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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!!!

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!!!

Preview: RSL walks into Seattle going for it all

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Photo Credit:  smackdowntay (smackdowntay.blogspot.com)

Tonight our claret and cobalt clad boys take on the Seattle Sounders, one of the teams just behind us in the Western Conference.  Not only that, but we’re first in the overall MLS standings for those of you who don’t know, and Seattle and San Jose are only a point behind us and Kansas City is only two behind us.  We’ve got quite a few games in hand, so we really need to pick up our pace if we want to keep our lead.  But then again, our focus is CONCACAF again.

Aside from standings, this is a pretty big match-up for both sides.  The Seattle vs RSL game has become pretty big over the years.  Almost a rivalry.  But not quite yet.  Seattle players went as far as saying the game has bad blood.  I guess we’ll find out tonight!

The Sounders are riding a 5-game winning streak into this game.  Real has struggled a little bit lately.  They are coming off a scoreless draw against the Fire in Chicago.  A win for RSL could really put the Salt Lake back on track in style and would knock back Seattle in what would be one of those six point games.

Javi is out for this one as he’s still on a little recovery from an injury sustained in Chicago.  He’ll be missed.  But he’s not irreplaceable.

This one’s up in the air tonight!

GO RSL!!!

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

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Photo Credit: smackdowntay (smackdowntay.blogspot.com)

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!

BELIEVE RSL!!!

RSL under pressure to get back into form as they take on Toronto

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Photo Credit: smackdowntay (smackdowntay.blogspot.com)

The build up to tonight’s game against Toronto FC seems pretty similar to when Real took on the Rapids and eventually defeated them 2-0 earlier this year.  RSL is a little off their form, coming back to a goal-hungry crowd at the RioT.

The difference?  TFC are winless so far this season and don’t present the chance of any extra rivalry adrenaline kicking in.  Come to think of it, this game is also a lot like the Chivas game earlier this season that Real Salt Lake dropped 1-0 in front of their home fans.

It’s a perfect trap game.  Real is expected to win against a team with a rather terrible history in MLS and is hoping to catch a break.  Only, they won’t.  They can’t either.  There’s no doubt in my mind that Toronto is going to come out swinging.  Just this last week their head coach said that they would make playoffs.  No doubt in his mind.  That’s a pretty dang epic statement from the boss of a team that’s lost all of their first six games of the season.  He’s got something to live up to now.  Toronto has something to live up to now.  And believe me when I say they’re gonna go for it.

Now I believe that the first half hour of the game will be the most critical.  That’s when TFC will be pumped up and ready to go.  If RSL can survive that stage, they can pull of a win with goals afterwards.  If they can score in that stage, it will bring Toronto’s dreams crashing down onto them.  One goal in a game like this against a struggling team like Toronto FC could easily open the floodgates for more.

Real has a tough test on the slate for tonight as long as Toronto keep their heads and come out firing.  RSL will need to get back to playing the “RSL Way” in order to pull off a nice win.

STAND UP ON YOUR FEET!!!

Preview: Rapids come to Salt Lake to challenge for the RMC

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Photo Credit: smackdowntay (smackdowntay.blogspot.com)

There’s been a lot of hype leading up to tonight’s Rocky Mountain showdown.  Let me tell you, I’ve got some RMC fever of my own right now!  But this article is about the game itself with its dramatic twists and turns that will shape out the eventual winner of the first leg of the Rocky Mountain Cup.

This game comes at sort of an awkward stretch for Real.  The claret and cobalt are playing their third game in a rather crucial beginning-of-the-season eight day stretch.  RSL are coming off of a glorious late comeback against a strong attacking side after suffering a devastating 1-0 home loss to Chivas, and then returning to the RioT to squeeze past expansion team Montreal with a one goal win.

Real Salt Lake’s play has definitely not been stellar.  But signs of an end to underachievement seem to show that tonight could be the night that RSL come’s in blasting.

Colorado is in somewhat of a different ship.  The Rapids, like RSL, came off to a blazing start to begin the 2012 MLS season.  They were doing great, creating lots of scoring chances, until they were blown out 4-1 at Red Bull Arena by New York, who hadn’t won a game until then.  The Rapids returned to their home to defeat Chicago 3-1.  Talk about bouncing back!

Now they’re traveling to the famed and feared fortress of Rio Tinto, one of the hardest venues to play at in MLS (according to defender Nat Borchers and MLS coaches in general according to MLSsoccer.com).

Real suffered to lightning fast injuries against Montreal.  Midfield stalwart Ned Grabavoy dislocated a rib from the impact of a collision and Javi Morales suffered a hamstring strain.  (Why can’t he just stay healthy!?)  At first, the news of who’d be missing was a blow to the RSL community, but recent news from the training ground of our second-string players performing exceptionably has given confidence to concerned fans.

But RSL should be starting a very strong, almost starting XI, lineup.  Expect Luis Gil to slot into Javi’s attacking midfield position, and don’t be surprised if young gun Sebastian Velasquez gets another start for the claret and cobalt clad on the wing in for Grabavoy.

As always, make sure to get yourself down to the RioT early for this one!  Our team’s going to need our support!

(Also make sure to print off this card: http://www.realsaltlake.com/sites/saltlake/files/Racism-Red-Card.png, its to be held up after the national anthem to support getting rid of racism in soccer.)

LET’S GO REAL!!!

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.

LET’S GO REAL SALT LAKE!

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.

——————–Rimando————————

Tanaka     –    Olave     –     Schuler    –     Wingert

——————-Beckerman———————-

–Grabavoy                    –                    Velasquez—

————————Gil—————————-

—-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!