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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

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!

Real Salt Lake snatches a 2-1 win over New England

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Photo Credit:  smackdowntay (smackdowntay.blogspot.com)

If you’re counting the number of chances on goal, Real Salt Lake absolutely pummeled the New England Revolution.  Real really jumped straight through the gaping holes in the Revolution back line early in the match and could have been up two goals in the first 10 minutes.  However, RSL’s forwards seemed to choke and the NE netminder kept everything out of the goal.

New England surprised everyone against the run of play in the 22nd minute of play.  Real had just had a chance at the edge of the Revolution’s penalty area when the ball was cleared out and central midfielder Shalrie Joseph played a ball through to Black Brettshneider.  Brettshneider beat defenders Jamison Olave and Tony Beltran far too easily with one sharp cut and hammered the ball into the back of the net past the outstretched Nick Rimando.

The ball never should have gotten past those two RSL defenders.  Jamison over committed to his right side way too hard and Beltran had just arrived at the scene after dashing the length of the field to catch up with the Revolution forward and didn’t have enough time to position himself defensively.

Fortunately for RSL, they were able to equalize the game as the end of the first half neared.  Kyle Beckerman collected the ball at the right corner of the field and fired a cross into the mixture of players with his eyes in the sun.  The ball took a few bounces, one of which struck Alvaro Saborio’s outstretched right arm.  The ref completely missed the call and Sabo was able to pound the ball underneath the bulk of the players and into the open net.

The second half started well for Real Salt Lake.  Early into it, Morales drew a fowl outside the 18-yard box.  He took the freekick and placed it on the head of an unmarked, diving Saborio, who smashed it into the far side of the net.  He celebrated by hopping over the advertisement boards and slapping the flag of his home country, Costa Rica.

Saborio has been under a lot of pressure lately from fans.  There’s really not much they can complain about from the forward after he puts in two goals in one game.

His partner, Fabian Espindola (whose wife just gave birth to their first child), had more than enough golden opportunities to score on, but wasn’t able to finish.  I honestly don’t blame him too much.  He’d missed training the day before and, believe it or not, one on one situations are a lot harder than you think.  Most of his one on one goals this year have gone right through the legs of unlucky goalkeepers.  At that point you usually just want to hammer it hard and low.  Sometimes the keeper gets something on it and sometimes he doesn’t.  That’s soccer.

After the goals both teams were handed ejections.  Will Johnson went in for a dangerous tackle and probably deserved the red card.  But the inexperienced center official didn’t send him off.  He gave him a yellow card.  It was the sideline official on the far side of the field that actually came on the pitch and told the center ref to give Will a straight red.  The red card given out to New England was on a challenge that probably wasn’t red card worthy.  In fact, the Revolution player tried to avoid the challenge by lowering his foot.  If that’s not poor officiating I don’t know what is.

The game ended a lot more tense than RSL would have liked.  They really haven’t had an easy victory this season.  Jason Kreis was quoted after the game saying that he’d like to be able to relax at a home game sooner or later and enjoy the show.  Trust me Jason, us fans agree.  But truth be told, the games are a lot more action packed and national TV must be realizing how much their missing after stiffing RSL this season.

Either way, a win’s a win in the end.  Three points and now we’re tied for first place in the league with San Jose!

ONWARD RSL!!!

Man of Steele returns

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Photo Credit: smackdowntay (smackdowntay.blogspot.com)

Superhero comic worthy heroics came into play for Real Salt Lake in their dramatic 3-2 triumph over Toronto FC.  It’s one of those games that’ll be remembered throughout the rest of the season, especially if the points get close at the end.  This could have easily been a 2-2 draw worth only a measly point against the league’s cellar dwellers.

The game started off with an obviously desperate and rather lackluster Toronto chasing a thriving Real Salt Lake that seemed to have regained its famous stalwart possession-oriented swagger.  RSL passed the ball around midfielders and took the most out of their first corner kick thanks to Olave, Schuler, and Beckerman who provided the first tally of the game.

After that, it was almost a given that Real would hit the back of the net again before the end of the half.  Their passing was excellent. They were lucky not to concede when Jamison Olave committed a foul in the penalty area.  Torsten Frings sent an uncharacteristic shot off the post and out.  All of Rio Tinto thought that their side had taken a two goal advantage when Alvaro Saborio nodded a well-placed cross past a flailing goalkeeper.  Unfortunately, the sideline referee (who was a little bit out of position) called Sabo offsides.

The second half spun the whole game out of its flow.  RSL was giving up more possession as the clock ticked on.  Toronto’s momentum led to a goal from Eric Avila (who seems to be very lethal against Real).  The Avila goal led to more and more momentum for Toronto.  Avila went for a wonder strike that left Real Salt Lake fans pulling at their hair.  The fantastic curler met the top corner of the framework and ricocheted away.

Fortunately for RSL, they were able to pull back into the lead via a perfect cross from Fabian Espindola meant for Saborio.  Sabo actually never quite connected with the ball, but his great positioning and pressure led to Toronto FC defender, Eckersley scoring an own goal off of his knee.

On the other end Toronto stood up even to Real when 18-year-old defender Henry, who had replaced Eckersley, lost Saborio and headed a goal home past Nick Rimando.

Things were getting gritty for Real Salt Lake.  With the little amount of time on the clock slipping through their fingers, they fell back into the “RSL Way” passing and moving.  Thanks to some smart substitutions by coach Jason Kreis, Real was able to press forward harder with Luis Gil and Jonny Steele.  The intense pressure eventually payed off when Javier Morales flew through a defender on the edge of the 18-yard box with a stylish flick and a powerful cross to Beckerman who stretched his whole body out to lay off the ball to our Irishman Steele, who calmly slotted the ball into the back of the net.  The antsy crowd erupted into celebration and verses of “Believe”.

What more could be wanted from an RSL fan?

GO REAL SALT LAKE!!!

Recap: RSL shows why they’re kings of the Rockies

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Photo Credit: smackdowntay (smackdowntay.blogspot.com)

Real Salt Lake threw all the doubts and fears of inconsistent play aside as they beat the Colorado Rapids very convincingly with a score of 2-0.

After struggling in fixtures against Chivas, most of the game against Portland, and then again against Montreal, tonight’s performance was in doubt.  For the past week or so, RSL just couldn’t get passes together as they are so well known for.  They seemed to play more laid back and lazy and not defend half as well as they should have.  Maybe a Rocky Mountain Cup rivalry match was all they needed.

The fans really got behind the claret and cobalt clad boys!  Although it wasn’t a complete sell-out, it sure sounded like one.  The volume in the stadium was immense.  In fact, Colorado standout Kosuke Kimura even seemed a little flattened by the RSL faithful’s constant booing in his direction after he embellished a soft hit from Olave.  And let me tell you, “Believe” was pulsing through the stadium after both the goals.

The Rapid’s fans really seemed to quiet down after conceding the first goal.  But honestly, their team wasn’t performing at its best and there wasn’t all that much for the poor fans to cheer about.  (Just watch the highlights.)

Fabian Espindola’s goal scoring struggles continued into this match.  He slowed the play down on a few breakaways and ended up giving the ball away.  He also squandered another chance one on one with Colorado netminder Pickens.  However, he did get his third goal of the 2012 campaign.  There is a little controversy over him using his hand to control it, but believe me when I say that not many if any of the fans even saw the outstretched arm bring down the ball.  He was sandwiched between to Colorado defenders when it happened.

Overall, RSL combined very well.  Sebastian Velasquez had an excellent match as did Will Johnson and Luis Gil.  Those three have a brilliant future at this club.  This was one of those games that was simply fantastic to watch!

UPWARD AND ONWARD RSL!

Recap: Real Salt Lake takes three points from Montreal

On Wednesday Real Salt Lake played a sub-par performance and were still able to down expansion club Montreal Impact 1-0 on a Paulo Jr. penalty kick.

The game was a really weird one to observe.  The play was far too choppy for Real.  They seemed to gain possession, string three or four passes together and then lose the ball.  The overall choppiness had a lot to do with all of the fouls committed by Montreal (who has committed more fouls than any other MLS team this season) in the middle of the pitch.  But, truth be told, RSL’s passing was lackluster at best.  What exactly was wrong is hard to diagnose.  Salt Lake players and coach Jason Kreis all admitted to a bad performance but emphasized that three points are three points no matter how they are earned and that every team goes through poor performances and that all will be well come Saturday’s Rocky Mountain Cup clash.

The game started fairly well for Real.  They were able to move the ball forward aside from a few uncharacteristic bad passes in the defensive third.  In the thirteenth minute, Jonny Steele whipped in a streaking cross that Will Johnson met with a diving header.  The ball that was directed to the far inside netting of the goal was blocked by for SLC resident and Skyline High School graduate Justin Braun, winning RSL its second penalty drawn by a hand ball in as many games.

Paulo Jr. confidently slotted the ball home to the bottom right corner of the net where it was just out of reach of Montreal keeper Ricketts outstretched gloves.  It was Paulo’s first goal of the season and his first since Real Salt Lake’s 2-0 win at New England last year.

The rest of the game was really iffy from Real.  Fabian Espindola probably struggled the most.  He squandered several great opportunities in front of goal with a bad touch or a shot to the stands.

The game represented several debuts of different sorts by RSL players.  Terukazu Tanaka was given his first match and start in a Real Salt Lake uniform and played the full ninety minutes.  He seemed real shaky to start off the match but grew more comfortable as time went on.  I was a little nervous watching him play because he seems like he’s always a little out of control, almost like he’s tipping over.  He really is a fun fullback to watch because he’s so involved in the attack.  About midway through the first half he played and excellent combination up the wing that was the recipient of quite a few oohs and ahhs.  Jason Kreis mentioned after the game that Tanaka did well in the attack but needed to work on being tactically aware in the back.

Jonny Steele and Will Johnson (the two that connected to force the PK) got their first starts of the season after great performances in the final minutes of the game up in Portland.  I noticed Steele had gotten new cleats: the latest red and blue colorway of the adizero.  I for one liked the look of the boots Jonny sported against the Timbers.  It was great to see him switch back to his previous kicks at half time.

Overall, RSL needs to improve on its performance to put in a good bid for a vital three points against our rivals on the other side of the Rockies.  I for one think that they will be ready by Saturday.  Let’s hope!

RSL FOREVER!

Recap: RSL @ POR

WHAT A GAME!!!  You don’t see that very often!  Real Salt Lake got it done at the JELD-WEN Field against the Portland Timbers winning in style 3-2.   Both teams held the lead and both teams came from behind.

Real started off the first half with a strong line-up and were able to hold together good spells of possession.  However, RSL seemed to have some trouble in front of the Timbers’ goal.  That all changed in the 39th minute when midfielder Ned Grabavoy collected the ball at the top of the 18-yard box.  He turned into the penalty area only to have a Portland defender stop the progress of the ball with his outstretched hand.  Alvaro Saborio calmly converted the penalty kick to score his first goal of this season in his first start.

Momentum suddenly switched in the second half with two fantastic strikes from second-year Portland player Darlington Nagbe.  Real was struggling without much time left on the clock.

Jason Kreis saw the need for change and subsequently inserted Will Johnson for Luis Gil and later threw in Jonny Steele and Fabian Espindola for Tony Beltran and Paulo Jr.  Those three final subs may well have won the game for RSL.

As the rain drenched the turf of JELD-WEN in the 89th minute, Real Salt Lake found just enough space to play in a packed Portland penalty area.  Jonny Steele made a quick run across the top of the box and played a quick wall pass with fellow substitute Will Johnson and slotted the ball past a diving Troy Perkins.  Steele leveled up the score at 2-2 in only his third substitute appearance for Real Salt Lake.  Steele is yet to start a game and hasn’t been given enough time to really find opportunities.  Don’t be surprised if that changes!  Jonny Steele showed what he can do for this club and I can guarantee that he’ll find himself with a lot more playing time throughout the remainder of the 2012 season.

But that wasn’t the end of the drama!  In the final minute of stoppage time, third and final substitute Fabian Espindola found some space on the left side of the attacking third.  He quickly spotted Kyle Beckerman and played a beautiful chip-pass over the heads of Portland Timber defenders to the top of the penalty area where Beckerman called Steele off the ball and pounded a perfectly timed volley into the bottom corner of the net.

And that was that!  A 3-2 victory for the claret and cobalt!  This was a perfect way to bounce back from the 1-0 home loss to Chivas USA.

Next up, Real features against expansion side Montreal at Rio Tinto Stadium in what should be a great contest!

GO RSL!!!

 

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!

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: https://claretpapers.wordpress.com/2012/03/18/some-stats-and-new-yorks-epic-problem/.

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!