New York Red Bulls
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.
It's always difficult to take too much away from a preseason match without making profound leaps of logic, but two goals in the first five minutes of play certainly says something. Real Salt Lake came racing out of the gates and, while New York was unprepared, quickly put two goals in the back of the net before the Red Bulls fought back to tie 2-2. The factors that shaped the game are numerous, but let's focus on three of them.
RSL's two quick goals surely had something to do with the speed of the players involved, but the playmaking efforts of rookie midfielder John Stertzer and midfielder David Viana created quick opportunities. Viana's pass for the second goal was particularly sublime. The efforts of Viana were made slightly less effective as New York pushed further forward, with the midfield area becoming increasingly clogged. RSL's primary areas of safe possession shifted further back the pitch, leaving less room for midfielders to move the ball around the pitch.
You could almost see the cogs moving in Real Salt Lake's less-than-cohesive first-half back line: Carlos Salcedo and Aaron Maund worked well together, Lovel Palmer stayed back and kept things tidy on the left, and Josh Saunders made some fantastic stops when necessary. Rather than pushing forward, the defense looked to retain the ball rather safely. It's important they do that, but it did make for an incomplete showing.
The defending for the first goal conceded — a corner finished by former RSL defender Jamison Olave — was unorganized, though, while a failure to deal with a cross saw the second goal hammered in.
Plata's speed and acceleration
As important as the playmaking was for RSL's two goals, equally important was the speed of thought and speed of motion involved. Joao Plata, vital in both, showed not top pace over distance as one might see in a breakaway, but top acceleration in tight areas. This gave him a distinct advantage in pulling away from defenders, drifting wide in the box, and firing home. He had one goal and nearly had another, in part because of his speed.
Veteran heads shine through
When RSL's lineup switched over to a more widely experienced group, the match was drawn at 2-2 — that didn't change. But what did shift was the approach: Real Salt Lake went from being on the back foot to controlling play, from stopping chances to creating them.
It's difficult to definitively say whether this change in play was entirely down to the lineup shift for Real Salt Lake, given the half saw wholesale changes for New York, but it certainly can't have hurt. Real Salt Lake nearly instantly started looking like the creative, dominant team again — even if a few chances went begging and things didn't quite fire on all cylinders.
TUCSON, Ariz. - Real Salt Lake will kick off its FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup schedule on Wednesday night, taking on the New York Red Bulls at 7:00 p.m. MT at Kino Veterans Stadium. The match is the second in a Wednesday Desert Diamond Cup doubleheader, with Seatttle and New England scheduled to face off in the early game. Both matches will be streamed live on MLSsoccer.com.
The game against New York isn't the only thing on the plate for Real Salt Lake on Wednesday. The Claret-and-Cobalt will also train this morning, with Head Coach Jason Kreis set to run the reserves for Wednesday's match through a light training session beginning at 10:30 a.m. MT. The starting lineup for Wednesday's match will not participate in the morning training session.
In other news, Real Salt Lake captain Kyle Beckerman re-joined the team late on Tuesday night, flying to Tucson after spending Feb. 10-12 in New York for the 2013 MLS Media Tour. Every MLS team sent at least one player to New York for the media tour. Five players, including RSL's Alvaro Saborio, were on a Spanish-language Media Tour in Miami from Feb. 9-11.
Balchan in camp
Real Salt Lake brought in defender Rich Balchan for a trial on Tuesday. The 12th overall pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft, Balchan was released by Columbus this offseason after spending two years with the Crew.
Interestingly, the 24-year-old made his professional debut in the first leg of RSL's CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal series against Columbus on Feb. 22, 2011. The Indiana University product trialed with Chicago earlier this preseason.