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09 January 10:31 am

With the announcement of Jeff Cassar as Real Salt Lake head coach, we've all waited with baited breath to see what his first move would be. That first move came Wednesday as Cassar named four assistant coaches - Daryl Shore, Craig Waibel, Andy Williams, and Paul Dalglish. Obviously a lot remains to be seen, but on the surface these look like very intelligent hires by Cassar.

Cassar continued Real Salt Lake’s philosophy of having position-specific coaches (think coordinators in American football), finding assistants with professional coaching and playing experience to help out at all four levels of the field.

Daryl Shore (goalkeepers) was a professional goalkeeper for six years, a head coach in the lower leagues, and was goalkeeper coach with the Chicago Fire for 11 years, mentoring several great shot-stoppers while in Chicago. Craig Waibel (defenders) was a solid MLS center back during his 11-year career, best known as a key piece of that great Houston Dynamo era of the mid 2000's. His background should remind RSL fans of past defensive coaches Robin Fraser and C.J. Brown. Andy Williams (midfielders) is likely the most familiar name in the bunch for RSL faithful as he's been involved with the team since the beginning, and he was a pretty good MLS midfielder to boot. Paul Dalglish (strikers) had a long career at forward in England and Scotland before moving to MLS where he won two MLS Cups alongside Waibel in Houston. Since then he's done a stint as an MLS academy coach and had two head coaching gigs in the NASL and USL PDL.

With these hires, Cassar has sent a clear message about his philosophy and vision of RSL. As players, the four assistants fit well into the RSL mold: Down-to-earth, hard-working, team-first guys who were respected and liked within their teams. What these hires tell me is the core principles that have made RSL such a successful small-market team aren't going to change much. The team will continue to be the star, and the chemistry in the locker room will continue to be paramount.

Obviously Jeff Cassar still has a long ways to go toward proving himself, but the assistant coach hires he just made are an excellent first step.

 

06 January 5:18 pm

Four Real Salt Lake Academy products were named last week to a 36-player roster for the U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team’s training camp in Lakewood Ranch, Fla. RSL FW Benji Lopez and DF Jordan Allen, as well as RSL-AZ Academy grad and University of Louisville MF Andrew Brody and current RSL-AZ U-18 player and Stanford University commit MF Corey Baird will all participate in the team’s domestic training camp, which will run from Jan. 3-12.

Lopez, the fourth player to graduate from the RSL-Arizona Academy to the first-team, joined Real Salt Lake on July 17, 2013. The 18-year-old featured for the Real Salt Lake Reserves four times this year, scoring one goal in the Reserves’ 3-2 win over Vancouver Whitecaps FC Reserves on July 16. Lopez began his stint in Casa Grande in the fall of 2011, excelling in the youth setup and helping lead RSL-AZ to strong finishes in both the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons.

Allen signed a Homegrown contract with RSL on Dec. 31, 2013, following the completion of a successful freshman season at the University of Virginia. Allen, 18, played at the Real Salt Lake-Arizona Academy from August 2011-December 2012. The Rochester, N.Y. native was named the U.S. Soccer Developmental Academy Player of the Year, USSDA Western Conference Player of the Year and earned a spot on the USSDA Starting XI Team of the Year for the 2011-2012 season. This past fall, Allen started all 24 of UVA’s matches, helping lead the Cavaliers to the 2013 NCAA College Cup Semifinal. A third-team All-ACC selection, an All-ACC Freshman Team selection and a second-team NSCAA All-South Atlantic Region Team pick, Allen had three goals and a team-high five assists for UVA from his spot in the midfield.

A University of Louisville freshman, Brody was a fixture for the Cardinals last season, playing and starting all 20 games and notching three goals and eight assists. The midfielder helped Louisville advance to the quarterfinal round of the 2013 NCAA College Cup. Brody played for the RSL-Arizona Academy team in 2012 and 2013, participated in last year’s RSL preseason camp and featured three times in 2013 for the Real Salt Lake Reserves.

Currently with the RSL-AZ U-18’s, Baird had been a fixture with the U.S. Under-18 Men’s National Team prior to this U-20 call up. Baird featured in all three matches for the U-18 national team in an international tournament in France last October. Baird will begin his college career next fall at Stanford.

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Three Real Salt Lake-Arizona Academy players were among the 24 players called last week into the U.S. Under-18 Men’s National Team by head coach Javier Perez. RSL-AZ DF Justen Glad, M/F Sebastian Saucedo and GK Christian Herrera were all called up to Perez’s squad, which will train in Lakewood Ranch, Fla. from Jan. 4-11 ahead of next month’s Copa del Atlantico international tournament in the Canary Islands.

The Claret-and-Cobalt’s DF Justen Glad, M/F Sebastian Saucedo and GK Christian Herrera were among twenty-one out of the twenty-four players who currently play for a U.S. Soccer Development Academy. Nine MLS Academies are represented with Real Salt Lake receiving the most call-ups.

Glad, Saucedo and Herrera have guided the RSL U-16 team to a 8-1-1 start through ten league matches. Saucedo leads the team in scoring with eight goals while Herrera has earned seven clean sheets. Glad anchors a backline that has yet to concede a goal at home and has only surrendered four goals all season.

18 December 11:03 am

The Real Salt Lake-Arizona Academy U-16 and U-18 teams have dominated their opposition so far this season and have posted some impressive numbers in the process.

Here are a few interesting numbers from the 10 matches each team has played in the 2013-14 season:

2.50

The U-16 Academy team has the third highest points per game average in the nation for their age group with an average of 2.50. The team has recorded eight wins, one loss and one draw through 10 matches this year and currently sits atop the Southwest Division.

3.6

The U-16 Academy team is currently averaging 3.6 goals per game, which is the best in the nation for their age group and the U-18 group as well.

.4

The U-16 Academy team has a .4 goals against average per game which is the second best in the nation for their age group.

 40

New RSL Academy players have scored 40 percent of all the goals recorded by both squads. The following newcomers have found the back of the net this season: Tate Schmitt, U-16 (5); Corey Baird, U-18 (4); Eric Carbajal, U-18 (4); Niki Jackson, U-18 (4); Fahot Yogol, U-16 (3); Pato Yrizar, U-18 (1); Kris Fourcand, U-16 (1); Daniel Lee U-16 (1); Grant Livingston, U-16 (1).

60

The total number of goals scored by both the U-16 and U-18 Academy teams. Their attack has been very diverse this season with 20 different Academy players finding the back of the net.

11

The total number of clean sheets the U-16 and U-18 Academy teams have recorded. U-16 Academy goalkeeper Christian Herrera has notched seven shutouts and U-18 Academy goalkeeper Luis “Wicho” Barraza has recorded four.

46

The number of players who have made at least one appearance for the U-16 and/or U-18 Academy teams.

13 December 12:02 pm

It's been quite the week for RSL, hasn't it?

First, a trip to Kansas City for MLS Cup, where the team stood toe-to-toe with the Eastern Conference champions at their house in polar conditions for 120 minutes, only to end up going down by the slimmest of margins. About the time the team got home, we hear the words we knew were coming someday but hoped they wouldn't: Our revered head coach, Jason Kreis, is moving on to the next phase of his career in the bright lights of the Big Apple. On top of that, assistant coach C.J. Brown is heading back to Chicago where he is a living legend among Fire faithful. Yes, it's been a trying week for our RSL Family.

But in spite of all that's gone on lately, I have to tell you that I still feel very positive about the future of Real Salt Lake. Just like the final result of MLS Cup somewhat masks what was honestly a very impressive performance by RSL, the news of Jason Kreis' departure somewhat masks the fact that there are still a lot of positives for the organization moving forward. Now I don't want to downplay the importance of Jason Kreis or what a great coach he is; he inspired me personally and professionally and I will miss him more than I can write. But in spite of the loss of such a key figure, there are still many reasons to believe this club will be successful in 2014 and beyond.

  • The technical staff, including the General Manager, is still here. Garth Lagerwey, widely regarded as one of the best GM's in MLS, was a significant force in the transformation of RSL into one of the league's elite and keeping it there. One of the reasons Salt Lake surprised everyone this year is the crop of new players performed much better than the historical average. Pretty much every healthy first-year player contributed in a significant way, and that is almost unheard of in MLS where you can expect a sizable percentage of new players to not pan out. That's a reflection of the hard work done by the technical staff, President Bill Manning, the General Manager, and Head Scout Andy Williams.
  • The team is young, deep, unified, and should return largely intact. Thanks to all the contract work done last offseason, RSL is in a great position from a salary perspective, meaning there won't be a need to offload core players like last year. That doesn't mean all 30 will be back - that's not realistic - but it does mean that next year's team will largely resemble this year's team. With the young guys one year older and vets like Nick Rimando, Kyle Beckerman, and Alvaro Saborio chasing spots on World Cup rosters, I expect RSL 2014 to be as good – or even better – than RSL 2013. Regardless of who takes over the vacant coaching roles, this team figures to make a lot of noise next year.
  • The front office has placed a lot of weight in making sure the new coaching staff preserves the culture that has made RSL so successful. You've heard the sayings: Fantastically together. RSL Family. Fortune favors the bold. Believe. These aren't just flowery statements; they are mottos the club has lived by and used to turn this small-market wonder into a national soccer power. Whoever the new coach is, the expectation will be that the club continues to operate with the same culture that has been the source of the team's success. In other words, I expect the "feel" of RSL going forward will be more similar to the feel of the last few years than different.

No doubt it's been a tough week as we've mourned the loss of MLS Cup as well as our beloved coach, but looking forward to 2014 and beyond, I see plenty of bright days ahead.

11 December 1:11 pm

Real Salt Lake announced on Tuesday night that longtime Head Coach Jason Kreis will not return to the club next season, leaving to take over New York City FC, which will enter MLS as an expansion club in 2015.

Media spoke to several RSL players at the Claret-and-Cobalt’s final availability of the season on Monday night, asking Kyle Beckerman, Tony Beltran and Chris Wingert what it’d be like if Kreis did indeed leave RSL.

All three gave really solid perspective on the situation, offering Kreis well-wishes while emphasizing that the team isn’t going anywhere. With or without Kreis, RSL still has a ton of talent and the team expects to contend for championships again in 2014.

Check out video of their answers above, and a transcript of their quotes below.

To borrow a phrase from Kries, Onwards and Upwards, #RSLFamily.

Captain Kyle Beckerman:

“He’s put in a foundation that we stand for next year and the year after that. It’s just the evolution of that. He’s part of the fabric of this club no matter where he is. I think we’ll continue where he left off, we’ll keep building and keep improving. That’s all we can do. We wish him the best, and really we want to just continue where we left off this year.”

Defender Tony Beltran

“It’s the end of an era of Jason building this club into something grand. It started with Mr. Checketts and Jason and [GM Garth Lagerwey] and they’ve done a fantastic job of shaping this into one of the most elite clubs in the league. That continues now with Mr. Hansen and that may continue forward now without Jason. If that happens we wish him all the luck in the world. He’s a fantastic man, a fantastic leader and that’s what happens with great men, they want new challenges and when presented with that opportunity I imagine that he may take it. If that does happen obviously we’ll be sad to see him go, but we’ll have to look at it as a new challenge ourselves. No longer will we have Jason leading us, I’m sure we’ll have another great man leading us, but it’s up to the players to now live up to things and say ‘Not everything’s just because of him, even though Jay may not be here we can still achieve and we can still do something special.’ That’s what he taught us, and that’s what were here to do.”

Defender Chris Wingert

“Out of respect to him and what he’s meant to this club, it’s going to be very different if he leaves. But does that mean that we can’t still win a championship? No, I think we have a great group here. Of course, anytime you lose a piece of the puzzle that’s that important, it’s going to be hard to replace. The new replacement isn’t going to be the same, but it can still be successful and we saw that from losing some guys last year that we didn’t want to lose. Nobody, none of the players or the staff, wanted to lose guys like [Jamison] Olave and Will Johnson and [Fabian] Espindola, guys of this caliber that meant so much to the organization. But, as you could see, we’re still capable of having a good team. We don’t want Jason to leave, but if he does we’ll be rooting for him elsewhere and happy for him that he’s making the best decision for him and his family.”

09 December 4:41 pm

Real Salt Lake lost MLS Cup 2013 in heartbreaking fashion on Saturday, falling 1-1 (6-7) at Sporting Kansas City in a penalty kick shootout.

Here are a few interesting numbers from Saturday’s match

10

The shootout between RSL and Sporting KC went 10 rounds on Saturday, an MLS Cup record.

3

Real Salt Lake hit the woodwork a MLS Cup record three times in the run of play on Saturday, with Robbie Findley, Kyle Beckerman and Javier Morales all hitting the woodwork during regulation. Counting Lovel Palmer’s penalty kick that bounced off the crossbar and out in the 10th round of the shootout, Real Salt Lake hit the woodwork four times on Saturday.

20

The temperature at kickoff at Sporting Park on Saturday was just 20 degrees Fahrenheit, another MLS Cup record.

21,650

Sporting Park was sold-out on Saturday, with 21,650 fans filling the stadium to capacity. The Real Salt Lake fans in attendance – the club’s entire 1,000 ticket allotment was sold and hundreds more RSL supporters bought tickets on the secondary market – was incredible throughout the match, singing and chanting through the cold, at times outshining the much larger contingent of SKC fans. 

09 December 11:43 am

Saturday's MLS Cup loss at Sporting KC is still raw, and it still hurts. But RSL had plenty of great moments this season - one of which was forward Alvaro Saborio's opening goal on Saturday. 

MLSsoccer.com did a very cool re-package of Sabo's strike, slowing it down and showing it from multiple angles. Give it a watch above. 

07 December 10:06 am

With Real Salt Lake on the verge of the MLS Cup, taking stock of our tactical position is elucidating. Without further ado, how can RSL ensure a match in which they have the best chance to win?

1. Don't succumb to high pressure

Sporting KC play what is best described as a high-pressure system -- they start applying pressure with their forwards, and that translates as the ball moves into their space. This might tempt us into playing risky passes in a bid to escape that pressure, which won't work out in our favor. Risky passing from our side is best utilized when in dangerous positions -- moving into the final third, say -- and we need to maintain that approach.

Hesitancy in attacking positions will stymie our play, and overeagerness in the midfield could lead to Sporting KC on the receiving end of turnover-generated chances. It's a difficult balance to strike.

2. Gain control of the ball quickly when out of possession

The best way to both strike that balance and to ensure that difficult moments aren't turned into goals conceded is to minimize the amount of time we spend without the ball. Sporting KC may be nominally a possession side, but their best moments are likely to come quickly after they regain control of the ball. If we do our part to first minimize the frequency of those events, and to regain possession quickly ourselves, we will find ourselves in the ascendancy.

3. Don't let SKC dictate the pace

Much as we will want to avoid succumbing to SKC's high-pressure system, we'll also want to avoid letting them change the pace of the game. One needs only look back to our 2-1 loss to see a classic example of a team capitalizing on a shift in momentum; when Chris Wingert was sent off that day, they were able to slow the game down at will. Their approach play was patient, and though it took seven minutes of stoppage time, they found a breakthrough goal. And it wasn't because they harried us into submission, but because they shifted their play and we failed to meet their transition.

If we remain proactive and attempt to set the pace of the game ourselves, we will find ourselves in a stronger position already. We are not a side that accepts the opposition's pacing, but one that attempts to set the pace themselves -- at least when we do well.

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

06 December 8:38 am

Every MLS Cup is special. More so than any other game on the domestic calendar, this is the one where reputations are built and legends are born. With mere hours left before MLS Cup 2013, it's high time we looked at what winning this year's Cup would mean for RSL, its coaches and its players in terms of history.

  • A win would make Real Salt Lake only the fifth team in MLS history to win multiple MLS Cups. This feat would be made even more impressive by the fact that RSL didn't have the chance to win nine of the 18 MLS Cups by virtue of not being in the league until 2005. Of the teams who have multiple MLS Cups to their name, only two of them (L.A. Galaxy, Houston Dynamo) have accomplished the feat since RSL entered the league. The other two multiple winners - San Jose Earthquakes and D.C. United - won their last MLS Cups in 2003 and 2004 respectively.
  • A win would make Jason Kreis only the fifth head coach in MLS history to win multiple MLS Cups, joining Bruce Arena, Dom Kinnear, Sigi Schmid, and Frank Yallop as the only ones to accomplish the feat. Even more remarkable is that it looks like Kreis could still lace 'em up and play on a few MLS squads – the RSL manager will turn just 41 later this month.
  • A win would make three MLS Cup championships for RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando and midfielder Ned Grabavoy, putting them in the rarefied air of MLS legends like Landon Donovan, Brian Ching, and Marco Etcheverry. In addition to their MLS Cups won with RSL in 2009, both players have a title with another team - Rimando won the 2004 MLS Cup with D.C. United, while Grabavoy hoisted the Anschutz Trophy in 2005 as a member of the L.A. Galaxy.
  • A win would give RSL goalkeeper Josh Saunders three consecutive MLS Cups. Saunders started, played the full 90 minutes, and won the Cup final in 2011 and 2012 as a member of the L.A. Galaxy. RSL’s backup goalkeeper won’t have a chance to keep that streak alive this year, having torn his ACL in July.

While the 2013 MLS Cup could cement legacies and add hardware to the mantles of several RSL veterans, it's also tempting to think that this could be the first award for several RSL youngsters. How many trophies can you envision in the future for young talent like Devon Sandoval, Carlos Salcedo, Sebastian Velasquez, Luis Gil, Joao Plata, Olmes Garcia, and others? Maybe we'll see the beginning of some MLS legends being made. Just hours to go until we find out.