Real Salt Lake's continued run in the US Open Cup presents its own tactical problems, from the need for rotation to questions about how both the defense and attack will deal with a certain-to-be-resolute Charleston Battery defense.
There are two well-balanced opinions that play into a match like this: In one, the impetus on Kreis should be about rotation and ensuring squad fitness; in the other, the impetus is the opposite, and he should roll out a squad best-fitted to win. The point of balance lies somewhere between the two, but with a weekend off for once, it's difficult to argue if veterans play all 90 (and hopefully a positive 90 and not a negative 90 or a nail-biting 120) against Charleston Battery.
But some rotation will happen naturally. Sebastian Velasquez is a sure-starter in the midfield, and he may just take the place of Luis Gil with no other general changes to the setup. Devon Sandoval might get another chance to start up top after a fine performance in the last round of the Cup. Carlos Salcedo and Kwame Watson-Siriboe, too, may get another chance to partner, allowing Nat Borchers a rest.
Push and Pull
Real Salt Lake has been incredibly successful in moments of transition this season (when, of course, the transition if rom defense to attack) and one might attribute a number of our goals to that fact. But this becomes difficult to manage effectively when the opposition plays withdrawn, and our mode of scoring has to shift. With a tricky midfielder or two — Velasquez and the ever-effective Javier Morales — Charleston's midfield and defense will be kept busy; this leaves important spaces for forwards to run into.
Devon Sandoval could be incredibly effective against this level of side, as well. He's still adjusting to MLS play (though remarkably well, it must be said) but he has a golden opportunity to get in the heads of the Battery defense. With midfield runs occupying some attention, the remainder might be shifted to him, leaving a free forward. His uncanny ability to retain the ball and make a safe if unexciting pass can sometimes be an effect of tentative play, but it's this sort of passing and movement that will have the biggest impact on a less-able defense. He'll push and pull defenders out of position — it's important that he makes the right decisions in that regard.
How many times have we conceded an unnecessary goal at some point in the match simply because it looked like our collective minds were elsewhere? We saw it in the last round of the Open Cup: We can't go around conceding cheap goals and risking a loss or even another overtime excursion. With bodies bursting forward in efforts to score and unlock what may be a staunch defense, the match becomes more difficult to manage.
It'll be vital that, when everyone is forward, the three or so defenders that have stayed back are in good positions to recover and can communicate danger to their teammates. Otherwise, we may be looking at another match where we're on the cusp of something great, but mistakes see us caught out.
Real Salt Lake doesn't have much history in the U.S. Open Cup, but it has had a few good moments over the years.
We've put together a couple of the Claret-and-Cobalt's "Signature Moments" in the Open Cup ahead of Wednesday's fourth-round match between RSL and the Charleston Battery at Rio Tinto Stadium.
May 28, 2013 - RSL beats the Atlanta Silverbacks 3-2 in dramatic fashion in the 2013 third-round.
June 28, 2011 - Highlights from RSL's 2-0 win over the Wilmington Hammerheads in the fourth-round of the 2011 Open Cup. Defender Tony Beltran and former RSL man Jean Alexandre scored for the Claret-and-Cobalt; the goal is the only one of Beltran's career.
Way, way back on July 29, 2006, Real Salt Lake converted a pair of penalty kicks in second half stoppage time to beat D.C. United 2-1 at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
The D.C. player who conceded both penalties? John Wilson, now a defender with the USL Pro Charleston Battery.
Oh, and the color commentator on the broadcast is none other than RSL GM Garth Lagerwey, D.C.'s TV analyst from 2001-2007.
RSL will host the Battery in the fourth-round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup at 7:30 p.m. at Rio Tinto Stadium on Wednesday. Click here to get your tickets.
The Real Salt Lake U-18′s & U-16′s recently closed out an extremely successful regular season that saw a number of academy records fall. Here are some interesting and notable numbers from the past season.
Real Salt Lake U-18′s & U-16′s have both qualified for the playoffs in three consecutive years.
In the season ending victory over Arsenal FC, Real Salt Lake U-18′s matched an academy best with eight goals in a game, previously done on May 19th, 2012 against Strikers FC.
The U-16′s set an academy best in goals scored and goals allowed this season. The 68 goals scored this season surpasses the previous high of 64 in 2010-2011, and the 34 goals allowed is the best since 38 in 2010-2011.
Represents the amount players who graduated from High School this year and will be moving into the collegiate ranks in the fall. Eight of these graduating seniors have been at the academy since the beginning: Jose “Coco” Navarro, Luis Chavez, Cesar Cobos, Eric Gonzalez, Isaias “Junior” Juarez, Jose “Bean” Vasquez, Danny Gavin and Jon Zabasajja.
When Carlos Salcedo came on as a sub in the 89th minute of RSL's 2-0 win against the Vancouver Whitecaps on May 4 at Rio Tinto Stadium, he became the first player from the academy to play for the Claret-and-Cobalt first team.
The U-18′s set a new record for wins in a season along with lowering the academy record for losses and draws in a season. The previous high for wins was 16 in the 2011-2012 season, the previous low for losses was 8 in the 2010-2011 season and the 4 draws this season lowered the previous high of 5 the past 2 seasons.
Coco Navarro equalized a U-18 record of 20 goals in a season set by Maikon Orrellana in the 2010-2011 season. Navarro is now the sole leader in goals scored for the academy with 45 in three seasons.
The U-18′s set a new record for points in the season with 61, surpassing the previous high of 53 in the 2011-2012 season.
Dillon Nino started and played in 28 games this season, tied for the most in the nation with one other U-16 player.
The percentage of the U.S. U-17 team's goals scored by RSL-AZ Academy U-16's Brooks Lennon and Sebastian “Bofo” Saucedo during last week's Caspian Cup. Lennon recorded two hat-tricks and scored a total of seven goals and Bofo recorded one hat-trick and scored a total of four goals. The U-17 MNT scored a total of 19 goals in the Cup.
Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando sat down with KUTV 2's Shauna Lake last week for the channel's "Person 2 Person" series, which features in-depth interviews with some of the most interesting people in Utah.
Rimando's interview aired on Sunday night on Channel 2. No worries if you missed it - you can watch the entire interview above and catch some exclusive, online-only bonus content here.
Rimando departed Salt Lake City on Sunday to join the U.S. national team in Seattle ahead of Tuesday's World Cup Qualifing match against Panama. Rimando will be on the U.S. squad for the Stars-and-Stripes' June 18 World Cup Qualifier against Honduras at Rio Tinto Stadium. The veteran backstop will miss RSL's U.S. Open Cup fourth-round match against the Charleston Battery on Wednesday night at Rio Tinto Stadium while on international duty. He will not miss any MLS action.
Real Salt Lake extended its unbeaten streak to five games across all competitions on Saturday night, beating the LA Galaxy 3-1 in front of a solid crowd at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Here are a few interesting numbers from the match:
Forward Olmes Garcia scored two goals in 29 minutes of action on Saturday to lead RSL to victory. The 20-year-old Colombian attacker now has four goals in 401 MLS minutes, giving him 0.9 goals per 90 minutes, the best rate in the league for anyone with more than one goal. Garcia has also hit the woodwork an astonishing four times this season.
Real Salt Lake midfielder Khari Stephenson on Saturday became the 10th Claret-and-Cobalt player to score a goal in league play this year. RSL only had 10 scorers in league play in all of 2012.
Saturday’s win moved RSL to 5-1-1 in its last seven MLS matches, tied with Seattle for the best record in the league in that span. The Claret-and-Cobalt leads the league with 16 league points since the start of May.
RSL has scored 17 goals in its last seven MLS matches, the most in the league in that span. RSL is tied for first in the league with the Portland Timbers with 24 goals this season. The Claret-and-Cobalt has 20 goals in its last eight games across all competitions and has scored three goals in each of its last three matches across all comps.
RSL maestro Javier Morales had two assists on Saturday night. Javi now has five helpers this season, tied for second in MLS and just one behind Philadelphia forward Sebastien Le Toux for tops in the league. Morales now has five goals and seven assists in 13 career regular season matches against LA.
Garcia's brace on Saturday was the 43rd multi-goal performance in RSL's 311 game history across all competitions. The Claret-and-Cobalt is 36-3-4 when someone finds the net multiple times.
Real Salt Lake has a good history against the LA Galaxy, posting a 9-9-5 regular season mark against its Western Conference rival.
We've put together four of the Claret-and-Cobalt's "Signature Moments" against LA ahead of Saturday's 7:30 kick between the sides at Rio Tinto Stadium. Check 'em out below.
March 10, 2012 - RSL opens the 2012 season with a 3-1 win at the defending champion Galaxy.
Nov. 6, 2011 - It's not a happy memory, but no catalog of RSL-LA meetings would be complete without mentioning the Galaxy's 3-1 victory over the Claret-and-Cobalt in the 2011 Western Conference Final.
March 26, 2011 - RSL MF Andy Williams scores in the second minute - one of the quickest goals in club history - as RSL thrashes LA in the 2011 MLS home opener.
Nov. 22, 2009 - RSL's proudest moment: Beating LA in penalty kicks to lift the 2009 MLS Cup.
Nice video from the good folks over at MLSsoccer.com previewing Saturday's RSL-LA slugfest.
Fantastic video by Real Salt Lake videographer slick Nick Lamping ahead of Saturday's 7:30 p.m. kickoff between RSL and LA.
Three key absences for Real Salt Lake sounds a difficult proposition to handle, but options for each position — in the midfield, in defense, and up front — could mean RSL is in a better tactical position than one might readily imagine ahead of Saturday's home match against LA.
No Luis Gil means we'll be looking for a midfielder to take his place. Two options readily present themselves: Sebastian Velasquez has shown well this season and is stepping up in the system, but Khari Stephenson provides veteran experience and looked strong last week. The most reasonable approach, to my mind: Stephenson starts, Velasquez comes off the bench. Stephenson can manage the game well in midfield and provide a safe outlet; Velasquez can come on late and be his creative, spark self.
No Chris Schuler leads to a continuation with either Kwame Watson-Siriboe or Carlos Salcedo. Both have showed well so far, and Watson-Siriboe was massive against a pesky San Jose side. Watson-Siriboe had a rocky start to his season, but should he continue to impress, worries about an injured Chris Schuler might ease somewhat. Carlos Salcedo is a natural bench option with an eye on a Wednesday start.
No Alvaro Saborio leaves us again wondering about a tactical scenario. Is the Plata-Findley pairing for real? Can it work? It's hard to deny that chances have been created, and Saturday saw us looking somewhat near very, very good. Olmes Garcia could be an option but is likely to be eased back from injury, while Devon Sandoval might not yet be the sort of player that can dominate the Galaxy defense. But Plata-Findley presents its own challenges from a tactical perspective, but if those can be overcome, it's hard to argue with the selection.
It all leaves Real Salt Lake in an interesting position against one of MLS's better sides, but it leaves a good tactical position open. With the tendencies of Plata and Findley to drift wide, opportunities for midfielders emerge. Javier Morales is in fine form, Ned Grabavoy is in the best goalscoring form of his career, Khari Stephenson has a cannon of a foot and Kyle Beckerman can swing in the late shots himself.
The surprise? The Findley-Plata pairing could be one of our better options up front, regardless of injury concerns and international duty. The win against San Jose, however poor they've been this season, is partly owed to the results of effective movement up top, drawing defenders into poor positions and creating channels for midfield runs. Seeing more of that on Saturday would be precisely the sort of thing RSL needs to handle the Galaxy.