If you're like me, this MLS regular season seemed to go by way too fast. It feels like just yesterday we were perusing the newly-released schedule and that final game against Chivas USA looked to be so far off; now that game is behind us. So as we look back at the 2013 regular season, with a general consensus that RSL exceeded expectations. After Wednesday's finale, Jason Kreis said it was "nothing short of remarkable" that RSL finished the season top-two in the west. And Ned Grabavoy - one of those players who always gives it to you exactly how he sees it - admitted "I can’t sit here and say that I thought we’d be second or possibly first". So let's dive deeper into how RSL managed to do it.
First off, we have to recognize the depth of the losses RSL suffered in the offseason. This year Will Johnson, Fabian Espindola, and Jamison Olave showed that they weren't just "system" players who thrived in RSL's unique style of play; all of them proved they could play in and even carry other teams. How did RSL cope with their loss while hardly missing a beat? Well, there are a few reasons.
- The new arrivals bought into doing things the RSL way. All we heard from the vets and coaches this year is how hard the young guys were applying themselves to learning the system and embracing the "Team is the Star" mentality. The lack of egos went a long way toward getting everybody on the same page.
- The locker room chemistry was very, very good. After the Chivas USA game, Robbie Findley said that this was the best locker room he had ever been a part of. Any athlete will tell you that the team is much more likely to succeed when the personal relationships are good, and that happened this season. And it's not like everybody put on a happy face while they were at the office - these players genuinely like each other and they do a lot of things together when they're off the clock.
- Several youngsters exceeded expectations. Before the season, the word was that guys like Olmes Garcia and Devon Sandoval might not see first-team minutes this year. Instead they combined for 1881 minutes, 8 goals, and 4 assists. Joao Plata started the season well and just got better and better. And how about Carlos Salcedo coming straight out of the Academy and playing well at center back for a long portion of the year? And that's just a few of the young players who contributed in positive ways.
- A handful of veterans took their games to another level. Javier Morales is back. Grabavoy had the best year of his career. So did Nick Rimando, which is saying something, and if he doesn't win Goalkeeper of the Year it will be a crime. Tony Beltran made his first All-Star team. Kyle Beckerman played himself into World Cup contention. Luis Gil stepped it up this year, and Sabo was Sabo.
There are other reasons why RSL exceeded expectations this year, but these are the ones that stuck out to me. Now we look forward to what should be a very exciting playoff, and then before you know it, we'll be perusing the newly-released 2014 schedule. And if this team can make similar progress next year, I think they have the potential to achieve even bigger things.
Real Salt Lake closed the regular season with a victory on Wednesday night, beating Chivas USA 2-1 to head into the MLS Cup Playoffs with a 16-10-8 regular season record.
Here are a few interesting numbers from RSL’s regular season campaign:
Real Salt Lake finished the regular season with 57 goals, the highest total in club history and the most in MLS ahead of this weekend’s final round of regular season matches. New York Red Bulls and LA Galaxy are the only squads with even a mildly realistic chance of catching the Claret-and-Cobalt, with New York currently on 53 goals and LA on 52 goals.
RSL closed the 2013 regular season with 56 points, one shy of the club record of 57 set last season. The Claret-and-Cobalt is currently in first-place in both the Western Conference and Supporters’ Shield standings, though the team needs some help this weekend to hold those spots. In order to win the Shield, Sporting KC will have to lose/draw at Philadelphia on Saturday, Portland will have to lose/draw at Chivas USA on Saturday and New York will have to lose to Chicago on Sunday. For RSL to win the West, Portland would have to lose/draw at Chivas USA on Saturday.
Real Salt Lake finished the 2013 season with a 6-7-4 away record, tying the club record for most away points in a season initially set in 2012.
RSL was one of – if not the – deepest teams in MLS this year, with 27 players seeing first-team MLS minutes, including a club record 26 players starting at least one game. RSL’s depth was put to good use in the huge amount of games missed by regulars due to injury, international call-ups and suspensions.
A league-leading six RSL players – Alvaro Saborio, Javier Morlaes, Robbie Findley, Ned Grabavoy, Olmes Garcia and Luis Gil – scored five or more league goals this year. Thirteen Claret-and-Cobalt players scored at least one regular season goal this year, with 15 total players pitching in goals when including U.S. Open Cup play.
RSL hit the 15-win and 50-point plateaus for the fourth-consecutive year this season, becoming the first club in MLS history to accomplish said feat. The LA Galaxy have since joined RSL in the exclusive club.
Real Salt Lake's own Nick Rimando was voted the Top Performer of MLS Week 34 after his clean sheet performance in Saturday's scoreless draw at Portland Timbers. The other nominees for Top Performer of the Week were Colorado's Gaby Torres and Montreal's Marco Di Vaio.
Rimando - who had four HUGE saves on Saturday - is up for his eighth MLS Save of the Week honor of the year for a stoppage time save that preserved a point on Saturday. Click here to vote for Nick.
Real Salt Lake will play its final game of the 2013 MLS regular season on Wednesday night, hosting Chivas USA at 7:00 p.m. MT at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Here are a few storylines to watch ahead of Wednesday’s contest:
RSL battling for outside shot at Supporters’ Shield; Playoff seeding on the line
A ton is on the line for Real Salt Lake in the Supporters’ Shield and Western Conference races this week. Everything starts on Wednesday, with RSL needing a win to stay alive in the chase for the Shield and a result to have hope of winning the West.
RSL gunning for season sweep of Chivas USA
Real Salt Lake will be looking to complete a season sweep of Chivas USA on Wednesday, having already beaten the Southern California side 1-0 at Rio Tinto Stadium on April 20 and downing the Goats 4-1 at the StubHub Center on May 19.
The Claret-and-Cobalt has only swept Chivas USA once before, going 2-0-0 against its expansion brethren in the 2011 season.
Saborio, Morales look to continue success v. Goats
Real Salt Lake stars Alvaro Saborio and Javier Morales have both had a great deal of success against Chivas USA, with Saborio notching four goals and two assists in eight career regular season games against the Goats and Morales scoring one goal and registering five assists in 12 regular season games against the Southern California side. They’ll look to continue that success in Wednesday’s important contest.
Real Salt Lake clinched a MLS Cup Playoff berth on Saturday night, playing the Portland Timbers to a scoreless draw at JELD-WEN Field.
Here are a few interesting numbers from the match:
Real Salt Lake has now qualified for the postseason in six-straight seasons. That’s the longest active run of playoff qualification in MLS and tied for the second-longest such streak in league history with the New York Red Bulls (2003-2008). New England holds the longest streak of MLS Cup Playoff qualification, having qualified eight-straight times from 2002-2009.
Saturday’s 0-0 score line was Real Salt Lake’s first scoreless draw of 2013.
Real Salt Lake and the Portland Timbers have now met eight times in MLS league play, with the Claret-and-Cobalt posting a 4-1-3 record against the Cascadia club. RSL has recorded only one loss to Portland—a 1-0 result in the clubs’ first encounter on April 30, 2011 at JELD-WEN Field. RSL was 2-0-2 against Portland in four games across all competitions this year.
RSL now owns 22 of its 53 points this season courtesy of a 6-7-4 road record through 17 away games, matching the club record 6-7-4 (22 points) mark on the road in MLS play last year.
RSL GK Nick Rimando made his 200th career MLS regular-season appearance for the Claret-and-Cobalt on Saturday. He is the first RSL player to reach the bicentennial mark in the club’s nine MLS seasons. The draw with Portland marked Rimando’s ninth shutout of the year. His 108 career regular season shutouts are four short of Kevin Hartman for the all-time MLS record.
Every member of the RSL family will have their sights set on Portland this weekend, with the Claret-and-Cobalt set to take on the Timbers in a huge match at JELD-WEN Field at 8:30 p.m. on CW30 on Saturday night.
While Portland is the center of the Real Salt Lake – and, frankly, MLS – universe this weekend, there are plenty of other matches around the league that will affect RSL’s place in the standings. We’ve listed those matches below, along with some info on who you should be pulling for.
Sporting Kansas City v. D.C. United – 6:00 p.m. MT on NBC Sports Network
This might be a tad difficult in the wake of D.C.’s win over RSL in the Open Cup Final on Oct. 1, but Claret-and-Cobalt fans should be rooting for United to pull the upset at Sporting Park on Friday night. Kansas City and RSL have identical records, with the Claret-and-Cobalt leading SKC in the Supporters’ Shield standings by virtue of the goals scored tiebreaker. A little breathing room couldn’t hurt, however – pull for Ben Olsen’s squad.
FC Dallas v. Seattle Sounders FC – 12:30 p.m. MT on NBC
All those games in hand didn’t go exactly to plan for Seattle, which has lost its last three matches by a combined margin of 10-2. Despite the recent run of poor for, the Sounders are still just one point behind RSL in the standings, sitting in fourth-place in the Western Conference. Pull for Dallas – which announced on Friday that Head Coach Schellas Hyndman won’t return to his post in 2014 – in this nationally televised contest in Frisco.
Colorado Rapids v. Vancouver Whitecaps FC – 4:00 p.m. MT on Altitude
Pretty simple calculus in this one. Do what you do so well, RSL fans: Root against the Rapids. A Colorado loss or tie would lock up a playoff spot for RSL. Pull for the ‘Caps to get a result on the road.
Houston Dynamo v. New York Red Bulls – 2:00 p.m. MT on UniMas
This one won’t impact the Western Conference race, but it does hold huge implications in the battle for the Supporters’ Shield. New York currently sits atop the league table with 53 points, ahead of Portland by virtue of the wins tiebreaker. If RSL is to have any hope of lifting the Supporters’ Shield this season, the Red Bulls will have to lose or tie one of their final two matches. Both are tough – New York finishes the season at home against what will be a desperate Chicago side – but Houston is a notoriously difficult place to play. Pull for the Dynamo to take all three at BBVA Compass Stadium.
LA Galaxy v. San Jose Earthquakes – 7:00 p.m. MT on ESPN
With San Jose effectively unable to pass the Claret-and-Cobalt in the West standings, pull for the Quakes to topple the Galaxy at the StubHub Center on Sunday. LA is inching up on RSL – just one point behind heading into the weekend – and it would be good for the Utah side if Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane and Co. dropped points to their California rival.
Make sure to tune-in to all of these matches this weekend. All five will be available to watch in Utah, with four on national TV and the fifth – Colorado v. Vancouver – on the Altitude network.
Best of all is that none of the above games conflict with the main event: RSL at Portland. 8:30 p.m. MT. CW30 and MLSsoccer.com as the Stream of the Week.
RSL and Portland are set to square off in a huge Western Conference battle on Saturday night, with the Claret-and-Cobalt entering the not-so-friendly confines of JELD-WEN Field for an 8:30 p.m. kickoff against the Timbers.
Here are a few storylines to watch ahead of the match, which you can catch on CW30:
Supporters’ Shield and Western Conference title hopes hang in the balance
Pretty simple here: Realistically, RSL needs to beat Portland on Saturday night in order to have a shot of winning the Supporters’ Shield and Western Conference titles.
The Claret-and-Cobalt wouldn’t be officially eliminated from either race with a draw or loss on Saturday, but – with Portland one point ahead of RSL and playing a very winnable game at Chivas USA in their finale next Saturday – the Utah side probably needs all three points this weekend to have a shot. If RSL beats Portland and wins its regular season finale on Wednesday against Chivas USA at Rio Tinto Stadium, the Utah side would win the regular season Western Conference title.
Even if the team wins its final two matches, RSL would still need a bit of help to win the Shield. New York is one point ahead of the Claret-and-Cobalt in the league standings. The Red Bulls would have to lose or tie one of their final two matches – they’re at Houston on Sunday and home against Chicago next week – for RSL to lift the Shield after victories in its final two games.
Here’s an easier version: Root for RSL to win out and New York to lose or draw one of its final two matches. We’ll get into the many other permutations should Saturday’s result dictate such.
This is a little bit gnarly, so we’ll break it down bullet point style. Remember that with the Western Conference being so jumbled – Portland leads with 53 points, RSL is in second with 52, LA and Seattle both have 51, Colorado has 48 and San Jose and Vancouver are on the outside with 47 and 45 – any sort of result would be huge for RSL on Saturday.
Here we go. RSL will clinch a playoff berth this weekend with:
- A win at Portland
- A Colorado loss or tie against Vancouver on Saturday afternoon, regardless of RSL’s result at Portland
- A San Jose loss or tie at LA on Sunday night, regardless of RSL’s result at Portland
RSL can’t officially clinch with a draw at Portland if both Colorado and San Jose win. However, the Claret-and-Cobalt would effectively sew up a sixth-straight postseason berth with just one point at the Timbers. Here’s how:
- A draw at Portland would put RSL at 53 points
- If both San Jose and Colorado win both of their remaining games AND both LA and Seattle finish with more than 53 points AND RSL loses to Chivas USA on Wednesday, RSL and San Jose would finish the year tied for fifth in the West with 53 points
- MLS would then use its tiebreaker system to determine if San Jose or RSL qualified for the playoffs
- The teams would be tied on the first tiebreaker, each having 15 wins
- MLS would then move to the second tiebreaker, which is goals scored. RSL currently has 55 goals and San Jose currently has 33 goals. That looks pretty good for RSL.
Morales suspended; Beckerman, Rimando and Saborio available
RSL will be without one of its most dangerous players on Saturday at Portland, as playmaker Javier Morales will miss the match while serving a one-game suspension due to yellow card accumulation. Morales was instrumental in RSL’s previous two league games against Portland, scoring two goals and notching an assist in MLS action against Portland.
On the plus side, three Real Salt Lake players will be returning to the fold on Saturday, with Captain Kyle Beckerman (U.S.), goalkeeper Nick Rimando (U.S.) and forward Alvaro Saborio (Costa Rica) all returning from international duty. Beckerman played 90 minutes for the U.S. in its 3-2 win at Panama on Tuesday while Saborio came off the bench early in the second half and scored a goal in Costa Rica’s 2-1 win over Mexico on the same night.
Real Salt Lake is getting set to take on the Portland Timbers this Saturday night in a huge match at JELD-WEN Field. RSL has played once at JELD-WEN this year, trading punches with the Timbers in a wild match on Aug. 21 that ended 3-3 thanks to Claret-and-Cobalt midfielder Cole Grossman's 93rd minute equalizer.
Check out highlights from that match above. Tune-in to CW30 at 8:30 p.m. this Saturday to see if this weekend's contest lives up to it.
MLSsoccer.com released the latest video "Generations" series on Tuesday, highlighting three Generation Adidas players enjoying breakout years in 2013.
One of the players highlighted: RSL midfielder Luis Gil, who is enjoying the best season of his four-year career with five goals and three assists in 28 league appearances this year.
Check the video out above for an insightful look at Gil, as well as fellow Generation Adidas players Darlington Nagbe and Jack McInerney.
U.S. Soccer just posted this interview with RSL captain Kyle Beckerman ahead of tonight's final CONCACAF World Cup Qualifier. Check out a snippet of the interview below:
Kyle Beckerman: Mr Consistency
Since Jurgen Klinsmann took over as head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team in 2011, Kyle Beckerman’s name has been a virtual lock to be included on the roster. Describing him as a man who puts in “maximum effort” and a “pure giver”, Klinsmann has held up Beckerman as a role model for players both ahead of him and behind him on the depth chart. On the cusp of realizing his dream of reaching the World Cup, the characteristically humble midfielder refuses to look ahead and remains focused on accomplishing the most important task: the next one.
ussoccer.com: What’s the question you are most tired of answering?
Kyle Beckerman: How long have you been growing your dreads? (laughs) The answer is seven or eight years.
ussoccer.com: You’ve been a part of this qualifying campaign from start to finish. What have been your impressions overall?
KB: “First off, it’s been a lot of fun. There have been really enjoyable challenges, from going to Antigua and playing in the monsoon to coming and playing in Salt Lake in front of our home crowd. It’s been a really cool journey and one I’ll never forget.”
ussoccer.com: A new coach and new cycle brings different challenges. Now two years in, how would you say you have been impacted?
KB: “Going through this always teaches you a little bit about the competition we have in this region. This round has shown that the other countries in CONCACAF are getting stronger. For me, I just have more experience now than I did before.