New York Red Bulls
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
Real Salt Lake’s Supporters’ Shield and Western Conference hopes got a big boost on Wednesday night, with West rivals Seattle losing to Vancouver, Colorado falling at San Jose and Supporters’ Shield foe Kansas City drawing at Houston to keep the Claret-and-Cobalt in the thick of both races.
Vancouver did RSL a major solid by beating Seattle 4-1, with 18-year-old forward Kekuta Manneh notching a hat trick to help the ‘Caps stun the Sounders at CenturyLink Field. The result keeps RSL in first in the West, one point ahead of Seattle, which now has only one game in hand on the Claret-and-Cobalt. The Sounders will make up that match on Sunday, when they’ll take on Cascadia rival Portland Timbers at JELD-WEN Field at 7 p.m. MT on ESPN.
— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) October 10, 2013
While San Jose’s win over Colorado prevented RSL from securing a sixth-straight playoff berth on Wednesday night, the result was still pretty good for Jason Kreis and Co. The Rapids loss keeps Colorado – which is four points behind RSL – off of the Claret-and-Cobalt’s back, making the prospect of securing an all-important top-three seed in the West that much easier.
RSL would’ve preferred a Houston win over Kansas City, but Wednesday’s scoreless draw between the two sides at BBVA Compass Stadium isn’t all bad. Hard-charging Sporting is now dead even with RSL, with both sides posting a 15-10-7 record through 32 games.
Here’s how the big picture looks for RSL following Wednesday’s games:
- RSL needs two points from its two remaining matches (i.e., one win or two draws) to clinch a playoff spot. A San Jose loss or tie or a Colorado loss in either of those clubs' two remaining matches would also lock up a playoff berth for the Claret-and-Cobalt. RSL’s next chance to clinch a playoff berth will come on Oct. 19, when a win at Portland would secure a postseason spot for the club.
- With 52 points through 32 games, the Claret-and-Cobalt sits in first-place in the West, one point ahead of Seattle, which has a game in hand on the Utah side.
- RSL is tied with Sporting Kansas City for second-place in the Supporters’ Shield standings, one point behind the New York Red Bulls for the top spot. RSL, SKC and New York have all played 32 games, while Seattle and Portland – which are two and three points behind New York, respectively – have both played 31 games.
- Real Salt Lake is tied for third with Kansas City in the points per game standings. New York leads the league with 1.66 points per game, Seattle is in second with 1.65 and RSL and SKC are in third with 1.63.
- Pending results in Sunday’s Portland-Seattle contest and LA’s home game against Montreal on Oct. 16, RSL could potentially clinch a top-two seed in the West with a win at Portland on Oct. 19.
It’s setting up to be a wild last month. Buckle up.
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.
Despite getting three goals from Alvaro Saborio, Real Salt Lake lost in stoppage time for the second consecutive match on Saturday, falling 4-3 at the New York Red Bulls.
Here are a few interesting numbers from Saturday’s match:
Real Salt Lake forward Alvaro Saborio scored three goals on Saturday, completing his third career MLS hat trick with a fantastic goal in the 82nd minute. After Saturday’s performance, Saborio is now first in MLS among players with more than 207 minutes played with 0.85 goals per 90 minutes.
Saborio has seven goals on only thirteen shots on target this year, good for an insane scoring percentage of 53.8 percent.
Real Salt Lake was whistled for 28 total fouls on Saturday, the team’s highest total of the season. The previous high for the club was 17 fouls committed in the June 1 match against the San Jose Earthquakes.
New York Red Bulls midfielder Dax McCarty scored the game-winning goal in the 94th minute of play, marking the second consecutive match where RSL has give up a go-ahead goal in stoppage time.
Real Salt Lake forward Joao Plata’s well-timed pass – resulting in Saborio’s third goal of the match – marked Plata’s sixth assist of the season. Plata is now tied for seventh in the league in assists.
With 6 shots on goal against New York on Saturday, the Claret-and-Cobalt increased their average shots on goal to 5.5 per game, tops in the league. The Montreal Impact are a distant second, at 5.25 shots on goal per game – an overall gap of 16 shots on target.
Despite having lost consecutive matches, Real Salt Lake maintains the best goal differential in the league, with a differential of +12.
For the second consecutive week, a match featuring Real Salt Lake resulted in a total of seven yellow cards. Saturday’s match also marked the second straight match where an RSL player has been shown a yellow card within the first five minutes of play.
With the completion of the Gold Cup, the Claret-and-Cobalt no longer be without the services of goalkeeper Nick Rimando, midfielder Kyle Beckerman and defender Tony Beltran, giving the team zero players out on international duty. Due to a red card suspension, however, Beltran will miss the Aug. 3 match at the Colorado Rapids.
Real Salt Lake will look to bounce back from last weekend’s tough loss to Sporting Kansas City this Saturday, when it will take on the New York Red Bulls at 5:00 p.m. MT on ABC 4 at Red Bull Arena.
Here are a few storylines to watch ahead of Saturday’s contest:
RSL v, Jamison Olave, Fabian Espindola and Jonny Steele
Saturday’s match will pit the Claret-and-Cobalt against former RSL men Jamison Olave, Fabian Espindola and Jonny Steele. Olave and Espindola were dealt to New York this offseason in the same December trade, while Steele signed with the Red Bulls after RSL declined to pick up his option. The trio spent a combined 12 seasons with the Claret-and-Cobalt, with Olave and Espindola playing huge roles on the 2009 MLS Cup winning side and on the team that advanced to the final of the 2011 CONCACAF Champions League.
Return of Sabo
Star forward Alvaro Saborio will be available to make his return to the RSL lineup this weekend after playing just twice since April 20 due to a combination of international call-ups and injury. Saborio was most recently with the Costa Rican national team for the CONCACAF Gold Cup, re-joining RSL earlier this week after Los Ticos were eliminated by Honduras in the tournament’s quarterfinals on Sunday.
Real Salt Lake faces another top Eastern Conference team
Saturday’s match is RSL’s fourth-consecutive against a team in playoff position, and third time this month that it will face a top Eastern Conference side after taking on Philadelphia and Kansas City earlier in July. The Red Bulls currently sit in third-place in the East with 32 points from a 9-7-5 record.
A backline without Beltran and Wingert
Saturday’s game will mark the first-time in 74 games across all competitions that RSL will play without both Tony Beltran and Chris Wingert. Beltran is unavailable while with the U.S. national team for Gold Cup duty, while Wingert is out while serving the first game of a two game suspension.
Getting back on track
The loss Saturday night against Sporting Kansas City was Real Salt Lake’s first in 12 matches across all competitions. The last loss, prior to Saturday, was a 3-2 loss against the Montreal Impact on May 11 in Montreal.
Real Salt Lake will face off against former Claret-and-Cobalt players Fabian Espindola, Jamison Olave and Jonny Steele for the first time this Saturday, when RSL will take on the trio's New York Red Bulls at 5:00 p.m. MT at Red Bull Arena on ABC 4.
RSL Head Coach Jason Kreis, defender Nat Borchers and midfielder Ned Grabavoy have already shared their thoughts on going up against the former RSL men. On Thursday, Espindola and Steele spoke to NewYorkRedBulls.com about facing off against their former team.
"It's going to be special," Espindola said. "I know that they're a great team. They're going to play and be a tough team to beat."
"Everything about Real Salt Lake was good for me," he continued. "I have a lot of good things from my time there and I'm grateful for that team."
Steele - who made his MLS debut as a member of RSL against the Red Bulls on March 17, 2012 - was also complimentary of the Claret-and-Cobalt.
"Salt Lake is a small franchise but they do things right and things are professional," he said. "All around they've got great coaches and they've been succesful."
Espindola is particularly looking forward to the on-field battle between Olave and RSL maestro Javier Morales on Saturday.
"I was just joking with [Olave] about how I'm going to laugh when I watch him and [Javier Morales] fighting," he said. "That's going to be funny.