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Real Salt Lake

01 July 12:49 pm

Real Salt Lake won again on Saturday, getting a first half goal from midfielder Yordany Alvarez to beat Toronto FC 1-0 at BMO Field.

Here are some interesting numbers from the match:

1

The number one had plenty of significance for RSL on Saturday. The win was RSL’s first in 11 tries in Canada across all competitions; Alvarez’s goal was his first in MLS play for the Claret-and-Cobalt and the team’s first MLS goal at BMO Field; defender Aaron Maund turned in a solid performance in his first MLS start for RSL; and the victory keeps RSL in first-place in both the Supporters’ Shield and Western Conference races.

7

Saturday’s win was RSL’s seventh-straight across all competitions. The Claret-and-Cobalt is 9-0-1 in its last 10 matches across all comps and 10-1-1 in its last 12 games in all competitions since the start of May. RSL has outscored its opponents 31-11 since the start of May, good for a +20 goal differential.

99

This weekend’s victory was RSL’s 99th in MLS regular season play. The Claret-and-Cobalt is now 99-103-68 in regular season action. The Utah side is 68-43-35 in regular season action since the start of its MLS Cup winning season of 2009.

105

Saturday’s shutout was the 105th of RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando’s career. Rimando – who has six league shutouts this year – needs seven more shutouts to pull even with Kevin Hartman’s 112 for the all-time MLS clean-sheet lead.

372

Saturday’s clean-sheet was the Claret-and-Cobalt’s third-consecutive in all competitions. RSL hasn’t given up a goal in 372 minutes, last conceding in the 18th minute of its 120-minute 5-2 U.S. Open Cup fourth-round win over the Charleston Battery on June 12.

11

By scoring on Saturday, Alvarez became the 11th RSL player to score in MLS play this year, surpassing the 10 players that scored for the Claret-and-Cobalt in league action in 2012. Counting Open Cup play, RSL has had 13 players score goals this season.

24

Maund became the 24th RSL player to start a league game this year on Saturday. Considering the Claret-and-Cobalt’s first-place standing, that’s a remarkable show of depth. RSL started 23 different players in league action in all of last season. 

28 June 1:49 pm

Real Salt Lake returns to MLS action on Saturday, when it will take on Toronto FC at BMO Field. Saturday's match will kickoff at 11:00 a.m., but - due to FCC regulations - will be shown on CW30 on a tape delay, with the television broadcast kicking off at 12:00 p.m. 

Here are a few interesting storylines to watch ahead of Saturday's match: 

On the road again

Saturday's game will be RSL's first road contest since its 4-1 win at Chivas USA on May 19. The Claret-and-Cobalt just finished a highly succesful seven-game home stand with Wednesday night's 3-0 US Open Cup Quarterfinal win over the NASL's Carolina RailHawks. RSL was dominant during its extended run in Sandy, posting a 6-0-1 record in MLS and USOC play. The Utah side has been good on the road this year, earning a solid away mark of 3-4-1 and winning two of its last three games away from the friendly confines of Rio Tinto Stadium.

No, Canada

The Claret-and-Cobalt has always struggled in Canada, going winless in its 10 matches north of the border. RSL is 0-1-1 in the Great White North this season, tying Vancouver Whitecaps FC 1-1 at BC Place on April 13 and losing a 3-2 heartbreaker at the Montreal Impact on May 11. RSL is 0-3-2 in MLS play at Toronto FC and has never scored a goal in regular season play at BMO Field. 

Lineup questions

Saturday's match is RSL's third in a stretch of four games in 12 days. Given the short turnaround and the long trip the team took following Wednesday's Open Cup victory - not to mention the absences of Alvaro Saborio and Luis Gil due to international duty - it wouldn't be a stretch to see a bit of a different lineup take the field on Saturday. We'll see what Head Coach Jason Kreis rolls out at BMO Field, but don't be surprised if we see a few new faces in the First XI. 

Bye, bye Beckerman, Beltran and Rimando 

RSL Captain Kyle Beckerman, defender Tony Beltran and goalkeeper Nick Rimando will all leave RSL for U.S. national team Gold Cup duty immediately following Saturday's game. The trio could be gone a while; the U.S. is expected to make a deep run in the Gold Cup, which doesn't end until July 28. 

28 June 1:13 pm

Toronto FC, like Carolina Railhawks, are probably going to sit back a bit tomorrow. And by a bit, I certainly mean a lot: At this point, a point for Toronto FC would be a favorable result. As a result, the two matches could take on a similar look from the outset.

Obviously Toronto FC and Carolina Railhawks are sides with rather different makeups, and there's little doubt that Canadian side will field their best possible team. But with some real deficiencies from Toronto this season (and in previous seasons, perhaps a bit sadly), they may well approach things in a similar fashion.

How'd it work against Carolina?

Lower-league opposition, as said so often, can be tricky to handle. Evidence of that can be seen in the Railhawks, who, even with a weakened side, kept RSL from gaining too much advantage. The chances weren't flowing, and it was through a bit of magic — and a perceptive strike from Tony Beltran — that the scoring opened up. An unmarked player out wide cutting inside is a valuable tool against a bunkering opposition, as it disrupts man-marking efforts and can often allow an open look at goal. It just takes that extra bit of sharpness to finish the goal — something Beltran showed in droves — and RSL can take the front foot.

Carrying form forward

Real Salt Lake are a side to be feared (or at least fretted about), such is the resplendency of their recent form, but that so rarely means much once the match kicks off. The onus, then, is on Jason Kreis's side to push on with things and to ignore form in favor of attention to detail. While that's fine from a conceptual point, that's not quite specific enough to practice.

Onus up front

When the opposition deploys with a defense-first strategy in mind, it's vital that the attacking players stretch play as much as possible. With Alvaro Saborio out, having again left for international duty, the forwards will be of a somewhat quicker make — perhaps a Findley-Plata pairing would be in order, as both would be capable of quickly stretching play on both axes. This shouldn't be undervalued, even if no striker scores tomorrow: It's about the chances that emerge from other players capitalizing on the stretched nature of the defense.

regular contributor to RealSaltLake.com, Matt Montgomery runs the SB Nation blog RSL Soapbox. Follow Matt on Twitter @TheCrossbarRSL

27 June 12:52 pm

It just wasn't meant to be for Luis Gil and the U.S. U-20's against Ghana on Thursday. 

Gil put in a yeoman's effort, but it wasn't enough as the U.S. defense was overrun by the Ghanaian attack in a 4-1 loss to the Black Satellites. The loss ended the FIFA U-20 World Cup for the Americans, who will leave Turkey after a pair of 4-1 losses to Spain and Ghana and a 1-1 draw against France. 

Gil will now make the long journey back to Real Salt Lake. He is expected to be available for Wednesday's 8:00 p.m. kick against the Philadelphia Union at Rio Tinto Stadium. 

27 June 12:22 pm

Real Salt Lake advanced to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Semifinal on Wednesday night, derailing the Carolina RailHawks 3-0 in the USOC Quarters at Rio Tinto Stadium.

Here are a few interesting numbers from the match:

100

Wednesday’s victory was the 100th in all competitions of RSL Head Coach Jason Kreis’s career. The Claret-and-Cobalt boss is now 83-65-50 in MLS regular season play, 4-5-5 in the MLS Cup Playoffs, 8-4-4 in the CONCACAF Champions League and 5-5-1 in the U.S. Open Cup.

2

Real Salt Lake fullbacks Tony Beltran and Chris Wingert both scored on Wednesday night, with Beltran putting the Claret-and-Cobalt on top late in the first half before Wingert doubled RSL’s advantage early in the second 45. Despite combining for over 30,000 minutes in the RSL careers, Wingert and Beltran only have two professional goals each. Wingert has one MLS goal and one Open Cup goal while Beltran has two Open Cup strikes.  

6

Wednesday’s win was RSL’s sixth-consecutive victory, breaking the club record five-game winning streaks accomplished in 2010 and 2011. RSL has scored multiple goals in all six wins in the streak, outscoring its opponents by a 19-5 margin. The Claret-and-Cobalt is on an eight-game unbeaten run across all comps, last losing on May 11 at Montreal.

58

RSL forward Alvaro Saborio scored in the 85th minute on Wednesday night. The tally was his first-ever goal in Open Cup play and his 58th in 105 games across all competitions. RSL is now 32-5-7 in games in which Saborio scores.

10,287

Wednesday’s crowd of 10,287 was the fifth-highest attended game in Open Cup Quarterfinal history and the largest crowd of Wednesday’s four games. During the eight games at Rio Tinto Stadium between May 25 and June 26, nearly 136,000 fans passed through the turnstiles for RSL games in MLS (3-0-1, 75,250 fans), Open Cup (3-0-0, 39,500); and U.S. Men’s National Team (1-0-0, 20,250).  

27 June 10:06 am

Real Salt Lake midfielder Luis Gil and the U.S. Under-20 national team have it all to play for on Thursday. 

The U-20's take on Ghana in the FIFA U-20 World Cup Group A finale at 11:00 a.m. on ESPNU and WatchESPN. A win would give the U.S. four points in the Group Stage, making them a virtual lock to qualify for the Knockout Stage. A tie and things become a bit muddied, with the U.S. - which would have only two points - needing major help from teams in Group E and Group F to qualify for the Knockout Stage as one of four third-place teams. The U.S. would be eliminated from the tournament with a loss. If you're so inclined, U.S. Soccer has a slightly more detailed breakdown here

Gil has played every minute of the U-20 World Cup so far, scoring a goal in the U.S.'s 4-1 loss against Spain last Friday and setting up the U.S.'s strike in its 1-1 draw against France on Monday. 

27 June 10:06 am

Real Salt Lake midfielder Luis Gil and the U.S. Under-20 national team have it all to play for on Thursday. 

The U-20's take on Ghana in the FIFA U-20 World Cup Group A finale at 11:00 a.m. on ESPNU and WatchESPN. A win would give the U.S. four points in the Group Stage, making them a virtual lock to qualify for the Knockout Stage. A tie and things become a bit muddied, with the U.S. - which would have only two points - needing major help from teams in Group E and Group F to qualify for the Knockout Stage as one of four third-place teams. The U.S. would be eliminated from the tournament with a loss. If you're so inclined, U.S. Soccer has a slightly more detailed breakdown here

Gil has played every minute of the U-20 World Cup so far, scoring a goal in the U.S.'s 4-1 loss against Spain last Friday and setting up the U.S.'s strike in its 1-1 draw against France on Monday. 

26 June 11:36 am

Real Salt Lake will look to advance one step closer to the 2013 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup trophy on Wednesday night, when it will host a Quarterfinal match against the NASL’s Carolina RailHawks at 7:30 p.m. at Rio Tinto Stadium.

Here are a few interesting storylines ahead of Wednesday’s match:

RSL looking to make history

RSL has never advanced to the Open Cup Semifinals. The Claret-and-Cobalt made the Quarterfinals in 2006 and 2011, losing 2-0 to the Colorado Rapids in 2006 and bowing out 2-0 to FC Dallas in the 2011 tournament.

A win on Wednesday would put RSL in the Open Cup Semifinal for the first time in club history, moving the team one step closer to the title and the CONCACAF Champions League berth that goes along with it.

Kreis gunning for win No. 100

RSL Head Coach Jason Kreis is looking for win No. 100 on Wednesday night. The Claret-and-Cobalt boss has 99 wins in all competitions since retiring as a player to take over the team in May 2007, posing a 83-65-50 record in the MLS regular season, a 4-5-5 record in the MLS Cup Playoffs, a 8-4-4 record in the CONCACAF Champions League and a 4-5-1 mark in the U.S. Open Cup.

Sandoval aiming for Open Cup milestone

Though he’s only played in two Open Cup games in his career, Real Salt Lake rookie forward Devon Sandoval could very well become the Claret-and-Cobalt’s all-time leading USOC scorer on Wednesday night.

The second-round pick in this year’s draft has three goals in RSL’s first two Open Cup matches, scoring once in the team’s May 28 win over the Atlanta Silverbacks and adding two in the team’s June 12 victory over the Charleston Battery. He’s tied for the all-time RSL lead in Open Cup goals with Captain Kyle Beckerman, Kreis and former RSL midfielder and current Head Scout Andy Williams.

Lengthy home stand coming to a close

Wednesday’s match is RSL’s seventh and final of its massive home stand. The Claret-and-Cobalt has dominated during its extended run at Rio Tinto Stadium, posting a 5-0-1 record in MLS and Open Cup play since the home stand began on May 25 against the Chicago Fire.

RSL will hit the road this Saturday, when it will take on Eastern Conference foe Toronto FC at BMO Field at 11:00 a.m. Due to FCC regulations, CW30 will broadcast the game on an hour-long tape delay beginning at 12:00 p.m. The Claret-and-Cobalt will return home following the Toronto match, taking on the Philadelphia Union in a fireworks game at 8:00 p.m. next Wednesday, July 3. 

25 June 5:14 pm

Real Salt Lake faces the NASL leading Carolina RailHawks Wednesday in the Quarterfinals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Luckily for the Claret-and-Cobalt, midfielder Enzo Martinez played for Carolina earlier this year while on a short term loan, appearing in three games and totaling 74 minutes played, and had the scoop on the RailHawks.

Here is how the former North Carolina Tar Heel felt about the second-division side:

On what it was like to play for Carolina:

It was good. I got playing time, which I liked. I enjoyed all of the players. [They] Were really good guys. I played with like five or six of them from before so they are a good team, hard-working team, a humble team so it’ll be a good one.”

On Carolina forward Brian Shriver, who leads NASL with eight goals:

“He’s a great player. He’s a true number nine. When he gets an opportunity, he puts it in the back of the net. He’s got a lot of speed. I think both of their forwards combine well and know each other really well. I know Shriver from North Carolina so I think he’s a great player.”

On what fans can expect from the RailHawks at Rio Tinto Stadium on Wednesday night:

“I think they’ll be more open. When I played with them, even when we played away, they didn’t sit back. They tried to score goals and that’s what they do right. So I don’t think they’ll be sitting back too much. Maybe they’ll be smart about how they press, but not like Charleston.”

25 June 2:30 pm

Continuing a fine U.S. Open Cup run which has surely frustrated and delighted Jason Kreis in equal measure, Real Salt Lake faces yet another side from the lower leagues in the form of Carolina Railhawks on Wednesday at Rio Tinto Stadium. With both preceding matches in this run-up having taken 120 minutes to run their course, Kreis will be looking to ensure his side wins in regulation.

But how can it be done? It's simple, really. Stretch the play but don't get stretched yourself. And insofar as it is simple, it is also a difficult task, and one which requires a concerted effort to really pull together in a cohesive manner, as it invariably involves a slew of moving parts.

Let's start with some base-level assumptions: Carolina Railhawks will come in looking to win. That's an easy one. Perhaps the most tried-and-true method — and one that has nearly felled us twice in this competition this season alone — is to leave defenders and midfielders in retreated positions while one or (if they're feeling adventurous) two attackers attempt to capitalize on gaps in the defense. Let's operate under this assumption, as it seems the most likely.

The first question that must be answered: How can Real Salt Lake avoid getting caught in possession? The chances will likely spawn from Railhawks clearances or long passes from the defensive third, and they'll probably come after a good chance for an RSL attacker is scuppered at the last minute. It's when we'll be most eager to win the ball back (and naturally so) and we're more likely to commit somebody forward in search of regaining possession. And why not? Their defenders will almost certainly be on the back leg. But this creates a difficult scenario: If one or two players commit errors, the odds of a goal against skyrocket. If Carlos Salcedo or Nat Borchers makes an error there, the ball is free for the taking and even a moderately quick striker will be in on goal in no time. It's easy to simply say something like "Just don't make mistakes, boys," and hope that it works, but we all know (I would hope) that it's not so simple.

One solution, then: When the ball is lost in a good attacking area, retain confidence that you will soon be creating another and allow the opposition a little bit of harmless possession before regaining the ball; instead of pressing even harder than before, drop into more reasonable positions such that the defense is better supported. It's an exercise in prudence, and it's one we have sometimes suffered from. It's a difficult ask when you're among the best in the league at what you do — press hard in the midfield, gain possession, and create chances when the opposition isn't quite ready.

So now that we've quite obviously solved that unenviable task (sarcasm included for free here), let's move on to the other difficult question to answer: How can Real Salt Lake score goals without intense pressure in the attacking third to force errors? When the midfield and defense merge into one gelatinous (but remarkably solid) blob, the metaphorical parking of the bus makes goal creation intensely difficult.

The answer is simple, but the execution is certainly less so. The strikers, who are more likely to be attracting the attention of the central defenders, should be trading moments of stretching play laterally, drawing defenders wide or forcing a zonal shift. The former option allows more runs into the middle from midfielders; the latter allows unprotected full backs to get into play more readily. With one striker remaining in a central position and the other wide, a late run from anyone deeper than Javier Morales could lead to a tantalizing opportunity.