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Was Paulo’s short-term loan just what the doctor ordered?

Photo Credit: smackdowntay (smackdowntay.blogspot.com)

When Paulo Araujo Jr. was first signed by Real Salt Lake over a year ago, he made an immediate impact for the club.  His first appearance was made at Rio Tinto Stadium during a CONCACAF Champions League group stage match against fellow MLS team Toronto FC.  He was subbed in late in the match with everything to prove.  He scored a goal minutes after coming on to complete a 4-1 thumping of Toronto.

The blooming forward was pretty unknown to RSL fans upon being brought in on loan by the Salt Lake side from the second tier of North American soccer.  He was supposedly a good forward capable of scoring in the second division.  Would that all-star success translate to his MLS play?  The answer: Yes!

His fantastic form continued into the next season, 2011.  During Real’s home opener against budding rivals LA Galaxy, Paulo was able to draw and PK that was scored by Javier Morales and score a goal in another 4-1 scoreline.  At this point the forward’s last name had unofficially been changed from Araujo to Junior by endearing fans.  The speedy youngster was everything a fan could ask for.  He was a lightning quick forward with a keen talent of making back-post runs and finishing.  The young forward had everything going for him.  He was always the obvious choice as the third-string forward behind Alvaro Saborio and Fabian Espindola.

Everything changed for Paulo after being injured for a big part of the 2011 season and never truly coming back to full form.  His speed had been lost and he didn’t play as quickly or with enough urgency to really shine in the RSL XI.

Throughout the beginning of this season, the Brazilian native continued to struggle as he had during most of the 2011 season.  He scored one goal on penalty kick against brand new expansion side Montreal.  After several more months that must have been quite frustrating for Paulo Junior he was given news that he was to be loaned back out to the second division.  This was an alert of sorts for Paulo.  Almost a threat.  This was his last chance.  If he did well on the short-term loan, learned his lesson, and made an impact on Real Salt Lake similar to the one he made upon his first arrival, he would stay and earn some minutes.  If he didn’t, we wouldn’t be seeing him in claret and cobalt much longer.

Paulo’s first match back from the loan spell was just yesterday against the Vancouver Whitecaps.  Leading up to the game head coach Jason Kreis said that he’d been very impressed with Junior’s performance since returning to Salt Lake City.  I am almost positive that nearly every Real fan let out an enormous sigh of relief at the moment that Paulo Jr. pulled a crafty move to round a Whitecaps defender and then sent in a lethal cross that landed right on the head of Nat Borchers, who directed the ball down into the back corner of the netting.  It was Paulo Junior’s first assist of the season.  Hopefully his short and promising performance shows that Paulo is really back for good.  I can only feverishly hope that this assist of his ramps up to his production of more goals and assists later this season!  If Paulo Jr. continues to perform and improve he could regain his title as one of the most exciting forwards to watch in MLS!

Good luck Paulo!!!

FORTUNE FAVORS THE BOLD

-Ben Anderson

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The CONCACAF Champions League draw

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Photo Credit:  smackdowntay (smackdowntay.blogspot.com)

So CONCACAF just released the changes in the tournament format.  The changes all have to do with the anticipated draw and the group stage.

The biggest change is this:  Groups consist of only three teams instead of 4 and only the top team advances.  Also, CONCACAF went through a whole lot to ensure there will be no group of death and that all the best teams will advance to the knockout stages.  They do this by right off the bat not allowing US and Mexican teams to be in the same group.  Also, two other teams from the same country cannot be in the same group with the exception of the small club, CD FAS, who qualified on a wild card.

To even up the power between the groups, CONCACAF have divided all the qualifying teams into three tiers called pots.  Pot 1 consists of the highest ranked teams coming into the competition.  Pot 2 of the second best teams and Pot 3 includes the teams that, frankly, no one really expects to advance.  Real Salt Lake is included in Pot 2.  There will be one team drawn from each pot to form a group.  It’s pretty simple.  Here’s the pots:

POT1

Tigres (Mexico)

Santos (Mexico)

LA Galaxy (USA)

Seattle Sounders FC (USA)

Olimpia (Honduras)

Herediano (Costa Rica)

Xelaju (Guatemala)

Chorillo (Panama)

POT 2

Toronto FC (Canada)

Isidro Metapan (El Salvador)

Marathon (Honduras)

Alajeslense (Costa Rica)

Chivas de Guadalajara (Mexico)

Monterrey (Mexico)

Houston Dynamo (USA)

Real Salt Lake (USA)

POT 3

TBD (Caribbean Qualifier)

TBD (Caribbean Qualifier)

TBD (Caribbean Qualifier)

CD FAS (El Salvador)

Aguila (El Salvador)

Municipal (Guatemala)

Tauro FC (Panama)

Real Esteli (Nicaragua)

So when it comes down to the draw, due to the rule against US and Mexican teams being in the same group, Real can only draw one of four Pot 1 teams:  Olimpia, Herediano, Xelaju, and Chorillo.  Xelaju and Chorillo haven’t been in the CCL for the past several years and I regret to say I don’t know much about them aside from the fact that they must be pretty stellar teams to win a respective spot in Pot 1 of the Champions League draw.  However, Olimpia and Herediano have been the the tournament during the last several years.  Both are pretty strong teams.  I remember Olimpia having more success and making a run into the knockout stages.

That leaves Pot 3.  Real can draw any team from that pot because none of them are Mexican or American clubs.  I was surprised to see CCL mainstays Municipal and Tauro FC in Pot 3.  Those teams have been pretty strong over the last few seasons.  They could be on the downfall, but the’re both very strong teams.  Aside from those two, Real just faces the chance of a trap game against smaller opponents they should be able to handily defeat.

Whoever RSL is drawn with for the CONCACAF Champions League may very well set the tone for the tournament.  I can only hope for good luck and more importantly good play in the Champions League.

GO REAL!!!

Real Salt Lake sign rookie Chris Estridge

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Photo Credit:  smackdowntay (smackdowntay.blogspot.com)

Real Salt Lake made their fist signing during the 2012 season Wednesday when they traded a 2013 conditional draft pick to Vancouver in exchange for rookie and former Wake Forest and Indiana outside back, Chris Estridge.

Estridge was let go by the Vancouver Whitecaps during the preseason.  It wasn’t long until he showed up on the RSL recruitment radar!  Real brought him in with a group of a few other trialists but ended up extending his trial.  He featured in a few reserve league matches for the Claret and Cobalt and RSL was obviously impressed with something about him.

There’s not much to really know about Chris yet aside from his college career.

He started out playing for Wake Forest.  In his first two seasons he played three different positions.  Upon transfer to Indiana, Estridge became a shoe-in at outside back and played 42 games.  His college days ended in the NCAA Tournament in a loss to eventual champions North Carolina.

Don’t expect him to be featuring too soon.  He was a second round pick, which generally means he’s quite a stellar player.  He’s essentially an extra second round pick rookie for Real Salt Lake.  He’ll be in the same class as Enzo Martinez.

Hopes are high for the youngster!

RSL!!!!!