Real Salt Lake and Seattle have formed somewhat of a rivalry over the years, and though it's no longer in its nascent stages, there's bound to be plenty of talk about it. But despite the familiarity of the two opponents, some things this time around are a little different.
Seattle is a familiar enemy, but without the likes of Osvaldo Alonso, they'll take on a different look. Since 2010, Alonso has missed only one MLS match against Real Salt Lake; he'll miss his second tonight, according to reports. Without their hard-tackling, short-passing midfielder Real Salt Lake should have a little more freedom to play through the middle, but any relaxing on our part would be remiss.
Still, while Alonso's absence bodes well (but not so well as to allow us a moment to relax), it does rather sting when we know we once again won't be able to see Alonso and Beckerman going at it in the midfield. Remember, if anybody asks you which of the two is better, simply point to a passing chart and ask how many of Alonso's are forward-moving compared to Beckerman's. It quite clearly illustrates the distinction between the two. (Here's a number: Beckerman's passes are 43 percent forward-moving; only 26 percent of Alonso's are.)
Injuries and adjustment
With RSL playing up the middle — which, if we're to be honest, isn't unusual — the deeper midfielders will have greater responsibility. Undoubtedly, Javier Morales will still move into wide positions, and the outside-diamond players will make diagonal runs to and from the flanks, but it's when they're closer to their starting spots that they'll have the best options emerge. Seattle is a team that notably plays well out wide, with Alonso covering huge swathes of ground in the middle. They'll miss that.
Without Kwame Watson-Siriboe and Chris Schuler, another chance for young defender Carlos Salcedo has been created; he'll be looking to put in a good shift with some questions about the necessity of an acquisition looming. Expect his partnership with Nat Borchers to see Borchers stay deeper and Salcedo to step slightly further forward, particularly as we look to win long balls in the air. This match will almost certainly see plenty of those.
In a sense, we're somewhat lucky that Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando consistently join with the national team only to not play. They are, one would imagine, less fatigued than those players who put 90 minute shifts in. Though we missed no MLS matches with those two gone this time, there's still a palpable sense of relief at their uninjured return. Seattle does receive Brad Evans and Eddie Johnson back from United States duty and Mario Martinez from Honduras, but the two former played high numbers of minutes and may be in doubt for the match so as to allow some recovery time for the pair.
Real Salt Lake and Seattle Sounders FC don't have the longest history, but - despite its relative brevity - the rivarly between the Claret-and-Cobalt and the Rave Green is full of great moments. Saturday's match between the two Western Conference powers figures to be another solid meeting. Until then, enjoy these four "Signature Moments" in the RSL-Seattle series.
March 30, 2013: Luis Gil scores a fantastic diving header in RSL's 2-1 win over Seattle at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Nov. 2, 2012: Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando turned in a performance for the ages in RSL's scoreless draw at Seattle in the first leg of the 2012 Western Conference Semifinals, making incredible stop after incredible stop - even after suffering a broken nose in the second half - to keep the clean sheet.
Nick had so many good stops in the game that we thought it'd be unfair to single out just one. The full highlights - featuring all of Rimando's fantastic stops - are below:
Nov. 2, 2011: Tony Beltran had one of the best goal-line clearances we've ever seen in the second leg of RSL's Western Conference Semifinal series against Seattle, acrobatically heading away a Jeff Parke volley to keep the game scoreless. The Claret-and-Cobalt went on to lose the match 2-0, but advance past Seattle and into the West Final 3-2 on aggregate.
Oct. 29, 2011: RSL ran rampant in the first leg of the 2011 West semis against Seattle, downing the Sounders 3-0 at Rio Tinto Stadium to take a hefty lead into the series' second leg. Alvaro Saborio had the first two goals for the Claret-and-Cobalt - his second was particulary impressive, with the Costa Rican striker showing just how skilled he is with an incredible back-heeled goal.
He didn't get the result he wanted, but Real Salt Lake midfielder Luis Gil had a great game in the U.S. U-20's 4-1 loss to Spain in their FIFA U-20 World Cup opener on Friday, curling in a fantastic goal in the 77th minute and putting in the best performance of any American in the match.
Gil looked lively throughout, playing numerous gorgeous through balls, making dangerous on-the-ball runs and keeping his composure for the entire 90 minutes. His goal was an absolute thing of beauty, with the 19-year-old Southern California native curling a 24-yard left-footer past Spain's 'keeper and into the top right corner from just left of center.
Click here to see some (grainy) footage of Luis's goal. We'll try and update with higher quality video as soon as possible.
Update: Not sure how you could've read this far and missed it, but - just in case - check out Luis's goal up above. It's at the 3:37 mark.
MLSsoccer.com's Matt Doyle and Dan Haiek gave Saturday's Real Salt Lake-Seattle Sounders FC matchup the Scouting Report treatment. Give it a watch ahead of tomorrow's 7:30 p.m. kick at Rio Tinto Stadium.
If you're anything like me, when things in the soccer world are going well, life just seems to be a little bit better. It's hard not to leave Rio Tinto Stadium with a smile when your team earns three well-deserved points. If it seems like your post-game walk to the car has often been a happy one lately, that's because it has - teams that call Rio Tinto Stadium home have been extraordinarily successful as of late. Consider the following:
- RSL is on fire in MLS play right now. Since the beginning of May, the Claret-and-Cobalt have collected a league-best 16 points in just 7 matches. Along the way they've found the back of the net a whopping 17 times. At home they've taken 10 of a possible 12 points with a goal differential of +7.
- While all that MLS action was going down, RSL also managed to find success in U.S. Open Cup play. May/June saw two home contests, both won by RSL, both against lower-division foes, though it wasn't easy as both games went into extra time before Salt Lake could secure the victories. As in MLS play, goals have been plentiful for Real in the USOC as they've managed to score eight times in those two matches, with five of those goals coming in 60 total minutes of extra time played.
- The weather wasn't all that was hot on Tuesday night as the U.S. Men's National Team continued their torrid run of form in dispatching Honduras 1-0 in the CONCACAF Hexagonal. The U.S. men started their streak of good results on June 2 with a thumping of world soccer power Germany 4-3 in a final tuneup before three straight World Cup Qualifiers. After that they took their show on the road in Jamaica where a dramatic stoppage-time goal by Brad Evans gave the Red, White, and Blue three crucial road points. All eyes then focused on Seattle where the Nats easily handled Panama with perhaps their best showing in the last few years, setting the stage for this week's victory at Rio Tinto. That win was the U.S.'s fourth straight, giving the team all nine possible points in World Cup qualifying in June. With six games down and four to go, the U.S. is now in command of The Hex from the top of the table, two points ahead of Costa Rica and five points clear of Mexico. It's not over until it's over, but thanks to the current hot streak we all got to be a part of, the U.S. is a virtual lock for the 2014 World Cup.
It's interesting to note that the U.S. men and Real Salt Lake have found their recent success by different means. For the U.S. team, their success has come from stability - for the first time in a long time, lineups and player personnel decisions were consistent. For RSL, their success has come from versatility - with the crowded schedule, injuries, and international absences, most of the roster has seen minutes in MLS and/or U.S. Open Cup play. For the U.S. team, their scoring load has been shouldered by Jozy Altidore who has scored in all four of the States' recent wins, while for RSL, their scoring load has been spread far and wide - nine different players have scored since the start of May. This goes to show that what two teams need to be successful are not necessarily the same. It also illustrates the difference between a cluster of three games followed by a long break (where consistency is needed) vs. the constant grind of a nine-month MLS season (where flexibility is needed).
If you've missed out on these red-hot teams in their various competitions, don't fret - both clubs will be back at Rio Tinto shortly.
- RSL has three MLS home games in the next month, starting this Saturday with Seattle paying a visit. This is a great chance for RSL to continue their strong run in league play while climbing the table and also putting some distance between them and a Western Conference foe.
- Real will be contesting their U.S. Open Cup Quarterfinal match at home next Wednesday against Carolina. If you've never given the USOC a chance, this would be a good time to see what it's all about. We've seen two good matches already, but the U.S. Open Cup gets even more compelling starting now as teams realize that they're only a couple of wins away from a CONCACAF Champions League berth. You will see playoff-atmosphere soccer in this one, especially considering the winner hosts a USOC Semifinal against Portland or Dallas.
- The U.S. men will be back to Rio Tinto on July 13 for a Gold Cup tilt against Cuba. Granted, this won't be the strongest team the U.S. is capable of fielding, but it gives us a look at some up-and-coming players on the national scene. Nothing is for certain but this game could have a couple RSL players featuring prominently while the likes of Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey get a well-deserved vacation. Plus it's still high-level international soccer; if you haven't experienced international soccer, it has a unique vibe to it. Everyone needs to be a part of something like this at least once.
We've been blessed with lots of great soccer - and great teams - at Rio Tinto Stadium recently, and it's not over yet. See you out here!
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.
Remember the last time Real Salt Lake played Seattle? Yeah, that was fun. Let's do it again on Saturday.
Fan voting for this summer's MLS All-Star Game began on June 10. On Thursday, a new element was added: The Twitter vote.
How does the Twitter vote work? Here's all you need to know:
- Votiing is open from 10 a.m. MT on Thursday until 9:59 p.m. MT on Friday. It's a short window, so vote for your favorite RSL players early and often.
An eligible vote consists of the hashtag #MLSAllStar
AND the player's full name (first and last required) with or without a space.
- Example: Kyle Beckerman or KyleBeckerman
OR their Twitter handle
- Example: @NickRimando
- AND the player's full name (first and last required) with or without a space.
- Fans may vote for multiple players in a tweet; however fans may not vote for a single player multiple times within one tweet.
Fans may only vote for players on the All-Star ballot
- The six RSL players on the ballot are: Kyle Beckerman, Tony Beltran, Nat Borchers, Javier Morales, Nick Rimando and Alvaro Saborio. Click here to see the full ballot.
- There is no limit to the number of tweet votes fans can submit for any one player. Like we said, vote early and vote often.
- Each Twitter vote counts equal to one text vote or one online vote.
Don't have Twitter? No, worries. Click here to fill out the standard online ballot. Vote RSL!
Really cool video from RSL-Arizona Academy U-18 player Trevor Hyman, who used a GoPro camera to take us inside life at Grande Sports Academy.
Hyman filmed his journey to Casa Grande from his home in Southern California, a few RSL-AZ training sessions and some footage from the roof of the Academy dorm. It's a really great look at life at the RSL-AZ Academy - definitely worth a watch.
Hyman and the RSL-AZ U-18's will begin their run in the U.S. Soccer Developmental Academy Playoffs next Monday in Dallas. The Claret-and-Cobalt enter the playoffs as the top seed in their group, which includes St. Louis Scott Gallagher-Missouri, CASL Chelsea FC Academy and D.C. United. Each playoff team has a chance to qualify for USSDA's Finals Week, which will be held from July 14-20 in Houston.
Hyman will join Stanford University's soccer team this fall. Give him a follow on Twitter @trevorhyman8.
U.S. Men’s National Team Manager Jurgen Klinsmann sure seems like a fan of Salt Lake City.
Klinsmann was very complimentary of SLC and Real Salt Lake on Friday in a U.S. Soccer Q&A ahead of Tuesday’s World Cup Qualifier against Honduras at Rio Tinto Stadium. Good thing, too: After spending six days in town ahead of Tuesday’s qualifier, Klinsmann and the USMNT will return to Utah in just a few short weeks for its July 13 CONCACAF Gold Cup match against Cuba in Sandy.
Here’s what Klinsmann’s expecting from Tuesday’s sold-out Rio Tinto Stadium crowd:
”Everybody was thrilled to experience Seattle [where the U.S. beat Panama 2-0 on June 11]. Everybody said afterwards, ‘Wow, this was definitely the right decision to go all the way to the Northwest from Jamaica.’ We spent eight hours on the plane, but then we were thrilled because the support was just amazing and we expect the same at Rio Tinto Stadium. We know this is a very passionate crowd, they love soccer here in Salt Lake and what happens with Real Salt Lake similar to the Sounders is just wonderful. It shows how strong MLS has become, how strong soccer has become in this country. It’s more proof of it, and therefore we can’t wait to start that game. I’m sure the fans will carry us through the game, help us to push the envelope, help us keep the energy high and help get these three points that we badly need.”
U.S. Soccer published a nice video piece on Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando on Sunday ahead of Tuesday's World Cup Qualifier against Honduras at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Check it out to get Nick's thoughts on being with the national team, plus some added color from his U.S. teammates Tim Howard, Michael Bradley and Sacha Kljestan.