RSL Cup blog taking a long much needed break

I've been a fan of Real Salt Lake since it joined MLS and took to the field in 2005, and I've been a fan of MLS since it began in 1996.

However, over the past couple of years, and especially the last several months, I've began to see the ugly underbelly of this sport. Most likely it has always been there and I was just too naïve to see it, but I cannot not see it anymore.

I'm taking a much needed break from the sport of soccer. I may or may not be back. I may or may not update this blog, I don't know. It would be a shame since I've had it up and running for almost 10 years, but the fun I once had just isn't there any more.

Hopefully you fare better.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Godfather gets upset

I wouldn't want to be the one that asked the coach the question that warranted the above responding facial expression.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

RSL's 2009 US Open Cup

Date - April 28th, 2009
Round - MLS play in game #1
Opponent - Seattle Sounders FC
Stadium - Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila WA
Score - Seattle Sounders 4 - RSL 1

-Real Salt Lake suffers emotionless setback in U.S. Open Cup

(by Joshua Mayers 4-29-09)

Three days after a record-setting victory at home, it was back to familiar road woes for Real Salt Lake.

Allowing two goals in a two-minute span in the first half, Real Salt Lake fell behind early and could never recover in a 4-1 loss to the Seattle Sounders FC in a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup play-in game Tuesday night in front of 3,890 fans at the Starfire Sports Complex.

Seattle will play one last qualifier against the Colorado Rapids to get into the knockout-round tournament. Salt Lake is eliminated from the competition before qualifying for the third straight year.

"We're going to have to, as a staff, consider whether we ought to think about changing our mentality on the road," Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis said in an story before the game.

The words rang true after Tuesday's match again for Kreis, who played about half of his starters from a franchise-best 6-0 win against the New England Revolution on Saturday.

Real Salt Lake is now 0-4 in U.S. Open Cup road games and winless in three road games this season. One month ago to the day, Salt Lake lost to the Sounders FC 2-0 in a Major League Soccer game at Qwest Field.

"Obviously, we are extremely disappointed with the result and the match," Kreis said. "Tonight's performance is a big letdown after Saturday's win back home.

"It's important for everyone to remember that it is still a young season, we have several games left to accomplish our goals. Tonight we played a lot of guys that hadn't had extensive minutes in their previous opportunities, and to be honest, tonight they didn't make the most of this opportunity.

"So now we have to wipe this one from our mind as soon as possible — it's over, and it is what it is," Kreis said. "We have another game Saturday in Colorado. It's a big rivalry, and it'll be a fantastic opportunity to get back on track."

Trailing 2-0 in the first half, 22-year-old midfielder Will Johnson pulled a goal back for Salt Lake in the 32nd minute when he finished a fantastic run down the left flank with a 15-yard shot past Sounders FC goalkeeper Chris Eylander to the near post.

After halftime, Johnson had a chance to tie the game in the 47th minute, but his close-range shot was saved by Eylander, last year's U.S. Open Cup player of the tournament

Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid called it a "big save" that changed momentum in the game.

Seattle took a 1-0 lead early in the game when awarded a penalty kick in the 24th minute after Real Salt Lake defender Tony Beltran fouled Sounders FC forward Roger Levesque in front of the goal. Sebastien Le Toux converted the spot kick past the diving Chris Seitz in goal.

Two minutes later Seattle doubled its lead when Le Toux passed to a streaking Sanna Nyassi who quickly fired a shot into the lower left corner.

In the second half, the Sounders FC went up 3-1 in the 52nd minute on a goal by Stephen King. Seattle added a fourth two minutes later on another goal by Le Toux.

Le Toux finished with two goals and two assists. Levesque had three assists..

Seitz, making his first start of the year, made four saves.

Playing on an artificial turf surface was again a disadvantage for Real Salt Lake, which dropped to 0-8-3 in all competitions not played on grass.

Real Salt Lake was outshot 16-11 and only amounted three shots on goal.

With offensive weapons Clint Mathis and Javier Morales — the reigning MLS Player of the Week — out of the lineup and Yura Movsisyan playing limited minutes, Real Salt Lake struggled to create many scoring chances.

Kreis also rested most of his regulars on defense.

Real Salt Lake hasn't qualified for the U.S. Open Cup since 2006, when it lost in the fourth round to the Colorado Rapids. In 2005, Salt Lake lost in the third round to the Minnesota Thunder of the United Soccer Leagues.

After its previous two road losses this season, Real Salt Lake has bounced back each time with a home victory. After losing 2-0 to Seattle in March, the team recovered with a 4-1 win at Rio Tinto Stadium against Columbus. Then after a 2-0 loss at New York against the Red Bulls, Real Salt Lake beat New England 6-0.

RSL's 2008 US Open Cup

Date - April 30th, 2008
Round - MLS play in game #1
Opponent - San Jose Earthquakes
Stadium - Rice Eccles Stadium
Score - RSL 4 - San Jose Earthquakes 0

-Team puts superior depth on display

(by James Edwards 5-1-08)

Improved depth was one of the biggest reasons why expectations were so high for Real Salt Lake heading into the 2008 season.

Over the course of such a long season, along with the inevitable injuries and suspensions, the coaching staff believed more depth would translate into more wins.

In Wednesday night's U.S. Open Cup qualifier at Rice-Eccles Stadium, that depth was on full display, and expansion San Jose — a team with virtually no depth — never had a chance.

RSL scored three goals in the opening half, including two in the same minute, as it cruised to the 4-0 victory over the Earthquakes.

"We were very please with the way our team's mentality was, it would've been easy to come out a little bit flat ... but our guys were fantastic, they started out bright and did all the things that we asked of them in the first 20 minutes," said Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis.

With the victory Salt Lake advances to the next phase of U.S. Open Cup qualifying on May 27 at the Columbus Crew. A victory in Ohio would send RSL to Chicago for the last phase of qualifying, with that winner officially qualifying for the 48-team tournament.

For a franchise that waited until overtime to win Open Cup matches in each of the past two seasons, Wednesday's match was seriously lacking in drama.

In the 21st minute, Kyle Beckerman put RSL in front 1-0 as he tapped in a loose ball in the box. Teammate Matias Mantilla initially won the header on a corner kick, and the ball trickled to Beckerman, who tapped it in just in front of San Jose keeper Preston Burpo.

A dozen minutes later, Beckerman doubled his team's advantage with a low driven shot struck about 30 yards from goal. Amazingly, in the same 33rd minute, RSL scored again as San Jose coughed the ball up on the kickoff and Matias Cordoba set up Yura Movsisyan to increase the advantage to 3-0.

"Teams are always suspect to make mistakes immediately after you score or get scored on, and they made a pretty bad mistake there and Matias Cordoba was there to punish them for it," said Kreis. "I thought it was a very bright play on his part and an extremely intelligent pass he played to Yura there."

With San Jose coach Frank Yallop deciding to rest most of his regulars for this weekend's match against FC Dallas, Wednesday's outcome was rather predictable. Only Ryan Cochrane and Ramiro Corrales had seen much playing time for the expansion Earthquakes this year, and any hopes for an upset were further dashed early on when defenders Cochrane and Jay Ayres both had to leave the match after a midfield collision.

"I think we were benefactors of that for sure, one of them is Ryan Cochrane and he's really the organizer of the center of the defense for them," said Kreis.

While San Jose rested key players, seven of RSL's starting 11 had started at least one regular-season MLS match this year. The only four who hadn't were Tony Beltran, Matias Cordoba, Chris Seitz and Kenny Cutler.

RSL's Andy Williams wrapped up the scoring in the 90th minute on an assist from second-half substitute Tino Nunez.

Kreis' decision to start some of his regulars, not to mention inserting players like Javier Morales and Dema Kovalenko into the match in the second half, was a clear indicator he was taking the match seriously.

"Like we said from the beginning of the season, we don't lose at home so we're going to stick by that and work hard so we get those results, so to us it was just like another regular season game," said Real striker Robbie Findley.

The big question is did RSL leave any of the offensive output in the tank? The high-scoring L.A. Galaxy, featuring David Beckham, make their only visit of the season to Salt Lake City this Saturday in what figures to a much-hyped match.


Date - May 27th, 2008
Round - MLS play in game #2
Opponent - Columbus Crew
Stadium - Crew Stadium
Score - Columbus Crew 2 - RSL 0

-RSL's trophy outlook dims with 2-0 loss

(by Darryl Mellema 6-2-08)

Real Salt Lake's 2008 trophy potential got halved on Tuesday thanks to a 2-0 defeat by the Columbus Crew in a U.S. Open Cup play-in match.

"It's tough," RSL midfielder Kyle Beckerman said. "We're in a bit of a road slump and trying to find a way to get out. We can't find answers right now. The fight was there though."

The match turned irretrievably against the visitors in a four-minute span of the second half. RSL trailed at that point from a Steve Lenhart 26th-minute goal.

First Dema Kovalenko was sent off for needlessly tossing the ball at Columbus' Emmanuel Ekpo in the 50th minute. Ekpo had just fouled RSL's Ian Joy, and a heated exchange between players of both teams ensued.

"We need (Kovalenko) out there," Beckerman said. "He's really important for the team."

Contact between the ball and Ekpo's face was minimal, but the Columbus midfielder went down like he was hit by a baseball bat. Referee Jeff Gontarek did not hesitate to send off Kovalenko for throwing the ball at an opponent.

"You just can't do that," Kreis said. "We didn't really have any arguments for that."

Columbus took immediate advantage of the extra space in the 54th minute. Robbie Rogers curled a shot from the top left corner of the penalty area in at Nick Rimando's right post.

"Obviously the ejection's not good for us," RSL coach Jason Kreis said. "And then they score a goal on top of that. We were back on our heels pretty badly at that point."

RSL reshuffled its deck. Tony Beltran replaced Dustin Kirby six minutes after Rodgers' goal. Fabian Espindola came on for Tino Nunez with 20 minutes to play in the match.

RSL began to get some offense moving with its changed lineup, though the two-goal deficit proved impossible to retrieve. Javier Morales entered the match for Matias Cordoba with 17 minutes to play as the game became truly end-to-end. RSL's Rimando was kept very busy throughout the match.

"I think we made it tough on ourselves," Rimando said. "Especially in the second half when we got a red card. We knew we were going to be down a man, and we knew we had to press to get a goal. We had to win or we were out of the tournament so that's why we pressed."

Ironically, RSL played its best attacking soccer in the 10-versus-11 situations, getting its best chances on Andy Gruenebaum in the final half-hour of play.

"After the ejection, we started to play a little more soccer," Kreis said. "We have to say 'hey' we played pretty well after our player got ejected. That shows a pretty good response."

Despite its renewed attacking vigor, RSL failed to force a breakthrough and the Crew advanced to meet Chicago in the next round.

RSL, meanwhile, returns to MLS action and hosts San Jose on Saturday in a key Western Conference matchup. MLS Cup is the only remaining trophy RSL can claim this season.

"We feel that's a must-win for us on Saturday," Beckerman said. "I'm sure San Jose feels the same. It's going to be a battle and hopefully we can keep doing well at home and get three points."

Tuesday's match was the first in an RSL uniform for forward Tino Nunez and defender David Horst.

Nunez lasted until halftime, when he was replaced by Andy Williams. The U.S. Open Cup allows five substitutions rather than the three allowed in MLS play.

Horst played the entire 90 minutes.

"I think there was good and bad — typical of what you're going to find in young players," Kreis said. "There were some good moments and there were some mistakes for both of them."

Monday, May 23, 2011

David Beckham: One more for Man U

( 5-23-11)

David Beckham is headed back to play for Manchester United -- for one night only.

The former England captain will play at Old Trafford in an exhibition Tuesday to honor the career of former teammate Gary Neville.

He says he is thrilled to be pulling on the red shirt he wore for 10 years until 2003.

Beckham says "I get goose bumps every time I think about stepping out at Old Trafford again."

Neville graduated with Beckham from the same United youth team that produced Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes and was also best man at the midfielder's 1999 wedding.

Beckham told that "putting a United shirt on again never gets old."

United is hosting Juventus to honor Neville after his retirement this season.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Luke Rodgers' sudden impact in N.Y.

(by Leander Schaerlaeckens 5-19-11)

Luke Rodgers tears about the field sure of purpose, either oblivious or indifferent to the firestorm he set off by daring to call out U.S. soccer's golden boy, Landon Donovan, for his in-game crimes against morality last week. And this from a guy with an English police record severe enough that it took the better part of a year to convince the U.S. government he wasn't a menace to society.

Yes, the New York Red Bulls have a new firebrand striker, the sort of man whose temperament is really only suited to soccer.

Rodgers, 29, is hard to miss, even though he's only 5-foot-7. He bears a striking resemblance to the "Austin Powers" character Mini-Me, a bald, bullish yet savvy forward who has honed his craft toiling in the mediocrity and anonymity of the English lower leagues. He has deceptive strength and quickness for his stocky, muscular frame, lurking for chances in the shadow of the last man and barreling into opponents even if winning the ball is a mere pipe dream. Rodgers squirms, muscles and wrestles past defenders. He is a worker in a team of technical players, a much-needed sailor among captains.

In a surprising 3-2 home loss to Chivas USA on Sunday, Rodgers did all of the above. He also got shoved down after beating Chivas defender Heath Pearce into the box, earning his side the penalty that made it 2-2 in the 34th minute.

"He's a busy guy," Pearce said. "He's running all the time. He's kind of that blue-collar striker who just makes the hard runs, makes the dirty runs and opens up a lot of room for other players as well as creates his own space. Even though he's small, he's got an engine and he never turns off. There were times when I was looking for a break in the game and he just kept on going."

Typically, in the 93rd minute, with the Red Bulls frantically pursuing an equalizer, Rodgers threw himself at a ball scampering just past the far post, knowing full well that he would be slamming violently into the post. When he did, he got right back up and renewed his pursuit of a goal.

"It really, really hurt, but I think because my adrenaline was so high, I didn't really feel it," Rodgers said in the locker room after the game, wearing a gold watch and a sparkly belt over designer jeans, a T-shirt and some white tennis shoes. "But tomorrow it's gonna hurt, you-know-wha'-I-mean?"

It's a fruitful style. Before being signed by the Red Bulls at long last in January, Rodgers spent 5½ seasons in League 2, England's fourth tier; four in League 1, the third tier; and one in the fifth, amassing 111 goals in all. So far this season in MLS, he has three goals (two of which were game-winning shots) and an assist and has kept mega-prospect Juan Agudelo out of the lineup, who has yet to fully recover from a preseason injury.

"It's quite strange how quickly I've settled in," Rodgers conceded.

That quick adaptation has been a boon for others, too, who have fed off his hard work. Like Thierry Henry. Since the two formed a full-time partnership up front five games ago, the once-sputtering French star has bagged five goals and three assists.

"We do find him a lot," Henry said with a grin, when asked if Rodgers made his life easier.

But when Rogers steps off the field and his adrenaline high recedes, his fiery nature doesn't follow suit. There was the time in 2002 when he physically confronted an opponent in the parking lot after a game. And then there was the girl whose face was ravaged by an errant firework set off by Rogers in 2003. In 2009, Rogers was arrested for his involvement in a fracas in a nightclub.

Six teammates who were asked about Rodgers' checkered past said they didn't care.

"He's a great guy to have around," defender Tim Ream said. "He's a little spitfire. He says what he thinks, and he plays hard. He fits right in with his jokes and the things he has to say and the way he carries himself."

"I love Luke Rodgers," said eccentric goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul. "He's the type of guy who is going to fight from the beginning until the end. He can create chances out of nothing. There's few forwards in this league who follow all the chances until the end [the way he does]. When he plays against you, he's a headache, because he keeps knocking, knocking, knocking, until he gets something out of it. I love playing with him -- a nice guy to have on your team."

As a testament to their affection for him, Rodgers' teammates bought him a Mini-Me doll, which sits above his locker.

The men in charge of the Red Bulls' player policy also have a deep appreciation for what Rodgers has to offer.

"Normally you don't go to League 1 or League 2 in England to get a striker for MLS," said head coach Hans Backe, who coached Rodgers for seven months during his short spell in charge of Notts County late in 2009. "But it was more getting the striker who would be a pain in the ass for every center back in the league because of his work and his passion and his movement, and he was the player I felt would fit in well in the MLS."

Backe had been trying to add Rodgers to his squad since his contract expired last summer. But Rodgers' criminal record threw a wrench into the plans. "When I went down to get my visa it got denied, and I had to phone [Backe] and tell him I hadn't got it," Rodgers said. "I thought that would be it then. But he said, 'No problem, I'll get on [the phone with] the attorney.'"

It took until January for the visa to come through. In the interim, Rodgers re-signed with Notts County. But he was so keen on joining Backe in New York that Rodgers had a clause in his contract that would allow him to go to the Red Bulls if he received his visa.

The feeling was mutual, as Backe was intent on signing Rodgers, believing that the player's troubling track record belied his actual personality. "The way I learned [about] him at Notts County, he was a very nice guy," Backe said. "I can't say that I was concerned."

"We weren't worried about his reputation at all," said Erik Soler, general manager of the Red Bulls. "He did a couple of stupid things when he was younger. He had been unlucky a couple of times, but there was no risk for us at all taking him here. Hans was very adamant that this would be a great player for us, and he's been ever so right."

Backe didn't much care about Rodgers' Donovan-aimed invective, either. "I don't bother," he said. "He has the right to do it if he wants. I don't think it was too bad. That's the character he is."

Rodgers plans on bringing his girlfriend, young daughter and twin brother over from England to live with him as his supporting cast and hopes they will stay long-term. "His situation is very different now," Soler said.

And if you ask Rodgers, he feels his rap sheet isn't fair anyway. "I keep reading how I've been involved in seven bar fights, but it's very rare that you'll catch me out drinking," he said. "I got in one bar fight because the doorman punched the girl I was with. Ridiculous. That's the only reason I did what I did. Nine out of ten men would react the same way I did, I'm sure. I know everyone likes to add a bit of sugar to the story, but that's the only bar fight I've been in."

Rodgers has the look of a man who has long since given up on trying to convince people that he isn't what they say he is. "There's nothing you can do about it, is there?" he said. "I just get on with it. It doesn't bother me."

He won't change who he is, or what he says, or how he says it, even if it leads to a depiction of him that he feels is distorted. Which probably means his thick Midlands accent will go untarnished. And for that, defender Carlos Mendes is grateful.

"I think the accent is pretty amazing," Mendes said with a smile. "And that's the only reason why I like him, because half the time I don't know what he's saying."

Luke Rodgers playing for Shrewsbury Town

Sporting grass

Gotta love the color of that grass.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Mike gets Marc'd

(Marco Etcheverry, Mike Burns, 2002 MLS All Star game)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Real Salt Lake breaks ground on new practice field

(by James Edwards 5-12-11)

Roughly three times per week over the past four years, Real Salt Lake's players have made the tiresome 20- to 25-minute commute to Lehi to practice on a field with a crown in often ridiculously cold and windy conditions.

Then, after some often grueling training sessions, the players would cram back in their cars allowing their muscles to tighten up for the drive to Rio Tinto Stadium or its previous locker room facility before the stadium opened.

The annoyance is almost over.

Real Salt Lake held a ceremonial groundbreaking Thursday in Sandy for America First Field, a state-of-the-art practice facility that will be an exact replica of the playing surface at Rio Tinto Stadium.

Located at 10000 South and just west of State Street, the field should be ready for use in the spring of 2012.

"We've been waiting a long time for it, I think our guys are ready," said RSL coach Jason Kreis. "We know how important it is for our players to get into the training session and out of the training session as quickly as possible to prepare them for the weekends."

RSL founder Dave Checketts, co-owner Dell Loy Hansen, RSL president Bill Manning, Sandy City mayor Tom Dolan and American First Credit Union CEO Rick Craig were among those on hand for the announcement.

"It has been a long time, and we appreciate the patience of the coaches and we appreciate the patience of the players, but next summer you're going to be practicing on a world-class practice field that we can all call our home," said Manning.

American First Credit Union owns the land, and is leasing it to Real Salt Lake for at least the next five years. After a three-month process to prepare the site for 110,000-square feet of natural grass, the same seed that is at Rio Tinto Stadium will be planted at America First Field.

"It's important that you're training on a field that's the exact same size, it's important that you're training on a field that's the exact same grass, because different fields around the league play a little differently," said Kreis. "Typically ours plays pretty fast, so we would love to be on a surface that's exactly like the stadium and plays to the same speed."

At Xango Field in Lehi, and everywhere else Real Salt Lake has practiced through the years, that hasn't always been the case. Before Xango built RSL its current practice field in Lehi back in 2007, RSL practiced at variety of locations, including Rice-Eccles Stadium, a park in Vineyard, a park in Lehi, Waterford High School and Park City.

"We've trained in a lot of different places since I've been here. Dallas was the exact same situation, never really having a home," said Kreis. "So I'm looking very much forward to this being our training field, something we can really control."

Kreis admits that car pooling to practices with the assistant coaches over the years have been fun, but America First Field will be a massive upgrade.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Donovan "just a bit annoying"

Luke Rodgers rips Galaxy star

(by Mike Mazzeo 5-9-11)

New York Red Bulls striker Luke Rodgers doesn't like Los Angeles Galaxy star Landon Donovan.

He made that very clear to the New York Post on Monday.

"In this league, he's a respected person, but he's telling Titi [Thierry Henry] to [screw] off. The kid's a [expletive] head," Rodgers, who was clearly upset at Donovan after the Red Bulls and Galaxy completed a 1-1 draw on Saturday night in L.A., told the Post. "I don't care. I just think the kid's a [expletive] jerk. I don't care what you put.

"After Henry scored he's running the whole length of the pitch to shout at the linesman. He must have eyes like a hawk to tell if he's offsides. I tackled the keeper [and] he's running the whole length of the field to tell the ref I should be sent off. He needs to be a bit more humble.''

Donovan responded to Rodgers' profanity laced tirade via Twitter: "I'm confused; who is Luke Rogers?"

Rodgers became enraged at Donovan after he saw the U.S. National Team sensation complain to the referees throughout the match.

"I just think he talks too much. You don't need to,'' Rodgers told the newspaper. "Put it this way, someone like him, he's done OK for himself, played in MLS, scored a lot of goals, he's in All-Star teams, played in the Premiership and I know people in the Premiership who say he's done really well when he was there. You've got people looking up to him, and he's trying to get people sent off."

"[Donovan] is telling linemen off, shouting at referees. Is it one rule for him and one rule for the rest of us? He needs to be a bit more humble,'' Rodgers continued. "He's just a bit annoying. Just a bit annoying when it's like you've got two referees on the pitch. He's running up to the referees telling him what decisions make. I've never ever seen nothing like that.''

Rodgers, who previously played professionally in his native England, has three goals and one assist in five games for the Eastern Conference leading Red Bulls (4-1-3).

According to the Post, the 29-year-old Rodgers has been known to be a controversial figure. He was involved in several drunken bar fights, and once "accidentally wounded a teenage girl with fireworks."

The Post indicated that the fireworks incident was the reason Rodgers wasn't allowed to come to the U.S. to play for the Red Bulls last summer, but Red Bulls coach Hans Backe "was insistent, and eventually pushed his visa through to acquire him this winter."


Comment by The Cup

Luke Rodgers has officially become my favorite MLS player.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Thor !

KC stadium roof

Freaky, KC's stadium roof looks a lot like some early renderings of RSL's roof.

When did Boca Raton join the league?

Seniors keeper Jimmy Nielsen makes an effort in a recent match against New York.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Monday, May 2, 2011

New England logos

1996 - present

Fan designed logos