Real Salt Lake faces Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday with a bit of a quandary on their hands: Play a weakened side and risk a loss, or play a strong side and risk losing the U.S. Open Cup Final on Tuesday?
Return to approach
The first and perhaps foremost thing Real Salt Lake must focus on for Saturday's match is returning to the approach that's brought them so much joy through the season. Too often, they've set out to do something, but, after finding themselves down a goal, looked to force the occasion. It's not what they train week-in, week-out to do, and as a result, they're not particularly good at it.
So at the top of Jason Kreis's list will be convincing his side that, if the going gets tough, they must continue to attack in sane, non-panicky ways: Keep the ball on the ground, build connective play, and work as a unit. The individualistic approaches showcased last weekend was not the solution to our ills, and though they might be natural and somewhat sane reactions to the compact defense we saw, they were ineffective.
The necessity of rotation
This is no time in the season to be rotating, but we've found ourselves in a situation where it's necessary. That's a good thing, as the impetus is the U.S. Open Cup Final on Tuesday (ahem, buy tickets, et cetera), which, we'll all agree, is a good thing to have happen. And it's at home, which is even better, as you won't be able to watch it otherwise. But with Saturday on the road, a two-games-in-three-day stretch might be too much to ask of even the most seasoned of players.
Should we lose Saturday, we're in a precarious position for the playoffs. Should we lose Tuesday, we'll have missed another chance at a trophy. Obviously enough, the goal is to lose at neither asking, but the approach required is difficult. We can't put too many of those likely to start Tuesday out there on Saturday — or indeed, even on the plane today — lest we risk tiring them out prematurely.
So a much-changed lineup is inevitable. Balancing those players who might be able to play in both matches with those who might be on the bench is a difficult task. But sending Nick Rimando, Nat Borchers, Kyle Beckerman, Alvaro Saborio, Ned Grabavoy, and Javier Morales? I wouldn't count on that. Those players are ostensibly the core of our soccer identity, but we'll need to rely on our much-vaunted depth to make it through this difficult stretch.
It's a funny thing when a future match dictates a match immediately at hand, but that's the nature of playing for trophies. It's difficult, it's arduous, and it comes bundled with a great deal of risk. But if we want to stand a fighting chance to continue in both, it will take some real work.
Briefly, a slew of young players will likely see the pitch on Saturday. Sebastian Velasquez can be expected to play at the top of the diamond, where he's continually impressed for the reserves. Yordany Alvarez should be at the base of the diamond, and his strong passing and breakup play will be strongly needed against this Whitecaps side hunting for a playoff spot. Brandon McDonald could be called into action for the first time since the 3-3 draw against Portland (particularly as he's cup-tied and can't play Tuesday).
It'll be a mixed lineup, no doubt, but one imminently capable of putting a two-game losing streak behind this side. It's all about depth, isn't it?
The MLS regular season is winding down and RSL have got yet another compelling stretch of three games in eight days ahead of them – two important league games a week apart with Tuesday's U.S. Open Cup Final wedged in the middle. We’ve seen plenty of 3-in-8’s roll around this season, but it’s doubtful that any of them are as important as this one. If RSL plays out of their minds and wins all three games, they will find themselves with a major trophy in hand, a CONCACAF Champions League berth (and all the ancillary benefits that come with it), and a guaranteed spot in the playoffs. But if they crash and burn, they could find themselves without a trophy and on the outside of the playoff race. So if you’re Jason Kreis, the question is how do you manage these games?
The first consideration has to be priorities – which games are most important to win? I think it’s fair to say that the number one priority is the U.S. Open Final for the reasons the RSL blog crew have hashed out for months. So no matter what Kreis chooses to do in the other games, it’s clear that he needs his first-choice team to arrive ready and rested on Tuesday night. After that game the priorities are not as clear-cut, but for me it’s the FC Dallas game on October 5. It’s a home game and represents the better opportunity to get three points.
That’s not to say that Saturday's game at Vancouver game is a throwaway by any means. It’s still important – especially given the low point that Salt Lake is going through right now – that they at least show up and compete well. Going into the Open Cup Final on a three-game losing streak would be less than ideal from a confidence standpoint. With that in mind, there are going to have to be some lineup changes against the Whitecaps. Considering the Tuesday game and the fact that Vancouver plays on turf, it makes sense to consider resting the legs that have the most miles – season and/or career – on them.
I would consider resting guys like Chris Wingert, Nat Borchers, Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales and Ned Grabavoy because they’re definitely going to be in Tuesday’s plans, so it might be unwise to risk an injury to one of them. Lovel Palmer, Brandon McDonald, Yordany Alvarez, Khari Stephenson and Sebastian Velasquez are certainly capable of replacing them without a big drop in quality. That’s the beauty of being probably the deepest team in the league.
For the U.S. Open Cup game, there will be no holding back. Perhaps this game could even see the return of injured forward Alvaro Saborio. In any case, there’s no way Kreis fields anything less than his best available group. Nobody should underestimate D.C. based on the admittedly horrible MLS season they’ve had. If anything, the disappointment of their league play will further motivate them since Open Cup is the last thing they have to play for this year. United will be a desperate and motivated team, and last week we saw what a desperate team is capable of.
With the Open Cup game behind them (and hopefully with a trophy in tow), RSL can return its focus to the Dallas game and playoff positioning. In the past Kreis has shown no reservations about trotting out guys who played 90 minutes just days before, so his lineup choices will probably be based on how players are feeling after the previous two games and who’s most in form.
This three-game stretch is one of the last opportunities for the team to get their form right before the playoffs, and some less-used players are going to have to step up and play big.
The latest Kickin' it with Kwame is here! Check out RSL's Kwame Watson-Siriboe as he talks with some fans and fellow defenders Nat Borchers and Aaron Maund at last week's RSL Meet the Team Event at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Real Salt Lake lost its second match in a row on Saturday, falling 2-1 to the San Jose Earthquakes at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Here are a few facts and figures from Saturday’s match:
Rio Tinto Stadium was sold-out on Saturday night, with 20,504 fans packing the RioT to capacity for the sixth time this season. The sellout – the second consecutive full house in Sandy – was the fourth largest crowd in Rio Tinto Stadium history.
Despite dropping two consecutive matches, the Claret-and-Cobalt is still in the Supporters’ Shield race – albeit on the fringes – just three points behind the first-place New York Red Bulls and two points back of Western Conference leaders Seattle Sounders FC.
All three goals in Saturday’s contest were scored within a 3 minutes and 5 second span in the first half. Steven Lenhart opened the scoring, nodding San Jose ahead at the 17:03 mark. Javier Morales equalized for RSL, finding the back of the net at the 18:44 mark. Lenhart scored the winner scarcely a minute later, again heading home to put the Quakes up 2-1 at the 20:08 mark.
Morales continued his dominance over San Jose on Saturday, with his 19th minute tally marking his seventh career goal against the Quakes. RSL’s Argentine maestro now has seven goals and six assists in 13 career regular season games against the Bay Area side.
While the team wasn’t able to pick up a result, RSL did completely control the run of play on Saturday, registering 69.5 percent possession and out shooting San Jose 17-8.
CASA GRANDE, Ariz. - The Real Salt Lake-Arizona U-16 and U-18 teams will open the 2013-14 U.S. Soccer Development Academy season this Saturday, traveling to Sacramento to take on San Juan Soccer Club.
The U-16 squad is the defending U.S. Soccer Development Academy champions after they defeated Solar Chelsea 4-2 in the U-16 championship match in July 2013. Both sides are looking to qualify for the USSDA playoffs for the fourth-straight year.
Saturday's Academy matches will be held at Mather Soccer Complex - North Field. Kick off for the U-18 match is set for 12 p.m. MT and the U-16 match will begin at 2:30 p.m. MT.
The Real Salt Lake U-16 Elite squad is also going to be on the road this weekend, as are set to travel to Scottsdale, Ariz. for their first match in the Arizona State League. The Claret-and-Cobalt will square off against SC del Sol 98 at Scottsdale Sports Complex; kickoff set for 9:25 a.m. PST.
Four Real Salt Lake Academy players have been invited to a U-18 MNT camp at the U.S. Soccer’s National Training Center in Los Angeles, California. The camp takes place Sept. 22-29
The Grande Sports Academy home of the Real Salt Lake Arizona Academy is pleased to announce the commitment of: Chase Bishov to Princeton University; Dillon Nino to Dayton; and Justen Glad to Stanford.
Assistant coach Freddy Juarez spoke to U.S. Soccer about the benefits of a residency setup.
GSA Exports is a regular feature where we track the progress of our former players who are playing at the college and professional levels. Here is a list of eight players who are playing professionally in five different countries and here is another list of over 40 academy graduates who combined to score four goals and assist on eight goals in the first week of college soccer.
The Grande Sports Academy home of the Real Salt Lake Academy is pleased to announce a new partnership between the Seeds of Hope and GSA to create the first mentoring program in the city of Casa Grande.
Following Wednesday's training, assistant coach Mike Kraus and players Fito Ovalle and Jose Hernandez shared their thoughts on the Academy teams, expectations for this year and how things have been different in training.
Real Salt Lake midfielder Luis Gil and forward Olmes Garcia were both named to MLSsoccer.com's fourth-annual 24 under 24 list this week, with Gil clocking in at No. 2 on the rankings and Garcia coming in at No. 19.
While Gil and Garcia are both highly deserving of the honor, there are a few worthy RSL players that didn't make the list. 21-year-old forward Joao Plata and 19-year-old defender Carlos Salcedo have been particularly strong for the Claret-and-Cobalt this season, with Plata notching three goals and eight assists in league play and Salcedo performing admirably as a surprise starter alongside Nat Borchers in the center of RSL's back line.
Plata's exclusion from the 24 under 24 list is particularly curious. The diminuitve Ecuadorian, as mentioned above, has been very strong for RSL this year, but he's also been better than numerous forwards who made teh 24 under 24 list. Plata has better numbers than LA forward Gyasi Zardes (No. 7) and Jose Villarreal (No. 11) as well as Vancouver forward Darren Mattocks (No. 12). Alas, on-field performance isn't the only criterion used in the 24 under 24 voting, with the slightly-vague "Marketability/Personality" category carrying 20 percent of the weight, equal to the other four metrics used in tabulating the rankings.
Plata's plight was significant enough that it was noted this morning by MLSsoccer.com's Matt Doyle in his column highlighting the five biggest 24 under 24 snubs this season.
RSL has a pair of of other youngsters who also merit mention in this discussion, with 22-year-olds Devon Sandoval and Sebastian Velasquez performing nicely for the Claret-and-Cobalt as spot starters this season.
This Saturday (7:00 p.m. – CW30, ESPN700), Real Salt Lake looks to retake the lead in the Supporters’ Shield race as they host a desperate San Jose side. But that’s not all that is noteworthy ahead of this weekend’s clash. Rio Tinto Stadium is close to notching its sixth sellout of the season— only Maverik Mayhem Corner seats and Standing Room Only tickets remain — while going head-to-head with Utah’s biggest rivalry game: BYU vs. Utah.
The near-sellout has proved to be especially noteworthy, garnering an article in the Salt Lake Tribune earlier this week.
RSL Head Coach Jason Kreis sees the near-sellout as a sign of soccer’s growing influence in Utah.
"We’ve done this in the past, a near-sellout or sellout,” he told media when asked about going up against the BYU vs. Utah game. “I think it’s a pretty clear indicator of where we are in our sport and where we are with the support in this community. I think all of us feel extremely proud and extremely pleased with that support.”
The BYU vs. Utah game might be the biggest sports rivalry in Utah, but RSL fans aren’t letting this weekend’s critical match go unnoticed.
The players are having a little fun with it too, sharing their favorite sports rivalries in the video above ahead of Saturday's likely sellout at Rio Tinto Stadium and college football clash in Provo.
CASA GRANDE, Ariz. – Under-18 MNT head coach Javier Perez has called up 36 players for a week-long camp at U.S. Soccer’s National Training Center in Carson, California. Included in the call up are four Real Salt Lake Academy players: defender Justen Glad, midfielder Corey Baird and forwards Brooks Lennon and Sebastian Saucedo.
The camp takes place September 22-29 and will feature an intrasquad scrimmage on Wednesday, September 25th, as well as two matches on Saturday, September 28th, against local club sides. Following the camp, Perez will select a 18-player roster to travel from October 6th-14th to represent the U.S. at a four-team tournament in Limoges, France.
Last season, Glad, Lennon and Saucedo played for the U-16 RSL Academy team. All three players scored a goal in a 4-2 win over Solar Chelsea in the U-16 U.S. Soccer Development Final in July 2013.
Glad and Baird were teammates at the U-17 MNT Residency program in Bradenton, Florida earlier this year and both made the 2013 U-17 CONCACAF Championship squad.
Perez has called a contingent of players born in 1996 and 1997, 33 of which have ties to U.S. Soccer’s Development Academy as current or former players.
In addition, Glad, Lennon and Saucedo are one of 25 players who participated the National Combine in August at Nike Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon.
U.S. U-18 MNT Roster by Position:
GOALKEEPERS (4): Austin Aviza (New England Revolution; Medway, Mass.), Jeff Caldwell (NC Fusion; Todd, N.C.), Carter Richardson (Crew Soccer Academy; Dublin, Ohio), Justin Vom Steeg (Real So Cal; Santa Barbara, Calif.)
DEFENDERS (13): David Chavez (De Anza Force; Redwood City, Calif.), Conor Donovan (Capital Area RailHawks Academy; Fuquay Varina, N.C.), Chase Gasper (Bethesda-Olney; Alexandria, Va.), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake AZ; Tucson, Ariz.), Malcolm Jones (LA Galaxy; Chino Hills, Calif.), Elijah Martin (LA Galaxy; Fresno, Calif.), Shaquell Moore (IMG Academy; Powder Springs, Ga.), Erik Palmer-Brown (Sporting Kansas City; Lee’s Summit, Mo.), Quentin Pearson (Colorado Rapids; Longmont, Colo.), Pablo Pelaez (San Diego Surf; San Diego, Calif.), Tommy Redding (Chicago Magic PSG; Oviedo, Fla.), Miles Robinson (FC Bolts Celtic; Arlington, Mass.), Peter Schropp (Omaha FC; Omaha, Neb.)
MIDFIELDERS (11): Mukwelle Akale (Minnesota Thunder; Minneapolis, Minn.), Corey Baird (Real Salt Lake AZ; Escondido, Calif.), Coy Craft (FC Dallas; Frisco, Texas), Grant Hollkamp (Indiana Fire; Borden, Ind.), Maduabuchi Obinwa (Chicago Magic PSG; Orlando, Fla.), Amirgy Pineda (Fullerton Rangers; Santa Ana, Calif.), Martin Salas Jr. (FC Dallas; Dallas, Texas), Connor Smith (Baltimore Celtic; Clarksville, Md.), Ben Swanson (Crew Soccer Academy; Grove City, Ohio), Tyler Turner (IMG Academy; Meriden, Conn.), David Villegas (Chicago Magic PSG; Sacramento, Calif.)
FORWARDS (8): Jeremy Ebobisse (Bethesda Olney; Bethesda, Md.), Sebastian Elney (Boca United; Boca Raton, Fla.), Brooks Lennon (Real Salt Lake AZ; Paradise Valley, Ariz.), Christian Lucatero (Houston Dynamo; Pasadena, Texas), Sebastian Saucedo (Real Salt Lake AZ; Park City, Utah), Alejandro Vergara (Chicago Magic PSG; Long Beach, Calif.), Alan Winn (Solar Chelsea SC; Garland, Texas), Dembakwi Yomba (Concorde Fire; Lithona, Ga.)
Real Salt Lake’s Supporters’ Shield hopes took a hit on Friday night, with the Claret-and-Cobalt’s 2-0 loss at Seattle dropping the Utah side out of first place, one point behind Sounders FC in the Western Conference and Shield races.
Seattle’s points lead and its two games in hand on RSL place the Sounders firmly in the driver’s seat for the Supporters’ Shield and Western Conference crowns. But that doesn’t mean the Claret-and-Cobalt is out of either race – far from it, in fact.
We’ve broken down the Supporters’ Shield race, analyzing the schedules of the top-five teams based on points per game. Check it out:
1 – Seattle Sounders FC
Current points: 49
Current points per game: 1.81
League standings: 1st
Points per game standings: 1st
MLS games remaining: 7
Maximum possible points: 70
Opponents’ average points: 43.14
Remaining schedule: Sept. 21 at LA, Sept. 29 v. NY, Oct. 5 at COL, Oct. 9 v. VAN, Oct. 13 at POR, Oct. 19 at DAL, Oct. 27 v. LA
Rundown: Seattle took charge in the Supporters’ Shield race by beating RSL, with the Sounders now controlling their own destiny with a maximum of 70 possible points. While Seattle is the current front-runner, the Sounders do have a very tough schedule down the stretch, with all seven of its matches coming against teams still fighting for their playoff lives. Among the Rave Green’s toughest remaning matches are this Saturday’s contest at LA, the Oct. 5 game at Colorado, the Oct. 13 match at Portland and the Oct. 27 regular season finale against the Galaxy.
2 – Montreal Impact
Current points: 45
Current points per game: 1.67
League standings: 4th (Ahead of KC, COL on tiebreaker)
Points per game standings: 2nd
MLS games remaining: 7
Maximum possible points: 66
Opponents’ average points: 37.14
Remaining schedule: Sept. 21 v. VAN, Sept. 25 v. HER**, Sept. 28 at CHI, Oct. 4 at HOU, Oct. 12 v. NE, Oct. 16 at LA, Oct. 19 v. PHI, Oct. 26 at TOR
Rundown: One of the surprise teams of the season, Montreal has put itself in a good spot to take home the 2013 Supporters’ Shield. The Impact’s seven remaining games are tied with Seattle for most in the league, and its 1.67 points per game average is second only to the Sounders. Montreal also has a relatively easier schedule compared to the other Shield contenders, with its opponents’ average of 37.14 points higher than only RSL’s and Kansas City’s totals. One potential stumbling block for the Impact could be fixture congestion: Marco Di Vaio and Co. will play eight times before the season ends, including a crucial CONCACAF Champions League match against Guatemala’s CD Heredia on Sept. 25.
3 – Real Salt Lake
Current points: 48
Current points per game: 1.66
League rank: 2nd (Ahead of NY on tiebreaker)
Points per game rank: T-3rd
MLS games remaining: 5
Maximum possible points: 63
Opponents’ average points: 37
Remaining schedule: Sept. 21 v. SJ, Sept. 28 at VAN, Oct. 1 v. DC*, Oct. 5 v. DAL, Oct. 19 at POR, Oct. 23 v. CHV
Rundown: RSL has one of the easier schedules among the Supporters’ Shield contenders, with its opponents’ average points clocking in at 37, second-lowest only to Sporting Kansas City. The downside: RSL only has five matches remaining in which to gain points, two fewer than fellow contenders Seattle and Montreal, one less than Kansas City and even with New York.
4 – New York Red Bulls
Current points: 48
Current points per game: 1.66
League standings: 3rd (Trailing RSL on tiebreaker)
Points per game standings: T-3rd
MLS games remaining: 5
Maximum possible points: 63
Opponents’ average points: 41
Remaining schedule: Sept. 22 v. DAL, Sept. 29 at SEA, Oct. 5 v. NE, Oct. 20 at HOU, Oct. 27 v. CHI
Rundown: New York is streaking at the moment, having won three matches in a row over DC, Houston and Toronto. While they’re hot, the Red Bulls have a difficult schedule remaining, with the five matches left on the schedule all coming against teams still in the playoff race. New York’s toughest remaining match is also the most important for its Supporters’ Shield hopes: Sept. 29 against the Sounders at CenturyLink Field.
5 – Sporting Kansas City
Current points: 45
Current points per game: 1.61
League standings: 5th (Trailing MTL on tiebreaker)
Points per game standings: 5th
MLS games remaining: 6
Maximum possible points: 63
Opponents’ average points: 31.83
Remaining schedule: Sept. 21 at TOR, Sept. 27 v. PHI, Oct. 5 at CLB, Oct. 9 at HOU, Oct. 18 v. DC, Oct. 23 v. OLI**, Oct. 26 at PHI
Rundown: Kansas City has a bit of work to do to climb closer to Seattle in the Supporters’ Shield race, needing wins on the road – Sporting plays four of its remaining six MLS matches away from home – to challenge the Seattle’s of the world. Thankfully for KC, its schedule is probably the easiest of the five teams listed, taking on lowly Toronto on Saturday, playing at Columbus on Oct. 5 and hosting league cellar-dwellers DC on Oct. 18.
MLSsoccer.com is in the midst of its annual 24 under 24 week, and, in honor of the occasion, published a "Between the Lines" video on the new wave of attacking talent in MLS. Real Salt Lake's Luis Gil features in the video, with MLSsoccer's Matt Doyle breaking down his game, along with those of Portland's Darlington Nagbe, Vancouver's Russel Teibert and New England's Kelyn Rowe.
Doyle breaks down the 19-year-old Gil beginning at the 4:45 mark of the video. The entire piece is worth a watch, though. Check it out above.