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31 May 2:59 pm

San Jose Earthquakes are back in town for the first time since they knocked Real Salt Lake out of the Western Conference lead in June 2012, but this time, the visitors are struggling to find even the faintest of footing.

Shots fired: Real Salt Lake are leading the league in shots taken and shots on goal, and while that's nice, it's interesting that San Jose is not far behind in either metric. They've taken 10 fewer shots, so one has to wonder why they haven't been scoring. Indeed, it would be worrying if Jason Kreis wasn't paying attention to that fact — though one should be sure he is. There's a palpable feeling that San Jose are dangerous — one needs only look at shot charts to see why. This necessitates the defense protects Nick Rimando as capably as possible.

Speaking of defense, deciding between Kwame Watson-Siriboe and Carlos Salcedo for the partnership with Nat Borchers can't be easy. After 120 minutes on Tuesday and 90 minutes on Saturday, Carlos Salcedo might miss out. That's simply a lot of time out there, and he's worked hard the entire time. But he has acquitted himself well in the early days of the season, and Jason Kreis has shown a penchant for retaining players in form. With Chris Schuler likely to miss out, the decision comes down to today and how well the two recovered from a grueling Open Cup match.

Recovery will be a big consideration for Kreis everywhere on the pitch. Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales and Carlos Salcedo all played full minutes in both recent matches, and some rotation might necessarily take place. Sebastian Velasquez, Luis Gil, and perhaps some faces less often seen could be in line for minutes. But once again, inconsistency in play is a natural extension of inconsistent lineups.

Lineup concerns are one thing, but considering RSL's relative success despite those inconsistencies, there's not much reason for grave concern. The rotation might even be a good thing for those players who haven't seen as much time — but who exactly that might be is up for debate.

Less-used players might end up with time. Enzo Martinez and David Viana haven't played any matches yet in 2013 (and Enzo not at all), Khari Stephenson has only started a third of the matches he's played in, and Kwame Watson-Siriboe has played in only a handful of matches. Should some of the players with less experience play against San Jose, they'll have to be extra aware — especially considering that San Jose's not afraid to shoot.

regular contributor to RealSaltLake.com, Matt Montgomery runs the SB Nation blog RSL Soapbox. Follow Matt on Twitter @TheCrossbarRSL

31 May 2:24 pm

RSL's Kyle Beckerman, Tony Beltran, Nick Rimando and Alvaro Saborio were all named on Friday to preliminary rosters for this summer's CONCACAF Gold Cup. 

Beckerman, Beltran and Rimando were all named to Jurgen Klinsman's U.S. roster while Saborio was named to Costa Rica's preliminary team. The preliminary rosters will be trimmed down from 35 to to 23 ahead of the tournament's start in July. Managers will be allowed to call up to four players from the preliminary roster that were not initally on the 23-man roster following the tournament's Group Stage. 

Both Saborio and Rimando will go on international duty prior to the Gold Cup, with Saborio leaving on Sunday to join Costa Rica for three World Cup Qualifiers and Rimando meeting up with the U.S. team on June 9 for its June 11 qualifier against Panama in Seattle and its July 18 match against Honduras here at Rio Tinto Stadium. Rimando is one of four 'keepers on the U.S.'s preliminary roster along with Houston's Tally Hall, D.C.'s Bill Hamid and Chicago's Sean Johnson. The RSL backstop figures to play a major role for the Stars-and-Stripes at the Gold Cup. 

Click here for the preliminary rosters for all 12 teams set to compete in the Gold Cup.

31 May 1:19 pm

San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch joined On Frame on Thursday night to look ahead to Saturday's RSL-Earthquakes matchup, talk U.S. Open Cup and discuss San Jose's year thus far.

The veteran 'keeper said something particularly interesting about the Earthquakes "Goonies" mentality, telling Brian Dunseth and Trey Fitz-Gerald that he thinks the "Goonies" mantra needs "to be put to rest."   

Click here to listen to Busch's entire interview. Give the entire show a listen here

30 May 3:27 pm

Good times in Real Salt Lake's last game at San Jose: A Saborio brace, the birth of the Sabo-Plata love affair and - most importantly - a Claret-and-Cobalt win. 

Check out the full highlights from RSL's March 3 season opening win at Buck Shaw Stadium above. 

29 May 4:22 pm

In predicting the lineup, few would have ventured playing Kyle Beckerman and Yordany Alvarez alongside each other as a distinctly possible option. Ever the man with a plan, Jason Kreis opted for surprise over, well, no surprise.
 
Doubling down
 
The choice involved in playing Beckerman and Alvarez together was rendered particularly interesting by two things: Alvarez had played at the side of the diamond in the past, and it must be said, he hardly impressed during those moments; and Beckerman has been a rock in the deep-lying spot, having not played on the side since 2008 or so.
 
Surprisingly to some, it worked very well. Our captain has shown a more attacking bent this season than in the past, and that he works in the side of the diamond should come as no real surprise. He's a flexible, dynamic sort of player. The question then becomes one of coordination and interaction and less about positional sense. Unsurprisingly, both traded spots with regularity, and Alvarez was as often on the left side of the diamond as he was at the base.
 
That rotation is an extension of the rotation we've already seen this season in the midfield through all parts — and that's not excluding Javier Morales, who, at times, has popped up at the base of the diamond. Clearly, each player that spends time in a position brings a different set of characteristics. It brings to the side an ability to operate dynamically and switch focus on-the-fly — for example, when Beckerman is further up the pitch and Morales is deeper, an opportunity to send a long pass in emerges; when it's reversed, play flows in a decidedly different manner.
 
Permutations, not partnerships
 
It comes down not to partnerships — this wasn't about Yordany Alvarez and Kyle Beckerman together — but to permutations of the larger whole. The permutations allowed by including two nominally defensive midfielders allow for important tactical variety. While finishing was again an issue, the midfield controlled the game.
 
Interestingly, the permutations allowed for with two nominally attacking midfielders and two nominally defensive midfielders produced some tactical moments we've not seen this group produce. When Velasquez and Morales went wide, Beckerman and Alvarez played centrally and filled the distribution role; when Morales dropped deep to pick up possession, Velasquez hopped up top to fill the space thusly vacated. When Ned Grabavoy came into the match, he simply popped up everywhere to maintain possession, freeing other midfielders for creative movement.
 
regular contributor to RealSaltLake.com, Matt Montgomery runs the SB Nation blog RSL Soapbox. Follow Matt on Twitter @TheCrossbarRSL
29 May 3:52 pm

It took a little longer than usual, but Real Salt Lake managed to win its Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup third round match on Tuesday night, beating NASL side the Atlanta Silverbacks 3-2 after extra time at Rio Tinto Stadium. 

Here are a few interesting numbers from Tuesday's match:

5

Tuesday night’s game was Real Salt Lake’s fifth Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match that went into extra time. The Claret-and-Cobalt played one Open Cup extra time game in 2005, another in 2006 and two in 2010.

9,644

9,644 hearty souls braved some nasty weather to attend Tuesday’s match, chanting and singing throughout the 120 minutes of rain, wind and soccer to help propel RSL to victory. Tickets to the June 12 Open Cup match against Charleston are on sale now and can be purchased at the Rio Tinto Stadium box office and over the phone at 801-727-2700. Tickets will be available for purchase online in the near future.

2008

Real Salt Lake Captain Kyle Beckerman played on the outside of the Claret-and-Cobalt’s midfield diamond on Tuesday night for the first time since the 2008 season, when he lined up in front of then-RSL captain Carey Talley. Yordany Alvarez played in Beckerman’s familiar holding midfield spot on Tuesday.

1

Real Salt Lake midfielder Khari Stephenson’s 101st minute goal – the eventual game-winner – was his first in a RSL uniform. Stephenson joined the Claret-and-Cobalt this offseason after spending the previous two-and-a-half years with San Jose.

June 12

Tuesday’s win advanced Real Salt Lake to the fourth round of the Open Cup. The Claret-and-Cobalt will host USL Pro side Charleston Battery in its fourth round match at Rio Tinto Stadium at 7:30 p.m. on June 12. The Battery beat the San Jose Earthquakes – which RSL will take on at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday night – 1-0 in South Carolina on Tuesday to advance to the fourth round.

9

The Battery has a long history of Open Cup success, finishing as runners-up to D.C. United in 2008, making the semifinals in 1999 and 2004 and reaching the quarters in 2007, 2009 and 2010. The Battery has beaten MLS teams nine times in its Open Cup history. 

27 May 8:07 pm

When Real Salt Lake takes the field against the Atlanta Silverbacks in the third round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday, they won't be treating it like a glorified friendly. RSL hasn't seen great success in America's oldest soccer tournament, but they are determined to finally make an impact. Last season was a new low: At home, in front of one of the largest crowds to ever witness an Open Cup match, RSL crashed out of the tournament 3-1 at the hands of NASL's Minnesota Stars. This week, team coaches and management have expressed their displeasure with last year's Open Cup performance.

"I think our coach set the tone," said general manager Garth Lagerwey. "That was possibly the worst game of his coaching tenure at RSL. We have to do better. If we want to advance, it starts Tuesday."

The message from last year's disappointment has apparently made its way down to the players. Goalkeeper Josh Saunders, who was not with the team in 2012, joked with reporters that he "hasn't heard anything about" the Stars debacle.

Sebastian Velasquez was a rookie last year, and he had plenty to say about what's going to be different this time around.

"We're coming in different from last year," the player said. "I feel like maybe we didn't take it as serious as we should have. Last year it seemed like our minds weren't in it."

The lack of seriousness last year can be attributed to a bit of complacency that came with facing an NASL opponent. Today the loss serves as a reminder that anyone can beat anyone, regardless of division.

"If you come in and think, 'this is a minor-league team; they're not as talented are we are,' that's how you get tripped up," said Lagerwey.

Head Coach Jason Kreis is the kind of coach who's not going to let his team make the same mistake two years in a row, so it stands to reason that his squad won't be complacent as they take on the Silverbacks.

Several other factors could also help spur on RSL this Tuesday: They have a guaranteed home match in the fourth round if they win, another good crowd is expected on Tuesday, player resources aren't stretched thinner by CONCACAF Champion's League dates, and the squad is noticeably deeper this time around.

"The thing about this team is that any guy that gets put out there is going to give the same performance as a regular starter," said Velasquez. "I think everybody's ready to play, everybody's ready to get minutes, everybody's ready to show the coach that we're on this team for a reason."

The favorable schedule in the tournament, the depth of the squad, and the painful lessons learned last year have Real Salt Lake aiming for big things in a competition they haven't traditionally done well in.

"We're ready, we're focused, we're ready to come out tomorrow and move to the next round," said Velasquez. "This year we want to win the Cup."

Click here to access the official Game Guide to Tuesday's RSL-Atlanta contest.

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.

27 May 10:55 am

Need some more background on the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup ahead of Real Salt Lake's third-round match against the Atlanta Silverbacks at 7:30 p.m. at Rio Tinto Stadium on Tuesday?

No worries, give the latest Soccer Smarts with Professor Leo a watch and bone up on all your Open Cup info.

26 May 8:32 am

Real Salt Lake couldn’t quite hold on against the Chicago Fire on Saturday night, taking the lead through forward Alvaro Saborio in the 78th minute before seeing Chicago forward Quincy Amarikwa equalize in the 84th to tie the Fire 1-1 at Rio Tinto Stadium.

Here are a few interesting numbers from Saturday’s draw:

209

Saturday night’s game was the 209th career regular season match that RSL captain Kyle Beckerman and RSL defender Nat Borchers have played together, moving them past former New England teammates Shalrie Joseph and Matt Reis and into first-place on the list of teammates that have played the most games together.

Borchers and Beckerman played together in Colorado from 2003-2005 before reuniting at Real Salt Lake when Borchers signed with the club ahead of the 2008 season. In all, Borchers – who has 236 regular season appearances – has only played 27 times without Beckerman in front of him.

Thanks to Peter Hirdt of the Elias Sports Bureau for the notes on Beckerman and Borchers.

30,033

RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando became just the fourth player in league history to reach 30,000 career regular season minutes played on Saturday night. The Claret-and-Cobalt ‘keeper – who went the full 90 on Saturday – has now played 30,033 regular season minutes, trailing only New York goalkeeper Kevin Hartman (37,620), former New England attacker and current Houston Assistant Coach Steve Ralston (33,142) and Vancouver goalie Joe Cannon (30,731) on the all-time minutes played list.

332

Rimando’s appearance on Saturday was the 332nd regular season appearance of his career. He is now tied for eighth-place in MLS history with former RSL midfielder and current Head Scout Andy Williams on the career appearances list. Rimando is third amongst goalkeepers in games played, trailing only Hartman (416) and Cannon (342).

68-32

RSL dominated the match on Saturday, holding a 68-32 percent possession advantage over the Fire. RSL attempted 574 passes to the Fire’s 246 – a difference of 328 – and hit on 87 percent of its passes compared to Chicago’s 74 percent completion rate.

20-12

Real Salt Lake outshot the Fire 20-12 on Saturday night, putting nine shots on goal to Chicago’s two.

8

Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson made eight saves – several of them spectacular – to limit RSL to just one goal on Saturday night.

24 May 2:39 pm

Real Salt Lake finds themselves at a bit of a crossroads for Saturday's match against Chicago Fire, and with that, coach Jason Kreis is forced into making some less-than-easy decisions.

Decision: With Chris Schuler set to miss out, Jason Kreis has a big decision on his hands: Does Carlos Salcedo, the young, relatively un-tested center back, start in his place, as he did against Chivas USA? Or does he opt for Kwame Watson-Siriboe, who has more experience but was suspended on Sunday? Salcedo is a solid defender despite his age, and he's showed well in his two full matches — well enough that handing him a start doesn't seem a particularly risky maneuver, and one which could well pay dividends in both the long and short term.

Decision: Alvaro Saborio has been training, but does that mean he's in line for a start? Devon Sandoval has proven a fine backup considering his relative inexperience and allows for a bit less impetus in bringing Saborio back into the fold. If precautions need to be taken, Kreis can rest a bit easier knowing Sandoval can step in. 

Decision: Does RSL play with the typically high-line defense often seen at home? RSL's passing has been a bit more wayward than in 2012, and perhaps naturally so considering the more attacking bent of the midfield. This can be slightly problematic when playing with your defenders high up the pitch, as simple mistakes can lead to clear opportunities on goal. (For further reference, please see Chivas USA defending, May 19) With Salcedo in the mix, RSL would have a quick center back to partner Borchers.

Decision: With the US Open Cup home match against the Atlanta Silverbacks approaching on Tuesday, Kreis will be forced to think about rotation and approach. Chicago Fire are an opponent that might be tempting to rest players against. Winning in the Cup is a stated priority for the club, particularly as it paves a road back to CONCACAF Champions League, and ensuring that some players are available for it — or at least doing our best to do so — could weigh in the decision-making process.

Decision: Even with rotation taken into consideration, a question of who sits on the bench remains. It's a question that will plague Kreis for the remainder of the season: Who is the central backup? Who sits ready to enter midfield? Which strikers have done enough to make the bench? While the question is difficult now, it will only get more difficult as fitness improves.

regular contributor to RealSaltLake.com, Matt Montgomery runs the SB Nation blog RSL Soapbox. Follow Matt on Twitter @TheCrossbarRSL