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31 July 8:43 am

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica – Well, it’s finally here: Gameday. We’re less than 12 hours away from RSL beginning CONCACAF Champions League play with the Group 2 opener at Costa Rican champion C.S. Herediano.

Kickoff’s at 8 p.m. MT at the Estadio Nacional. You can watch the match live on Fox Soccer Channel and CONCACAF.com and listen in on ESPN700 AM and 102.6 La Gran D.  

It’s an absolutely gorgeous day here in San Jose. The sun’s out, the weather’s warm, there’s a nice little breeze and it’s not even that humid. The players don’t have much on their schedule leading up to tonight’s match. Other than a quick meeting and a few team meals, they’re free to do whatever they want – just as long as it’s not strenuous.

I’m going to go ahead and predict a 1-0 RSL win, with the goal coming from the Claret-and-Cobalt’s calescent Costa Rican, Alvaro Saborio.

Feel free to leave a prediction of your own below. Whoever picks correctly wins a virtual pat on the back from yours truly. 

30 July 2:21 pm

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica - We're getting closer and closer to RSL's Champions League opener. Just under 30 hours away now. 

RSL photographer Ray Taggart took some cool shots - including the above photo - at today's training session. We've compiled the best into a gallery. Check it out here

While you're at it, check out RealSaltLake.com's written report from today's practice. It's chock-full of info. 

We'll be back with more later in the day. 

30 July 8:13 am

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica - Good morning from beautiful - if slightly overcast - Costa Rica. Just one more day until RSL starts CCL play. 

The team is scheduled to train at the Estadio Nacional this morning, the same stadium that the game will be held in tomorrow night. Built in 2011, the Estadio Nacional seats 35,000 and has a natural grass surface. RSL forward Alvaro Saborio is very familiar with the venue, having scored the first goal in the stadium's history in a friendly match between Costa Rica and China on March 26, 2011. Estadio Nacional is not C.S. Herediano's usual home venue - that'd be Estadio Eladio Rosabel Cordero, a 8,000-seater with a turf field located about 10 miles north of San Jose - but the team will play all of its home CONCACAF Champions League matches there. 

A little more on C.S. Herediano: The bartender at the hotel told me last night that Herediano is - and I quote - "so-so." He was pretty adamant that they're not at the same level as other Costa Rican clubs L.D. Alajuelense and Saprissa, which RSL beat in the semifinals of the 2010-2011 CCL. Of course, he also told me that he's a proud Saprissa fan, so he may have been a bit biased.

That's the kind of cutting-edge analysis you'll only find it at The Sovereign, folks. 

We'll be back with much more written and video content later today. Make sure to stay tuned for all of the latest. 

29 July 10:21 pm

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica - Less than 48 hours until RSL starts its CONCACAF Champions League run at Costa Rican club C.S. Herediano. Don't know about you, but I'm getting pretty pumped, you guys. 

As you can see from the dateline, I'm coming at you from Costa Rica. It took us a little while to get down here - our flight took off from Salt Lake at 10:30 a.m. - but we did travel in style, flying on a chartered plane with all the amenities. Big thanks to RSL's owners for springing for that.

The entire squad is safe and sound, resting ahead of tomorrow morning's training session and Tuesday's Group 2 opener. A total of 20 players made the trip, giving head coach Jason Kreis a little bit of flexibility for the 18-man roster that will dress on Tuesday. 

That's all for now. Big day tomorrow. We'll have tons of content coming out on both the website proper and here at The Sovereign. Be sure to check it all out. 

28 July 2:47 pm

Only three days left until RSL opens CCL play at C.S. Herediano. Excited yet? 

With Vancouver out of the way after last night's 2-1 win, we can now turn all of our attention to C.S. Herediano, which RSL will take on in the Group 2 opener at Costa Rica's National Stadium on Tuesday. 

We're keeping things light today, linking to RealSaltLake.com's official guide to C.S. Herediano. Check out the article - it contains almost everything you'll need to know about the Costa Rican champs ahead of Tuesday's big game. 

28 July 12:43 pm

One of my favorite moments from Real Salt Lake’s 2-1 win over Vancouver last night came about halfway through the second half, when RSL center back Kwame Watson-Siriboe flat out jumped over ‘Caps forward Darren Mattocks to win a header.

The athletic play caused quite the reaction in the press box, drawing more than a few oohs and aahs and causing a couple of members of the media to sit back in their chairs and straight up laugh.

Watson-Siriboe was his usual down-to-earth self when talking about the play after the game, somewhat downplaying the high-flying header.

“It was a 50-50 ball, Mattocks decided to go in and I just went 100 percent,” he said. “I had to go 100 percent because if I didn’t then there was a possibility of Mattocks hurting me, so as I went up I saw the ball and I just leaped.”

“I was very focused when I landed,” he added. “There was actually a play earlier in the game he elbowed me in the chest so it was kind of a payback where if he wants to go 50-50 and play hard yolu know we can do that

The play was a bit of a role-reversal for Mattocks, who nearly jumped over a Toronto FC defender to score an incredible goal at BMO Field on July 11. That fact wasn’t lost on Watson-Siriboe, who had a little laugh himself when asked if he’d seen the Vancouver attacker’s header against TFC.

“It’s the heat of the moment,” Watson-Siriboe said with a chuckle. “MLS is very athletic and one of my good traits is I guess I have good jumping ability.”

Clearly.  

 

27 July 12:46 pm

News Photo: Dane Richards of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC kisses…

Real Salt Lake’s back four is going to have their hands full with Vancouver attackers Dane Richards and Darren Mattocks at Rio Tinto Stadium on Friday night.

Mattocks and Richards are both blazing fast, capable of flying down the flanks and terrorizing opposing fullbacks.  The Jamaican internationals have both had success in recent games, with the recently-acquired Richards scoring the opener in the Whitecaps’ 2-1 win over league-leading San Jose last Sunday and Mattocks bagging two goals – including this incredible high-flying finish – against Toronto on July 11.

The No. 2 overall pick in this year’s SuperDraft, Mattocks leads Vancouver with six goals in just 12 MLS games. Richards – who was acquired from New York earlier this month – has two goals and two assists in 20 league appearances in 2012.

RSL head scout Andy Williams is very familiar with both players, playing with Richards numerous times on the Jamaican national team and following Mattocks closely since the talented rookie’s college days.

“As everyone knows, both of them are really, really fast,” Williams told RealSaltLake.com. “I think Dane is more of a winger and Mattocks is more of a forward who finishes pretty well – his goal scoring record is pretty good. Dane has a lot more experience so I’m pretty sure our guys are used to Dane more than Mattocks. Hopefully tonight we can keep them both contained, because Vancouver really likes to use their speed a lot.”

RSL’s outside backs will be responsible for checking Richards, who – as Williams mentioned – plays as a winger. It will be important for the Claret-and-Cobalt’s fullbacks to keep Richards honest, pushing forward when possible in order to force Richards – who isn’t a very good defender – back into Vancouver’s half.  

“The thing with both of them is that they’re not great defenders,” Williams said. “So if our outside backs attack they have to follow. If our fullbacks stay home then you run the risk of both of them staying in behind or getting in on goal.”

Mattocks is a bit of a different animal. He plays more centrally than Richards and will primarily matchup against RSL’s center backs and defensive midfielder. The Claret-and-Cobalt will need to be aware of his darting runs behind the defense and not allow him to turn while on the ball so he can run at goal.

“The center backs will have their hands full,” Williams said, “but I think they’ll match Mattocks."

27 July 11:21 am

Less than eight hours left until RSL kicks off against Vancouver at Rio Tinto Stadium.

Just four days left until Real Salt Lake begins its run through the CONCACAF Champions League at C.S. Herediano.

That quick turnaround means you should expect a few changes from the regular lineup for tonight’s league game against Vancouver, with RSL head coach Jason Kreis likely to sit a few of his usual starters with an eye on Tuesday’s Group 2 opener.

A few candidates to start Friday’s match on the bench include team captain Kyle Beckerman, defender Jamison Olave, playmaker Javier Morales and forward Alvaro Saborio. I highly doubt that Kreis will sit all four of those players against the third-place ‘Caps, but with Beckerman playing 34 minutes in Philadelphia in Wednesday’s All-Star game, Olave picking up a slight injury in last weekend’s win over Colorado and with Morales and Saborio logging big minutes thus far in 2012, it’d be naïve to think all four would start.

Putting regulars on the bench would give some reserves a rare opportunity to play significant minutes. Midfielder Sebastian Velasquez and center back Kwame Watson-Siriboe are both candidates for the first XI, as is forward – and Salt Lake City native – Justin Braun, who has yet to make his first appearance for RSL after being acquired from Montreal on July 11.

Let’s hope the reserves are ready. As I’ll go into further detail on later today, Vancouver is a very solid team and the Claret-and-Cobalt will need to put in a strong effort if they want to pick up their third straight home win. 

26 July 12:41 pm

Only five days away from RSL's CONCACAF Champions League opener at Costa Rican champions C.S. Herediano. 

Today we've posted the inaugural edition of The Sovereign Podcast. RSL host Sam Stejskal welcomed guests and RSL beat reporters James Edward from the Deseret News, Michael Black from MLSsoccer.com and Jeremy Horton from Goal.com to discuss the 2012 season thus far and, more importantly, preview Tuesday's CONCACAF Champions League opener at Costa Rican champs C.S. Herediano.

Click here to listen to the podcast.

Make sure to also check out RealSaltLake.com's video interview with head coach Jason Kreis, midfielder Ned Grabavoy and goalkeeper Nick Rimando as they look back on their 2010-2011 CONCACAF Champions League run and talk about their expectation for the 2012-2013 edition of the tournament.

Watch the video here.

25 July 10:47 pm

RSL captain Kyle Beckerman played a starring role in Wednesday's MLS All-Star game, threading a gorgeous through ball to set up Eddie Johnson for his 91st minute game-winner in the All-Stars' 3-2 victory over UEFA Champions League title-holders Chelsea FC at PPL Park.

Beckerman played the final 34 minutes on Wednesday night, coming into the match in the 57th minute for Seattle midfielder Osvaldo Alonso. Captain Kyle was incredibly effective and efficient from his position directly in front of the back four, completing an astounding 21 of 21 passes, winning one tackle and making two interceptions against the Blues.

"I got some good minutes in the second half, and it was a great night to be part of this game," Beckerman told the Salt Lake Tribune after the game. "This is an experience I'll cherish and I hope there are many more."  

Beckerman returns to Salt Lake on Thursday. It's unlikely that he'll play on Friday against Vancouver, with head coach Jason Kreis hinting after practice on Wednesday that he'd hold Beckerman out against the Whitecaps in order to save him for Tuesday's CCL opener at Costa Rican club C.S. Herediano if the midfielder played significant minutes in the All-Star Game. 

One player who definitely won't play on Friday is Vancouver center back Jay DeMerit. The veteran defender played all 90 minutes on Wednesday, meaning it's unlikely he'll even be on the gameday roster when RSL takes on the 'Caps at Rio Tinto Stadium at 7 p.m. MT on Friday night.