When ESPN: The Magazine approached RSL about doing a photo shoot with the Claret-and-Cobalt’s famously ripped center back Jamison Olave, those of us on staff only wondered one thing: Would The Mag be more interested in taking pictures of Olave’s truck-sized thighs (Shout-out to Sisqo) or of his cannonball-like calves?
While the photographers captured the Colombian’s entire body in their shoot, it looks like ESPN’s editors were more interested in Olave’s thighs, asking the 2010 and 2011 MLS Best XI defender about his tree trunk upper legs.
“My teammates tease me, asking if I got silicone implants in my quads,” Olave said in the issue. “I know they’re impressed.”
Make sure you check out the entire Olave spread by picking up a copy of ESPN: The Magazine when it hits newsstands later this week.
RSL started last Saturday's 2-1 loss at Vancouver well. Tactically, there was nothing to be upset about, despite a lack of goals: Vancouver's speed on the wings was never particularly threatening before the 56th minute. But a simple clearance scuffed into the back of Chris Wingert (the wrong place at the wrong time if there ever was one) rebounded to Camilo, who slotted home with ease. Tactical error? Hardly.
But from that point forward, the shape changed. Chris Wingert and Tony Beltran emerged from their deeper positions, the midfielders dropped a little deeper, and Nat Borchers began pushing even further forward than most strikers.
It wasn't that new tactical approach that faltered when Dane Richards found the net: Chris Wingert (again, though I don't' hold him accountable in the least for the first goal, and with this second goal, it's a tough scenario) stood off the winger, and Richards took a long, curling shot that fizzed past Nick Rimando. Again, not a tactical error, but an error nonetheless.
Though the tactical approach had us set up well, abandoning it made it seem that we initially hadn't set up to find a goal. It wasn't, I suppose, a comfortable approach for RSL's full backs, sitting back like they did. The attack was somewhat neutered: To compensate for the lack of width, Johnson and Grabavoy took up wider positions and stayed a bit more on their sides — while recently, Johnson has been seen darting around the midfield picking up loose balls and making vital tackles, he was a bit more left-sided today, providing more emphasis on attack. But the simple, easy balls played from the full backs just inside were missing, and as a result, we didn't have much chance to build up play on the outside.
As a result, too many times, Espindola was forced to drop deep or very, very wide to help build play, leaving Saborio on a bit of an island. It is hard to say if Javier Morales remaining in the game for 60, 70 or even 90 minutes might have helped rescue something from the match. An ineffable bit of magic from Javier Morales, absent from the proceedings after the half, might have been enough.
The goal to close things out from Nat Borchers provided an interesting piece of the story, though, as Paulo Jr. — in his first match back from loan — found space efficiently and neatly, and further swung in a rather brilliant cross for the defender to get a head on. As they say, there is a silver lining. The other big silver lining? Kwame Watson-Siriboe, who was tidy, strong and safe the whole match. And to think, we picked him up for only just more than the cost of a loaf of bread (or something to that effect, right?) Watching this kid grow in our system has been exciting, and it promises to continue in that direction.tgo
It's not often a side is so privileged as to face the same opponent two weeks in row, but with an unbalanced schedule, there was an air of inevitability to this sort of meeting. Though last time around, RSL took their chances well thanks, in part, to a fine striking performance from Alvaro Saborio, the tables so often turn on the road.
Vancouver Whitecaps, sitting in fourth place in the Western Conference, have been one of the most improved sides in MLS this year, rocketing up from their last-place finish in 2011. With eleven games remaining in the season, they've picked up six more points than in the whole of the previous campaign. Clearer a stronger foe now, the Whitecaps have lost but a single match at home, and our road form hasn't set to world alight. It all shapes up to be a noteworthy occasion.
The statistical run of RSL's road fortunes is bandied about with some regularity, there hasn't been much disparity from last season, when a paltry five games were won on the road. Two more road wins would see the Claret and Cobalt best their road results from last season.
But for all the talk of form, the Caps will be without the services of first-choice goalkeeper Joe Cannon, whose performances have contributed in no small way to Vancouver's successes. His 68 saves this season — enough to put him in third place in the category — won't come into play after his sending off just two weeks ago.
Before talk of threatening a backup keeper can take off — Brad Knighton's not a slouch, though he's never won a regular spot for an MLS side — it should be considered that Real Salt Lake play less in the final third than any other side in MLS relative to total passes. Only 24 percent of RSL's passing comes in the final third, and while that seems to indicate a lack of threat to play, it can be tempered: For every 46.8 successful final third passes, the side finds a goal — an indicator that there is more threat in that vital area of possession.
Keeping the Whitecaps at bay is a difficult task: They're a side that thrives without extensive possession: When they've won, they've averaged only 43 percent possession. With speedy players like Darren Mattocks and Dane Richards — both among the fastest in the league — catching sides on the break has become a routine affair. Strangely, Vancouver has averaged more possession when they lose matches — 51 percent — which won't dictate RSL's playing style, but should inform an awareness of counterattacking threat.
It's certain to be a real test for Kwame Watson-Siriboe — it's one he fared well with last time out against this side — early performances for RSL have been impressive. Having won two-thirds of his duels (a rate that tops the team) and showing an impressive ability to keep possession with safe passing play (92.8 percent — the best rate in the league), the young center back has eased the worries about the missing Olave.
With Jamison Olave falling to a hamstring strain and Chris Schuler still out with a foot bone stress response, the Watson-Siriboe-Borchers connection looks to be one that'll continue for at least the next month, supposing the nasty injury bug floating around the squad doesn't claim either of the two. Knock on wood and all that, right?
The trip off to Canada presents RSL with an opportunity to reclaim some road form, and while things aren't as bad as they may seem at times, there is a real sense floating around that there must be improvement away from the relative comforts of the Rio Tinto. Saturday presents a very real opportunity.
-- Matt Montgomery
As told to Jen Rodriguez
1) There’s no reason in particular I grew out my hair. I always had it short. About two years ago, I let it grow…and it just kept growing and growing. After having it short for years, it was a change.
2) It feels very good to be a father for the first time to my son Jayko. He was born in May of this year and he was so little, so I was scared at first. He would make a little noise and I’d be cautious, but now that he’s bigger, you get more accustomed. Before, I might’ve gotten mad at some things in life, but now when I see him, it just goes away. To play with him, and see him smile, changes your life. It’s truly wonderful.
3) Something my fans might not know about me is that I’m not as crazy as they may think. I’m a normal person. I’m passionate on the field, and they see me fight sometimes with other defenders but I’m a calm person. I’m a family-oriented person.
4) I describe myself as hard-working. I try to do things right and with a lot of effort so they’ll come out right. If things don’t work out I just keep working hard until they do.
5) I’ve played soccer all of my life, since I was young. I knew I had to study if things didn’t work out with soccer, but what I wanted to do the most was play soccer.
6) I miss Argentina. I was 14 years old when I left home to play soccer. From my hometown, I went to Buenos Aires to play in Boca Juniors for 6 years, then I went to play in La Primera Division, and from there I went on to play at various places. I miss my family most of all, and spending time with my sister, because after I left, we didn’t grow up together, but then afterward I really liked it here [USA]. It’s nice here in Utah. I like it because I’m from a small town in Argentina, and the mountain ranges here remind me of it.
7) It’s wonderful to be on the field, hearing the fans. When the stadium is full…that’s the best thing for a player, and the most gratifying is to win so that our fans can enjoy the game.
8) I think I work well with Alvaro Saborío most of all because we understand each other well. He is a forward that’s always fighting against the defenders and I always try to find a way to enable plays with him.
9) I’ve known Javier Morales a long time, years now, so it’s a good friendship. He’s a good person and a grand player. People really like him, and he’s a good friend. I get along with pretty much everyone on the team, but obviously I have more confidence with the people I started here with. The group as a whole is good, we’ve been together a while. Since Jason’s formed the group, there hasn’t been too much change, the key base is there, so we know each other and that’s good.
10) One of my proudest moments of my soccer career was to get to play in La Primera. It’s very difficult to get to play in Primera; it’s a big deal in Argentina, so that’s one of the best things that’s happened to me. The other is to be an MLS champion with Real. My first championship was with Real, it’s the only championship I have, so it was great. With Real, my upcoming goals are to win CONCACAF and be champions.
There’s no doubt that RSL turned in a lackluster offensive performance in last Saturday’s 1-0 loss at Colorado. The team looked tired, disjointed and struggled to create chances throughout, really only getting two good looks at goal in the entire match.
RSL’s biggest struggles came in the attacking third. Despite holding advantages in possession, total number of passes completed and percentage of passes completed across the entire field, RSL was completely outclassed in the final third, attempting and completing a fraction of the passes Colorado attempted and completed in the attacking area.
Check out the below table for a more detailed look:
|Passing stats - Entire field||334/420||293/409|
|Passing stats - Final third||27/51||76/115|
On the surface, this might not make a whole lot of sense - Shouldn't RSL's advantages in possession, total number of passes completed and passing percentage lead to corresponding advantages in final third numbers?
Well, no. Here's why: After scoring the first - and only - goal of the game in the 38th minute, Colorado - which had the possession advantage at halftime - backed off a bit. They allowed RSL to knock the ball around in the back, which boosted the Claret-and-Cobalt's possession number and improved the team's passing stats across the entire field. But by backing off, Colorado was able to maintain a tighter defensive shape in the final third. That compact shape made it hard for RSL to enter the attacking area (explaining the Utah side's low number of passes attempted in the final third) and, once they got there, made it difficult for the Claret-and-Cobalt to have success (explaining the team's poor passing conversion rate in the final third).
Don't expect RSL to repeat last Saturday's poor final third performance in this weekend's match at Vancouver. The team wasn't quite right at Colorado, playing its third game in an eight day stretch which saw them make a midweek trip to Costa Rica. The players got a short break this week, taking Monday and Tuesday off before resuming training on Wednesday. That downtime should allow them to be both physically and mentally refreshed for the game at Whitecaps FC, something that should pay dividends at BC Place.
Remember CONCACAF Champions League 360, the fantastic series that documented RSL’s run through the Knockout Stage of the 2010-2011 CCL?
Well we’re doing that again, this time documenting RSL’s run through the entire 2012-2013 CCL. We have a new name (we’re calling this edition of the series “Chasing the Crown: RSL in the CCL”) and a new videographer (in-house man Nick Lamping takes over from MLSsoccer.com’s Scott Riddell), but we’re all very confident that the series will be just as good as it was the first time around.
We’ll publish a pair of episodes documenting RSL’s trip last week to Costa Rican champions C.S. Herediano, giving you an inside look at the team from the moment we took off for Costa Rica, through the 1-0 loss and back to the moment we landed in Salt Lake. We'll post more episodes for each of the three remaining Group Stage matches and - if RSL makes it - the Knockout Stage, too.
The first episode drops today. Don’t miss it.
Update: The video went live a couple of hours ago. Check it out here.
Although RSL has already secured the Subaru Rocky Mountain Cup for the 2012 season, the excitement is still not over, with the Claret-and-Cobalt having a chance to pull off their first-ever season sweep of the Rapids with a win at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Saturday.
Get reacquainted with the Rocky Cup ahead of this weekend’s match with this history of the rivalry:
2005: Current RSL color commentator Brian Dunseth notched the franchise’s first-ever home goal at its inaugural home match on April 16. Click here for ESPN SoccerNet recap.
Apr. 16: RSL 1-COL 0
Sept. 21: RSL 0-COL 2
Oct. 1: RSL 1-COL 2
Oct. 12: RSL 0-COL 1
Series Winner: Colorado Rapids
2006: After swapping players with Colorado, RSL benefits by acquiring FW Jeff Cunningham who helped the team with two goals and an assist in an impressive 4-1 win on August 9. Click here for Yahoo! Sports recap.
May 27: RSL 2-COL 2
June 9: RSL 0-COL 1
Aug. 9: RSL 4-COL 1
Sept. 2: RSL 0-COL 1
Series Winner: Colorado Rapids
2007: RSL wins the Cup for the first time. The peculiar May 10th match in this series resulted in MLS’ only ever draw by own-goals. Click here for ESPN SoccerNet recap.
April 30: RSL 0-COL 2
May 10: RSL 1-COL 1
Sept. 22: RSL 1-COL 0
Oct. 20: RSL 1-COL 0
Series Winner: Real Salt Lake
2008: The pivotal October 25 match saw RSL clinch both the Rocky Mountain Cup and a spot in the playoffs. Click here for highlights.
May 15: RSL 0-COL 2
Aug. 29: RSL 2-COL 0
Oct. 25: RSL 1-COL 1
Series Winner: Real Salt Lake
2009: RSL retains the Cup for the third straight time. The sides tied on points during the season series, but RSL retained the Cup because of the club’s higher series goal total. Watch Leo the Lion protect the 2009 Cup.
May 2: RSL 0-COL 2
June 6: RSL 1-COL 1
Oct. 24: RSL 3-COL 0
Series Winner: Real Salt Lake
2010: RSL scored stoppage-time goals to draw both games. DF Nat Borchers’ late heroics secured the point on Sept 25 and – after Colorado carried a 2-0 lead into stoppage time – FW Álvaro Saborίo’s dramatic brace gave RSL a tie on Oct. 23. Click here for highlights.
Sept. 25: RSL 1-COL 1
Oct. 23: RSL 2-COL 2
Series Winner: Real Salt Lake
2011: FW Fabian Espίndola’s stoppage-time goal on Apr. 13 would be the only tally of the 2011 series. Click here for highlights.
April 13: RSL 1-COL 0
Oct. 14: RSL 0-COL 0
Series Winner: Real Salt Lake
2012: RSL claimed the Cup for the sixth straight time with a 6-0 point advantage after two 2-0 home wins. Click here to watch July 21st highlights.
April 7: RSL 2-COL 0
July 21: RSL 2-COL 0
Aug. 4: ?
Series Winner: Real Salt Lake
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica – Yeah, 10-man RSL’s 1-0 CONCACAF Champions League loss at C.S. Herediano on Tuesday night was rough. But just in case any of you are currently on the ledge, remember, the result is far from the end of the world.
Sure, RSL missed a valuable opportunity – one of just four, in fact – to pick up points in the reformatted CCL Group Stage, leaving the club firmly behind the eight-ball in Group 2.
But it’s not that bad: RSL basically still controls its own fate. If the team wins its final three Group 2 games – one against Herediano at Rio Tinto Stadium and a home-and-home series with Panamanian club Tauro FC – they should finish first in the group and be through to the Knockout Round.
“All-in-all it’s not the worst result,” RSL captain Kyle Beckerman said after the game. “We can definitely bounce back from this.”
The only thing that would stop RSL from advancing to the Knockout Stage if the team wins all three of its remaining group games would be losing a tiebreaker with Herediano. The CCL’s first tiebreaker is, of course, goal difference.
Thankfully, the Claret-and-Cobalt is in pretty good shape there. Despite playing both down a man and with a patchwork backline after starting center backs Nat Borchers (ejection in the 58th) and Jamison Olave (injury in the 63rd) went off early in the second half, RSL managed to keep the score at 1-0 on Tuesday night.
That will hopefully be important come Oct. 23, when RSL takes on Herediano at Rio Tinto Stadium in what could essentially be a Knockout Stage play-in game in the Group 2 finale.
“We feel that if we take care of business in our next two matches against Tauro, if we can have success in those matches; losing 1-0 is not the worst place to be,” RSL head coach Jason Kreis said at his postgame press conference. “Herediano comes to our place in October, and only being down a goal, it would essentially become a head-to-head competition. We don’t think we’re in the worst spot in the world – we certainly don’t like where we are – but we’re not in the worst spot in the world.”
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.
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.