"It's a trophy. I want to win that. I want to win a trophy this year for our club, for our fans, for everyone. So why not put a bunch of emphasis on it? Why not make our stand in the Open Cup?"
Real Salt Lake is ready for tomorrow night's USOC Quarterfinal. Are you?
Good news RSL fans!
— Real Salt Lake (@RealSaltLake) June 24, 2013
Come out on Wednesday night, eat a free hot dog and help RSL get one step closer to the Open Cup trophy and a return to the CONCACAF Champions League. Get your tickets here.
If you're anything like me, when things in the soccer world are going well, life just seems to be a little bit better. It's hard not to leave Rio Tinto Stadium with a smile when your team earns three well-deserved points. If it seems like your post-game walk to the car has often been a happy one lately, that's because it has - teams that call Rio Tinto Stadium home have been extraordinarily successful as of late. Consider the following:
- RSL is on fire in MLS play right now. Since the beginning of May, the Claret-and-Cobalt have collected a league-best 16 points in just 7 matches. Along the way they've found the back of the net a whopping 17 times. At home they've taken 10 of a possible 12 points with a goal differential of +7.
- While all that MLS action was going down, RSL also managed to find success in U.S. Open Cup play. May/June saw two home contests, both won by RSL, both against lower-division foes, though it wasn't easy as both games went into extra time before Salt Lake could secure the victories. As in MLS play, goals have been plentiful for Real in the USOC as they've managed to score eight times in those two matches, with five of those goals coming in 60 total minutes of extra time played.
- The weather wasn't all that was hot on Tuesday night as the U.S. Men's National Team continued their torrid run of form in dispatching Honduras 1-0 in the CONCACAF Hexagonal. The U.S. men started their streak of good results on June 2 with a thumping of world soccer power Germany 4-3 in a final tuneup before three straight World Cup Qualifiers. After that they took their show on the road in Jamaica where a dramatic stoppage-time goal by Brad Evans gave the Red, White, and Blue three crucial road points. All eyes then focused on Seattle where the Nats easily handled Panama with perhaps their best showing in the last few years, setting the stage for this week's victory at Rio Tinto. That win was the U.S.'s fourth straight, giving the team all nine possible points in World Cup qualifying in June. With six games down and four to go, the U.S. is now in command of The Hex from the top of the table, two points ahead of Costa Rica and five points clear of Mexico. It's not over until it's over, but thanks to the current hot streak we all got to be a part of, the U.S. is a virtual lock for the 2014 World Cup.
It's interesting to note that the U.S. men and Real Salt Lake have found their recent success by different means. For the U.S. team, their success has come from stability - for the first time in a long time, lineups and player personnel decisions were consistent. For RSL, their success has come from versatility - with the crowded schedule, injuries, and international absences, most of the roster has seen minutes in MLS and/or U.S. Open Cup play. For the U.S. team, their scoring load has been shouldered by Jozy Altidore who has scored in all four of the States' recent wins, while for RSL, their scoring load has been spread far and wide - nine different players have scored since the start of May. This goes to show that what two teams need to be successful are not necessarily the same. It also illustrates the difference between a cluster of three games followed by a long break (where consistency is needed) vs. the constant grind of a nine-month MLS season (where flexibility is needed).
If you've missed out on these red-hot teams in their various competitions, don't fret - both clubs will be back at Rio Tinto shortly.
- RSL has three MLS home games in the next month, starting this Saturday with Seattle paying a visit. This is a great chance for RSL to continue their strong run in league play while climbing the table and also putting some distance between them and a Western Conference foe.
- Real will be contesting their U.S. Open Cup Quarterfinal match at home next Wednesday against Carolina. If you've never given the USOC a chance, this would be a good time to see what it's all about. We've seen two good matches already, but the U.S. Open Cup gets even more compelling starting now as teams realize that they're only a couple of wins away from a CONCACAF Champions League berth. You will see playoff-atmosphere soccer in this one, especially considering the winner hosts a USOC Semifinal against Portland or Dallas.
- The U.S. men will be back to Rio Tinto on July 13 for a Gold Cup tilt against Cuba. Granted, this won't be the strongest team the U.S. is capable of fielding, but it gives us a look at some up-and-coming players on the national scene. Nothing is for certain but this game could have a couple RSL players featuring prominently while the likes of Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey get a well-deserved vacation. Plus it's still high-level international soccer; if you haven't experienced international soccer, it has a unique vibe to it. Everyone needs to be a part of something like this at least once.
We've been blessed with lots of great soccer - and great teams - at Rio Tinto Stadium recently, and it's not over yet. See you out here!
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.
Lower-league opponents in the U.S. are nearly always a tricky bag, and Charleston Battery further exemplified this rule. Compact, decisive, and quick, the Battery gave everyone a good scare when they scored the first two goals of the match. The question, then: How did Real Salt Lake adjust for their comeback?
Everyone got better. This is easy to say and hard to do, and it doesn't say much of anything from a tactical perspective. That said, it's difficult to execute any tactical decisions when you're looking at the worst you've been in some time. Everybody stepped up their quality in the second half.
A center back was removed. With the impetus on Real Salt Lake to get back into the affair, and with the Battery quite rightly sitting very deep and hoping to fend off an undoubtedly inevitable onslaught, two defenders almost seemed extraneous. Making his first club appearance — an admittedly poor one at that — Aaron Maund stepped off shortly into the second half and Jason Kreis switched the formation.
It took a quintessential attacking 3-4-3 to really break down the Battery defense. Joao Plata and Robbie Findley occupied the attacking flanks, with Devon Sandoval serving as a target man and grabbing two headed goals along the way. Javier Morales and Ned Grabavoy served as the more-attacking midfielders (they really did all attack) and Khari Stephenson and Kyle Beckerman sat deeper and more centrally. Chris Wingert tucked in slightly centrally to position himself better for runs down the middle, and Tony Beltran bombed forward from right back to stretch play.
We stretched play superbly. When we face a hyper-defensive side — and again, there's not an ounce of blame in that for Charleston in their strategy — we have historically struggled to break them down. With Findley and Plata wide to stretch play laterally and Devon Sandoval to stretch along the vertical axis, it became difficult for Charleston to ignore any of those three players up top. Given their proclivity for staying in central positions, this opened room for Plata and Findley to receive clever passes from the midfield and cut inside. Even when they weren't involved in goalscoring movement like that, both players were important to the fightback.
Real Salt Lake advanced to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Quarterfinals on Wednesday night, scoring five unanswered goals to beat the Charleston Battery 5-2 at Rio Tinto Stadium in the tournament's fourth-round.
Here are a few interesting numbers from the match:
Wednesday’s offensive output of five goals marked the fourth-straight match across all competitions that saw RSL score at least three goals. The Claret-and-Cobalt has now scored three or more goals in five of its last six matches across all competitions dating back to May 19.
RSL has now scored 25 goals in its last nine matches across all competitions. That’s good for 2.78 goals per game. That’s absurd.
Real Salt Lake is now 7-1-1 in its last nine games across all competitions dating back to the team’s 2-0 win over Vancouver Whitecaps FC on May 4. The Claret-and-Cobalt has scored multiple goals in eight of those nine games and outscored its opponents 25-11 during that span.
Real Salt Lake forward Devon Sandoval – who scored two goals on Wednesday night – now has three Open Cup goals in just two career games in the tournament. The rookie second-rounder is tied for the all-time RSL lead in Open Cup goals with Head Coach Jason Kreis, Head Scout Andy Williams and Captain Kyle Beckerman.
RSL will return to the Open Cup on Wednesday, June 26, when it will host the NASL Carolina RailHawks in the tournament’s Quarterfinals at 7:30 p.m. at Rio Tinto Stadium. This is just the third-time in Claret-and-Cobalt history that the team has advanced to the Open Cup Quarters – RSL lost at this stage in the 2006 and 2011 tournament. Tickets to the June 26 game against Carolina – which are not included in the RSL Season Ticket Package – are for sale at the Rio Tinto Stadium box office, online or over the phone at 801-727-2700.
Real Salt Lake's continued run in the US Open Cup presents its own tactical problems, from the need for rotation to questions about how both the defense and attack will deal with a certain-to-be-resolute Charleston Battery defense.
There are two well-balanced opinions that play into a match like this: In one, the impetus on Kreis should be about rotation and ensuring squad fitness; in the other, the impetus is the opposite, and he should roll out a squad best-fitted to win. The point of balance lies somewhere between the two, but with a weekend off for once, it's difficult to argue if veterans play all 90 (and hopefully a positive 90 and not a negative 90 or a nail-biting 120) against Charleston Battery.
But some rotation will happen naturally. Sebastian Velasquez is a sure-starter in the midfield, and he may just take the place of Luis Gil with no other general changes to the setup. Devon Sandoval might get another chance to start up top after a fine performance in the last round of the Cup. Carlos Salcedo and Kwame Watson-Siriboe, too, may get another chance to partner, allowing Nat Borchers a rest.
Push and Pull
Real Salt Lake has been incredibly successful in moments of transition this season (when, of course, the transition if rom defense to attack) and one might attribute a number of our goals to that fact. But this becomes difficult to manage effectively when the opposition plays withdrawn, and our mode of scoring has to shift. With a tricky midfielder or two — Velasquez and the ever-effective Javier Morales — Charleston's midfield and defense will be kept busy; this leaves important spaces for forwards to run into.
Devon Sandoval could be incredibly effective against this level of side, as well. He's still adjusting to MLS play (though remarkably well, it must be said) but he has a golden opportunity to get in the heads of the Battery defense. With midfield runs occupying some attention, the remainder might be shifted to him, leaving a free forward. His uncanny ability to retain the ball and make a safe if unexciting pass can sometimes be an effect of tentative play, but it's this sort of passing and movement that will have the biggest impact on a less-able defense. He'll push and pull defenders out of position — it's important that he makes the right decisions in that regard.
How many times have we conceded an unnecessary goal at some point in the match simply because it looked like our collective minds were elsewhere? We saw it in the last round of the Open Cup: We can't go around conceding cheap goals and risking a loss or even another overtime excursion. With bodies bursting forward in efforts to score and unlock what may be a staunch defense, the match becomes more difficult to manage.
It'll be vital that, when everyone is forward, the three or so defenders that have stayed back are in good positions to recover and can communicate danger to their teammates. Otherwise, we may be looking at another match where we're on the cusp of something great, but mistakes see us caught out.
Real Salt Lake doesn't have much history in the U.S. Open Cup, but it has had a few good moments over the years.
We've put together a couple of the Claret-and-Cobalt's "Signature Moments" in the Open Cup ahead of Wednesday's fourth-round match between RSL and the Charleston Battery at Rio Tinto Stadium.
May 28, 2013 - RSL beats the Atlanta Silverbacks 3-2 in dramatic fashion in the 2013 third-round.
June 28, 2011 - Highlights from RSL's 2-0 win over the Wilmington Hammerheads in the fourth-round of the 2011 Open Cup. Defender Tony Beltran and former RSL man Jean Alexandre scored for the Claret-and-Cobalt; the goal is the only one of Beltran's career.
Way, way back on July 29, 2006, Real Salt Lake converted a pair of penalty kicks in second half stoppage time to beat D.C. United 2-1 at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
The D.C. player who conceded both penalties? John Wilson, now a defender with the USL Pro Charleston Battery.
Oh, and the color commentator on the broadcast is none other than RSL GM Garth Lagerwey, D.C.'s TV analyst from 2001-2007.
RSL will host the Battery in the fourth-round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup at 7:30 p.m. at Rio Tinto Stadium on Wednesday. Click here to get your tickets.
It took a little longer than usual, but Real Salt Lake managed to win its Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup third round match on Tuesday night, beating NASL side the Atlanta Silverbacks 3-2 after extra time at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Here are a few interesting numbers from Tuesday's match:
Tuesday night’s game was Real Salt Lake’s fifth Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match that went into extra time. The Claret-and-Cobalt played one Open Cup extra time game in 2005, another in 2006 and two in 2010.
9,644 hearty souls braved some nasty weather to attend Tuesday’s match, chanting and singing throughout the 120 minutes of rain, wind and soccer to help propel RSL to victory. Tickets to the June 12 Open Cup match against Charleston are on sale now and can be purchased at the Rio Tinto Stadium box office and over the phone at 801-727-2700. Tickets will be available for purchase online in the near future.
Real Salt Lake Captain Kyle Beckerman played on the outside of the Claret-and-Cobalt’s midfield diamond on Tuesday night for the first time since the 2008 season, when he lined up in front of then-RSL captain Carey Talley. Yordany Alvarez played in Beckerman’s familiar holding midfield spot on Tuesday.
Real Salt Lake midfielder Khari Stephenson’s 101st minute goal – the eventual game-winner – was his first in a RSL uniform. Stephenson joined the Claret-and-Cobalt this offseason after spending the previous two-and-a-half years with San Jose.
Tuesday’s win advanced Real Salt Lake to the fourth round of the Open Cup. The Claret-and-Cobalt will host USL Pro side Charleston Battery in its fourth round match at Rio Tinto Stadium at 7:30 p.m. on June 12. The Battery beat the San Jose Earthquakes – which RSL will take on at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday night – 1-0 in South Carolina on Tuesday to advance to the fourth round.
The Battery has a long history of Open Cup success, finishing as runners-up to D.C. United in 2008, making the semifinals in 1999 and 2004 and reaching the quarters in 2007, 2009 and 2010. The Battery has beaten MLS teams nine times in its Open Cup history.