Archive | March 2012

Preview: RSL at the Timbers

Our beloved Claret and Cobalt take on the Portland Timbers today at a rainy JELD-WEN Field.  Both teams have performed very well in their first three games of the season.  Both have just dropped games that should have gone for them, so both sides will be aiming to be as lethal as possible and get back on track with the top teams across the league.

One factor that has a possibility of being crucial is the playing surface.  JELD-WEN is a turf pitch.  Turf does not fit with RSL’s style of play because it causes the ball to take hard-to-predict skips across the surface of the artificial grass.  Real likes to hold onto possession and keep the ball on the ground while Portland is content to knock it around.

The artificial surface could also hinder Real Salt Lake’s Jamison Olave who has lingering knee problems.  In years past he has been kept out of turf encounters.

Real Salt Lake should be able to hold the Timbers back if they just really lock down defensively and play the counter attack.


Real Salt Lake jerseys through the years

Since 2005, when Real Salt Lake entered its first season of MLS soccer, Real’s fans have been privileged with some pretty fantastic kits generally speaking.  There are of course exceptions. Every team goes through a few seasons with awful jerseys. RSL has never had the worst jerseys in the league, however, for the first few seasons when Real struggled to find an on-the-field identity, they also struggled to produce clean and unique kits.

The kits Real sported in its first season were very typical of an expansion side. This was back in the day when fans didn’t understand what the name Real Salt Lake even pertained to.  Back when some of the naive and louder fans with little understanding for the sport shouted with all their might, “Go Reel!”

Yes that year was a struggle for the entire club as a whole.  The jerseys were no exception.  They lacked anything that would give RSL any kind of unique, recognizable look.  The home strips were simply red with a goldenrod-ish yellow trim and the away kit was simply white and ugly.  It came as no surprise that Real Salt Lake opted to get a new look for the 2006 and 2007 seasons.

Real added a lot more cobalt into their kit for the 2006-07 season.  I personally think the main purpose of making the switch was because of the ugliness of the inaugural jersey and to get on the same jersey schedule as the rest of MLS.

RSL also moved away from the generally static and straight design of their first jersey and sported a jersey with many more curves in it for their first and second seasons.

Real Salt Lake has been criticized in years past for copying the jersey design of Spain’s national team.  They used the same template and both teams used a lot of red in their home strip.  Some people complained about this.  Others were fine with it.  After all, Spain has always had a nice clean kit!

Next up were the jerseys that Real Salt Lake won their first MLS Cup in in 2009.  This time, the jersey update came in line with the rest of the MLS teams around the country.  Real kept the iconic cobalt sleeves that differentiated them from other teams in MLS.  Around this time was when RSL started to get their play together and build up an identity.

It can be noted that Real, like most other MLS teams, seems to stick to the all-white away strips.  It often becomes hard to identify the visiting side when watching broadcasted MLS games because most of the teams have all-white away jerseys.  Some of them look clean while others look out of place.  Real Salt Lake probably has the best excuse for a white jersey being named after white-clad Spanish giants Real Madrid.

It can also be noted that Real featured in their first “third jersey” in 2008.  In truth, it wasn’t a legit third jersey because it was only featured once for Earth Day against the San Jose Earthquakes in a US Open Cup qualifier in which RSL’s dominating victory was overshadowed by a huge collision between two San Jose players that both ended up suffering major concussions.  There was a giant blood splotch on the ground and I kid you not, I was there.

All said though, Real does look pretty nice in green!  If only they could have brought it back for the St. Patrick’s Day opener this year!

RSL Green Kit

After winning the MLS Cup, Real came into the 2010 season with more change in their kit than ever before.  Not only did they surprisingly move away from the cobalt sleeves (yes there is blue on the sleeves, but not all the way up the shoulders like in years past) on the home jersey, they also replaced the cobalt socks and shorts with claret duplicates.  However, the 2010-2011 kits are probably my favorite.  They’re very unique with their cleanliness.  It’s also nice to see that our claret is a different shade of red from the rest of MLS’ red teams.

RSL Home and Away Kits 2010-11

Real released their first official third jersey in 2010.  The move had a lot to do with the entrance into the prestigious CONCACAF Champions League in which they made their historic run to the finals.

The colors of the jersey received mixed reaction from Real fans.  They were officially released as “Victory Gold”.  However, Real Salt Lake didn’t enjoy many victories in them.  The only win they posted in the all-yellow kits was a 2-0 win against the Wilmington Hammerheads in one of the first rounds of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup in the summer of 2011.  But despite only winning once, Real did actually do extremely well in the yellow jerseys.  They posted several good road draws in the regular season.  They also sported Victory Gold when they tied Monterrey 2-2 in Mexico in the first leg of the Champions League final.

I think that the shirts look great.  But I’m not a big fan of the yellow-yellow-red look with the jersey, shorts, and socks.

RSL Third Kit 2010-11

Finally, the current jerseys sported by the Claret and Cobalt made a small wave as Real came halfway back to the all cobalt sleeves.  Real features in their first asymmetrical kits ever.  The look took a little while to get used to as most do.  But I have to say that after my initial disappointment, the jerseys really grew on me and I think they’re really fantastic now!

Well there you have it!  All the jerseys from beginning to current!

Go ahead and comment and tell me what you think!


A stunning blow at just the wrong moment

First off I’d like to apologize for the lateness of this post and the lack of a match preview.  I was out of town this last weekend on a sort of a vacation and honestly couldn’t find the time to whip out a match preview.

It must be noted that the first loss of the regular season happened in correlation with my first (and hopefully only) missed match.  I don’t plan on ever missing one again.

I have to say, all of the famed Rio Tinto Stadium seemed to let out an exasperated sigh as the final whistle blew on Saturday.  Those fans and committed followers looked at the scoreboard in unbelief.  Real Salt Lake doesn’t lose at home, in the RioT, their fortress.  What’s going on?  What on earth just happened?  Were those my Claret and Cobalt clad boys out there on the pitch?  Was that them that just fell flat to their ex-assistant coach’s side?

The answer:  No.

True, they wore the same crest on their chests and represented the same team, but they did not play the “RSL Way”.  Real didn’t play like Real on Saturday.  That may be an oxymoron, but it’s true.  My first I’d point my finger on is overconfidence.  Even as a fan, I wrote the fixture against CD Chivas USA off as an easy win.  RSL was on fire, beating MLS’ two biggest market teams by two goal margins.  It’s very possible that they were looking to the games ahead instead of taking this match-up as seriously and critically as previous games.

That’s just pure speculation, but whatever the origin, RSL was not in their game mentally against Chivas in front of their home fans.

Let’s hope this isn’t an early repeat of the bad turn of events that fell upon Real last season.  We seem to be in much better shape as of now.  At this point, it’s safe to call RSL’s slip-up as a mental lapse and nothing more.

We’re Still Here For RSL!

RSL vs. CHV 3/24/12

Real suffers its first defeat of the season to Chivas USA

Player Spotlight: Yordany Alvarez – Part 1

Today I start my first official series of posts: Player Spotlights!  I decided that people would enjoy learning more and more about their favorite players on the Real Salt Lake squad during midweek stretches like the one we are experiencing right now when news is sparse.  For each player I will first write up a part one post with general information ranging from their backround to stats.  I then hope to create a part two series in which I can personally interview each of the players.  Onto Yordany now!

Yordany Alvarez was born in Cienfuegos, Cuba, on May 24, 1985.  Not much if anything at all has been published about Y. Alvarez’ childhood in Cuba.  However, he played for his local professional club FC Cienfuegos.

Yordany featured for his native nation’s U-23 team.  In 2008, the night after a CONCACAF match-up against the United States Under-23 national team, Yordany along with six other Cuban teammates ran away from their team’s hotel and weren’t heard of for some time. He escaped first with a group of five Cubans.  The next day, two others followed suit.

After defecting to the United States, Alvarez was protected by the wet foot dry foot ruling that allows Cubans in the USA to obtain asylum.

Upon reaching the US, Yordany and two of his fellow defectors trialed with Los Angelas Galaxy.  None of them made the team.  Later in March of 2009 Alvarez attended the Austin Aztecs’ open tryout as they entered the USL First Division as an expansion team.  Yordany played the next two seasons with the Aztecs until they were relocated to Orlando City and rebranded as Orlando City S. C.  The Cuban finished out the 2011 season with his USL D1 side that ended up winning the title.  He was named MVP of the season.

Shortly after his great season with Orlando City Alvarez trialed with Real Salt Lake.  After impressing, he was signed to a loan agreement in a similar fashion to the way that Paulo Jr. got onto the RSL squad.

Alvarez was soon found to be a perfect replacement for starter and team captain Kyle Beckerman, whose absences are now much more frequent due to call-ups with the United States Men’s National Team.  During the recent off-season, Yordany signed a contract with Real.

I really didn’t quite understand all the praise Alvarez near the end of last season.  But during the preseason fixtures he was fantastic!  He was excellent at controlling the ball and redistributing it and making space for his teammates.  I was especially impressed with his vision.  At one point in the first Desert Diamond Cup game against New York there was a heap of players battling for possession of the ball just outside the New York 18-yard box.  Out of nowhere came Yordany Alvarez crashing through whatever was between him and the ball.  He sent a blistering strike just wide of the left post.  The NYRB netminder had no time to react.  I don’t think he even saw the ball until it was out of bounds.  For some reason it was at that moment that I knew he’d be a perfect fit for RSL.

Good luck to you, Mr. Alvarez this season!


RSL vs. NYRB 3/17/12

Real’s 2-0 win in the 2012 season home opener

Recap: RSL vs. NYRB

On St. Patty’s day 2012, Real Salt Lake beat New York 2-0 to continue their fantastic start.  For some stats on the game and some interesting commentary on the New York Red Bulls situation, check out my previous article:

I’d say it was a pretty good showing for RSL in their home opener this season.  The official attendance was 16,738.  I was slightly disappointed by this fact.  But I quickly realized that the weather was quite gusty with the threat of rain looming the entire match and realized that it was a decent turnout.  I definitely was impressed with the noise the crowd made throughout the game.  At the kickoff and both times we scored, our beloved new anthem, “Believe”, could be heard throughout the stadium.

I was a little bit off with my starting line-up prediction.  I didn’t know that Tony Beltran was recovering so quickly and that Terukazu Tanaka was going to be brought to the hospital with the flu.  It was nice to see Velasquez getting more time.  It’s going to be interesting this season to see how much time the other rookies, namely Enzo Martinez and Diogo De Almedia, get on the pitch.  I’m guessing those two will be more like “project players” similar to what Schuler was in his first year.  I doubt that both of them will still be here in a season or two, but I could see that Jason is really excited for the new guys, especially Enzo.

Morales and Sabo made late entries into the game similar to the previous fixture against LA.  RSL’s other substitute was Jonny Steele.  Real picked up Steele this preseason after he turned down their offer several seasons ago and ended up coming back to the preseason camp.  It’s good to see that he’s recovering very well from his minor injury.  I thought his first official MLS match with Real would be even more special to him because it was on St. Patrick’s day (He’s Irish!).

Both Fabian Espindola and Luis Gil slotted home their tallies for Real.  This goal was Fabi’s second in as many games to open up the season.  He’s really coming out hard this year.  I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he sets some new records for himself this year.  Gil’s goal was his second against New York at the RioT.  His former was a wicked blast beyond the penalty area last summer.

Despite not completely controlling the game passing-wise, Real Salt Lake got it done and got the win with two crucial goals.

Let’s go Real!

Some Stats and New York’s Epic Problem

Real Salt Lake continued their winning ways in their fantastic two-win start to the 2012 season.  Only three other MLS teams have been able to keep pace with Real and won both of their first games.  These  teams, Houston, Kansas City, and Vancouver all carry six points.  It can be noted that all three of those teams have yet to concede a goal.  However, RSL leads the four team pack in goals scored with five.

The game against NYRB was an interesting one indeed.  It wasn’t the blowout that several fans wanted, but the scoreline doesn’t quite reflect the game.  Just look at the stats.  New York had just as many shots on target as Real, they had 8 corner kicks opposed our 5, we committed 11 fouls on them and they only committed 8 against us.  According to the statistics, New York seemed to be lurking in front of the RSL net.  They had 24 open play crosses, 13 more than Real was able to create.  The Red Bulls also put together 483 passes compared to the 411 that Real Salt Lake was able to thread.  Both team’s passing accuracy was the same, 83%, but NY enjoyed the slight majority of the possession with 53.7%.

With those figures and the star power New York holds in their front line, you’d think they’d be able to put a few more goals away.  Why don’t they?

New York’s been a hard team to figure out over the last couple years.  Believe it or not their stats are usually quite similar to the numbers above.  I have come to one possible conclusion about NYRB’s status as a team:  they simply struggle to find an identity.  The Red Bulls have the market, money, and star power of the LA Galaxy, but they don’t play LA’s style.  They try to play Real Salt Lake style.  New York’s envy for Real’s swagger has become especially apparent in recent interviews with Thierry Henry who expressed that New York are not at RSL’s level and need to play more like them.

But should they?  It seems to me that the Galaxy’s style of sign-big-name-players-and-give-them-the-ball has actually worked out.  New York does the sign-big-name-players-part but seems to focus on trying to keep possession and play beautiful soccer.  It seems very apparent to me that this isn’t going to work out.  Jason Kries has made it evident that he doesn’t have the best players.  He has the RIGHT players.  If NY wants to play good looking soccer, they need the RIGHT players.  Those aren’t the big name ones that sell tickets.  These RIGHT players are the Fabian Espindolas, Paulos, Grabavoys, Schulers, Beltrans that other clubs generally blow off.  Grabavoy for example was cut by San Jose after the conclusion of their first season as an expansion team after re-entering the league.  San Jose came dead last.  They were one of the worst clubs in MLS history.  They didn’t think Ned Grabavoy was good enough for their team.  Now you can see him starting for Real Salt Lake as one of the key workhorses on the team.  Ned is one of those RIGHT players.  If New York wants to succeed they need to figure out their own style and sign players based of it.

Preview: What to expect against the Red Bulls

It seems that Thierry Henry has already scheduled a loss tonight.  He has already stated that he doesn’t expect his team to win and that New York needs to play more like Real Salt Lake.  For some reason I don’t get the vibe that the Red Bulls are booming with confidence.

NYRB is coming off a loss in Frisco, Texas against FC Dallas.  Dallas dominated the game until the last 20 minutes or so.

Is New York really going to go around proclaiming how bad they are?  Is it some kind of trick?  Probably not.  It’s most likely big players getting frustrated with the rest of their team.  A lot like Rafa Marquez last year after his team fell to Real in NY.

So what should we expect from our RSL knowing that the Red Bulls are struggling.  First of all, we’ll be missing lots of starters.  For the complete list, read my last article.  But Tony Beltran is most likely off the gameday roster too now.  This seems like a great opportunity for new guy Terukazu Tanaka to grab his first minutes of an official MLS match.  He looked pretty good in preseason.  Hopefully he does well.  Secondly, it seems to me that Real’s confidence is booming right now.  There’s always a chance that we choke and give New York a burst of adrenaline and a pile of goals in the back of the net.  But I highly doubt that.  After all, this is the home opener!  RSL expects a lot from their fans this year (GET THERE EARLY). There should be a great atmosphere pulsing through the stadium. I’m expecting a game more like last year’s home opener against LA.  I don’t want to get my hopes up too high, but it seems very possible!

I’ve decided to test myself at line-up predictions for the rest of the matches this year.  Here goes.


Tanaka     –    Olave     –     Schuler    –     Wingert


–Grabavoy                    –                    Velasquez—


—-Espindola             –             Paulo Jr.————

I’m expecting another start for young guns Velasquez and Gil after their fantastic performances last game.  As you can probably tell, the lineup is almost the same as the starting eleven that ran over Los Angelas.

Expect a great match! GO REAL!