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What’s with the hate?

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Photo Credit: smackdowntay (smackdowntay.blogspot.com)

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.

ONWARD REAL SALT LAKE!

RSL has a problem with Avila

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Photo Credit:  smackdowntay (smackdowntay.blogspot.com)

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!

GO RSL!!!

Rocky Mountain Cup: The ins and outs of the 2012 edition

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Photo Credit: smackdowntay (smackdowntay.blogspot.com)

This year’s installment of the Rocky Mountain Cup rivalry between RSL and the Rapids has the potential to be very high-strung and controversial due to changes across the league.

First off:  The internal drama.  Supporters throughout the Real Salt Lake community have had very mixed reactions to Mark Miller Subaru sponsoring the RMC this season.  The whole issue behind it is that the cup was originally founded and payed for by fans and supporters groups.  The idea of a sponsorship didn’t come through these supporters.  In fact, they were completely unaware of it.  It seems to me that the Real Salt Lake front office found another way to make some money off of companies looking for an opportunity to sponsor RSL.  Some supporters are completely against it and say that the Rocky Mountain Cup simply shouldn’t be sponsored.  Some say that they’re fine with the sponsorship deal but they think that the front office should have negotiated with or alerted major supporters groups first and that some of the money from the deal should be dispersed among supporters groups.  Other fans are completely fine with the idea of a sponsorship on the RMC.

My opinion?  I’ve got some mixed feelings.  I really wish sponsorship was avoided on the RMC to keep it out of the commercial world.  But if there is going to be a money-making deal, I believe some of that money should be given out to the people who brought the Rocky Mountain Cup into existence in the first place.  But my opinion doesn’t really matter in the end, does it?

A little more controversy is added to the competition due to this season’s unbalanced schedule that has Real slated against the Colorado (cRapids) three times, two at the RioT and one in Commerce City.  Now, I’m all happy about this advantage at our fortress, but as you might expect, Colorado fans aren’t too happy with their team’s disadvantage.  Nothing can be done about this.  All Rapid fans can do is complain for now.  But if we still are playing an unbalanced schedule come next season, Colorado will be the club hosting their rival two times out of three.

Play wise, expect strong, hot-blooded efforts from both sides.  Hopefully, Real can pick up its form from past matches.

Be sure to print out this card that supporters will be holding up around the stadium after the national anthem: http://www.rslroyalarmy.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Racism-Red-Card.pdf

See you at the RioT!

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.

Various information and an interview with Jason Kries

A lot of news for you all today surrounding various subjects such as the upcoming match this Saturday, Jason Kries’ appearance on mlssoccer.com’s Extratime Radio, and other various random items.

First of all, the random but pertinent stuff:  Three RSL personnel were nominated in different categories of the Governor’s State of Sports Awards.  Kyle Beckerman features in the College/Pro Athlete Male category, Saborio’s backheel against the Sounders is one of the nominees for Play/Highlight of the Year category, and Jason Kries is up for running for the Coach of the Year award.  This is the competition’s inaugural year, so be sure to participate and support Real! http://www.stateofsportawards.com/ (Just a side note: Be sure to click the vote button on the RIGHT side of the thumbnail.)

Also, news was released today that Javier Morales and Alvaro Saborio received their green cards.  This is nothing less than huge as it frees up the international slots in our roster that we needed open.

The last of the slightly random stuff pertains to this weekend’s home opener against the Red Bulls.  Firstly, the game may be on St. Patrick’s Day, but WEAR RED, NOT GREEN.  You’re much more likely to get pinched for not wearing red to the game.  However, the only green products that will be okay for the game will be the classy looking green jerseys we had for Earth Day back in 2008 and the all-new special edition green scarves that you can get at the team store this week along with a voucher for tickets in the north section of the stadium for $35.  Also, a huge thing is going to happen before the match for the first time in Real Salt Lake history:  A march to the match!  That’s right,  meet at the outside the south end of the stadium near the Colonel’s Corner at 7:30 to join others in walking around the stadium and singing and  shouting your guts out for the Claret and Cobalt!

Now on with the gist of this post.  Mlssoccer.com’s analysts at Extratime Radio decided to call up our coach Jason Kries and ask his opinion on a few things.  It was an interesting interview.  You can go ahead and check it out on the MLS website, but I’ll be covering most of it here.

When asked about how much stock he put into the win against LA, Jason Kries responded, “Enough stock to gain confidence. . . Am I gonna say that we’re gonna be the best team in the league because of that win?  Absolutely not.”  He went on to say that he knows what it’s like to play in both the CCL and MLS and acknowledges the stresses that the Galaxy are forced to deal with.

The guys on ET Radio seemed to be very interested in Velasquez (as most everybody is these days).  Kries said that he realized that this was the first time he had ever started a rookie in the first game of the year.  But this start came under several specific circumstances.  Firstly, Tian has shown that he deserves it by working extremely hard throughout the entire preseason.  Also, the start was greatly affected by the absences from the regular starting IX.

According to Jason, the injury situation seems to be getting slightly worse.  Apparently a few guys won’t be able to shake off some knocks from the clash in Los Angelas.  Tony Beltran took a hit to the knee and will most likely sit out the match this weekend.  Both Sabo and Javi’s schedules got backed up.  Javier hurt his knee when he scored his goal.  Alvaro knocked up his knee in training.  Neither are expected to contribute any more than they did in the opening game of the season.  Will Johnson is still out for the next few weeks as he recovers from his surgery in Germany.  Nat Borchers seems to be getting better.  He featured in the reserve game against FC Dallas that the RSL second team eventually lost 3-1.  Ironic huh?  Anyway, coach says to expect more newer and younger guys to get some time against New York.

SLTID

Last gasp for core group

First off, for all you fans, this coming week is officially Real Week!  The climax will of course be our home opener against the NY Red Bulls.  For a rundown of everything going on next week in the RSL Nation check out this link.  http://www.realsaltlake.com/RealWeek

Secondly, it was very intriguing to learn from Real Salt Lake GM Garth Lagerway that the Supporters’ Shield isn’t a focus for this season.  Instead Real is solely turning its attention to securing a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League knockout stages and winning the MLS Cup.  Since winning the MLS Cup back in 2009, RSL’s main goal has been to win the Supporters Shield by having the best regular-season record.  To Lagerway, the Supporters Shield is worthless now with the new unbalanced schedule being introduced this year.  Because of the new format, each team now plays three games against each of their opponents within their conference and one game against each opponent outside of their conference.  This makes reaching the Supporters Shield a lot harder for Western Conference teams, which are generally much stronger.  But hey, if we have a great season, there’s always a good chance at the Shield.

Garth made a very good point that has gotten me very excited for this season.  Here’s his quote, “We kept this group together for one reason – to win, and to win titles.”

Knowing that this is the last season with the entire core together is tough, but now there cannot be any more excuses.  This is one of the last chances on Real for some of these guys.  I have no doubt that RSL will be going all or nothing this season.  I am anticipating some pretty dramatic games.

GO RSL!!!

Preseason review

Real Salt Lake’s 2012 preseason has officially come to an end.  I have to say it was definitely much more eventful and fan-friendly than in years past.  And I mean fan-friendly in two ways, but I’ll get to that later in my article.  First off in today’s article is a review on our preseason performance.

RSL started its preseason fixtures with several ties against some of the other MLS teams down in Arizona for preseason training.  I believe that the main purpose for these was to see all the trialists in action in a real game scenario.  I won’t say much about these because of how little they really have to do with the current roster’s performance on the pitch.

The Desert Diamond Cup was truly a great thing for MLS teams, especially Real.  It was very fan-friendly in that it was much closer to Utah than   any other preseason tournaments and that it was live-streamed online by mlssoccer.com.  It was interesting to watch the new guys play together in an RSL kit.  It seemed obvious to me that they were trying to play the “RSL way” by keeping control of the ball with quick passes in short spaces and attacking up the wings.  However, it seemed like they were almost trying to force it.  At times it was a little frustrating.  This is definitely temporary because the new guys are all still trying to gel in with the team and haven’t had much time.  This was really evident when some of the first team players would step onto the field and things would really start ticking.

Performance-wise I wasn’t incredibly impressed.  Aside from Real’s few great goals it seemed that RSL struggled to create solid chances in the final third.  I really hope this isn’t a sign of what’s to come in the season.  But then again, there was never a time when our entire starting eleven were on the field.

Jason Kries said earlier this year in a fan Q&A that he was a very nervous coach.  He went on to explain that he knew the core group could perform, but with so many changes, it was hard to find confidence in an entire twenty-six man squad.  I think that I feel about the same.  I’m confident that our starting eleven can go all the way.  But as for the new guys, I am very nervous, but even more excited.  I have a feeling that this is going to be a growing year for most of the new guys.  And come next season, they’ll be tearing apart other teams!

What could go wrong and how we might be able to avoid it

The 2012 season could be very critical for Real Salt Lake.  We haven’t endured through so many offseason changes in several years.  We saw a good chunk of our depth waived or traded away and a few starters like Andy Williams and Robbie Russel leave the team.  (Andy retired and is now a scout for RSL) We also saw Real bring in more trialists and Superdraft selections than ever before.

RSL has managed to bring in many young or inexperienced players into the scene without denting the starting lineup.  It seems incredible that with all the roster movement Real has been through that we’ll most likely seeing the same starting lineup as last year for most of the season.  That could change, however, due to injuries.  That leads us to our next topic.

Injuries and absences were a MAJOR problem for Real Salt Lake last year.  Almost every article last season mentioned the “diversity” that RSL went through to the point that it got quite annoying for an avid RSL follower.  I’m not say it wasn’t true, it’s just that it got to the point that it almost seemed like an excuse.  It’s true that Real struggled to find points for big stretches and struggled with inconsistency, but Real did put good games together even with a thrown together lineup.  It was frustrating as a fan to watch.  My point is that RSL need to avoid a repeat of an injury filled season.  First priority should simply be to stay fit and stay injury-free, but let’s face it, Javi had absolutely nothing to do with being brutally tackled in the Chivas USA game.  You can’t plan ahead to avoid having your ankle broken like that.

But you never know.  All these new acquisitions have looked good for stretches in this preseason.  Maybe if we do end up face to face with long-term absences, the new guys will be able to step in well.  Jason Kries has already gone ahead and stated that Y. Alvarez is a perfect fill-in for when our captain Kyle Beckerman is unavailable.  This could happen frequently this season as Kyle is spending more and more time with the US National Team.  Also, guys like Schuler, Paulo, and Arnoux that haven’t played very consistently is seasons past are going to be expected to really step in for the first team this year.

Hopes for Schuler are high

Way back in the 2010 MLS Superdraft, Real Salt Lake made what seemed to be some great pickups.  There was Collen Warner, Jean Alexandre, Rawshawn McKenzie, and Chris Schuler.  RSL decided to sign all four of their selections.

Warner, Alexandre, and McKenzie all saw decent minutes for an RSL rookie.  All three came in as subs at various points of the season.  Both Warner and McKenzie made considerable contributions in the CCL group stage.  McKenzie started in the away match against Cruz Azul that is still remembered as the Flood that Real eventually lost 4-5 in a very dramatic finale.  Warner started and scored in the return fixture against Cruz Azul at Rio Tinto Stadium.  Collen and Rawshawn along with Jean Alexandre seemed to be very promising young prospects for Real Salt Lake, but Chris Schuler was rather unheard of.

Chris finally debuted for the senior squad in an away match at the then-called XBOX Pitch: home of the Seattle Sounders.  The St. Louis native started and played a full ninety minutes, registering a shutout against one of the best attacking teams in the league.  This showed the true Chris Schuler that the fans had never known.  Soon after, however, Chris broke his leg in a training session, dooming his hopes of playing for the rest of the season.  Schuler began to attain substantial minutes during the 2011 season after healing from his devastating injury.  He filled in well when either Borchers or Olave was unavailable.

At the conclusion of the 2010 season that saw RSL knocked out of the MLS Cup Playoffs in the first round, RSL let McKenzie go.  And then after the 2011 season, Real also parted ways with Collen Warner and Jean Alexandre.  Chris Schuler was the last player remaining of the Real Salt Lake’s 2010 Superdraft batch.

During this preseason Chris Schuler has been incredible.  He has featured in all of RSL’s matches in the Desert Diamond Cup and has shut strikers down using his size to his advantage.  Captain Kyle Beckerman has even said that he expects Schuler to be a starter this year.  And Jason Kries has even gone as far as saying that Chris should be in the USMNT conversation soon.  Now, whether or not Chris starts over a healthy Olave or Borchers is still a question.  The same can be said about him playing for the United States National Team.  But then again, the RSL coaching staff has always been big on not putting big expectations on young and new players.  So to come out and make those claims is really saying something.

With all of this talk, it seems that Chris Schuler has a lot to prove this season.  The expectations will be high.  Let’s hope he can live up to them!

If you believe then just stand up on your feet,

and shout it loud, Real!

Here at the RioT, the battle hymn’s begun,

We’re here for RSL!