Although Saturday's 1-2 loss to Seattle in the FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup was perhaps a bit disappointing, there are some interesting points to be taken from the deployments of RSL's midfielders and forwards.
Flattening the diamond
With Ned Grabavoy as the point man in the midfield diamond, the look changes rather significantly. This is, I think, by design. The wider players in the diamond — in this case, Sebastian Velasquez and Yordany Alvarez — pushed up to be nearly level with Grabavoy.
This enforced a more flat top of the diamond — especially in comparison to a Javier Morales, Will Johnson, Ned Grabavoy triumvirate in front of Kyle Beckerman. Creativity came from all three players in basically equal measure. With Grabavoy at times dropping deeper than Velasquez and Alvarez, the system almost took on a less diamond-looking approach, too.
It's notable because it helps destabilize the notion that Jason Kreis is a strict tactician who refuses to vary his approach. It was a bit subtle, but we see something a bit more untested with Grabavoy up top there.
Alongside the flattening of the diamond come some interesting decisions on player placement. It starts of course with Grabavoy in the top of the diamond, where he plays well as a linking distributor and less that magician. It continues: Yordany Alvarez on the side of the diamond, where he looked surprisingly creative, and Enzo Martinez in the deep-lying role, where he looks more of a playmaker than a destroyer, are the two standouts.
But tossing David Viana up top in the 75th minute is interesting, too: Robbie Findley, still being rested, remains uninvolved, and getting at least a player in the forward position was necessary. It's clearly not Viana's best position, but his ability to run at players with the ball at his feet and beat them on the dribble changes the dynamic of matches. It's something that, after the departure of Fabian Espindola, our current group of forwards lacks — except maybe Olmes Garcia, the unknown quantity — and having that tactical flexibility is essential.
It's a bit strange when the ostensibly first-team players are having trouble scoring goals, but it's what's out there right now. With that set of players — or something resembling that set — we've scored just once since since Oct. 6 against the LA Galaxy, and that was from Ned Grabavoy against the … LA Galaxy in a preseason match on Feb. 8. It's not a pressing issue, but it's one to scratch one's head about. If it continues into the season, there will be trouble, but that's a rather big "if" at this point.
It is worth noting that some of these younger guys have looked particularly bright: John Stertzer, Cole Grossman, Joao Plata — they've all looked better than perhaps first expected, and all three have scored goals.
TUCSON, Ariz. - Real Salt Lake will take on Seattle Sounders FC in Round 2 of the FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup on Saturday. The match will kick off at 4:00 p.m. MT at Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium and will be streamed live here on RealSaltLake.com and on MLSsoccer.com.
RSL drew its first Desert Diamond Cup match, jumping out to an early 2-0 lead on Wednesday against New York before letting the Red Bulls claw back for a 2-2 draw. Seattle won its first DDC game, beating New England 2-0 in Wednesday's early match.
Both RSL and Seattle are expected to run out strong lineups on Saturday. It should be a good match between the Western Conference rivals - they're certainly won't be any love lost. RSL and Seattle matches are traditionally chippy, and the Sounders already seem to be in a bad mood. Seattle got into it on a pair of occasions on Wednesday against New England, recieving six total cards and one ejection against the Revs.
Oh, by the way, a certain "Striker X" may feature for RSL on Saturday afternoon. Tune in at 4:00 p.m. to find out.
TUCSON, Ariz. - Former Real Salt Lake-Arizona Academy standout Jordan Allen will return to RSL preseason camp on Friday. Allen, a University of Virginia commit, trained with the Claret-and-Cobalt first team during the team's camp in Casa Grande, Ariz. from Jan. 21-28.
Allen left the RSL-AZ Academy in December to return home to Rochester, N.Y. The 18-year-old forward/defender is scheduled to remain with RSL for the duration of the FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup, which will run until next Saturday, Feb. 23.
The Claret-and-Cobalt will take on Seattle Sounders FC in both sides' second Desert Diamond Cup match on Saturday at 4:00 p.m. MT at Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium. The match will be streamed live on RealSaltLake.com and MLSsoccer.com. RSL drew New York 2-2 in its tournament opener on Wednesday night.
There’s been a lot of love shown on the Real Salt Lake Facebook page today, with plenty of fans sharing stories about how RSL kick-started their relationships.
RSL fan Kathryn Roethel reached out to us earlier this week about her Claret-and-Cobalt-colored love, asking if we could pass along a Valentine via The Sovereign to her boyfriend, Matt Rieck. Never ones to stand in the way of matters of the heart, we gladly obliged. Here’s Kathryn version of her and Matt’s story, which – oddly enough – Matt posted on Facebook this morning.
My boyfriend, Matt Rieck, became an RSL fan while living in Salt Lake City about four years ago. He bought season tickets and eventually convinced many of his friends to get season tickets, too. They went to every home game and traveled to many road games as well, including the 2009 MLS Cup. Matt had to leave Salt Lake when his job took him to San Diego two years ago, but he still travels to see RSL every chance he gets.
Matt is a college friend of my sister's, and we'd met several times over the years, but I live near San Jose. When RSL played the Earthquakes last April, Matt saw a chance to visit me -- under the guise of being in town for the game. We spent a wonderful day together, including a lesson in MLS rules so I could better enjoy the match. Matt even sketched out the field for me on a legal pad and labeled all the RSL players by name and position! (I still have the drawing.) By the time we got to the game, I was very much hoping he'd take the opportunity to hold my hand in the stands. Unfortunately for me, it was a pretty intense match, and RSL lost when the Quakes scored two goals in the 90th minute. Needless to say, there wasn't much occasion for hand holding! (I'm a big sports fan, too, so I understand these things!) I'm happy to say that Matt quickly recovered, though, and the loss turned out to be little more than an asterisk in the record book of fantastic first dates.
Matt let me borrow an RSL jersey that weekend (which I never returned!), and he's since given me one of my own. We still live in opposite ends of California (though, not for much longer!) and until then, we visit each other nearly every other weekend. On the weekends we're apart, we've been known to watch RSL games on TV "together," while talking on the phone. And we will be sitting in the RSL section of Buck Shaw Stadium for the season opener against the Earthquakes [on March 3] -- our first time back since our first date.
Happy Valentine’s Day to Kathryn, Matt and all you other RSL fans out there.
It's always difficult to take too much away from a preseason match without making profound leaps of logic, but two goals in the first five minutes of play certainly says something. Real Salt Lake came racing out of the gates and, while New York was unprepared, quickly put two goals in the back of the net before the Red Bulls fought back to tie 2-2. The factors that shaped the game are numerous, but let's focus on three of them.
RSL's two quick goals surely had something to do with the speed of the players involved, but the playmaking efforts of rookie midfielder John Stertzer and midfielder David Viana created quick opportunities. Viana's pass for the second goal was particularly sublime. The efforts of Viana were made slightly less effective as New York pushed further forward, with the midfield area becoming increasingly clogged. RSL's primary areas of safe possession shifted further back the pitch, leaving less room for midfielders to move the ball around the pitch.
You could almost see the cogs moving in Real Salt Lake's less-than-cohesive first-half back line: Carlos Salcedo and Aaron Maund worked well together, Lovel Palmer stayed back and kept things tidy on the left, and Josh Saunders made some fantastic stops when necessary. Rather than pushing forward, the defense looked to retain the ball rather safely. It's important they do that, but it did make for an incomplete showing.
The defending for the first goal conceded — a corner finished by former RSL defender Jamison Olave — was unorganized, though, while a failure to deal with a cross saw the second goal hammered in.
Plata's speed and acceleration
As important as the playmaking was for RSL's two goals, equally important was the speed of thought and speed of motion involved. Joao Plata, vital in both, showed not top pace over distance as one might see in a breakaway, but top acceleration in tight areas. This gave him a distinct advantage in pulling away from defenders, drifting wide in the box, and firing home. He had one goal and nearly had another, in part because of his speed.
Veteran heads shine through
When RSL's lineup switched over to a more widely experienced group, the match was drawn at 2-2 — that didn't change. But what did shift was the approach: Real Salt Lake went from being on the back foot to controlling play, from stopping chances to creating them.
It's difficult to definitively say whether this change in play was entirely down to the lineup shift for Real Salt Lake, given the half saw wholesale changes for New York, but it certainly can't have hurt. Real Salt Lake nearly instantly started looking like the creative, dominant team again — even if a few chances went begging and things didn't quite fire on all cylinders.
TUCSON, Ariz. - Real Salt Lake will kick off its FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup schedule on Wednesday night, taking on the New York Red Bulls at 7:00 p.m. MT at Kino Veterans Stadium. The match is the second in a Wednesday Desert Diamond Cup doubleheader, with Seatttle and New England scheduled to face off in the early game. Both matches will be streamed live on MLSsoccer.com.
The game against New York isn't the only thing on the plate for Real Salt Lake on Wednesday. The Claret-and-Cobalt will also train this morning, with Head Coach Jason Kreis set to run the reserves for Wednesday's match through a light training session beginning at 10:30 a.m. MT. The starting lineup for Wednesday's match will not participate in the morning training session.
In other news, Real Salt Lake captain Kyle Beckerman re-joined the team late on Tuesday night, flying to Tucson after spending Feb. 10-12 in New York for the 2013 MLS Media Tour. Every MLS team sent at least one player to New York for the media tour. Five players, including RSL's Alvaro Saborio, were on a Spanish-language Media Tour in Miami from Feb. 9-11.
Balchan in camp
Real Salt Lake brought in defender Rich Balchan for a trial on Tuesday. The 12th overall pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft, Balchan was released by Columbus this offseason after spending two years with the Crew.
Interestingly, the 24-year-old made his professional debut in the first leg of RSL's CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal series against Columbus on Feb. 22, 2011. The Indiana University product trialed with Chicago earlier this preseason.
TUCSON, Ariz. – Real Salt Lake arrived in cold and rainy Tucson – no, that’s not a misprint – on Monday for the start of the team’s third and final preseason camp. We’re now less than three weeks away from the start of the 2013 MLS regular season.
Head Coach Jason Kreis will put the Claret-and-Cobalt through its first training session of the week on Monday evening. It should be a light session, with the team running through some drills for about an hour before heading back in.
RSL will play its first FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup match on Wednesday, when it will take on the New York Red Bulls at Kino Veterans Stadium at 7:00 p.m. MT. The Claret-and-Cobalt will take on Seattle Sounders FC on Saturday at 4:00 p.m. MT and the New England Revolution on Wednesday, Feb. 20 at 7:00 p.m. MT. RSL will close out its Tucson trip on Saturday, Feb. 23, when it will play in either the DDC Championship or Third-Place Match.
MLSsoccer.com will stream every game of the tournament live excluding the final, which will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network.
Beckerman, Saborio on MLS Media Tour
RSL captain Kyle Beckerman and forward Alvaro Saborio did not travel with the team on Monday. Beckerman is currently in the middle of a MLS Media Tour in New York City. Saborio wrapped his two-day media tour of Miami earlier Monday and will arrive in Tucson later Monday night.
Borchers, Wingert travel with team
Injured defenders Nat Borchers and Chris Wingert traveled with the team for the first time all preseason on Monday, heading to Tucson to rehab their injuries with the RSL training staff. Both players are still weeks away from training.
RSL made several changes to the roster that trained in Irvine, Calif. last week, sending home defender Brock Granger, Justin Davis and Everett Pitts and goalkeeper Mark Pais and bringing in defender Nickardo Blake on trial from the NASL Ft. Lauderdale Strikers.
We’ll update the roster as players come and go from camp in the next couple of weeks.
Real Salt Lake defender Chris Wingert revealed on Saturday that he's about a month away from returning to practice, telling ESPN 700's On Frame from the Rio Tinto Stadium Open House that his fractured right metatarsal will need "four to five" more weeks to heal before he can get back on the training field.
Wingert injured his foot while training in December.
"I just talked to [Team Physician Dr. Andrew Cooper] who did the surgery and he said everything looks perfect," Wingert said on Saturday. "It's doing great and it looks like about four to five more weeks until I can really start training."
Wingert hasn't been with RSL at all this preseason, remaining in Salt Lake City to ehab his foot. He will leave with the team for Tucson on Monday, however, traveling with the Claret-and-Cobalt to the FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup to perform rehab under the watchful eyes of RSL's training staff.
Injured defender Nat Borchers will also travel with the team to Tucson. Borchers had surgery on a left quad tendon earlier this offseason and was not with the team for any of its previous preseason trips. He's expected to return to game action in mid-April.