New York Red Bulls
Real Salt Lake is a veteran-laden team with loads of playoff experience. That much is known.
But just how much more experienced in the rigors of the MLS Cup Playoffs than any other team in MLS was on display in the first legs of the Western Conference Semifinal Series that were played over the weekend.
After play in the first legs, Nick Rimando’s 32 career postseason matches was more than the 11 starters from FC Dallas (30), the Columbus Crew (30) and the New England Revolution (29), even after Dallas had played two playoff games this year.
Of the eight Conference Semifinalists, no team comes close to touching the 171 total playoff games from Real Salt Lake’s starting 11 against the Galaxy. LA was the nearest competition with 130 career playoff matches, followed by D.C. United with 94 and Seattle Sounders FC with 87.
Real Salt Lake’s back six alone – Rimando, Tony Beltran, Chris Schuler, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert and Kyle Beckmeran – combine for 127 career postseason matches. That is significantly more than any other team’s starting 11 outside of the Galaxy.
Below is the full chart of the playoff experience for the starting lineups from the Western Conference semifinal first leg matches.
Real Salt Lake – 171
LA Galaxy – 130
D.C. United – 94
Seattle Sounders FC – 87
New York Red Bulls – 78
FC Dallas – 30
Columbus Crew – 30
New England Revolution – 29
Real Salt Lake head coach Jeff Cassar had a pretty emotional, and yet refined, celebration after forward Joao Plata scored the go-ahead goal in RSL’s 1-1 draw with New York Red Bulls on Wednesday. MLS kindly put it into GIF format and put it up on their site and it has since been making the internet rounds. Check out the awesome moment below.
Let’s hope there will be more of those on Saturday when RSL heads to Colorado to take on the Rapids at 7:00 p.m. MT on ABC 4.
Real Salt Lake’s performance this week will determine the possibility of roster movements
Real Salt Lake will close out its three-game homestand on Wednesday v. NY and then travel to Colorado to take on the Rapids on Saturday, in what will be one of the Claret-and-Cobalt’s most critical weeks this year. RSL GM Garth Lagerwey has said that RSL’s performances against NY and Colorado will determine if the club will look to make any roster moves before the transfer window closes on Aug. 6. With RSL’s all-time leading scorer forward Alvaro Saborio out with a broken foot, and international absences throughout the month on June, the Claret-and-Cobalt has struggled in front of net. RSL has gone 2-4-3 in its last nine matches, four of which RSL has been shutout.
RSL’s offense gained some life last week against Montreal, with substitute forward Olmes Garcia notching a brace for his first goals of 2014 and his first in over a year. Garcia was the first forward other than Saborio and Joao Plata to find the back of the net this year.
If the Claret-and-Cobalt can continue to tally the goals and get positive results this week, then the roster will most likely remain untouched. Lagerwey emphasized that the priority is to keep the well-cultivated Real Salt Lake locker room unchanged, but how RSL plays this week might affect how the club plans to head into the final stretch of the 2014 season.
Former RSL defender Jamison Olave returns to Rio Tinto Stadium for the first time
Former Real Salt Lake defender Jamison Olave will make his return to Rio Tinto Stadium on Wednesday night for the first time since being traded to the New York Red Bulls at the end of 2012. The Colombian was traded along with fellow fan favorites midfielder Will Johnson and forward Fabian Espindola in a move triggered by salary cap restraints. Olave spent five years with the Claret-and-Cobalt, including winning MLS Cup in 2009, and became one of the principal figures of the club.
One of the best defenders in the league, Olave met his former club last year for the first time since being traded at Red Bull Arena on July 27, 2013 – a heartbreaking 4-3 loss for the Claret-and-Cobalt. RSL will be looking to enact revenge on Wednesday night, but the club and fans will surely have a warm welcome for the former RSL-man.
RSL looks to stay undefeated against New York Red Bulls at home
Real Salt Lake has been quite successful against New York when playing at home in Utah, going undefeated against the Red Bulls in the Beehive state with a 4-0-4 record. RSL is also currently riding a four-game win streak against NY at home, all of which have been shutouts at Rio Tinto Stadium. The Claret-and-Cobalt recorded a 2-0 victory on Oct. 14, 2009, a 1-0 win on Sept. 4, 2010, a 3-0 victory on Aug. 6, 2011 and a 2-0 win in the clubs’ last meeting at Rio Tinto Stadium on March 17, 2012.
Nick Rimando in pursuit of the all-time MLS shutout record
Real Salt Lake veteran goalkeeper Nick Rimando is one clean sheet away from tying retired goalkeeper Kevin Hartman for the all-time MLS shutout record with 112. If the 35-year-old ties the record this weekend, Rimando will have as many cleans sheets as Hartman in 57-less games. Hartman achieved 112 shutouts through 416 games played; Rimando has currently played 358 MLS regular season games. The California native will likely surpass the record this year, with 14 MLS matches left to play in the 2014 regular season.
Will Wednesday’s game be Thierry Henry’s last match in Utah?
Wednesday’s matchup at Rio Tinto Stadium might be New York Red Bulls star and former Arsenal legend Thierry Henry’s last trip to Utah. The former French international is out of contract with New York at the end of the year and his uncertain future is the current talk of the town. Red Bulls head of global soccer, Gerard Houllier, remarked earlier this week that he thinks the 37-year-old will retire at the end of the season. No one knows for sure what lies ahead for Henry, but the high-profile striker’s influence on the league has been paramount – both on the field and off.
Henry has always held RSL with high regard, praising the Claret-and-Cobalt’s style of play on multiple occasions. If it is in fact his last match at Rio Tinto Stadium, let’s hope it’s a good one – with Real Salt Lake validating his admiration of course.
It won’t be hard for RSL fans to remember the last time the Claret-and-Cobalt and New York Red Bulls last met – almost a year ago to the day – in one of the most thrilling and heartbreaking matches of 2013. The two sides met at Red Bull Arena on July 27, 2013 with the home side getting off to a perfect start, taking the lead through Australian international MF Tim Cahill in the 11th minute and then doubling its lead after former Red Bulls and RSL FW Fabian Espindola converted from the spot 12 minutes later. Despite being down 2-0 on the road, the Claret-and-Cobalt went on to stage an amazing comeback led by RSL’s all-time leading scorer, FW Alvaro Saborio. The Costa Rican international went on to put in one of his best performances scoring three unanswered goals (45’, 80’, 82’) to give RSL the improbable lead. But RSL was unable to finish out the match, conceding two goals in the 89th and 94th minutes to fall 3-4 on the road.
Unfortunately, RSL will be without Saborio on Wednesday’s rematch due to injury, but last year’s match was a showcase of RSL’s grit, determination and team-wide talent. Let’s hope the Claret-and-Cobalt can put on another show and enact some revenge at home on Wednesday night in a nationally televised match on ESPN 2.
Arguably the most accomplished player in the history of the league, New York Red Bulls Designated Player Thierry Henry has long been a fan of Real Salt Lake.
Henry has professed his admiration for RSL before, telling media ahead of RSL’s meeting against New York in 2012 that the Claret-and-Cobalt are – with LA – “the best team in this league, by a distance” and that they “outplay you, they cross, they score, what are you going to do? You have to accept it.”
He was at it again this preseason, praising RSL to Fox Soccer’s Kyle McCarthy at MLS’s Media and Marketing tour last month.
“Salt Lake is the best team in the league in terms of playing and passing the ball,” Henry told McCarthy, who used the quote on Tuesday in his RSL season preview at Fox Soccer blog Inside MLS. “Kansas City won last year, but if you watched the game and you watched Salt Lake, they can play. The lost [Jamison] Olave, they lost [Fabian] Espindola, they lost Will Johnson. Everybody was like, hmm, they will struggle. They had an identity. They didn’t struggle. And you can say they were unfortunate to lose the final.”
That’s some pretty high praise from a man who’s been around the game a bit. McCarthy has a little more color from Henry, and plenty of quotes from RSL Captain Kyle Beckerman in his RSL season preview on Inside MLS. The piece is very well done, and definitely worth a read. Check it out here.
Everyone should have their eyes glued to their TVs this weekend as the MLS regular-season comes to a close with clubs still vying for playoff spots and the Supporters’ Shield. This weekend’s results hold major implications as to whether or not RSL will win the Supporters’ Shield or the Western Conference and who the Claret-and-Cobalt will face in the Western Conference Semifinals.
Real Salt Lake will be bystanders this weekend as the Claret-and-Cobalt finished its regular-season with Wednesday’s 2-1 win over Chivas USA. Wednesday’s win clinched a top-two West seed for RSL, meaning the Claret-and-Cobalt will play away in the first leg of the Western Conference Semifinals on Nov. 2 or Nov. 3 before returning home to Rio Tinto Stadium for the West Semi second leg on Nov. 6 or Nov. 7. Real Salt Lake could still play any of the West playoff teams of Portland, LA Galaxy, Seattle Sounders FC or Colorado Rapids in the West Semifinals.
RSL currently sits in first-place in the Supporters’ Shield race and Western Conference with a total of 56 points, 16 wins and 57 goals scored.
With so much at stake this weekend, here is a list of all the key matches that affect RSL and who you should be rooting for:
Philadelphia Union vs. Sporting Kansas City – 1:00 p.m. MT on NBC Sports Network
The Claret-and-Cobalt will need Sporting Kansas City to lose or draw at PPL Park in order for RSL’s Supporters’ Shield hopes to stay alive. Sporting Kansas City currently sits in second-place in the Eastern Conference with a total of 55 points, one point behind the New York Red Bulls. If Kansas City draws Philadelphia and ends up tied with RSL on points and wins, the Claret-and-Cobalt would place ahead based on the goals for tiebreaker, granted Kansas City doesn’t score 12 goals. The Philadelphia Union is facing a must-win situation in order to keep their postseason aspiration alive. This one’s easy: root for the Union.
Chivas USA vs. Portland Timbers – 8:30 p.m. MT on MLS Live
The Portland Timbers are the only team that can push RSL out of first-place in the Western Conference. A win for the Timbers at the StubHub Center would guarantee Caleb Porter’s squad first-place in the Western Conference and put an end to the Claret-and-Cobalt’s chance at the Supporters’ Shield. Portland currently has a total of 54 points, meaning a draw against Chivas USA would be enough to keep RSL first in the Western Conference. A Chivas USA win or draw might seem unlikely with their current record of 6-19-8, but everyone loves to root for the underdog. Let’s hope the Goats can end the season on a higher note and produce a result at home.
New York Red Bulls vs. Chicago Fire – 3:00 p.m. MT on UniMas
This one won’t impact the Western Conference, but it does hold huge implications in the battle for the Supporters’ Shield. Real Salt Lake sits atop the league table narrowly leading New York by the goals for tiebreaker with 57 goals to New York’s 53. Any result by New York against Chicago will officially end the Claret-and-Cobalt’s run for the Supporters’ Shield. Chicago enters the match desperate for a win in order to keep its own playoff hopes alive. Pull for Mike Magee to keep his scoring form and work some magic at Red Bull Arena.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. Colorado Rapids – 6:00 p.m. MT on MLS Live
This match won’t affect RSL’s standing in the Western Conference but it can affect who RSL will face in the Western Conference Semifinals. Colorado will need a draw or a win in order to officially clinch a playoff berth. If RSL finishes in first-place it will take on the winner of the fourth-place vs. fifth-place knockout game. If RSL finishes in second-place, it will face the third-place team in the West. If Colorado does earn a result at Vancouver, its playoff placement won’t be determined until after the final MLS regular-season game between Seattle and LA. Colorado would need a win and for LA and Seattle to draw in order to clinch third-place which would most likely mean a Rocky Mountain Cup semifinal series, assuming RSL finishes in second-place. A RSL vs. Colorado playoff game would be the first of its kind. Who to root for? Follow your heart.
Seattle Sounders FC vs. LA Galaxy – 7:00 p.m. MT on ESPN
The final match of the MLS regular-season will definitely be an entertaining one with the former MLS champions taking on Western Conference rival Seattle Sounders FC. Seattle is suffering an epic blowout to end its regular-season, losing its last four matches by a combined margin of 12-2. Despite Seattle’s recent run of poor form, they have already clinched a playoff berth. This match will determine whether or not Seattle or LA will avoid the fourth-place vs. fifth-place knockout game. LA and Seattle will want to grab as many points as possible to put as much room between them and the red line. Who to root against? Both.
Every member of the RSL family will have their sights set on Portland this weekend, with the Claret-and-Cobalt set to take on the Timbers in a huge match at JELD-WEN Field at 8:30 p.m. on CW30 on Saturday night.
While Portland is the center of the Real Salt Lake – and, frankly, MLS – universe this weekend, there are plenty of other matches around the league that will affect RSL’s place in the standings. We’ve listed those matches below, along with some info on who you should be pulling for.
Sporting Kansas City v. D.C. United – 6:00 p.m. MT on NBC Sports Network
This might be a tad difficult in the wake of D.C.’s win over RSL in the Open Cup Final on Oct. 1, but Claret-and-Cobalt fans should be rooting for United to pull the upset at Sporting Park on Friday night. Kansas City and RSL have identical records, with the Claret-and-Cobalt leading SKC in the Supporters’ Shield standings by virtue of the goals scored tiebreaker. A little breathing room couldn’t hurt, however – pull for Ben Olsen’s squad.
FC Dallas v. Seattle Sounders FC – 12:30 p.m. MT on NBC
All those games in hand didn’t go exactly to plan for Seattle, which has lost its last three matches by a combined margin of 10-2. Despite the recent run of poor for, the Sounders are still just one point behind RSL in the standings, sitting in fourth-place in the Western Conference. Pull for Dallas – which announced on Friday that Head Coach Schellas Hyndman won’t return to his post in 2014 – in this nationally televised contest in Frisco.
Colorado Rapids v. Vancouver Whitecaps FC – 4:00 p.m. MT on Altitude
Pretty simple calculus in this one. Do what you do so well, RSL fans: Root against the Rapids. A Colorado loss or tie would lock up a playoff spot for RSL. Pull for the ‘Caps to get a result on the road.
Houston Dynamo v. New York Red Bulls – 2:00 p.m. MT on UniMas
This one won’t impact the Western Conference race, but it does hold huge implications in the battle for the Supporters’ Shield. New York currently sits atop the league table with 53 points, ahead of Portland by virtue of the wins tiebreaker. If RSL is to have any hope of lifting the Supporters’ Shield this season, the Red Bulls will have to lose or tie one of their final two matches. Both are tough – New York finishes the season at home against what will be a desperate Chicago side – but Houston is a notoriously difficult place to play. Pull for the Dynamo to take all three at BBVA Compass Stadium.
LA Galaxy v. San Jose Earthquakes – 7:00 p.m. MT on ESPN
With San Jose effectively unable to pass the Claret-and-Cobalt in the West standings, pull for the Quakes to topple the Galaxy at the StubHub Center on Sunday. LA is inching up on RSL – just one point behind heading into the weekend – and it would be good for the Utah side if Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane and Co. dropped points to their California rival.
Make sure to tune-in to all of these matches this weekend. All five will be available to watch in Utah, with four on national TV and the fifth – Colorado v. Vancouver – on the Altitude network.
Best of all is that none of the above games conflict with the main event: RSL at Portland. 8:30 p.m. MT. CW30 and MLSsoccer.com as the Stream of the Week.
Real Salt Lake needed the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders FC to tie in order for the Claret-and-Cobalt to remain in first-place in the Western Conference by virtue of the goals scored tiebreaker, and remain in second place in the Supporters’ Shield race. But Portland’s win over Seattle has changed all of that.
With the Timbers’ 1-0 win over Seattle, Real Salt Lake now finds itself in second-place in the West with 52 points, one point behind first-place Portland who leads with 53 points. Seattle is now in third-place with 51 points, one point behind the Claret-and-Cobalt. All three teams are now on even footing with 32 games played by all.
In the Supporters’ Shield race, RSL finds itself in third-place behind the New York Red Bulls and the Portland Timbers. New York leads Portland on the total wins tiebreaker by notching two more wins than the Timbers; both teams are tied with 53 points total.
Sunday’s results now put extra pressure on the Claret-and-Cobalt to record a win against the Portland Timbers when they face each other on Saturday, Oct. 19 at 8:30 p.m. MT at JELD-WEN Field. Saturday’s match will be broadcast live on CW30, ESPN 700 AM and 102.3 La Gran D FM/1600 AM. Real Salt Lake is 1-1-0 against the Portland Timbers in MLS regular season play, and is 2-1-0 this year in all competitions. The last time RSL faced Portland at JELD-WEN Field was on August 21, which ended in a thrilling 3-3 tie. The Claret-and Cobalt have won all their home games against the Timbers this year.
In what has turned out the be one of the tightest playoff races in MLS history, no team in the Western Conference has clinched a playoff berth with two games remaining in the regular season (except LA who have three). A win on Saturday for Real Salt Lake would clinch its sixth-consecutive playoff berth, guaranteeing at least fourth-place in the West. If RSL defeats Portland and Chivas USA on Oct. 23, the Claret-and-Cobalt would win the West.
RSL’s position might become a bit clearer after the LA Galaxy take on the Montreal Impact on Wednesday, Oct. 16 at the StubHub Center at 8:30 p.m. MT. An LA loss would guarantee RSL at least third-place in the West if it takes care of business on Saturday. A win plus a New York Red Bulls loss or tie to the Houston Dynamo on Sunday would allow Real Salt Lake to retake the lead in the Supporters’ Shield race.
What to watch and who to root for:
Wednesday, Oct. 16: LA Galaxy vs. Montreal Impact, 8:30 p.m. MT – Root for Montreal to regain its winning ways
Saturday, Oct. 19: Portland Timbers vs. Real Salt Lake, 8:30 p.m. MT – You know who to root for
Sunday, Oct. 20: Houston Dynamo vs. New York Red Bulls, 2:00 p.m. MT – Let’s hope New York continues its notorious road woes with a loss in Texas