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.
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.