Stopping LA Galaxy — Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan are the chief targets, but others remain dangerous — is not a simple task. But that's exactly the task Real Salt Lake will be tasked with on Sunday when they launch their playoff campaign.
It's of real importance that the opposition midfielders be allowed minimal time on the ball. The more time Galaxy midfielders (and forwards dropping into deep positions) are given to find a killer pass, the greater the likelihood that we'll concede a goal. This doesn't necessitate the high pressure one might expect from other sides in MLS — instead, we can keep the same pressuring tactics we normally deploy, with our pressure increasing as the opponent nears our half. By approaching it in this way, we can avoid problems stemming from late overcommitment.
Following from that, we must also avoid getting hit in transition phases: We're facing a side that finds great joy in those moments. As a relevant example, three of their four goals they scored in a 4-2 win against us came with few of their players even in our half, let alone involved in the attack. It's a style that's afforded to them by the great individual skill of a few players and the willingness by others to remain in defensive positions during those moments. When your counterattack runs essentially three or four on six opposition players and ends in a goal scored, you're likely to find greater success.
Because of the threat offered by LA Galaxy on set pieces, RSL will need to be slightly more cautious when playing in the opposition half than they'd prefer to be. Creativity is a must, but an awareness of danger and willingness to sprint back to recover — from all players and not just those with more defensive roles — is necessary. As such, we must be willing to exercise patience in the opposition half, and in the final third we must take our chances quickly. Anything else presents too much risk for an unlikely reward.
Goal.com named Real Salt Lake’s Nick Rimando its Goalkeeper of the Year on Thursday, giving the honor to RSL’s veteran ‘keeper over Portland’s Donovan Ricketts.
Media voting for the MLS Allstate Goalkeeper of the Year Award closes on Friday, with the winner set to be announced early next month.
Ahead of this weekend’s clash between Real Salt Lake and LA Galaxy in the first leg of the Western Conference Semifinals, we look back at the storied history between RSL head coach Jason Kreis and LA head coach Bruce Arena.
Despite their large age-difference, Jason Kreis and Bruce Arena have crossed paths over the past 20 years, starting at the college level.
Kreis attended Duke University, starting in 1991, and regularly faced off against ACC foe the University of Virginia, which was then coached by Bruce Arena. The fierce college soccer rivalry often ended with Bruce Arena and the Cavaliers coming out on top.
Kreis on the Field
Kreis and Arena would meet again, this time in Major League Soccer with Kreis as a player for the Dallas Burn and Real Salt Lake and Arena as a coach for D.C. United and New York Red Bulls. Throughout this player-coach period, the two met 10 times with Kreis notching five goals and recording a 4-6-0 record against Arena-led sides.
Arena called Kreis up to the U.S. national team several teams during his tenure, with the RSL boss earning seven of his 14 career international caps under Arena in 1999 and 2000. Kreis started three of the seven games he appeared in for Arena, scoring his lone international goal and picking up a yellow card in 256 minutes of action under the LA coach/GM.
Jason Kreis became Real Salt Lake’s head coach on May 3, 2007 and in his first game at the helm, faced off against a Bruce Arena-led New York Red Bulls side, with the teams playing to a thrilling 3-3 draw at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Kreis won his first match as RSL boss against Arena on June 13, 2009 when Real Salt Lake defeated the LA Galaxy 2-0 at the Home Depot Center. The four previous meetings between Kreis and Arena had resulted in ties.
Kreis achieved the ultimate victory over Arena when RSL and LA faced off in MLS Cup 2009, with the Claret-and-Cobalt defeating the Galaxy 5-4 in a penalty shootout after a 1-1 draw at Qwest Field in Seattle.
Arena got a measure of revenge in 2011, defeating Real Salt Lake in that year’s Western Conference Final, on his way to leading the Galaxy to the 2011 MLS Cup title. Arena went on to lead the Galaxy to another MLS Cup title in 2012.
All-time, Kreis is 6-6-4 when coaching against an Arena-led squad.
RSL v. LA Galaxy
Real Salt Lake and LA Galaxy have met a total of 27 times across all competitions with the Claret-and-Cobalt posting a 10-11-6 record against LA. RSL is 10-10-5 against the Galaxy in MLS regular-season play.
Since Bruce Arena became head coach of the Galaxy on Aug. 18, 2008, Kreis and RSL are 6-6-3 against the LA side.
StubHub Center hasn’t exactly been a house of horrors for Real Salt Lake over the years.
Previously known as the Home Depot Center, RSL has performed very well at the Southern California home of the LA Galaxy and Chivas USA, posting an 11-15-3 all-time record at the Carson, Calif. facility. RSL went 1-1-0 at StubHub Center this regular season, beating Chivas USA 4-1 on May 19 and losing to the Galaxy 4-2 on Aug. 16in Carson.
Prior to the Aug. 16 loss at the Galaxy, RSL had won an astonishing five-straight games at StubHub Center, beating Chivas USA three times and the Galaxy twice. By comparison, RSL has won five-straight MLS games at home on just three occasions in the club’s nine-year history.
One potential reason for RSL’s success at StubHub Center: The team’s numerous Southern California connections. RSL has eight players with ties to SoCal, with goalkeeper Nick Rimando (Montclair), defender Tony Beltran (Claremont), midfielder Luis Gil (Garden Grove), defender Kwame Watson-Siriboe (Chino Hills) and forward Benji Lopez (San Diego) all hailing from the area and midfielder Ned Grabavoy, forward Robbie Findley and goalkeeper Josh Saunders all spending time with the Galaxy earlier in their careers.
Let’s hope the whole roster feels comfortable at LA in Sunday’s Western Conference Semifinal first leg. Kick is at 7:00 p.m. MT on ESPN.
The Western Conference’s final four was set on Wednesday night, with fourth-seed Seattle Sounders FC downing fifth-seed Colorado Rapids 2-0 at CenturyLink Field in the West’s Knockout Round to move to the Western Conference Semifinals against top-seed Portland Timbers.
The Seattle-Portland series will kick on Saturday at 8:00 p.m. MT at CenturyLink Field on NBC Sports Network. The winner of the Sounders-Timbers semifinal will take on the winner of the RSL-LA Western Conference Semifinal winner in the Western Conference Final series.
Real Salt Lake stacks up relatively well against the West’s remaining playoff teams this regular season, with the Claret-and-Cobalt registering a 4-3-2 combined league record – 5-3-2 in all competitions – against the Galaxy, Timbers and Sounders.
RSL was 1-2-0 against the Galaxy in the regular season. RSL and LA will play the first leg of their Western Conference Semifinal at 7:00 p.m. MT at StubHub Center on Sunday night on ESPN. The sides will meet next Thursday, Nov. 7 at 7:00 p.m. MT at Rio Tinto Stadium for the series’ second leg – get your tickets today.
Ever wonder what it's like to be on a RSL away trip?
Check out the above video - graciously shot by RSL fan Taylor Fugate during the Claret-and-Cobalt's recent trip to Portland - to get a good picture of what life is like on the road for traveling RSL supporters.
Let's see RSL make it happen again this year, starting with the Western Conference Semifinal against LA. The two-legged series will kickoff this Sunday at 7:00 p.m. MT on ESPN at the StubHub Center. RSL's will host the second leg, with the date still to be determined.
Real Salt Lake has been officially eliminated from the Supporters' Shield race.
Sporting Kansas City's Lawrence Olum scored a stoppage time winner to push SKC to a 2-1 victory at Philadelphia earlier Saturday, giving Kansas City 58 points on the season - two more than RSL's total of 56. OIum's goal came just minutes after Union forward Jack McInerney appeared to keep RSL's Shield hopes alive with an equalizer for Philadelphia.
While Real Salt Lake can no longer win the Supporters' Shield, the club can still finish with the top-seed in the West and finish behind only Sporting Kansas City in the East. A Portland loss/draw on Saturday night at Chivas USA would give the Claret-and-Cobalt the West. A New York loss on Sunday against Chicago would put RSL behind only SKC in the East, meaning that the Utah side would host MLS Cup at Rio Tinto Stadium if they qualify and Sporting Kansas City does not. A higher regular season finish would also boost RSL's hopes of qualifying for the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League.
Short story, RSL fans: Pull for Chivas USA on Saturday and Chicago on Sunday.
Everyone should have their eyes glued to their TVs this weekend as the MLS regular-season comes to a close with clubs still vying for playoff spots and the Supporters’ Shield. This weekend’s results hold major implications as to whether or not RSL will win the Supporters’ Shield or the Western Conference and who the Claret-and-Cobalt will face in the Western Conference Semifinals.
Real Salt Lake will be bystanders this weekend as the Claret-and-Cobalt finished its regular-season with Wednesday’s 2-1 win over Chivas USA. Wednesday’s win clinched a top-two West seed for RSL, meaning the Claret-and-Cobalt will play away in the first leg of the Western Conference Semifinals on Nov. 2 or Nov. 3 before returning home to Rio Tinto Stadium for the West Semi second leg on Nov. 6 or Nov. 7. Real Salt Lake could still play any of the West playoff teams of Portland, LA Galaxy, Seattle Sounders FC or Colorado Rapids in the West Semifinals.
RSL currently sits in first-place in the Supporters’ Shield race and Western Conference with a total of 56 points, 16 wins and 57 goals scored.
With so much at stake this weekend, here is a list of all the key matches that affect RSL and who you should be rooting for:
Philadelphia Union vs. Sporting Kansas City – 1:00 p.m. MT on NBC Sports Network
The Claret-and-Cobalt will need Sporting Kansas City to lose or draw at PPL Park in order for RSL’s Supporters’ Shield hopes to stay alive. Sporting Kansas City currently sits in second-place in the Eastern Conference with a total of 55 points, one point behind the New York Red Bulls. If Kansas City draws Philadelphia and ends up tied with RSL on points and wins, the Claret-and-Cobalt would place ahead based on the goals for tiebreaker, granted Kansas City doesn’t score 12 goals. The Philadelphia Union is facing a must-win situation in order to keep their postseason aspiration alive. This one’s easy: root for the Union.
Chivas USA vs. Portland Timbers – 8:30 p.m. MT on MLS Live
The Portland Timbers are the only team that can push RSL out of first-place in the Western Conference. A win for the Timbers at the StubHub Center would guarantee Caleb Porter’s squad first-place in the Western Conference and put an end to the Claret-and-Cobalt’s chance at the Supporters’ Shield. Portland currently has a total of 54 points, meaning a draw against Chivas USA would be enough to keep RSL first in the Western Conference. A Chivas USA win or draw might seem unlikely with their current record of 6-19-8, but everyone loves to root for the underdog. Let’s hope the Goats can end the season on a higher note and produce a result at home.
New York Red Bulls vs. Chicago Fire – 3:00 p.m. MT on UniMas
This one won’t impact the Western Conference, but it does hold huge implications in the battle for the Supporters’ Shield. Real Salt Lake sits atop the league table narrowly leading New York by the goals for tiebreaker with 57 goals to New York’s 53. Any result by New York against Chicago will officially end the Claret-and-Cobalt’s run for the Supporters’ Shield. Chicago enters the match desperate for a win in order to keep its own playoff hopes alive. Pull for Mike Magee to keep his scoring form and work some magic at Red Bull Arena.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. Colorado Rapids – 6:00 p.m. MT on MLS Live
This match won’t affect RSL’s standing in the Western Conference but it can affect who RSL will face in the Western Conference Semifinals. Colorado will need a draw or a win in order to officially clinch a playoff berth. If RSL finishes in first-place it will take on the winner of the fourth-place vs. fifth-place knockout game. If RSL finishes in second-place, it will face the third-place team in the West. If Colorado does earn a result at Vancouver, its playoff placement won’t be determined until after the final MLS regular-season game between Seattle and LA. Colorado would need a win and for LA and Seattle to draw in order to clinch third-place which would most likely mean a Rocky Mountain Cup semifinal series, assuming RSL finishes in second-place. A RSL vs. Colorado playoff game would be the first of its kind. Who to root for? Follow your heart.
Seattle Sounders FC vs. LA Galaxy – 7:00 p.m. MT on ESPN
The final match of the MLS regular-season will definitely be an entertaining one with the former MLS champions taking on Western Conference rival Seattle Sounders FC. Seattle is suffering an epic blowout to end its regular-season, losing its last four matches by a combined margin of 12-2. Despite Seattle’s recent run of poor form, they have already clinched a playoff berth. This match will determine whether or not Seattle or LA will avoid the fourth-place vs. fifth-place knockout game. LA and Seattle will want to grab as many points as possible to put as much room between them and the red line. Who to root against? Both.