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Kwame Watson-Siriboe shines in RSL defense

Photo Credit: smackdowntay (smackdowntay.blogspot.com)

Kwame Watson-Siriboe.  I doubt any Real Salt Lake fan had even heard the unusual name before the Salt Lake club signed him thanks to assistant coach C.J. Brown’s special relationship with the young player.  He was drafted by the Chicago Fire several years ago.  Kwame hardly got any minutes of playing time in his first three seasons in MLS.  It was a rough start in professional soccer for Watson-Siriboe.  Luckily for RSL, C.J. Brown, a former Chicago man himself, took particular interest in the new player from the University of Connecticut.

The young defender grew up in Chino Hills, California.  While playing college soccer for UConn his senior year Kwame earned First Team All-Big East honors.  What went on at Chicago is somewhat of a mystery.  In the Fire’s coaching staff’s eyes, he must have been a player just waiting to make a breakthrough.  He was always good enough to stay on the roster, but never quite ready to really make the jump to the first team.  Either Chicago’s coaching staff was flat-out wrong, or being brought to Real Salt Lake was what it took for Kwame Watson-Siriboe to make the breakthrough that he’s waited for his whole career.

The ex-Chicago player chose to take on the number three on the back of his claret and cobalt jersey.  Whether he knew it or not, that number formerly belonged to Real defender Robbie Russel, who played a major part in the club’s history.  His conversion of his penalty kick in the 2009 MLS Cup gave Real Salt Lake the star above their crest.  The legacy could continue as Kwame finds his way deeper into the roots of the club’s system.  It’s really quite amazing the way he has been able to meld with the squad so quickly.  The RSL Way seems almost second nature to Watson-Siriboe.  He understands the role of a centerback clad in the Claret and Cobalt of Real Salt Lake.  He has a strong presence.  He’s solid, doesn’t let anything slip.  If the ball gets past him, the player doesn’t.  If the player gets past him, the ball doesn’t.

This role is especially crucial to fill for the club when looking into the future.  Our two regular centerbacks, Jamison Olave and Nat Borchers (dubbed “Borlave” by Matthew Montgomery) are aging.  As they age they grow more injury-prone and cost more to keep at the club.  In other words, it is very improbable for both to stay at the club for many more seasons.  Kwame Watson-Siriboe playing in his current form is exactly what RSL is in need of.  A very athletic and capable central defender that understands his role and is able to play it extremely well.

Kwame really showed better than anyone else on the pitch, from both sides, today as Real Salt Lake took on the Vancouver Whitecaps.  Despite how agitated I was as a supporter seeing my team unable to create goals and play beautiful soccer, I couldn’t help but smile upon the spectacular composure and dedication of the new defender.

Real Salt Lake should be proud of their acquisition of the former Chicago defender.  He has the potential to be one of the RSL greats.  I have faith in him and can only hope for the best and wait.

UPWARD AND ONWARD

-Ben Anderson

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Real’s new guys stepping in as team carries on

So what are we to expect from a Real Salt Lake side that has fared very well in their last several MLS matches and dropped an important CCL match 1-0 on the road in a game against their rivals that means nothing when it comes to the Rocky Mountain Cup?

Yes, that was a long, complicated question.  Regardless of what people predict, it will be answered tonight.  It’s still up in the air exactly when and for which games Real will be resting starters for, but the organization went out of their way to make several signings to prepare themselves for the upcoming stretch.  Some of those signings need to start stepping up now.

We’ve already seen some of the guys further down the depth chart get their chance at first team action and several have excelled.  Earlier in the season Emi Bonfigli was given an opportunity to show what he could do during the final minutes of a road game in Dallas, where RSL has historically struggled, he was able to step up and slot a shot into the back of the Dallas net to snatch back a point for Real.  Despite his goal, his playing time really didn’t increase for the Claret and Cobalt, he still steps in when he needs to, but that’s usually only for the last several minutes of matches in which the outcome isn’t in any real doubt.  I really believe Emi has real potential and will be a great asset for Real Salt Lake down the stretch, but the coaching staff hasn’t given him much time this season and I wouldn’t expect to see much of him tonight.

Kwame Watson-Siriboe and Kenny Mansally, our newcomers in the defense, have really stepped in well with Real, they were called upon from the moment they signed with Salt Lake.  I’m really not sure how long these two will last at the club.  They could end up becoming mainstays, or they could end up like most RSL mid-season additions and step in to fill injured players’ spots and then be subsequently waived when their spot is reclaimed.  I really hope it’s not the latter.  I’d expect Watson-Siriboe to step into the starting lineup in place of Jamison Olave who picked up an injury in our latest CONCACAF journey to Herediano of Costa Rica.

I do think there will be a change up top tonight given the bad form of Fabian Espindola in the clubs most recent fixture against their CCL foes.  It’s happened before.  Fabi loses his head and needs a little while to cool down, to come back and really be ready to contribute to the team.  I don’t think he’ll feature much tonight, but he might get some minutes.  In his place I think hometown boy Justin Braun will get the starting nod.  He hasn’t had his chance yet with the first team and I’m sure the front office wants to see what he’ll do in a Real Salt Lake jersey.  If he performs well tonight I’d expect him to slip right into the third-choice forward slot.  The slot’s been up for grabs for a while since Paulo Jr. started to lose his form.

Here’s my starting XI:

Rimando

Beltran : Borchers : Watson-Siriboe : Wingert

Johnson : Beckerman : Morales : Grabavoy

Braun : Saborio

GOOOOOOOOOO REAL SALT LAKE!!!

Preview: RSL prepare to take on Vancouver Whitecaps

First and foremost I think you all deserve an apology from me and my lack of production and motivation over the last several weeks.  Hopefully this won’t happen again and business will go on as usual.  Don’t worry, I haven’t lost my love for the Claret and Cobalt, I just wasn’t proclaiming it.

Now is when the standings really count.  It’s as if all the points count for a lot more now.  It’s around now that teams really start to regret dropping points during the early stages of the season when the standings didn’t matter.  Turns out they did all along!

The Whitecaps sit 3rd place in the Western Conference standings only 5 points below Real, who sits 4 points behind league leaders San Jose.  So Vancouver is 9 points out of the Supporters’ Shield race and probably won’t challenge for the best regular season record this year.  They’ve played the same amount of games as Real Salt Lake, so if Real wins, it will really put some daylight between the two competitors and Salt Lake will be able to afford to put more extra emphasis on CCL with not as much worry of being caught up to from behind.

Real has come up front and declared that they refuse to look past this fixture against Vancouver.  That’s all fine with me but I definitely have a hunch that they’ll be resting several starters for a good portion of the match and reserve them for next Tuesday’s CONCACAF clash against our Group 2 foes, namely the Costa Rican club, Herediano.

So who can you expect to play and what should you expect from the team in general?

I expect Yordany Alvarez, who played a fantastic game against Colorado last week to put in some minutes tonight.  I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he started and was eventually subbed off in the second half by Kyle Beckerman who put some time in for the MLS All-Stars on Wednesday.  Hopefully his keen ability to strip the ball off his opponents in the center of the pitch will be on display for all to see once again!

Sebastian Velasquez is definitely a candidate to play tonight.  The young fan favorite hasn’t had much time on the field lately, but given the circumstances and the kid’s potential, there’s a very good chance he’ll be playing.

Hometown boy Justin Braun could make his debut tonight in front of his local crowd.  With Paulo gone on lone it’s gonna be either Justin or Emi Bonfigli stepping in for some forwards that are bound to get some rest with the Champions League in mind.  I’d expect Justin to get the nod not because he’s better than Emi, but more because he hasn’t had his chance to show what he can do on the field for RSL and his exposure would be could for the club from a local standpoint.  After all, almost every soccer-playing boy in the crowd has a dream of playing on that field in a Real Salt Lake jersey!

What I really want from my club tonight is a performance like the one from the first game of the season, the 3-1 victory in California over the LA Galaxy while missing several starters.  That was one of those games that shoots the RSL Pride through any fan’s veins and shouts out to the rest of MLS what Real Salt Lake is really about!  Those are the games that make being a diehard fan worth more than anything else.

LONG LIVE RSL!!!

Preview: RSL prepares for major tilt against LA

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Photo Credit:  smackdowntay (smackdowntay.blogspot.com)

I’m back again after a week long vacation and I’ve come with a bad case of RSL fever!  Real completed probably its best full performance of the season last week with an incredibly solid 3-0 win against Chivas USA on the road.  Real has had bigger wins in bigger games, but that was the most complete for sure.  Salt Lake dominated possession and scoring opportunities and kept a clean sheet.  Now how does one build on that?

Real Salt Lake have a chance to really dominate tonight with a full-strength squad if they can string together a complete performance with 90 minutes of soccer the RSL Way.  The stars are starting to realign in Real’s favor as big players are making their way back from surgery and other players are really getting their game on.

Will Johnson is an epic example of a player priming at the right time.  His fantastic work rate has really shown throughout all 90 minutes of the last several games and it was really nice to see him cap off his outstanding showing against Chivas with a well deserved first goal of the season.  Will is no doubt one of the scrappiest players in the league if not the scrappiest.  His work rate is outstanding.  He will chase every ball down the field and throw his body in the way of the ball and opponents in order to shut down a cross or impede on an opponent’s progress down the flanks.

Another player priming right now is forward Alvaro Saborio.  The guys been scoring a lot lately and it was disappointing to see his ONSIDES goal called off during Real’s last game.  The guy just scored a hat-trick for Costa Rica against Guyana a few weeks ago.  His ability to make perfect runs through the center of the box has been on show lately and hopefully will continue tonight against the Galaxy.

Returning we have Javi Morales.  Javier’s been an interesting player this season.  I believe he’s yet to last an entire match.  However, his presence if nothing else is a big confidence booster.  He made an immediate impact earlier this season in Los Angelas when he came into the game and scored a goal with one of his first touches.  Since then though it seems as if he’s been holding back.  Tonight’s as good a night as any to have a standout performance.  The RioT’s already been sold out for about a week.  Hopefully Javi can have the kind of game he had against LA last year at home.  He created the first three goals en route to a convincing 4-1 smashing.  He’s set to start tonight!  May the force be with him.

Now you’ve got our much hated opponent, the LA Galaxy.  Their season has been terrible so far.  They struggle defensively.  Our fans hate them.  Our players seem to play very well against them.  So what’s to fear?  First off, the Galaxy just got their first win in a LONG time against the Portland Timbers.  They’re feeling pretty good about themselves at the moment.  Also, LA doesn’t like Real Salt Lake at all.  The two have become bitter rivals since the 2009 MLS Cup final that Real eventually won in a penalty shoot-out.

That’s all for the preview folks!  Enjoy the game!

LET’S GO RSL!!!

RSL disgraced at home in the US Open Cup

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Photo Credit: smackdowntay (smackdowntay.blogspot.com)

That was absolutely unacceptable.  A team of Real Salt Lake’s caliber should be able to take down a lower division team.  But any team can win on any day.  Minnesota came out to play and Salt Lake came out and played one of the poorest matches in the team’s history.  You think I’m exaggerating?  I was there.  I’ve never seen so many opportunities shanked away, I’ve never seen that many awful passes and bad touches and selfish play in an RSL game.

Sure, you can say it was our reserves.  It was.  But didn’t our reserve team dismantle a New England first team on the road last year 2-0?  This all goes back to saying one of Real Salt Lake’s mottoes, “Fortune favors the bold.”  Real didn’t play to their own philosophy, they weren’t very bold in anything they did.  Instead of linking up and moving forward as a team when things got tough, players started trying to beat as many opponents as they could on one dribble and eventually lose the ball.

There really wasn’t a bright spot on our team.  Olave had an especially rough game.  He had several clear-cut headers that would’ve easily been nodded in on another day ricochet of his head and out of bounds.  His terrible touch on a pass back to him led to the goal that sealed the game for the Minnesota Stars.

There’s really not much to say about this game.  I know that’s not how my claret and cobalt play.  It looks now as if that game was a hiccup stuck in the middle of an incredibly strong season.  I have no right to complain.  My team’s first in MLS!  Also, half the other MLS teams lost their US Open Cup games too!  As long as this doesn’t lead to more ugly showings in the future, Real should be just fine.

The match was a match meant to be forgotten in Salt Lake and always remembered in Minnesota.

LET’S GO REAL SALT LAKE!!!

Recap: RSL dismantles Dallas in scrappy match

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Photo Credit: smackdowntay (smackdowntay.blogspot.com)

It was just one of those games any diehard RSL fan will always remember, similar to the 3-2 win in Portland and the 3-2 win against Toronto FC, this one ended late with the atmosphere absolutely maxed out.

Over 19,000 fans held their breath until the final whistle after 5 goals in the second half of a windy, chippy game between Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas.  The first half was marred by scrappy play in which neither team could possess the ball in the final third.  The wind was really ripping from the south and definitely affected the play.  The real bright spot for Real in the first half was Yordany Alvarez’s great performance.  His passing was excellent and was able to win and hold possession.

After going into the break without a tally on the scoreboard for either team the play really opened up in the second half.  RSL was able to take the 1-0 advantage over Dallas courtesy of a clinical cross by outside back Tanaka and a clean header by Sabo.  FC Dallas was able to tie it on an iffy goal.  There was a scramble in the box and it seemed as if Real had just survived the onslaught when it appeared that backup goalie Kyle Reynish made a save on the line.  However, the sideline referee said the ball crossed the line entirely and called a goal.  Real Salt Lake responded immediately though and scored just two minutes later.  Saborio doubled the score for Real with a shot that ricocheted off of a Dallas defender and beat Kevin Hartman on the near post.  This was the crucial point of the match.  It was then that goalkeeper Kyle Reynish was caught off his game when Blas Perez rocketed a shot right at him that deflected off of his outstretched hands and into the back of the net.  It looked as though Dallas might get their point at Rio Tinto, but RSL fans believed to the end and were rewarded when Nat Borchers, the White Rhino, hit the postage stamp of the net with his strike in the 92nd minute.

I’m all fine with winning the games late, as long as we win it.  Let’s just hope this drama doesn’t turn tides and start going the wrong way.  But I’ll take it when it’s here.

IF YOU BELIEVE THEN JUST STAND UP ON YOUR FEET!

Preview: Struggling FC Dallas visits RSL at the RioT

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Photo Credit:  smackdowntay (smackdowntay.blogspot.com)

It sure feels good to finally have a home game!  After a long absence at Rio Tinto Stadium, Real Salt Lake are finally returning to home sweet home.  They’re back to take on Dallas, who they battled to a 1-1 draw earlier this season in Texas.  That was a good result considering our claret and cobalt are still yet to win in Texas.  But today is all about winning.  Anything less won’t be enough.  Real fell out of first place in the league after San Jose beat LA 3-2 and climbed a point ahead on the table with the same number of games played.  So a win is all Real Salt Lake should really go for.

As most of you have probably heard or noted, FC Dallas is struggling a lot right now.  They’ve been winless in their last 8 games.  They’re looking for any kind of result they can get today because they know how hard it is to beat Real Salt Lake on their home turf.

RSL will be facing some injury issues along with USMNT call-ups today and will be forced to test their depth.  Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando are off playing with the national team against Scotland.  Their replacements will be Kyle Reynish between the posts where he already has one shutout this season and Yordany Alvarez who has been labeled as a perfect fill-in for our captain Kyle Beckerman.

Injury-wise Real runs into problems in their back line.  Both Chris Wingert and Chris Schuler aren’t expected to make an appearance in today’s match.  So one could probably expect Japanese fullback Terukazu Tenaka to step in and start his second match of the season.  He looked shaky against Montreal when he got his first start.  Hopefully he’ll be able to play much more calmly and collected tonight if he’s called upon to play.  Javier Morales is also questionable for tonight, so expect youngster Luis Gil to step in and fill in the space at the top of the midfield diamond.

That’s all for today folks!

WE’RE HERE FOR RSL!!!