It's one of the best features on MLSsoccer.com: Simon Borg takes a look at controversial refereeing decisions from the weekend and breaks them down, as only he can.
This week's edition is - unsurprisingly - heavy on decisions from Real Salt Lake's tough 2-1 loss to Sporting Kansas City on Saturday. Mr. Borg offers his opinion on the calls and RSL Head Coach Jason Kreis' assesment of them. Give it a watch above.
The Real Salt Lake-Arizona Academy U-16's won the U.S. Soccer Developmental Academy Championship on Saturday, defeating Dallas-based Solar Chelsea 4-2 to take home RSL-AZ's first title.
After the match, the players celebrated on the field by signing the "Believe" anthem. Video above.
Real Salt Lake’s 11-game unbeaten streak came to an end on Saturday night, falling to Sporting KC 2-1 at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Here are a few interesting numbers from Saturday’s match:
Despite Saturday’s loss, Real Salt Lake is still in first-place in the Supporters’ Shield and Western Conference races, one point ahead of SKC for the league lead and three points ahead of Portland in the West table. The Claret-and-Cobalt also remains in first in goals scored, goals conceded, goal difference, road goals and road goal difference.
Real Salt Lake midfielder Javier Morales suffered six fouls on Saturday, the most fouls he’s suffered in any one game this season. The Argentine playmaker has now been fouled 51 times this season, second in the league behind Dallas’s David Ferreira. Morales’s 3.25 fouls suffered per 90 minutes is the highest rate in the league amongst players with more than 1000 minutes played.
Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Jeff Attinella on Saturday became the 25th RSL player to start an MLS match in the 2013 season. Fellow Western Conference contenders Portland and FC Dallas each have only started 19 different players thus far in MLS play.
Real Salt Lake forward Robbie Findley tallied his fifth goal of the year on Saturday, equaling his total from the 2010 season – his last season with RSL before a two-year sojourn at English club Nottingham Forest.
The Claret-and-Cobalt now has an all-time record of 6-2-10 in home Fireworks games. The club’s prior defeat in a home Fireworks game came at the hands of Toronto FC on July 4, 2007.
Sporting KC’s Ike Opara scored the game-winning goal in the 97th minute of play on Saturday. The goal was the latest RSL has ever allowed.
Two of the best sides in recent MLS memory face each other when RSL takes on Sporting Kansas City this weekend, and that we're involved in that is a testament to the progress we've made this season — but playing SKC always presents some difficult considerations.
Watching some of the more positive moments — those that resulted in goals and those that didn't — against FC Dallas last weekend, the importance of the ever-vaunted pass-and-move strategy came to bear. By forcing defenders and midfielders to follow the ball consistently, quick, dangerous players like Olmes Garcia and Joao Plata can come in late in the match and tear the opposition apart. It should also be noted that Real Salt Lake's goals on the break this season — of which there have been a fair few — have come as a result of that movement. When five, six, even seven attackers end up in the attacking third, the odds of a goal should naturally increase.
Despite conceding some chances while dominating matches, Jason Kreis's side have displayed an undeniable desire to win the ball quickly after turning it over, particularly outside of the defensive third. Being caught of position there is dangerous, while being caught out of position as an attacking midfielder is generally less so. Though there is a bit of danger associated with a high pressure system, the risks are outweighed by the gains. Against a strong defensive side like Sporting Kansas City, it will be imminently important to apply that sort of pressure. They'll have a result to expose the Kansas City defense to holes emanating from the absence of Matt Besler — and to expose the whole squad to the oft-discussed altitude consideration in Salt Lake City.
I feel as though I've written this little bit about 100 times this season already, but it bears repeating: RSL will have to deal with rotating due to injury. This time, we'll be without central defender Carlos Salcedo (although next time we're with him, we'll have Carlos Salcedo without his gallbladder, and perhaps that's good) and goalkeeper Josh Saunders. That's slightly problematic, but their replacements already have time: Both Aaron Maund and Jeff Attinella have seen a bit of time — Maund a bit more — and that's got to help the nerves.
Real Salt Lake returns to Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday, when it will take on Eastern Conference power Sporting Kansas City for the only time this year. Saturday’s match will kick at 8:00 p.m., with Pioneer Day fireworks following the game.
Here are a few interesting storylines to watch ahead of Wednesday’s match:
11 Game Unbeaten run on line
A week ago, Jason Kreis’ team weathered the early storm at Dallas to record a 3-0 road win, breaking its “Texas Hex” to win on Lone Star soil for the first time ever, courtesy of a Javier Morales game-winning goal, heroics from Josh Sauders and Jeff Attinella in the net and insurance strikes from Ned Grabavoy and Olmes Garcia. The victory extended the club-record unbeaten streak to 11 consecutive games in all competitions to cruise to the top of the MLS table with 37 points and a record of 11-5-4.
RSL faces another contender
Saturday’s match will be Salt Lake’s second-straight contest against the second-place club in MLS. Kansas City comes in leading the Eastern Conference with 33 points and a record of 9-5-6.
Rio Tinto regains Fortress status
Since an April 27 home 0-2 defeat to LA, RSL hasn’t dropped a game in Sandy, winning four of its last six home matches with a goal difference of +9. Overall the Utah side is 9-1-3 at Rio Tinto Stadium this year.
Depth on display
When goalkeeper Josh Saunders tore his left ACL in the 49th minute at Dallas, RSL looked to backup Jeff Attinella to complete the game. The team’s third-string GK became the 25th player from RSL’s 30-man group to start a first team match this season, including 22 field players.
Welcome Brandon McDonald to the Wasatch
On Wednesday, the Claret-and-Cobalt traded a 2014 third-round pick to D.C. United for DF Brandon McDonald, a six-year veteran center back who logged nearly 3,000 minutes last year. McDonald is an Arizona native who grew up playing with forward Robbie Findley in the famed Serano youth club. With Nat Borchers and Aaron Maund the only currently healthy center backs on the RSL roster, the 27-year-old McDonald provides depth and experience while Carlos Salcedo and Chris Schuler recover from injury.
Both teams will be without several players on Wednesday night due to CONCACAF Gold Cup call ups.
RSL will be without all-time leading scorer Alvaro Saborio for the fourth straight match after he departed for the Costa Rican national team ahead of a June 29 win at Toronto; that victory at BMO Field was the last match for likely a month for a trio of RSL’s US internationals Captain Kyle Beckerman, defender Tony Beltran and goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
Sporting Kansas City will be without its star center back, losing MLS All-Star Matt Besler to the U.S. national team.
What could possibly be better than Real Salt Lake's first ever win on Texas soil?
How about a behind the scenes video of that trip, directed and shot by the man with the best rat-tail in MLS, RSL midfielder Sebastian Velasquez.
Check out "Road Trip with Sebastian" above. You won't regret it.
Interesting video from MLSsoccer.com's Greg Lalas and Josh Whisenhunt on Real Salt Lake's Saturday home match against Sporting Kansas City.
Greg and Josh debate whether or not RSL-SKC is a MLS Cup Preview; Greg says it is, Josh picks Kansas City to make it, but bails on RSL. Greg's clearly the smarter of the pair.
Saturday's match will kickoff at 8:00 p.m. at Rio Tinto Stadium. Tickets are going fast; click here to get yours now.
U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann made four swaps in his CONCACAF Gold Cup squad on Wednesday, bringing in Sporting Kansas City defender Matt Besler, LA defender Omar Gonzalez, San Jose forward Alan Gordon and Seattle forward Eddie Johnson and sending home Houston's Corey Ashe, Philadelphia's Jack McInerney and ex-MLS players Herculez Gomez and Oguchi Onyewu.
Besler's call-up means the Sporting Kansas City defender will miss Saturday's RSL-SKC match at Rio Tinto Stadium. His absence will be a big one; the 2012 MLS Defender of the Year is Sporting's best defender, playing a crucial role in organizing SKC's back four, distributing well, posing an offensive threat on set pieces and locking down opposing strikers.
A very limited number of tickets are still available to Saturday's 8:00 p.m. match, which will be followed by a postgame fireworks display in celebration of Pioneer Day. Click here to get yours.
HOUSTON - The Real Salt Lake U-16 Academy team dropped its second group game in Finals Week to the Houston Dynamo 1-0 at the Houston Amateur Sports Park on Tuesday night.
Real Salt Lake is not eliminated with the loss, but the team has lost control of the group. For Real Salt Lake to advance to the championship game on Saturday, they need to beat Texans SC, and the Dynamo need to lose or draw with Albertson SC. Both games will be played on Thursday night.
The Houston Dynamo earned a foul just 58 seconds into the match, and converted the free-kick moments later when it was perfectly placed in the upper right corner.
RSL shook off the early deficit and started to attack, but the movements lacked purpose and at times were a little sloppy before another stroke of luck happened. For the second consecutive game, officials stopped the match due to a lightning storm that passed over the field. The 77 minute delay allowed RSL coaches to reorganize the team and it showed once the game was back up and running.
RSL earned a penalty in the 29th minute when Damian German was taken down in the box. Moises Rodriguez stepped up and hit the post on the ensuing spot-kick.
After the halftime break the Dynamo looked to extend their lead and had their second shot of the game in the 41st minute that went wide right. RSL then earned a free-kick seven minutes later from a dangerous spot in front of the net. Bofo Saucedo stepped up and sent in a curling shot that was saved by the Dynamo goalkeeper.
Because RSL had to push players forward to equalize, the defense at times became exposed. There were two nerve-racking moments in the second half that could have been called for penalties against RSL. The first was in the 55th minute and the second in the 64th. Both times the ref was uninterested in the pleas coming from the Dynamo bench.
As the game continued RSL had chances but could not get a clean look on the net. Three different headers were saved by the Dynamo goalkeeper and the next best chance on goal - a free-kick from Brooks Lennon - was saved again in the closing minutes.
RSL sent players forward in stoppage time, but it was not enough as the Dynamo outlasted them.
Next game for RSL will be against Texans SC on Thursday night. Kickoff at 5:30 p.m. MT.
In case you didn't notice, the 2013 MLS All-Star team was announced on Monday, with the game taking place on July 31st in Kansas City. With the announcement of the team - headed by Kansas City coach Peter Vermes - there follows inevitable hand-wringing from pundits about snubs - players who deserved to make the All-Star team but didn't.
Some snubs that immediately come to mind are RSL's Ned Grabavoy, LA's Marcelo Sarvas, and Philadelphia's Jack McInerney, but they aren't the biggest surprises. While Vermes did RSL fans a solid by naming Nick Rimando, Tony Beltran, and Kyle Beckerman to the team, the omission of Javier Morales shocked me the most, and his snub is the subject of this post. Nothing I can write is going to get Morales added to the roster, but it does provide the opportunity to recognize a player who is having a phenomenal year.
How good has Morales' year been so far? Consider this: His five goals are tied with Olmes Garcia for the team lead, and his eight assists are far and away the most on the team. At this pace, he'll finish the season with nine goals and 15 assists. In 2009, Morales had one goal and five assists. In 2010, Morales had seven goals and nine assists. Why did I choose 2009 and 2010 as points of reference? Because Javi made the All-Star team both those years.
Granted, 2009 and 2010 were different times in MLS. It seems that lately more teams have seen the value in a true No. 10 and more teams have spent money on that position. So clearly the bar is higher for Morales than it was back in those days.
But in spite of all the young talent and big-name players that now quarterback offenses; the evidence suggests that Morales is still at the top of the class. As mentioned above, Morales has scored five goals and dished out eight dimes so far this year. New York's Tim Cahill has five goals and three assists. Portland (and ex-RSL) man Will Johnson stands at six and three. KC's Graham Zusi is on four and five, Houston's Brad Davis has three and three, and Montreal's Patrice Bernier has two and five. All five of those midfielders made the All-Star team while Javier Morales did not. I'm not implying that these players don't deserve to be on the team; they have all had fine seasons. But after you look at these numbers you can't tell me that there's not room for a player who has produced the way Javi has.
Aside from just the raw numbers, Morales continues to do all the little things that make RSL a winner. Integrating so many new, young faces into the squad is a daunting task, one that usually takes teams’ considerable time. RSL struggled a bit in the early going as most of us expected, but lately they've been on a well-publicized tear. This doesn't happen without veteran leaders integrating the locker room and getting the new talent to buy in to what's being taught. Morales is an instrumental figure in the RSL locker room, especially serving as a bridge between the American and Latino players, and his efforts in that regard are one reason why RSL currently sits at the top of the league table.
It's true that All-Star games are more of a popularity contest than a legitimate selection of the best players, but they also serve as a form of recognition within the MLS community; a form of recognition that Morales certainly deserves this season.
A former RSL beat reporter for multiple outlets, Jeremy Horton is a regular contributor to RealSaltLake.com and helps cover the team for ESPN 700 AM.