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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!!!

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!!!

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!

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!!!

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!!!

 

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!

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!

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!