Archive | May 2012

Preview: Real Salt Lake to take on New England at home


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Historically, games against the New England Revolution at home have been very exciting and dramatic for Real Salt Lake.  Think way back to our final season in Rice Eccles Stadium, back when the Revolution were still one of the best teams in MLS.  Real made to continue their first ever good home winning streak with a 2-1 upset victory.  The next season, against a not-quite-as-dominant Revolution side, RSL played one of their most memorable games ever. The score was tied at zeroes at half time.  But in the second half, the Real Salt Lake offense ran rampant over the New England Defense.  Six different players scored in the 6-0 win that would go down as the biggest win in franchise history.  The next year RSL continued the fireworks with a dazzling 5-0 win over New England.

Everyone expected another big win for Real Salt Lake last year too.  But a wild game plagued by miscues and terrible officiating that neither teams’ coaches agreed with ended up turning the match into an eventual 3-3 draw.  A win or not, the game was entertaining to watch.

So basically, in the last three meetings between these two teams at Rio Tinto Stadium there have been a combined 17 goals!  That’s crazy!

So what can one expect?  Plenty of goals for sure, but there’s a lot more going on in the background.

Jason Kreis and Real Salt Lake were relieved to have a little more of a break between games for the first time in a while this week.  He claims the extra training has been very good for his team.  Sounds to me like they should be primed for this weekend’s fixture.

New England is coming off of a 2-1 midweek win over our Rocky Mountain rivals, the Colorado Rapids.  The game was pretty interesting.  Colorado scored off of a corner kick in which not a single Revolution defender really challenged for the ball.  However, the Revolution seemed to be very dangerous on crosses from outside backs and midfielders.  That’s where they got all their opportunities on goal from.

Hopefully, Real will be able to shut down the wings and keep the ball.  If they’re able to do that, this game should be a good win for the claret and cobalt!


The effect of the subersub


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Real Salt Lake have come to expect drama to the final whistle this season.  Late goals have always been a dominant characteristic of RSL.  This season has been jam-packed with them.  And the cool thing is, they’re not all coming from starters.  Lots of them are either built-up by, assisted by, or scored by substitutions.  (Bravo coaching staff!)

I really believe it has to do with the belief that all the players have in the RSL Way.  You never see Real falling back in the closing stages.  You see them pressing forward, keeping possession to attack.  It’s really great to watch, especially when the fans all know a goal is just around the corner.  The atmosphere inside Rio Tinto Stadium becomes electric.  It’s really fantastic.

So, out of all those late-drama goals, which ones had a substitute involved in them?

You can go back to Real’s first fixture of the season against the Galaxy.  Javier Morales was subbed in with about 10 or 15 minutes remaining in the match.  He came in and scored a scrappy goal to help lift RSL to a 3-1 victory over the defending MLS Cup champions.

Skip a few games and you have our memorable night in Portland.  With not much time left on the clock and down a goal.  Things weren’t looking to good for Real.  Then substitutes Will Johnson and Jonny Steele were brought in and became immediate gamechangers and heroes for Real Salt Lake.  Jonny got the ball on the right side of the field where he cut across and into Troy Perkins’ box.  He played a quick combo with fellow substitute Johnson and calmly sent keeper Perkins the wrong direction and put the ball into the back of the onion bag.  Steele came into play again on the last goal in that match to win it late.  Fabian Espindola sent a perfect chip up to the top of the box.  Steele was there, but instead of going for the brace, he let it go to a screaming Kyle Beckerman who sent a one-touch crack into the bottom corner of the net.  The two seem to know how to play off each other pretty well.

For the next late goal by a substitute, you only need to look at the game against Dallas.  Substitute Emiliano Bonfigli scored within three minutes of coming onto the pitch in his Real Salt Lake debut to level the score at ones.

Our boy Jonny Steele came back to break some Toronto FC hearts last Saturday.  This time he called for the lay-off from our captain Kyle Beckerman and scored a beauty from outside the box to win the game 3-2 in extra time.

So what is it about the subersubs?  Why do the substitutes score?

Let me tell you, as a sub, especially if you’re fighting for minutes, every little touch and run is absolutely crucial.  Those players are pumped and will fight to the last gasp to make a good impression and make a positive difference.  Also the guys just have more energy.  Everyone else on the field has got tired legs.  That’s why you see a guy like Emi Bonfigli blazing past defenders.

It really comes down to the guts of the sub and the opportunity that he finds himself and how hard he works for it.


Kyle Beckerman features in “Taking the Lead”

RSL’s captain talk about what being a captain is.

What’s with the hate?


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Sabo’s getting it again.  The hate has been raining down on him over the last week or so.  There was a similar period of time last season of fans being agitated by Alvaro Saborio.  So what’s the deal?  Why is it directed towards him?

Alvaro’s a completely different type of forward from what Real Salt Lake fans have seen over the seasons before.  The only thing the same about him and Espindola, his regular partner up top. is the fact that they’re each so unique.  Fabian is a scrappy player that uses his tricky style to weave his way through hulking defenders.  Fabi also is widely-known as a player that goes through for every ball at full power.  He doesn’t let a chance pass him up.

It becomes quite obvious that Sabo isn’t much like his fellow striker at all.  He’s a big target man that likes to use his size and physicality as an advantage over defenders.  He’s got a lot of power in his shot and has a wonderful snap header.  Not only does he have the power and size, Saborio also has the skills.  In his time at RSL he’s scored two different back heel goals.  Everyone remembers the one he put in against Seattle last year in the first leg of the playoffs to seal a dominating 3-0 victory.  Most supporters have probably forgotten the back heel flick he put past New England two seasons ago in Real’s 5-0 win at the RioT.

Aside from all that, I really think he’s just misunderstood.  I think fans have gotten used to Fabian’s %100-for-every-half-chance style and can’t handle Sabo’s different way of getting chances and scoring.  Instead of going crazy like Espindola, Saborio picks his chances.  If there’s a through ball or opening that he judges to not be quite good enough he simply won’t go all the way for it.  But it all works out, because all that conserved energy he has when he doesn’t use on those half-chances, he transfers to the opportunities he thinks are pure effort worthy.  He literally puts everything into the chances he picks.  He really seems like a different player than the one you usually see jogging around calling for a ball.  Alvaro doesn’t just power load his sprint and shot, he seems to concentrate a lot harder, putting all his concentration on his approach and placement.  I really can understand people being with frustrated with him, but cursing him to the point of bringing a sign to a game that says, “TRADE SABORIO” is a little much in my opinion.  I suspect there are a lot of other fans out there that concur with me.

His attitude is unlike any of the other guys on the team.  He gets pissed.  There’s me saying it frankly for you.  He sometimes gets mad at himself for not scoring on one of his chosen moments and he gets angry when a ball on another one of those chosen situations isn’t played just right by one of his teammates.  Most people remember last year when he stormed off of the pitch after being subbed and went right to the locker room after exchanging words with Jason Kreis.  He was suspended by Real Salt Lake for one game for his reactions.  Since then, I really believe his attitude on and off the pitch has improved.  I mean, I’m not in the locker room listening in, but he hasn’t done anything stupid on the field since.

I believe that Alvaro Saborio is simply a misunderstood player.  Fans should learn to relax and know that goals are coming and let Sabo play his own game his own way.


RSL has a problem with Avila


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Eric Avila.  His name has a sour taste to it for any Real Salt Lake fan.  But what is it about him?  He hasn’t been a league powerhouse.  In fact, he hasn’t even started for teams he’s played for much at all.

Don’t get me wrong, he’s a fantastic player, in fact, I believe he should be a starter on Toronto.  But why has he been able to wreck havoc against Real?  Why hasn’t he found the same success against other clubs across the league?

I honestly think it comes down to his confidence against one of the strongest teams in MLS, Real Salt Lake.  It started two years ago in the first leg of the first round of the playoffs down in Frisco, Texas where Real was taking on FC Dallas.  It was tied and RSL were about to walk away with a good result on the road in Texas where they had never gotten any kind of positive result in their history.  Then everything was flushed away.  A late sub that nobody knew much about came on.  His name was Eric Avila.  In the dying moments of the game, Eric received a pass on his side of the field about midway between the penalty area and the half line.  He took a look up and drove a blistering shot into the far side netting of Rimando’s net.  That goal ultimately killed RSL’s playoff run that year after they returned to Rio Tinto where they could only pull off a draw.  They lost the series 3-2 on aggregate.

That’s the strike that all the Real fans remember Avila for.  But he’s stepped into a new role since then.  He’s gotten faster, and much more technically skilled since then.  I see him being one of RSL fans’ greatest enemies someday.  (That is if we don’t get him somehow. I’d love to see him in claret and cobalt!)  If he stays with other clubs I could see him becoming comparable to Conor Casey and Real’s fans’ hate for him.

So the bigger question at the moment.  What did he do to rip through our centerbacks Saturday

Here’s what I saw:

First of all, he’s got speed, serious speed.  That seems to be something that Real defenders struggle with.  Olave can catch up to anyone.  Without being physical enough to give a forward an opportunity to dive?  That’s another question.  But caught off guard like on Saturday, Avila can burn through the RSL defense.

It’s not just his pace, but his ability to use his creative footwork without slowing down much at all.  Watch his goal.  He receives the ball and cuts Olave to bits with a movement of the shoulders and a hard cut.  After that he only has to slot the ball past a rushing Nick Rimando.

I think one thing that separates him from other attackers is that instead of trying to make runs in between the outside backs and the centerbacks, he positions himself in the center of the field at makes his run right between Schuler and Olave.  In the play that he scored on he had just enough space to reach a sort of no-man’s-land between the two centerbacks.  There wasn’t much communication between Schuler and Olave, so when Olave over committed, Schuler wasn’t able to back him up.  He also knows that he can lose centerbacks by dropping back when the box is full.  Midfielders’ first reaction isn’t to mark him because they’re trying to track back to defend the guys they’ve been up against all game.  In the end he’s sometimes left alone, like on the play that he struck the crossbar with his great shot.

It’s really the little movements he puts in that seem to throw Real Salt Lake off.  Why he hasn’t had as much success against other teams is a mystery to me.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he starts to trouble other defenses soon too.

That’s all for today folks!