the turnaround is the same as Wednesday to Saturday, and he should be ready for Friday's game in Seattle.
— Aaron Falk (@aaronfalk) September 11, 2013
Of course, two Seattle Sounders players took the field for the U.S. with Beckerman on Tuesday night, with Clint Dempsey logging a full 90 and Eddie Johnson scoring a goal before going off with an apparent head injury in the 76th minute.
Sounders Head Coach Sigi Schmid commented today on the status of Dempsey and Johnson, telling Don Ruiz of the Tacoma News-Tribune and other Seattle media that Johnson’s head bump from Tuesday’s game does not call for a concussion protocol, and that both players are scheduled to train with the Cascadia club on Thursday.
“[Eddie] is fine,” Schmid said. “They both say they feel pretty good, but we’ll see how they feel tomorrow…. I don’t think the [U.S. Soccer trainer] classified it as a concussion. I think they said more right now it’s just a sore next, and Eddie said he felt fine today.”
In other Sounders injury news, reports indicate that Seattle defender/midfielder Brad Evans’ status is up in the air for Friday’s match due to a sprained calf and that midfielder Shalrie Joseph will miss the match due to a sprained knee.
Real Salt Lake will take on Seattle for the third and final time this regular season on Friday, facing off against the Sounders in an absolutely crucial Western Conference battle at 8:00 p.m. MT (NBC Sports Network) at CenturyLink Field.
RSL is 2-0-0 against Seattle so far this year, getting goals from Robbie Findley and Luis Gil to topple the Sounders 2-1 at Rio Tinto Stadium on March 30 and notching strikes from Kyle Beckerman and Findley to power past the Cascadia side 2-0 at home on June 22.
Check out highlights from both of RSL's 2013 wins over Seattle below:
March 30 - RSL 2-1 Seattle
June 22 - RSL 2-0 Seattle
Real Salt Lake rookie forward Devon Sandoval participated in MLSsoccer.com's #SuperDraftReunion Google+ hangout on Thursday, joining rookie New England defender Andrew Farrell and first-year Colorado midfielder Dillon Powers and forward DeShorn Brown in a video chat hosted by Josh Whisenhunt.
Check out the entire hangout above.