Real Salt Lake
It’s always good to see RSL players getting out in the community and brightening some days.
A couple of Claret-and-Cobalt players were at it this week, with goalkeeper Nick Rimando paying a special visit to a big fan on Monday and RSL midfielder Sebastian Velasquez visiting Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City on Wednesday.
Good on both guys – and all the other members of the RSL Family out there doing good – for giving some of their time to make a difference.
The last defeat the San Jose Earthquakes have suffered at home came at the hands – or feet – of Real Salt Lake when the clubs last met at Buck Shaw Stadium in the 2013 MLS season opener. Ever since the Claret-and-Cobalt downed the Bay Area side 2-0 on March 3, 2013, the Goonies have gone on a 20-game unbeaten streak at home. San Jose kept the streak alive this past Tuesday, when the Earthquakes managed a late draw with Toluca in their CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal series.
The opening win at San Jose in last year’s season opener provided a taste of what was to come for the Claret-and-Cobalt in 2013, as the club went on to qualify for the postseason for the sixth-consecutive year, advance to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final, become Western Conference Champions and make it to 2013 MLS Cup.
The San Jose match saw great performances from both RSL veterans and its new crop of young players. Claret-and-Cobalt forward Alvaro Saborio notched a brace with both goals scored in the second half, his 14th career brace. Newcomer forward Joao Plata – who made his RSL debut that night – assisted on Saborio’s first goal. Captain Kyle Beckerman – who made his 300th career regular season appearance – and wonder kid midfielder Luis Gil assisted on the second.
Plata entered the match in the 65th minute and made an immediate impact, providing the game-winning assist six minutes later. Plata collected a pass from defender Abdoulie Mansally near the midfield stripe, turning and chipping a fantastic through ball behind the San Jose back four. Saborio was quick to read the play, sprinting past an Earthquake player and running onto the ball just inside the box before burying his 15-yard half-volley inside the near post with his first touch.
Saborio went on to double the lead in the 85th minute with Gil starting the play, playing a square ball to Beckerman in the middle of San Jose’s defensive third. Beckerman then hit a no-look pass to Saborio in the left side of the box, setting up the Costa Rican international for a left-footed smash that found the inside of the far post.
Last year’s season opening match was also memorable for veteran RSL ‘keeper Nick Rimando, who earned his 100th regular season career shutout that night. Rimando, who currently has 109 shutouts, is only three away from tying the all-time MLS record held by retired goalkeeper Kevin Hartman with 112.
When the clubs meet again at Buck Shaw Stadium this Saturday, Real Salt Lake will be looking to snap that 20-game unbeaten streak at home and put on a performance that will hopefully continue to set the tone for what’s to come in 2014.
Re-live RSL’s fourth-consecutive season opening win above.
MLSsoccer.com has been running a fun video series over the last month or so, quizzing players around the league on their knowledge of MLS trivia.
The group hit RSL while the team was in Tucson for the Desert Diamond Cup preseason tournament, quizzing Nat Borchers, Nick Rimando, Kyle Beckerman, Luis Gil and Jordan Allen on a variety of topics. Borchers did particularly well on the MLS leading goalscorer quiz, dominating the topic - in alphabetical order, no less - to correctly name 17 of the league's 20 all-time top scorers.
Give the video a watch above and check out Rimando's effort here.
Update: MLSsoccer.com has published Beckerman's quiz attempt. Watch it here.
The San Jose Earthquakes got a decent result in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal series against Toluca on Tuesday night, getting a 95th minute goal from forward Alan Gordon to tie the Mexican side 1-1 at Buck Shaw Stadium.
The Quakes generated the majority of the chances on Tuesday, but couldn’t capitalize, getting punished when Toluca’s Raul Nava rocketed home an 18-yard volley in the 67th minute to give the visitors a 1-0 lead. Gordon pulled one back for the Quakes at the absolute death, heading home a Shea Salinas set piece to give San Jose hope heading into next Wednesday’s second leg.
Tuesday’s result should be enough for San Jose Head Coach Mark Watson to run out a full lineup for next week’s series finale in Guadalajara. That means that RSL could see a second-choice Quakes lineup when they take on the Bay Area side this Saturday night in San Jose, with Watson possibly choosing to rest some of his regulars with an eye on the second leg against Toluca.
Real Salt Lake has enjoyed a good amount of success in San Jose over the years, compiling a 4-4-1 regular season record at the Quakes. RSL won its last match at San Jose, getting a brace from forward Alvaro Saborio to top San Jose 2-0 in the 2013 MLS season opener.
Real Salt Lake put Saturday’s season opening win over LA to bed on Tuesday, beginning to prepare for this Saturday’s MLS match at San Jose Earthquakes with a workout at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Saturday’s game will be San Jose’s MLS regular season opener, as the Quakes were one of three teams to have a bye on opening weekend. Of course, San Jose had a good reason to take last weekend off, with the team avoiding what would’ve been a tricky bit of schedule congestion ahead of Tuesday’s first leg of its CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal series against Mexican Club Toluca.
San Jose is taking its matchup with Toluca very seriously, and Quakes Head Coach Mark Watson is expected to run out a first-choice lineup for Tuesday’s first leg at Buck Shaw Stadium. Regardless of their attitude, advancing out of the quarters will be a tough ask for the Bay Area side, which will have to get by a Toluca team flying high through two months of the Liga MX Clausura season.
Tuesday’s match could affect how the San Jose lineup looks on Saturday against RSL, with a good result possibly prompting Watson to give some of his starters a breather on Saturday ahead of next Wednesday’s second leg in Toluca. A bad result tonight will likely shift San Jose’s focus back to MLS play, and would probably prod Watson to put out a full team on Saturday against the Claret-and-Cobalt.
Long story short, RSL fans: Pull for San Jose against Toluca tonight. Not only will you be showing solidarity with a fellow MLS club, but you’ll also be rooting for RSL on Saturday, if only indirectly.
San Jose will take on Toluca at 8:00 p.m. MT tonight on Fox Sports 2. Brian Dunseth – everyone’s favorite color commentator – will be on the call with excellent play-by-play man John Strong.
ABC 4’s Real Sports Live was in LA this weekend for RSL’s season opener, covering the Claret-and-Cobalt’s 1-0 victory at the Galaxy from front to back with plenty of postgame content.
Real Sports Live’s Bill Riley and Brian Dunseth sat down with new RSL Head Coach Jeff Cassar, goalkeeper Nick Rimando and defender Aaron Maund after the game, speaking with all three about their solid individual performances and the team’s impressive win.
Sunday’s Real Sports Live also featured a couple more pieces of Real Salt Lake content, with ABC 4’s Wesley Ruff sitting down for an in-studio interview with RSL President Bill Manning and Cassar and Dunny’s Crossbar Challenge airing on the show.
Real Sports Live’s postgame interviews with Cassar, Rimando and Maund are below.
Cassar and Rimando:
Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando was at it again on Saturday night, playing out of his mind to preserve a 1-0 season opening win for RSL at LA Galaxy.
Rimando made nine saves on Saturday, several of them fantastic. Nicky saved his best stop for last, saving the Claret-and-Cobalt's win with a penalty kick stop on Galaxy forward Robbie Keane after RSL defender Tony Beltran was controversially whistled for a foul in the box on LA substitute Rob Friend.
"In that moment, it just felt [like] somebody wanted to take the game away a little bit," Rimando said after the game. "I knew [Keane] likes to stutter step and I waited as long as I could. [I] went to my right, reacted and was lucky to make the save."
Saturday's PK stop means that opponents have only put 41 of 61 attempted regular season PK's past Rimando. His 32.8 percent success rate on penalties is the best such rate in league history. The veteran backstop is now only three shutouts away from tying Kevin Hartman for the all-time MLS record with 112 clean sheets.
Check out Rimando's PK stop above.
With Real Salt Lake opening their season against LA Galaxy tomorrow, we're facing once again one of the difficult sides in MLS to play against. With some attentive play and effective possession, we can neutralize the threat and create options for ourselves at the same time.
Narrow at the back
LA Galaxy are not, I think, a side that will hit you with incredible crosses consistently; they are, however, a side that can always spot any gaps and spaces between the center backs and the full backs. Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan both excel at stepping into the channels, though the way in which they operate differs somewhat.
If we are to prevent those deadly two from capitalizing on any space, we have to remain somewhat narrow at the back. This should not be entirely too problematic, though. It was something we could pinpoint in several preseason matches: the full backs tuck in when defending and push out wide in attack. Exaggerating this a bit could help our chances.
Soak up pressure
It's difficult to say how LA Galaxy will come out of the gates, but with the first match in front of their home crowd, they'll likely see some attacking impetus behind them. If we can adjust our game to soak up some of the inevitable pressure that comes our way, we can avoid getting caught out when a fast Galaxy side comes streaking at us.
This doesn't mean surrendering possession by any stretch, but it does mean we'll want to shape our approach to regaining it. We can't have defenders pushing too far, as we'll get caught — this is something we saw in previous matches against the Galaxy.
This approach does, however, require more than a modicum of attentiveness and preparedness from the midfield: This necessitates moving as a unit and understanding where pockets of space have and will emerge. This also means we must watch any runs further inside our area — if we let someone like Robbie Keane move into a more open position, we won't fare well.
Hit them on the counter
We should be a fine counterattacking side but too often we lose sight of that. While the focus is and should continue to be on effective play through possession, we have the right tools for effective play on the break. With Olmes Garcia and Joao Plata, we have quick forwards who can find themselves in great positions; in Kyle Beckerman and Ned Grabavoy, we have midfielders who can hit anybody with a pass; in Luis Gil and Javier Morales, we have attacking players who can really create opportunities.
By soaking up pressure when we don't have possession, too, we encourage Galaxy to push further into our half in an attempt to break our stance and find space to create. While there is some inherent risk in this, it allows us to take advantage of the plentiful options at our disposal.
ABC 4 kicks off this season's Crossbar Challenge series with Dunny taking on newly appointed RSL Head Coach Jeff Cassar. Cassar opens up about his early playing days in MLS, helping build the RSL ethos and what it's like taking the top job.
Real Salt Lake will play its first-ever regular season game under Cassar tomorrow, taking on the LA Galaxy at 8:30 p.m. MT at StubHub Center. The match will be broadcast live on ABC 4, which will begin its coverage with a 30-minute pregame show at 8:00 p.m. MT.