After seven seasons in Utah, Nat Borchers’ time with Real Salt Lake came to an end on Monday with the announcement that he had been traded to the Portland Timbers in exchange for Allocation Money.
Just hours after the announcement, he appeared on the Bill and OC Show on ESPN 700 in Salt Lake City and he spoke very highly of his time with the Claret-and-Cobalt.
“I learned a lot of lessons. I definitely learned that when it comes to success on the field, there are a lot of things that have to happen off the field for the team to be successful,” Borchers said. “For our group, off the field meant hanging out together. It meant being a part of each other’s families. It meant participating in each other’s lives and getting to know other guys on the team outside of the soccer field. That made things really special for us and made our group very special. That translated into so much of our success – just how well we knew each other, how much we loved playing for each other and fighting for each other.”
Borchers expressed a strong connection with the RSL fan base, one that was established early in his time with the club and only strengthened with each season.
“We’ve got nothing but gratitude toward the soccer community in Utah. Since day one they brought us in and made us feel at home out here. People are just so engaging and friendly and positive and excited about RSL,” he said. “I’m just really proud that we were able to make that product a little bit better for the last seven years. It gives the community a lot to talk about. We’re incredibly grateful to the fans for rooting for us when we’re losing and cheering for us when we’re winning. That’s just the sign of a fan base that’s here to stay and will be here forever. I’m really looking forward to coming back here and watching games with my family and being part of this RSL family that’s so special.”
At some point, Borchers will return to Rio Tinto Stadium wearing the green of the Portland Timbers. When that day comes and he faces off with his longtime teammates, he admitted that the feeling would be odd.
“I don’t look forward to that at all because I know it’s going to be a tough matchup and there’s going to be a lot of emotion involved,” Borchers said.
To hear the entire interview, click the link below.
— Real Salt Lake (@RealSaltLake) December 9, 2014
It has been over two years since Real Salt Lake last played in the CONCACAF Champions League. Now, after posting the fourth-best record in Major League Soccer for the 2014 season, RSL is on the cusp of receiving a spot into the coveted regional tournament.
There are four spots available for U.S.-based clubs and three have already been accounted for. If the LA Galaxy wins MLS Cup over the New England Revolution on Sunday at the StubHub Center, the fourth will go to Real Salt Lake.
The four allotments go to the winner of the U.S. Open Cup, the Supporters’ Shield, the MLS Cup and the best regular season record in the conference opposite the Supporters’ Shield winners. With Seattle Sounders FC winning the U.S. Open Cup and the Supporters’ Shield this year, they occupy one slot, while the Galaxy takes up the spot earned with the Supporters’ Shield win. D.C. United had the best record in the Eastern Conference and is the third team in.
RSL finished the season with a 15-8-11 record (56 points) in Head Coach Jeff Cassar’s first year at the helm. In earning the third seed in the Western Conference, Salt Lake is first in line for the Champions League berth should the Galaxy win MLS Cup.
This would be a great opportunity for the club to expand its regional brand and get back into the competition after a tough exit in the Group Stage in the 2012-2013 tournament. RSL went 2-1-1 in that year’s Group Stage, falling just shy of 3-0-1 Herediano of Costa Rica to advance to the Quarterfinal Round.
In the 2010-2011 tournament, RSL reached the final on a storybook run through the Group Stage – which featured an epic 5-4 defeat to Cruz Azul in a downpour in Mexico. In that tournament championship, RSL fell one goal short of becoming the first MLS club to win CONCACAF Champions League in its current format. No other MLS club has reached the final, making the accomplishment stand out even more.
So while we all would much rather be in the match itself and having the club’s Champions League fate in the hands of RSL’s players, it instead lies with Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan and the LA Galaxy. And although it would pain many to openly root for one of RSL’s Western Conference rivals, fans could still watch Sunday on ESPN with a bit of a rooting interest knowing that a Galaxy win would greatly benefit Real Salt Lake. Kickoff on Sunday is scheduled for 1 p.m. MT.
The NCAA Men’s Soccer Tournament is well under way, with first round matches being played across the country on Thursday evening. Now, with 32 teams remaining, the field is tightening up as the National Championship in Cary, North Carolina, on Dec. 14 is fast approaching.
Six of those teams will take the field on Sunday with Real Salt Lake Academy players among their regular contributors. Here is a look at those teams and what they have lined up for the second round of the tournament on Sunday.
Stanford (13-2-3, 1st in Pac-12, vs. UC-Irvine on Sunday)
Freshman midfielder Corey Baird had four goals and four assists in 18 appearances this season, including 13 starts. The 2nd Team All Pac-12 selection notched the assist on the overtime goal that clinched the Pac-12 Championship for the Cardinal in a 3-2 overtime win over rivals California last Sunday. Sophomore Trevor Hyman has also made three substitute appearances for Stanford, who holds the No. 6 seed.
Washington (12-5-1, 3rd in Pac-12, vs. Furman on Sunday)
Freshman midfielder/forward Danny Gavin is a regular contributor off the bench for the Huskies, who reached the Elite Eight last season. Gavin made three early-season starts and has 14 appearances overall for 14th-seeded Washington.
Oregon State (12-7-1, 5th in Pac-12, beat Denver in the first round, @ Creighton on Sunday)
Junior goalkeeper Matt Bersano started in 16 matches this season, posting a 9-6-1 record with five shutouts, including a shutout of Washington in the regular season finale and Denver in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. He holds a 1.08 goals against average and earned Honorable Mention All Pac-12 honors.
Louisville (11-8-3, 2nd in the ACC, vs. St. Louis on Sunday)
Two key contributors to Louisville’s success in 2014 are RSL Academy alums. Junior forward Ricardo Velazco led the Cardinals in scoring with six goals and five assists in 20 appearances, 19 of them starts. That earned him third-team All-ACC recognition. Meanwhile sophomore midfielder Andrew Brody notched two goals and four assists while starting all 20 matches. The Cardinals also feature Jack Gayton and Jon Zabassajja.
Maryland (13-5-3, vs. UMBC on Sunday)
Freshman midfielder and forward Eric Carbajal made three starts for the Terrapins this season, tallying one assist.
Clemson (13-6-3, 1st in the ACC, vs. Coastal Carolina on Sunday)
Senior defender Phanuel Kavita has registered 89 consecutive starts for the Tigers – every match since he arrived on campus. This season, he has started all 20 matches, scoring two goals to help Clemson win the ACC title. He finished as a second-team All-ACC selection.
The season may be over for Real Salt Lake, but there is still plenty for RSL fans to keep their eyes on as the off-season comes hot and heavy with several notable events to put on the calendar starting next week.
Here is a list of dates to know before the start of the 2015 season.
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Dispersal Draft for former Chivas USA players
Thursday, November 20, 2014
MLS Awards Finalists Announced
Monday, November 24, 2014
AT&T Rookie of the Year
XBOX Fair Play Award Individual & Team (not voted)
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
MLS Defender of the Year
MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Year
MLS Referee of the Year
MLS Assistant Referee of the Year
Monday, December 1, 2014
MLS Best XI
Tuesday, December 2, 2014
MLS Comeback Player of the Year
MLS Coach of the Year
Wednesday, December 3, 2014
Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year
MLS Newcomer of the Year
Thursday, December 4, 2014
MLS Save of the Year
AT&T Goal of the Year
Volkswagen MLS MVP
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
MLS Expansion Draft
MLS Waiver Draft
Friday, December 12, 2014
Re-Entry Draft, Phase One
Thursday, December 18, 2014
Re-Entry Draft, Phase Two
January 15, 2015
Goals change games
That mantra is true in any game, but in this one it is particularly truthful, as RSL and LA both look to break each other’s will. A goal for Salt Lake means that the Galaxy has to score twice to advance because of the away-goals tiebreaker. Meanwhile, if LA scores first Salt Lake can force extra time with one goal.
With two teams as disciplined in their defensive principles as these two teams, those goals could be hard to come by and once either nabs a lead a response becomes even more desperate.
403 and counting
Real Salt Lake is riding a 403-minute shutout streak, just 30 minutes shy of the longest such streak in MLS this season. The longer that streak stays intact, the more likely it becomes that RSL can advance to the Conference Championships for the fifth time in the last seven years.
That becomes difficult against a potent LA Galaxy offense, but that same offense has been a bit punchless of late, going scoreless over the last two matches and riding a streak of 220 minutes without a goal. After taking just three shots total in the first leg of the series and putting just one on frame, LA will be out to show that it is a different team than the one that played at Rio Tinto Stadium last week.
In five previous playoff matches against the LA Galaxy, Real Salt Lake has had four different players score goals, with no player scoring more than once. Last year in the Western Conference Semifinals, Sebastian Velasquez and Chris Schuler scored goals to send Salt Lake through to the Conference Championship series. Neither player scored a regular season goal for RSL in 2013. Could 2014 see similar heroics from unexpected sources? Luis Gil was nearly the hero in the first leg at Rio Tinto Stadium last week and Ned Grabavoy has been known to score some crucial playoff goals for RSL in the past.
If the teams play to another scoreless draw and no winner can be determined by a 30-minute overtime period the match will go to a penalty kick shootout. There, Salt Lake would have to feel like it has a distinct advantage in Nick Rimando. The Wall of the Wasatch, as he is known, has stopped four of five penalties he has faced this season, including one from Galaxy forward Robbie Keane. He has gone to penalties several times in his playoff career, too, with opponents scoring on just 60-percent of their 30 efforts.
If defense wins championships, then Real Salt Lake has reason to be optimistic in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
Currently the hottest defensive team remaining in the postseason, RSL has a difficult task ahead in overtaking the LA Galaxy for a spot in the Western Conference Championship series. However, with four straight shutouts and a 403-minute shutout streak, it’s no wonder the team is confident heading into the second leg of the Western Conference Semifinal series on Sunday at the StubHub.
RSL has not allowed a goal in the last four matches, including a scoreless draw against Galaxy in the first leg on Saturday. No Western Conference team has allowed fewer than four goals in the last four matches, with the Galaxy letting in six goals and going winless at 0-2-2 in that stretch.
That defensive prowess should come as no surprise. Salt Lake’s back six – including goalkeeper Nick Rimando, defenders Tony Beltran, Nat Borchers, Chris Schuler and Chris Wingert and holding midfielder Kyle Beckerman – have played together since Schuler joined the league in 2010.
That group has contributed to RSL earning three different shutout streaks of at least 285 minutes this season. The current run of 403 minutes is second only to the 433-minute run that Vancouver Whitecaps FC went on to close out the regular season and into the Knockout Round match against FC Dallas.
In addition, the team has proven a tough beat in postseason play.
Rimando has allowed just five goals in his last eight playoff appearances, including four shutouts and two 120-minute matches, making for a 0.58 goals against average dating back to the 2012 season. His 13 career playoff shutouts rank second on the all-time MLS list, just two behind Kevin Hartman in the top spot and even with Zach Thornton.
This season, he posted a league-best mark with a 1.04 goals against average to go with a 13-4-7 record and seven shutouts.
Kickoff in Sunday’s match is scheduled for 5:30 pm MT from the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. The match will be televised live on ESPN2 with local radio coverage on ESPN 700 and La Gran D 102.3 FM (Spanish).
Real Salt Lake is a veteran-laden team with loads of playoff experience. That much is known.
But just how much more experienced in the rigors of the MLS Cup Playoffs than any other team in MLS was on display in the first legs of the Western Conference Semifinal Series that were played over the weekend.
After play in the first legs, Nick Rimando’s 32 career postseason matches was more than the 11 starters from FC Dallas (30), the Columbus Crew (30) and the New England Revolution (29), even after Dallas had played two playoff games this year.
Of the eight Conference Semifinalists, no team comes close to touching the 171 total playoff games from Real Salt Lake’s starting 11 against the Galaxy. LA was the nearest competition with 130 career playoff matches, followed by D.C. United with 94 and Seattle Sounders FC with 87.
Real Salt Lake’s back six alone – Rimando, Tony Beltran, Chris Schuler, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert and Kyle Beckmeran – combine for 127 career postseason matches. That is significantly more than any other team’s starting 11 outside of the Galaxy.
Below is the full chart of the playoff experience for the starting lineups from the Western Conference semifinal first leg matches.
Real Salt Lake – 171
LA Galaxy – 130
D.C. United – 94
Seattle Sounders FC – 87
New York Red Bulls – 78
FC Dallas – 30
Columbus Crew – 30
New England Revolution – 29
After a scoreless draw on Saturday in the first leg of the Western Conference Semifinals, Real Salt Lake is in a good position heading into the second leg against the LA Galaxy on Sunday at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.
On the surface, that may not make sense. The Galaxy is a good team at home, going 12-1-4 at the StubHub Center this season. And while Real Salt Lake’s 4-7-6 road record doesn’t jump off the page as outstanding, it does provide some reason for optimism entering the second match of the two-leg playoff series because of the institution of the away goals tie-breaker. In the event that the series ends in a draw, the first tie-breaker will go to the team that scored the most goals in their road match in the series. If both teams scored the same amount on the road, the match extends to a 30-minute overtime, then a shootout.
In 10 of RSL’s 17 road matches this season, the team got the result it needed to at least force overtime in the series. In eight of them, they got the result to win outright, as two of the road draws finished scoreless.
Simplified, RSL will advance with a win or a draw in which goals are scored in the match. It will go to 30 minutes of extra time if it ends in a scoreless draw. If LA wins the match, the Galaxy will advance, regardless of the scoreline.
Want more reason for optimism?
Salt Lake is riding a 252-minute shutout streak against the Galaxy in the playoffs that includes the scoreless draw on Saturday, a 2-0 extra time win in the second leg of the West Semifinals in 2013 and 42 scoreless minutes in the first leg of that series. Defensively, RSL has been masterful of late too, with a 503-minute shutout streak that dates back to Oct. 5.
That bodes well for a team that can turn the tides of the series with one away goal.
Time will tell, though, as the second leg approaches on Sunday and RSL looks to take the next step toward a return trip to the MLS Cup Final.
Real Salt Lake Academy defender McKay Eves is among 22 players selected to represent the U.S. U-16 Boys’ National Team for a camp running from Nov. 13-21 in France.
The 15-year-old San Diego native is in his first year with RSL’s Arizona Academy team, based in Casa Grande, Arizona. He scored his first goal for the club on Oct. 26 in a 4-0 win over Nomads SC and has started all 10 matches for the U-16s this season, who are in fourth in the division at 4-3-3.
The 22-man roster will start camp in Clairefontaine, France, near Paris, on Nov. 13 with a match scheduled against France’s U-16s on Nov. 20. There is also a possibility that another match will be scheduled against a French club team, with details to be announced at a later date.
The group will be overseen by U.S. Soccer technical advisor Clint Peay, who formerly served as the U.S. U-17 National Team assistant coach. The roster is made mostly of players born in 1999, giving the younger players in the U-17 cycle an opportunity to train together and play in international competition.
Eves has previously been called into the U-17 National Team camp, but has not appeared in a match at that level.
The full roster includes 18 current Development Academy players, with 21 of the 22 players on the roster having been a part of the Academy system.
Roster by Position:
GOALKEEPERS (2): Alex Budnik (Sockers FC; Arlington Heights, Ill.), Eric Lopez (LA Galaxy; Westminster, Calif.)
DEFENDERS (8): Jose Alfaro Jr. (Fuerza Monarca; West Chicago, Ill.), Andrew Aprahamian (Philadelphia Union; Malvern, Pa.), Jordi Avila (Kendall SC; Hialeah Gardens, Fla.), McKay Eves (Real Salt Lake AZ; San Diego, Calif.), Kyle Gruno (Leicester City; Saddle River, N.J.), Matthew Real (Philadelphia Union; Drexel Hill, Pa.), Daniel Villegas (Chivas USA; Los Angeles, Calif.), Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids; Colorado Springs, Colo.)
MIDFIELDERS (5): Raul Aguilera Jr. (Orlando City; Sanford, Fla.), Jose Carranza (D.C. United; Manassas, Va.), Christopher Goslin (Georgia United; Locust Grove, Ga.), Nicholas Taitague (Richmond United; Midlothian, Va.), Juan Pablo Torres (Georgia United; Lilburn, Ga.)
FORWARDS (7): Andrew Carleton (Georgia United; Powder Springs, Ga.), Lucas Del Rosario (Capital Area RailHawks – CASL; Durham, N.C.), Jonathan Gonzalez (Monterrey; Santa Rosa, Calif.), Jeanpaul Marin (New York Red Bulls; Rego Park, N.Y.), Marty Raygoza (FC Golden State; South El Monte, Calif.), Adolfo Trujillo (De Anza Force; Livermore, Calif.), Hanif Wright (Unattached; Los Angeles, Calif.)
Cassar’s playoff debut
After seven years under Jason Kreis, Jeff Cassar took the reins at Real Salt Lake this year with tremendous success in the club’s opening 12 matches. After a 6-0-6 unbeaten run to start the year, Cassar proved his merits and led RSL to its seventh consecutive playoff berth and fifth straight season with at least 15 wins and 50 points.
On the opposing bench, Bruce Arena is the all-time winningest coach in MLS postseason history and has four MLS Cup titles to his credit. The three-time MLS Coach of the Year led the Galaxy to a sixth straight playoff berth in 2014 and also has five straight seasons with 15 wins and 50 points.
A fortress at Rio Tinto Stadium
Real Salt Lake finished 11-1-5 at home in the 2014 regular season, the lone defeat coming on June 7 against the Portland Timbers. Since then, RSL’s record at Rio Tinto Stadium is 8-0-2. That includes six straight victories in which RSL has outscored the opposition 16-3.
That success has proven to hold in the playoffs, too. Since ousting Chivas USA in the Western Conference semifinals in 2008, RSL has gone 5-2-1 at Rio Tinto Stadium in the postseason and 4-0-0 when the first leg is at home. RSL went on to win every series in which they hosted the first match.
Since announcing his retirement in August, LA Galaxy’s Landon Donovan has been showered with gifts at every stadium stop along the way. However, Salt Lake and LA had already played all three of their matches by that point, so Rio Tinto Stadium was one of the few stadiums that didn’t host a Donovan send-off.
On Saturday, there will be opportunities to wish Donovan well in his retirement and show appreciation for his accomplishments in MLS and with U.S. Soccer. However, once the match kicks off, those moments will be long gone and the fans will undoubtedly treat it like any other match between RSL and the LA Galaxy.
One of the wrinkles of the 2014 MLS Cup Playoffs is that this year, for the first time, the first tie-breaker in the aggregate-goals series will be road goals. In previous years, matches would go straight to extra time, but this year if the series is tied, the team that scored the most goals on the road will advance. If the two teams are still tied, then the match will go to extra time and a shootout, if necessary.
This increased emphasis on road scoring is designed to encourage more attacking soccer. It is the same mechanism used in CONCACAF Champions League’s Knockout Round so RSL has plenty of experience in that type of series, having reached the Champions League final in 2010-2011.