Real Salt Lake will look to continue its unbeaten start to the season on Saturday, travelling to Seattle to face the Sounders at 2:00 pm. MT at CenturyLink Field.
Here are a few storylines to watch ahead of Saturday’s clash:
Will RSL break the all-time record for longest unbeaten start to a season?
If Real Salt Lake produces a result on Saturday, the Claret-and-Cobalt will enter the MLS record books, breaking the record for longest unbeaten streak to start a season at 13 games. RSL tied the all-time record last Saturday, earning a 0-0 draw against FC Dallas to join the 1996 and 2010 LA Galaxy and 2000 Kansas City Wizards atop the record books.
RSL Head Coach Jeff Cassar will also be looking to take sole possession of a MLS record on Saturday. Cassar is currently tied with 1996 LA Head Coach Lothar Osiander for longest unbeaten streak to start a managerial career at 12 games. A result at Seattle on Saturday would give Cassar the record on his own.
First-place on the line in battle between top two teams in MLS
It’s early days yet, but Saturday’s match could have a significant impact on the 2014 Western Conference and Supporters’ Shield races. Seattle currently sits atop both tables with 26 points, two points ahead of second-place RSL, which has a game in hand on the Sounders. With the way things are shaping up in MLS, all three matches between these two sides figure to be crucial for the playoff race, with Saturday’s contest the first test.
With both teams suffering major absences due to the World Cup, whose depth will shine?
RSL and Seattle will both be missing key players on Saturday due to international absences and injuries. Saturday’s contest will be the third straight match that RSL will be without Captain Kyle Beckerman and goalkeeper Nick Rimando and the third straight contest that Seattle will be missing leading goal scorer Clint Dempsey and young right back DeAndre Yedlin. All four players have been named to U.S. Manager Jurgen Klinsmann’s final 23-man World Cup roster and will be heading to Brazil next month.
RSL has also been without striker Alvaro Saborio for its last two matches. Saborio was with the Costa Rican national team in World Cup preparation camp before suffering a broken fifth metatarsal in his right foot on Thursday. The injury will keep Saborio out for the next 3-4 months.
Plata doubtful for Saturday
RSL forward Joao Plata has been on fire for the Claret-and-Cobalt this season, scoring six goals (tied with Saborio for the team lead) and notching three assists in nine appearances this year. Unfortunately for RSL, Plata might not have a chance to showcase his skills at Seattle on Saturday after injuring his left hamstring in last week’s match against FC Dallas. Plata – who missed three games earlier this year with an injury to the same hamstring – is doubtful for Saturday’s contest. RSL Head Coach Jeff Cassar will have forwards Devon Sandoval, Olmes Garcia and Robbie Findley to choose from to start on Saturday. All three have yet to find the back of the net for the Claret-and-Cobalt this year.
Real Salt Lake will learn its fourth round U.S. Open Cup opponent tonight, as the NASL’s Atlanta Silverbacks and the NPSL’s Chattanooga FC will meet in the tournament’s third round, with the winner advancing to take on RSL next month.
If second-division Atlanta scores a win at Chattanooga, RSL will travel to face the Silverbacks in Georgia on June 14. If fourth-tier Chattanooga notches the upset, RSL will play at CFC on June 18. The winner of RSL’s fourth round game will play in the fifth round on June 24. On Friday, RSL will learn a scenario regarding a potential site and opponent for the fifth round.
Tonight’s match between Atlanta and Chattanooga will be streamed live online at 5:30 p.m. MT. Click here to watch.
Real Salt Lake Captain Kyle Beckerman did not feature in the U.S.’s 2-0 win over Azerbaijan on Tuesday night, with U.S. Manager Jurgen Klinsmann opting to play Jermaine Jones all 90 minutes at the base of the USMNT’s midfield diamond.
Klinsmann seemed to think highly of Jones’ performance in the U.S.’s rather listless win, praising the German-American midfielder in his postgame press conference.
“Jermaine has played throughout years different roles, maybe as an eight, meaning a little bit higher up, similar to Michael Bradley today,” Klinsmann said. “If we play a diamond like we did then it’s really important that he stays there and protects our two center backs, builds a triangle with them.”
“With his passing technique he can open up and switch a game right away, though today it was very difficult because he couldn’t hit any high balls [due to the wind]. But he understood that role. He said ‘Oh, I’ve played that I don’t know how many times, it’s not a big deal.’ And the way he recovers balls and is physical with the opponent is just one of his strengths that we hopefully see in Brazil, as well.”
Beckerman, of course, knows the base of the diamond position better than anyone on the U.S. roster, spending the last eight seasons playing the holding role for Real Salt Lake. He played as the holder in a diamond midfield for the U.S. in its 2-2 draw against Mexico on April 2, a role that seemed to allow Michael Bradley to advance further up the field than he did on Tuesday night while playing with Jones.
We’ll see if Beckerman gets a chance to start in any of the U.S.’s remaining tune-up matches ahead of the World Cup. The Americans will play three friendlies before opening Group G action against Ghana on June 16, taking on Turkey in New York on Sunday, facing Nigeria in Jacksonville on June 7 and playing Belgium in a closed-door match in Brazil on June 12.
The latest edition of ABC 4's Crossbar Challenge dropped on Real Sports Live on Sunday night, with Dunny taking on the always-intense Cole Grossman on the heels of his start against Colorado and ahead of his start in Saturday's draw with FC Dallas.
Check out the extended, Director's cut of this week's Crossbar Challenge above. Don't have 27 minutes? Watch the shorter version here.
Real Salt Lake will look to stay unbeaten on the 2014 season on Saturday, hosting FC Dallas at 7:30 p.m. MT at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Here are a few storylines to watch ahead of Saturday’s match:
Can RSL tie the all-time record for longest unbeaten start to a season?
With a result on Saturday, RSL can move its unbeaten streak to 12 games in 2014. Should the Claret-and-Cobalt pick up a result, they’d tie the 1996 and 2010 LA Galaxy and 2000 Kansas City Wizards for the longest unbeaten streak to start a season in MLS history. It should be noted that all three of those teams had much better records through 12 games than RSL will, with the ’96 Galaxy posting a 12-0-0 mark in MLS’ shootout era and the 2010 Galaxy and 2000 Wizards both posting a 10-0-2 record.
Can Cassar continue his rise up the record books?
Real Salt Lake Head Coach Jeff Cassar could also make a bit of history on Saturday night, as a RSL result would tie him with 1996 LA Head Coach Lothar Osiander for the longest unbeaten streak to start a MLS managing career at 12 games. Sadly, Cassar can’t touch Osiander’s record through 12 games – the Galaxy’s inaugural coach was 12-0-0 in 1996.
Cassar faces off against former team
Saturday’s match will be a reunion of sorts for Cassar, who played for Dallas from 1996-97 and 2003-2006 and served as an assistant coach for the Hoops for the first half of the 2007 season before moving to RSL in May of that year. Cassar was hampered by injuries and served as a backup at times in Dallas, playing just 33 MLS matches in his six years in Texas.
Former teammates Cassar and Pareja set for matchup
Cassar and FC Dallas Head Coach Oscar Pareja’s relationship goes way back, with the two playing together in Dallas from 2003-2005, before Pareja retired to become an FCD assistant. Pareja spent the last two years as head coach in Colorado before moving this offseason to Dallas, where he played and coached from 1998-2011. The former Colombian international started his FCD tenure brightly but his side has fallen off of late, losing five of its last six matches.
Will Morales stay hot?
RSL maestro Javier Morales has been red hot recently, scoring four goals and adding two assists in the Claret-and-Cobalt’s last two matches. He’ll look to continue that recent success Saturday night against FCD, against whom he has three goals and six assists in 11 career regular season matches.
What you might not know is that Beckerman’s and Rimando’s call-ups mark the third-straight time that RSL has put at least one player on the U.S. Men’s National Team’s World Cup squad. That’s right: RSL has put a player on the USMNT’s World Cup squad in all three World Cups that the club has existed for.
In 2006, RSL sent defender Eddie Pope to Germany with the U.S. In 2010, it was forward Robbie Findley that made the trip, heading to South Africa for the Americans’ run to the Round of 16. Both players featured for the U.S. at the World Cup, with Pope starting two of the U.S.’s three games in 2006 and Findley getting the nod in three of the U.S.’s four contests in 2010.
RSL is one of just two clubs to put a player on the U.S. team for each of the last three World Cups. The only other? LA Galaxy, which has sent a player to the USMNT in each of the five World Cups it has been around for.
RSL is one of just three teams to put a player on the USMNT’s World Cup roster for every World Cup of the club’s existence, joining LA and the defunct Tampa Bay Mutiny, which put a player on the 1998 U.S. World Cup roster before folding after the 2001 MLS season.
U.S. Manager Jurgen Klinsmann decided to leave Landon Donovan off the USMNT's World Cup roster. He explains it above.
Real Salt Lake registered its first ever win in Texas last summer, when the team overcame the absence of four key players due to international duty to win 3-0 at FC Dallas on July 13, 2013.
Despite playing without Gold Cup participants Captain Kyle Beckerman, goalkeeper Nick Rimando, forward Alvaro Saborio and defender Tony Beltran, RSL still romped over FCD, getting a spectacular one goal, two assist performance from midfielder Javier Morales and tallies from Ned Grabavoy and Olmes Garcia to beat Dallas 3-0. The win was RSL’s 100th in regular season play and the team’s first in 23 matches in the Lone Star State. The match also marked Jeff Attinella’s debut, with the then-third-string ‘keeper coming on for an injured Josh Saunders, who suffered a torn ACL in the game.
RSL will again be without Beckerman, Rimando and Saborio this Saturday, when the Claret-and-Cobalt will host FC Dallas at 7:30 p.m. MT at Rio Tinto Stadium. Check out the highlights of last July’s win before Saturday’s match, and let’s hope for a similar result this weekend.