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.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

FSV Mainz fans

Supporters of the local team cheer prior to the Bundesliga match between FSV Mainz 05 and VfL Wolfsburg at Coface Arena on April 20 in Mainz, Germany.

I actually thought about dressing up like this (seeing as RSL's colors are also yellow, red, and blue) back when RSL was in their first year or two. I never did, I kind of wish now that I would have. It would have been epic.
(more to come)

Real Salt Lake

2007 - present

2005 - 2007

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Beckham in US: He came, he sold, he conquered

( 12-2-12)

David Beckham came, he sold, he conquered.

For the first two years after he joined the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007, he was more of a brand than a player, his impact at America's cash registers far greater than any transformation on the field.

By the time the 37-year-old English midfielder played his final game in Major League Soccer on Saturday, he had achieved his goals athletically in addition to financially, winning two more titles and expanding the U.S. audience for his sport. He gained attention for his play, not just for his ever-changing hairstyles, Spice Girl wife and celebrity friends.

"When I decided to come here, I think I raised a little bit of interest, and I hope that's what I've done," Beckham said. "If that's the single thing that I've done, then great. But I think the foundations are there now in this league. It's a 17-year-old league and the foundations are great. It will continue to grow."

The league expanded by about 50 percent, with new teams announced during the Beckham era that started play in San Jose (2008), Seattle (2009), Philadelphia (2010), Vancouver and Portland (2011), and Montreal (2012). That raised the total to 19.

Ground was broken for soccer-specific stadiums in Houston, Kansas City and Philadelphia, the long-delayed venue in New Jersey was completed, and extensive renovations took place in Montreal, Portland and Vancouver.

MLS' regular-season attendance averaged 15,504 in 2006, the last season before Beckham left Real Madrid to sign with the Galaxy. It was up to a record 18,807 this year, still well short of the record 44,293 set by the Bundesliga in 2011-12 and the 35,356 for England's Premier League.

Beckham said his goals were to win and increase awareness of the league both domestically and abroad.

"I don't think anybody would doubt that he has over-delivered on every one of those measures," MLS Commissioner Don Garber said. "There's arguably not a soccer fan on this planet that doesn't know the L.A. Galaxy and Major League Soccer, and David played a significant role in helping us make that happen. He was an unbelievable ambassador for the league, for the Galaxy."

Beckham made his debut for Manchester United's first team in 1992, the year when he turned 17 and played alongside Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville for the Red Devils' winning team in the FA Youth Cup. By 21 he made his debut for England's national team.

He helped United win six Premier League titles, two FA Cups and the 1999 Champions League. Sold to Real for 35 million euros (then $41 million), he won Spain's La Liga in his fourth and final season.

By then, he already had announced he was moving to Los Angeles. While his handlers and the Galaxy hyped the deal as being worth "in excess $250 million," it turned out to be a $32.5 million, five-year contract. Still, he earned 50 times the league's average of $129,395 in 2008 and twice as much as any other player.

Following his first Galaxy appearance, in an exhibition against Chelsea, he was given a welcoming party hosted by Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. A crowd of 46,686 showed up for his MLS debut on Aug. 9, 2007, at D.C. United.

While injuries limited his playing time, the five games he played averaged 37,659 fans - in a league where the overall average that year was 16,770. MLS jersey sales rose 780 percent.

"I don't think there's any doubt that David has increased the visibility of MLS and the sport more generally," U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati said. "That very positive impact will be felt for many years."

When Beckham arrived, his mind seemed to be on England as much as it was on California. He commuted back to play for England's national team, hoping to make its 2010 World Cup roster, and played on loan for AC Milan in early 2009 and 2010. While in Italy, he tore his left Achilles tendon, ending his England career after 17 goals and 115 appearances - second only to goalkeeper Peter Shilton's 125.

Only after the injury did he seem to focus on MLS. His relationship with Galaxy co-star Landon Donovan improved - Donovan took back the captain's armband - and Beckham helped Los Angeles to three straight league finals - beating Houston in the title game in 2011 and this year. He scored 20 goals in 116 competitive appearances over 6 1/2 years.

Only in television ratings did MLS fail to achieve a long-term boost. The league's regular-season telecasts on ESPN and ESPN2 averaged 311,000 viewers this year, up less than 5 percent over 2007.

Rafa Marquez, Thierry Henry and Robbie Keane followed him to MLS. Frank Lampard and Kaka may become the next big stars to join the league.

The very best players, Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Real's Cristiano Ronaldo, are far too good and far too expensive to leave Europe for MLS right now, a league still in its developmental stage.

Beckham, though, made it acceptable for stars just past their primes to trek across the Atlantic as salesmen and scorers. After the next stop in his playing career - likely the last - Beckham intends to return to MLS as an owner.

"I know it's the No. 1 sport in the world. There's other great sports here, of course, I believe it can compete with the basketball. I believe it can compete with American football and baseball," Beckham said. "That's why I'm totally committed to that."

Beckham wins 2nd MLS title, Galaxy beat Dynamo 3-1

(by Greg Beacham 12-1-12)

David Beckham stood on the podium with his three sons, an oversized Union Jack knotted around his Los Angeles Galaxy jersey. With a practiced lift and a broad smile, he raised the sparkling silver cup over his head to a raucous ovation amid a confetti blizzard.

Now that's a Hollywood ending worthy of a star.

Beckham wrapped up his MLS career as a two-time champion Saturday, with Landon Donovan's tiebreaking goal on a penalty kick in the 65th minute propelling the Galaxy to a 3-1 victory over the Houston Dynamo in the MLS Cup.

Omar Gonzalez tied it in the 61st minute with a long header for the Galaxy, who defended their title in a rematch of last season's championship game. For the second straight year, Beckham raised a trophy that stands as evidence of the 37-year-old English midfielder's indelible impact on American soccer during his six seasons in Los Angeles.

"It's been a successful six years here, and now that we've won the second one, it's even more satisfying," Beckham said. "I just hope people have enjoyed me playing here. It's what I always hope for when I step on the field."

With a stirring second-half surge capped by Robbie Keane's goal on another penalty kick in injury time, Los Angeles won its fourth MLS Cup, tying D.C. United for the league record.

The Galaxy also gave an appropriate farewell to Beckham, who will play elsewhere in the new year before eventually returning to MLS as a team owner. With rumors linking him everywhere from Sydney to Paris, he hasn't disclosed his immediate plans beyond a Christmas vacation back home in England.

Los Angeles will miss Beckham, but the glamorous global icon is going out at an apex for MLS' highest-profile franchise.

"I just hope I've brought a bit of interest to the game (in America)," Beckham said. "If that's the single thing I've done, then great. But I think the foundations are there now in this league. It's a 17-year-old league, and the foundations are great. It will continue to grow."

After Calen Carr put Houston ahead in the 44th minute, Beckham and his high-scoring teammates systematically broke down the defense of the Dynamo, who lost the MLS Cup 1-0 to Los Angeles on the same field last year.

While Gonzalez got the equalizer on a cagey play by MLS' top defender last season, Keane played another stellar attacking game for Los Angeles before earning his own penalty kick when Houston's Tally Hall knocked him down in the box.

Donovan redeemed himself for missing an open net in the 13th minute by burying his penalty kick after a handball in the box by Houston's Ricardo Clark. The U.S. national team star, who is also contemplating a departure from soccer, won his record-tying fifth MLS title while scoring his fifth career MLS Cup goal and the record 22nd goal of his postseason career.

"It's a little surreal," Donovan said. "In any sport, to repeat is really hard to do. ... For me personally, this felt more satisfying (than last year). We could enjoy it a little bit more."

After Keane's goal clinched it, Beckham left the game to a raucous standing ovation from the packed stadium amid chants of "Thank you, David!"

Beckham hugged Galaxy coach Bruce Arena, who won his fourth MLS title, and just about everybody on the Galaxy bench before the game ended moments later.

Beckham streamed onto the field with his teammates and waved thanks at the fans before he was joined by his three sons, all clad in No. 23 Galaxy jerseys.

"Today was always going to be an emotional day for myself, win or lose," said Beckham, who also won trophies in his final seasons at Real Madrid and Manchester United. "Coming off was tough, but I enjoyed the win today."

The pregame rain cleared long enough for MLS' sunny farewell to Beckham, who arrived in Los Angeles in 2007 from Real with designs on changing the American perception of the world's most popular game. The league has grown steadily during his tenure, with most MLS franchises on sound financial footing and in excellent stadiums, although the sport's popularity and TV ratings haven't matched the other American pastimes.

Beckham was wildly cheered by many of the same diehard Galaxy supporters who booed him three years ago after his loans to AC Milan and an injury-riddled start to his Galaxy career. The Home Depot Center souvenir stands were loaded with Beckham shirts, including one that said "Take Me With You!"

These two franchises have combined to win eight of the last 12 MLS titles, dating back to the Dynamo's days in San Jose. Houston seems stuck as a supporting player in the Galaxy's story, despite its rally from the Eastern Conference's last playoff seed to the championship match.

"You have to be proud of what we've accomplished once again," Houston captain Brad Davis said. "It isn't easy to get to this game, and this is the fourth time in seven years. It's a credit to this group of guys."

After winning the title last year on a Beckham-to-Keane-to-Donovan beauty of a goal, Los Angeles nearly had another storybook score in the 13th minute when Beckham launched a long, high pass to a sprinting Keane, who slipped behind the defense and centered it perfectly for Donovan.

But he inexplicably pushed his shot inches wide of the post, leaving him with both hands on his head while the stadium released the usual post-goal confetti anyway.

"When you're in a moment like that, you feel like you let the team down," Donovan said. "Candidly, it sat with me until halftime. I took a few minutes at halftime, sort of collected myself, and tried to stay present, because you can't change it."

The Dynamo improved their pressure late in the first half, and Adam Moffat's long pass eventually set up Carr's impressive near-post goal past Josh Saunders.

Carr leaped the corner flag in celebration of a rare score for the forward, a Bay Area native who joined the Dynamo last season and managed just four goals this year.

But with Keane and Beckham leading the second-half charge, the Galaxy finally broke through when Gonzalez stuck around the box after a failed setpiece and managed to bounce a looping header past Hall. Gonzalez's delayed return from injury this season sparked the Galaxy's late-season surge.

"At the beginning of the season, I didn't see myself getting back to this level," said Gonzalez, named the game's MVP.

Clark was then called for a handball in the box in the 65th minute after an extended defensive scramble by the Dynamo. It was another high-profile mistake by the U.S. national team player whose turnover led to Ghana's first goal in the Americans' 2-1 elimination loss at the World Cup two years ago.

"When the penalty came, I'm not going to fool anyone and say I was calm about it," Donovan said. "I was pretty nervous. But you have to keep going, and every one of these guys said, `Forget about it. Keep going.'"

After Donovan scored, Houston frantically pressed for an equalizer in the final minutes, but Saunders and his defense repeatedly denied the Dynamo. After Hall wrapped his hand around Keane's thigh to stop a chance in the box, Keane confidently ended it with his sixth goal of a spectacular six-game playoff run in the Irish national team captain's first full MLS season.

"Being successful doesn't come easy," Beckham said. "You have to work at it. I tell my children every single day that if you want to be successful, it's hard graft. It doesn't come easy, and I think we proved that this year."

Beckham mum on plans after leaving MLS, Galaxy

(by Greg Beacham 11-20-12)

David Beckham will announce the next stop in his soccer career near the end of the year. Until then, he's focusing on winning one more trophy with the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Beckham said Tuesday he has several "exciting opportunities on the table" to continue playing after he leaves the Galaxy next month, capping a six-season U.S. career with Los Angeles' second straight appearance in the MLS Cup on Dec. 1.

"I still feel that I have something left in me as a player," Beckham said at the Galaxy's training complex. "I still feel like I have one more challenge in me as a player. Even at 37 years old, I still can play at a high level. Where that will be yet, I haven't decided.

"Right now my focus is on the final," he added. "Once that's out of the way, we have an (exhibition) tour to deal with, and then it's Christmas, which we always spend in London, so I'll be there and I'll make the decision then."

The English midfielder wasn't specific about where he might end up next, deflecting questions about every destination from Australia and China to France and Britain. While discussing his future in the most oblique terms, Beckham only confirmed he won't move to New York or any other MLS team.

"There are options, and I'm very lucky at my age to have options," Beckham said. "People have talked about my retirement, people have mentioned will I retire, and I actually don't feel I'm ready to retire yet."

After two strong MLS seasons largely free from major injuries, Beckham says he's leaving Los Angeles only because he reached every goal he set for himself in his landmark move stateside in 2007. He agreed to a two-year contract extension with the Galaxy last January after completing his initial five-year deal, but revealed the second year of his deal was a mutual option.

"I feel that I've been successful off the field, but on the field has always been the most important thing for me," Beckham said. "To be able to win a championship last year, that was the final goal for me with this team."

Given Beckham's acumen for managing his worldwide celebrity alongside his soccer career, his next destination could be Australia's A League, where five clubs have confirmed interest in acquiring him to boost the sport's relatively low popularity Down Under, or China's Super League, where Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka already are playing for Shanghai Shenhua.

Beckham politely declined to give any indication where he'll play in the new year – but he confirmed he plans to become an MLS owner in the near future, sounding his usual optimistic notes about soccer's future in North America. Beckham's MLS contract includes an option to purchase a franchise when his career ends.

He also did nothing to squash growing speculation he could become at least a part-owner of the Galaxy if he doesn't get an MLS expansion team. AEG, the sports conglomerate that owns the Galaxy and the NHL's Los Angeles Kings, is for sale.

"The foundations are now there for this sport to continue to grow," Beckham said. "I've seen it grow in the last six years, and we all want it to continue to grow. My commitment as an owner, people will be well aware of that in the new year, and hopefully where that will be. And like I said, my commitment as an ambassador for this sport and this country won't change."

When asked whether he was aware the Galaxy are for sale, Beckham smiled and said: "I heard that. I heard that. We'll see."

Beckham announced his decision to his teammates earlier Tuesday, although coach Bruce Arena and star Landon Donovan already knew about it. Beckham said he got a round of applause and "a little abuse" from the Galaxy, who will attempt to win their second straight league title against the Houston Dynamo at Home Depot Center next Saturday.

"We're all very aware of the timing," said Donovan, the American star who clashed with Beckham upon his arrival in Los Angeles before forming a durable partnership. "It's a good thing. He's certainly going to be very motivated, and all of us who have been around are going to want to send him out the right way."

Although Beckham is done playing for the Galaxy, it's clear the global icon isn't permanently leaving Hollywood. Beckham said his family considers it home, and he plans to "be at as many games as possible" next season.

"I'll continue to support this club, because I love the players here," Beckham said. "I love the fans. I love the ownership."

When asked if he would miss Beckham, Arena smiled.

"He'll be around," Arena said. "David can talk about what David is doing, but I don't think he's leaving Los Angeles forever. He'll still be here."

When asked how Beckham would do as an MLS owner, Arena joked: "He might get rid of the coach. That might be one of his first acts as an owner."

"I'm sure he'll be very good," Arena added. "My guess is David's not going to be sitting behind a desk 12 hours a day in a management capacity. I think he'll be a little bit apart, and come in when needed and do that. But I think his experience, his presence, his name is going to do wonders for whichever club he ends up being part of."

When asked whether he could work for Beckham, Arena cracked: "I've been working for him for the last four years. I'm happy I'm getting a break for a little bit."

David Beckham to Play His Final Game for the LA Galaxy in MLS Cup 2012

Midfielder to end six-year playing career with LA on Dec. 1

( 11-19-12)

LA Galaxy midfielder David Beckham announced today that MLS Cup 2012 on Saturday, December 1 will be his final competitive game with the club. Originally signed in January 2007, Beckham has spent the past six seasons with the Galaxy, helping lead the club to three MLS Cup berths, including the third championship in club history in 2011 when they beat the Houston Dynamo 1-0 in MLS Cup 2011 at The Home Depot Center in front of a then-stadium record of more than 30,000 fans.

During his playing career with the Galaxy, Beckham catapulted Major League Soccer onto the world stage, dramatically enhancing its profile globally and increasing the popularity of soccer in the United States.

The arrival of Beckham in Southern California and Major League Soccer has coincided with a period of unrivaled growth for both the Galaxy and the league, which is approaching the conclusion of its 17th season. Seven expansion teams - Montreal, Portland, Vancouver, Philadelphia, Seattle, San Jose and Toronto FC - have debuted since 2007 while 15 of the league’s 19 teams now play in soccer specific stadiums, up from five prior to 2007. Attendance at those stadiums are at unprecedented highs with an average of 18,807 fans attending games during the 2012 MLS regular season and nearly 22,000 fans turning out per game in the postseason. Additionally, exposure and recognition of the Galaxy and MLS are at all-time highs with the league maintaining national television broadcast deals with ESPN, NBC Sports and Univision while the Galaxy reached a 10-year broadcast deal with Time Warner Cable Sports in November 2011 that is the most lucrative in MLS history.

"I've had an incredibly special time playing for the LA Galaxy, however, I wanted to experience one last challenge before the end of my playing career," Beckham said. "I don't see this as the end of my relationship with the league as my ambition is to be part of the ownership structure in the future."

Beckham, who is managed by Simon Fuller’s XIX Entertainment, added, "In my time here I have seen the popularity of the game grow every year. I've been fortunate to win trophies, but more important to me has been the fantastic reception I've had from fans in L.A. and across the States. Soccer's potential has no limits in this wonderful country and I want to always be part of growing it."

In his six seasons with the Galaxy, Beckham appeared in 98 regular season games, tallying 18 goals and adding 40 assists, good for the fourth most in club history. An MLS Best XI selection in 2011 and a three-time MLS All-Star, Beckham also helped the Galaxy qualify for the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League in each of the last two years and reach the Western Conference Championship in each of the past four years, advancing to MLS Cup three times. Beckham has excelled in the postseason, appearing in and starting all 16 playoff games that the Galaxy have played since 2009. In that time, he has recorded eight assists, which are the third most in club history, meaning that he has set up one third of his team’s goals in that time. He set an MLS record by becoming the first player ever to register an assist in five consecutive postseason games, including one in all four of LA’s games during their run to the 2011 MLS Cup championship.

“Seldom does an athlete redefine a sport and David not only took our franchise to another level but he took our sport to another level,” said Tim Leiweke, President and CEO of AEG (Anschutz Entertainment Group). “It has been an honor and privilege to be a part of his world, and more importantly, to have him be a part of ours.”

A veteran of three World Cups and the most capped field player in England history, Beckham made 115 appearances for his country, scoring 17 goals while captaining the side on more than 50 occasions. His club career prior to coming to MLS was equally stellar, having won six Premier League titles during a sensational 12-year career at Manchester United that also saw him win the FA Cup twice and the 1999 UEFA Champions League title, helping United claim the “Treble” that season, winning the Premier League and FA Cup in addition to the Champions League. In July 2003, Beckham moved to Spain, signing with Real Madrid. In his final season at the Bernabeu, Beckham helped lead Madrid to the 2006-07 La Liga title, ending a four year title drought. Following that season, Beckham officially joined the Galaxy, debuting in a friendly against Chelsea at The Home Depot Center.

“When David Beckham signed with the LA Galaxy in 2007, he set out to help grow MLS and the sport of soccer in North America,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said. “There is no doubt that MLS is far more popular and important here and abroad than it was when he arrived. David has achieved great things on and off the field during his time with the Galaxy, and he will always be an important part of our history. We look forward to his continued involvement with the LA Galaxy and the League.”

Saturday, November 17, 2012

RSL knocked out of playoffs

Season ends for RSL as Sounders score late to advance in MLS playoffs

(by James Edwards 11-8-12)

Goals had been elusive for Real Salt Lake over the past month, and that was no different in the club’s playoff ouster Thursday night.

In a Western Conference semifinal playoff series desperate for a goal, it was the visitor and not RSL that finally delivered.

Seattle midfielder Mario Martinez scored a wonder goal in the 81st minute, and the Sounders backed it up with another solid defensive effort to stun Real Salt Lake for a 1-0 Game 2 victory and a 1-0 aggregate series victory.

“If you play good soccer, you have to score the goals. The last five matches, we didn’t score the goals and that’s tough for us,” said RSL midfielder Javier Morales.

Real Salt Lake outshot Seattle 14-9, but Sounders keeper Michael Gspurning came up big — just as he did in Game 1 — with nine saves. It was Seattle’s fourth straight shutout against RSL this season and sends coach Jason Kreis’ team into the offseason without a goal in its last five matches.

The series victory is Seattle’s first in franchise history, and the Sounders advance to the Western Conference final to take on defending champion Los Angeles.

Thursday's decisive moment came late when it looked like overtime and potentially penalty kicks would be needed to determine a winner. A defensive mistake in midfield by Kenny Mansally allowed Seattle to attack with even numbers. After a couple quick passes in midfield, Fredy Montero chipped a ball over RSL’s defense to an unmarked Martinez, who rifled a half volley past Nick Rimando and just inside the far post.

Real Salt Lake threw everything it had forward over the final nine minutes of regulation plus six minutes of stoppage time, but it couldn’t overcome its own struggles in the final third.

“I don’t think we were anxious at all. I think everybody felt and believed we’d get a goal one way or the other. This team has scored a lot of goals over the years. It seems bizarre that all of a sudden we couldn’t find the back of the net,” said RSL midfielder Will Johnson. “A little piece of qualify from them and they’re moving on. In the playoffs it’s a game of inches, a lot more than the regular season.”

It was another disappointing elimination game at Rio Tinto Stadium for Real Salt Lake. It lost the 2008 Western Conference final at home, the 2010 conference semifinal at home, the 2011 Champions League final at home and now the 2012 conference semifinal at home.

Just as in all those other losses, Kreis couldn’t help but feel a bit unlucky afterward. He thought his team created enough opportunities to win, but the counter-attacking team prevailed again.

“I hope that if there’s 100 games played, I hope the team that’s willing to risk more, the team that’s willing to be more bold, the team that’s willing to set the tempo and wanting to set the tempo gets results. As we’ve seen in the past couple of days in our league that’s not happening,” said Kreis.

The four higher-seeded MLS teams who hosted Game 2s this week were all eliminated.

The wind played a big factor in Thursday’s match. The Sounders attacked with the wind throughout the first half and were definitely the more dangerous team, including a Martinez free kick that caromed off the crossbar in the 31st minute.

After surviving the wind and Seattle’s early opportunities, Kreis admitted feeling pretty good at halftime with the score knotted at 0-0.

Ironically enough, Seattle had the best chance again early in the second half on a superb strike from Brad Evans, but Game 1 hero Rimando was equal to the challenge with a spectacular diving save.

Fabian Espindola wasn’t fit enough to start the match because of the hamstring injury he suffered in Game 1, but he entered in the 58th minute for Paulo Jr. Despite his presence, the half chances continued.

“Sometimes we’re like a willow. We bend a little bit and we give away a little bit of possession, but at the end of the day it’s important not to give away the chances,” said Seattle coach Sigi Schmid.


Goalkeeper Nick Rimando sensational in playoff draw with Seattle Sounders

(by Dan Rasmussen 11-2-12)

Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando lay face-down on the turf inside CenturyLink Field, writhing in pain and yelling for medical attention.

Up until the 67th minute, when he collided with Seattle midfielder Christian Tiffert and suffered a broken nose and laceration, Rimando had been nothing short of tremendous against the Seattle Sounders in the opening leg of RSL’s Western Conference Semifinal series.

He made two back-to-back saves on back-to-back corner kicks near the end of the first half, and he followed those saves by standing tall as the Sounders, just like the body of water they’re named after, started coming at Salt Lake in waves to begin the second half.

However, when Rimando crumbled to the turf as a result of his collision with Tiffert, there was seemingly no way he could continue with a broken nose and a cut on his right eyebrow that would ultimately require three stitches to close.

Adding maybe the biggest legend yet to his postseason career, Rimando pulled himself off the turf and kept going.

Rimando helped spur RSL to a 0-0 draw with Seattle Friday night in front of 38,356 fans.

RSL coach Jason Kreis didn’t try to hold back on what he thought of Rimando’s performance afterward.

“I think it would have to go down as one of the best individual performances by any player that’s ever worn an RSL jersey,” said Kreis.

The RSL coach and his staff didn’t think there was any way Rimando would be able to continue, but after Salt Lake’s medical staff stopped the bleeding on his eyebrow, Kreis and Co. looked on in disbelief as their goalkeeper played with a broken nose for the last 16 minutes of normal time, plus eight minutes of stoppage time.

“That shows how absolutely committed he is to this team and this effort,” Kreis said.

RSL midfielder Ned Grabavoy echoed those sentiments.

“It’s just pretty unreal,” said Grabavoy. “Nick’s a battler. There’s no question he’s the best goalkeeper in the league, in my eyes.”

Rimando’s effort highlighted the overall effort by RSL.

"Unbelievable effort they put forth tonight,” Kreis said of his players. “They showed just a real desire to be committed and to stay together. It’s fantastic. We had a lot of individual performances that were just incredible. I walk away feeling so proud of my team. They defined the word ‘together’ for me tonight.”

Seattle had indeed been coming at RSL up until Rimando went down, but for what ultimately turned out to be 24 minutes of soccer, Salt Lake kept its cool, kept its composure and kept Seattle from scoring a goal.

“There was a point when Jason said, ‘OK, let’s switch up the formation a little bit and lock this thing up and keep it 0-0, go back home from a tie,’” said Grabavoy.

To that end, Friday’s mission was accomplished. And now RSL turns its attention to its next mission — trying to beat Seattle at home this coming Thursday and advance to the Western Conference Finals for the second consecutive year.

“We didn’t play a perfect game, but we played with a lot of guts and we battled,” said Rimando. “We didn’t come in here just to tie, but we knew at the end of the game it was good enough. And know we’ve got to really go at them and get those three points on Thursday.”

Thursday’s match will begin at 7:30 p.m. at Rio Tinto Stadium before what should be another sold-out crowd.

And RSL will do so with a goalkeeper that will be just six days removed from a broken nose. After they had walked off the field Friday night, Rimando let his coach know what he thought of his newly disfigured nose.

“He told me,” related Kreis, “that his nose now looks like mine.”

Asked what he thought of that assessment, Kreis laughed. “Probably right,” he said.

Quotes praising RSL Cup

"RSL Cup is one of the best RSL blogs out there." - RSL FM

"RSL Cup is my favorite soccer blog." - Dave Checketts

"Thanks for the support on your blog." - Jason Kreis

Saturday, October 27, 2012

End of an era for RSL? There's one final job

(by Jonah Freedman 10-25-12)

"Well I guess there's only one thing left to do ... win the whole [effing] thing."

– Jake Taylor, Major League

If you remember the 1989 classic like I do, you know the scene well. The ragtag but plucky Cleveland Indians had just been informed they were constructed as a band of misfits in order to be so bad, the owner would be able to move the team. It became a rallying point for The Tribe. And may or may not have been where Charlie Sheen got the idea of “tiger blood.”

Real Salt Lake are certainly not a band of underdog misfits. Well, they're no longer underdogs, at least (as for the other part, they do have some of the more creative hairstyles and body ink in MLS). But on Tuesday night, when their CONCACAF Champions League adventure came to an unlikely end in a scoreless home draw with Herediano, it did resemble their Major League moment.

Back in preseason, Jason Kreis told that this was a final hurrah for RSL’s core, a group of relative overachievers and underdogs that shocked their way to the MLS Cup 2009 title, went all the way to the 2010-11 CCL finals and won more games over a three-season span than all but one MLS team.

That teasing taste of near-glory in continental play was the top of the mountain, and Kreis and GM Garth Lagerwey chose to keep together their group of non-superstar everymen for 18 more months. It was a chance to return to the CCL finals and make one more run at another MLS Cup.

On Tuesday, half of that dream came to a screeching halt. It was a bit of poetic injustice as RSL once again saw a multitude of scoring chances go missing, and bowed out of the tournament on their home turf.

But that also made the picture a bit clearer. If this is truly the end for the nucleus of the Claret-and-Cobalt, there’s just one thing left to do:

Win the whole [effing] thing.

That is, go for the MLS Cup. CONCACAF glory may be out of reach, but there’s one more chance for them to do something special as the playoffs approach.

It would be an appropriate capper on RSL’s legacy. This is a team that has changed the way we think of success in MLS. Maybe a bit like Major League, Lagerwey and Kreis put together a group of cast-offs and undervalued players, never wavering from their philosophy that “the team is the star.”

It culminated in a fitting upset of the star-studded LA Galaxy in Seattle back in November of 2009. It continued the following season, when RSL morphed from an underdog into a perennial power, ripping off the first of three straight 50-point seasons.

Their aspirations became even clearer as Salt Lake became the first MLS club to truly hold the CONCACAF Champions League in high value, a sign that they could be part of something bigger. And their play in continental competition proved it, with huge results in Mexico and Costa Rica.

Through it all, they’ve played soccer the way it was meant to be played: with cleverness, with an unselfish, pass-first ethos. With an expertly executed midfield diamond that plays to their strengths. When it works, it’s truly the Beautiful Game.

But despite it all, the end of the era has been in sight over the past couple seasons. They’ve never fully replaced Robbie Findley, who left for Europe after the 2010 season. Steady hands like Robbie Russell and Andy Williams are now gone, and their locker-room presence has been difficult to replace.

Once the winners’ names are etched on the Philip F. Anschutz trophy at the end of these playoffs, the exodus could be even swifter.

Javier Morales’ DP-level contract is up – and for as much of an integral part of this team as he’s been, he hasn’t been the same since his horrific broken ankle last season. He’ll be 33 years old when First Kick 2013 rolls around, and it’s fair to wonder if he has it in him to return to that old magic.

Though he’s dominant, center back Jámison Olave spent much of 2012 injured. And as the most expensive defender on the roster – while youngsters Chris Schuler and Kwame Watson-Siriboe have stepped up – it’s not impossible to see RSL finally accepting one of those rumored offers from big South American clubs.

Other contracts are up, too, like those of Chris Wingert and Tony Beltran. And Kreis and Lagerwey will have to examine the cost-effectiveness of other players under the cap and balance those with the emergence of more young talent like Luis Gil, Sebastian Velasquez and David Viana. In fact, very quietly, RSL have become the seventh-youngest roster in MLS.

In boxing, they say it never ends pretty. In life, you don’t often get a chance for one last hurrah while knowing going into it that this really is the final ride for a group that has been through so many battles.

The old hands at RSL know this. Yes, it’s a Major League bummer that things didn’t work out in the Champions League. But as far as refocusing on the other goal, it seems like they get it.

"This is over,” Fabián Espíndola said after Tuesday’s elimination, “and we have to win the championship."

Not even Pedro Cerrano could have said it better.

Herediano holds RSL scoreless, Salt Lake club out of Champions League

(by Kira Terry 10-24-12)
Real Salt Lake played its final 2012-13 Champions League match Tuesday night as the Costa Rican club C.S. Herediano held the Salt Lake club to a scoreless match, ending its CONCACAF hopes.

A result that RSL fought hard to avoid.

“It’s a tough one to take,” said RSL Captain and midfielder Kyle Beckerman. “We created enough chances to score four or five tonight, but we didn’t and so we’re not moving on.”

RSL head coach Jason Kreis agreed with Beckerman on the result being a tough one, despite the fight his club put up.

“I think it’s always going to be a little mentally frustrating when you get some clear chances and you don’t take them, but I think our guys put all the right effort into it,” said Kreis. “Herediano made it very difficult.”

RSL entered game needing either a 1-0 win or a two goal win over Herediano in order to advance to the next stage of Champions League play in 2013. Instead, Herediano held RSL to a 0-0 draw, enough for the Costa Rican club to advance.

Playing without its leading scorer, Alvaro Saborio, due to a yellow-card suspension, RSL wasn’t able to put a way any goals in the first half despite its seven shots on goal and a plethora of chances the Salt Lake side created, forcing RSL into the second half tied 0-0 with the Costa Rican club.

“We know (Saborio’s) an important player,” said Kreis. “(Saborio) seems to be the one that always is able to take that initial play in the penalty box to make the difference. When we play without him we don’t typically have someone that’s always in the box, always there to make that finish for us.”

Despite the result, Kreis had nothing but positive things to say about his roster and the match RSL played.

“(I'm) really, really, really proud of the men out there,” said Kreis. “At halftime I told them their performance was spectacular. We did all the things that we needed to do to win these big games except that final touch.”

“I’m pleased,” Kreis continued. “Watching them the first half, I felt like it was the first game of the playoffs last year or some of the playoff games in 2009 — just some of our very best stuff.”

RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando completely agreed with his boss.

“I thought we played great, I really did,” said Rimando. “I thought (a goal) was going to come, but that’s football sometimes. It gets the best of you even when you’re the better team. But congratulations to (Herediano), they played a great defensive game and they came out on top and give credit to them.”

The Claret and Cobalt don’t have much down time before returning to the pitch and other big upcoming matches.

“We need to move forward very quickly because we’ve got a pretty big tournament of our own in front of us,” said Kreis.

A sellout crowd of 20,436 packed Rio Tinto Stadium and stuck out the 90+ minutes of steady rain. Tuesday night’s sellout crowd was the fifth consecutive for RSL and the 10th this season, extending the Salt Lake clubs season record.

“We don’t get enough opportunities to say again how much we appreciate our fans,” said Kreis. “I thought they were awesome tonight and our group really feeds off of the energy that the fans can provide so together we performed – the fans, the team – very well, we were just unlucky.”

Monday, October 22, 2012

Time for a showdown in the Champions League

(by Steve Luhm 10-22-12)

There is an unwritten rule in professional sports: Never put too much emphasis on one game because there’s always another just around the corner. Don’t add pressure to your situation because it could impact how you play.

RSL isn’t following the rules.

Real Salt Lake management, players and coaches freely admit the significance of the match heading into Tuesday night’s CONCACAF Champions League game against C.S. Herediano at Rio Tinto Stadium.

"It is a massive game," general manager Garth Lagerwey said. "Pretending it’s not won’t make it go away. And I think everybody understands that — from the players in the locker room to the fans. They know what it’s all about."

Midfielder Will Johnson agreed.

"Potentially," he said, "it’s one of the top-five biggest games in the history in Real Salt Lake."

Herediano is 3-0 in Group 2 of the Champions League, including a 1-0 victory over Real Salt Lake in July.

RSL is 2-1 and, because of tie-breakers, it must win the showdown with the Costa Rican club by specific margins: 1-0 or by at least two goals.

If Real Salt Lake can’t do it, Herediano advances to the CONCACAF quarterfinal round in February and one of RSL’s major goals this season will go unfulfilled.

"This means everything for us — to get out of our group in CONCACAF," Johnson said. "It’s a tournament that is great for the club. Recognition-wise, you put yourself on the map if you can consistently be one of the top teams in the [Champions] League."

Real Salt Lake became the first team from the United States to reach the finals in 2011.

RSL eventually lost to Monterrey by a two-game aggregate score of 3-2, but it was a landmark effort that put the franchise on soccer’s world-wide map.

According to Lagerwey, the match against Herediano is his team’s most important since the loss to Monterrey.

"After that," he said, "winning this competition became very important to us and, if we get to the knock-out round, we’ll be on the precipice."

Along with capturing a Major League Soccer championship, which RSL did in 2009, winning the Champions League "is the biggest goal of our club," Lagerwey said.

"We’ve been pursuing this for a long time, and it’s incredibly hard," he said. "But I think you find that difficult things are often worth the effort."

Coach Jason Kreis remembers the hollow feeling his club experienced after losing to Monterrey. It’s something he wants to avoid against Herediano.

"For any professional player or coach in a competitive environment like this, it’s a chance to make history," Kreis said. "It’s a chance to be the first U.S. team to win this tournament.

"We came so close last time that I think we all still have that taste in our mouths — wanting to get back there. And we know we have to have a result Tuesday in order to take the next step."

"For any professional player or coach in a competitive environment like this, it’s a chance to make history," Kreis said. "It’s a chance to be the first U.S. team to win this tournament.

"We came so close last time that I think we all still have that taste in our mouths — wanting to get back there. And we know we have to have a result Tuesday in order to take the next step."

There also is a business aspect to the match.

RSL must advance to receive a salary-budget bonus from Major League Soccer. Without it, RSL might be forced to disband its core group of players and start rebuilding.

The league provides the bonus to support teams advancing in Champions League since many need the financial help to retain the players who helped them qualify for the knock-out rounds.

Without the bonus, Lagerwey told The Tribune last month that RSL likely will make some changes.

"I like to say if the team is successful and advances in Champions League, we have a big incentive to keep them together," Lagerwey said. "And conversely, by succeeding in Champions League, we get more money, which allows us to keep the team together."

The bottom line?

"Everybody knows we have to win," forward Fabian Espindola said.

Quakes set Guinness World Record on Groundbreaking Day

6,256 people helped the Quakes break ground on their new stadium, a new Guinness World Record

( 10-21-12)

The San Jose Earthquakes set a Guinness World Record Sunday afternoon for largest participatory groundbreaking, paving the way for future construction on the club's 18,000 seat, privately financed stadium at 1125 Coleman Ave.

The final count was 6,256 participants, smashing the previous mark of 4,532 set by a group in Jaipur, India. An official Guinness World Record adjudicator was on site to verify the record.

"This is a landmark day for all Bay Area soccer fans," Club President Dave Kaval said. "I couldn't be more proud to be a part of this organization. The support from our fans has been tremendous the entire way through this process, but today was something special."

Fans lined up two hours before the event and entered a dirt area which will be the club's future playing field. Club owner Lew Wolff, MLS Commissioner Don Garber and San Jose city officials dug alongside the thousands of participants for two minutes to secure a spot in the record books.

The Earthquakes' new stadium is set for completion in 2014.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

RSL uniforms, 2012 (debut of the one blue sleeve design)

Seattle shutouts Cascadia rival Portland 3-0

(by Tim Booth 10-8-12)

One of the originals still around since the inaugural 2009 season, Brad Evans has witnessed many nights when the fans of the Seattle Sounders top what they've done before.

Playing before one of the largest crowds in league history and against a fierce rival on Sunday night could be the top.

"You always remember certain games and get emotional with certain games," Evans said. " ... Anytime you walk out and you feel the chills, you know it's going to be a special game and you play off those emotions because that pushes you through walls and that's something I thought our guys played off the crowd tonight and we won."

Eddie Johnson scored his 14th goal of the season just minutes after an own goal gave Seattle the lead, Fredy Montero added another in the 62nd minute, and the Sounders raced past Cascadia rival Portland 3-0 before the second largest crowd for a stand-alone MLS game in league history.

Johnson's goal in the 28th minute gave Seattle a 2-0 lead and helped the Sounders move into third-place in the Western Conference, two points clear of fourth-place Los Angeles. It was a vital three points in Seattle's efforts to avoid having the No. 4 seed in the MLS Western Conference playoffs and having to play an extra playoff game against the No. 5 seed with the winner of that likely getting San Jose in the conference semifinals.

So while the massive crowd was impressive and Seattle gave itself a shot at retaining the Cascadia Cup in the rivalry with Portland and Vancouver, picking up three needed points in the playoff race trumped it all.

The official attendance of 66,452 was the second largest for a stand-alone match in league history. There've been doubleheaders featuring international friendlies to go along with a league match, but in terms of a match between two MLS teams, the only one to top what Portland and Seattle drewwas the first match in league history when Los Angeles hosted New York at the Rose Bowl in 1996 in front of 69,255.

Those in attendance for the latest installment of the Cascadia rivalry included MLS commissioner Don Garber, who jumped on a plane Sunday morning just to take in the atmosphere and was headed back to New York after the match on a red-eye.

"I knew this would be a historic event as it would lead in to this weekend. ... It's just another one of these great moments. We've been saying that a lot lately, but it's really true," Garber said.

It was the second-largest crowd to see a Sounders match, behind a friendly against Manchester United in the summer of 2011. Seattle coach Sigi Schmid, who was featured on a large Tifo from the Sounders' supporters before the match, was emotional trying to describe what the setting meant.

"In my imagination of heaven, this is it. A packed house, beating Portland by three, fans going crazy, it can't get better than that," Schmid said.

Seattle got the benefit of an own goal from Portland to take the lead when Mamadou Danso stepped in front of a cross intended for Montero in the 25th minute. Portland originally was charged with a second own-goal, this one by Jack Jewsbury, to give Seattle a 3-0 lead. But that goal was later changed and given to Montero with persistence likely the reason Montero earned his career-best 13th goal of the season. Montero was originally stopped twice by Portland goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts and appeared to barely get his toe on the ball at the same moment Jewsbury got to it.

The result was the same, though; a three-goal lead in a match Seattle mostly dominated.

"It was 10 minutes that created the result," Portland coach Gavin Wilkinson said. "Take 10 minutes out of the first half when we were absolutely horrendous defensively and didn't manage the game well at all and we were scrambling. We started to create some decent movement and created decent chances, but I think we handed it to them."

While two Seattle goals at least had the Timbers help, there was nothing but skill on Johnson's finish. Johnson made a quick cut to the middle of the penalty area where he was waiting for a long pass from Evans. The pass was on target and Johnson took the short-hop and guided it past Ricketts with his left foot.

"All over the field, they beat us to a lot of balls, they beat us to ball in our own box and scored," Portland defender David Horst said. "You're not going to win games like that. I think we were very surprised with the result."

Johnson, who tweeted on Friday night he had received a call-up to the U.S. national team, ran over near a section of Portland supporters holding a finger over his lips while the remaining 65,000-plus fans erupted in celebration.

Johnson said after the game he couldn't comment on his Twitter message. The U.S. is scheduled to announce its roster for upcoming World Cup qualifiers on Monday.

"I'm all for this rivalry thing now," Johnson said. "I couldn't wait to play."

Friday, October 5, 2012

Sounders, Timbers to get near-record MLS crowd

( 10-5-12)

The idea may be unsettling to Seattle Sounders fans, but with less than a month left in the regular season the priority for the playoff-bound Sounders is to avoid the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference and not the Cascadia Cup.

Fortunately for Seattle fans, a win over rival Portland on Sunday would go a long way toward getting out of being the fourth-seed and the extra game that comes with it. It also keeps alive Seattle's hopes of retaining the trophy that goes to the winner of the Northwest rivalry involving the Sounders, Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps.

Three points against the Timbers, in front of an expected crowd of 66,000 and one of the largest in MLS history, could have massive influence on how the next few weeks play out for the Sounders.

"We talked a number of weeks ago we set some goals for ourselves and one of those was to have that No. 2 spot in the west,'' Seattle midfielder Brad Evans said. "That's still within our grasp and something that we really want. If we can eliminate that playoff game that will benefit us in the long run.''

Seattle has already assured itself of a playoff berth, but by sitting in fourth place in the conference standings leaves itself in the uncomfortable position of facing an extra game when the playoffs arrive. As part of the playoff restructuring the Nos. 4 and 5 teams in each conference have a one-game playoff with the winner advancing to face the No. 1 seed in the conference semifinals.

As it stands now, Seattle would face Vancouver in the one-game playoff, before having to face likely Supporters' Shield winner San Jose.

That is not the scenario Seattle wants to face. But the Sounders do have one more game than any other Western Conference team and matches against Real Salt Lake and Los Angeles - the two teams directly in front of Seattle - still to be played.

Seattle won last year's Cascadia Cup, bu needs help to retain the title. Portland currently leads with eight points in the competition between the three Northwest squads, with Seattle second with six points and Vancouver in third. To keep the title, Seattle needs a victory over Portland and the Whitecaps to beat or tie the Timbers this month in Vancouver.

A draw by the Timbers on Sunday will give them the Cascadia title in an otherwise dreary season in Portland.

"It certainly helps us and keeps us in a rhythm of playing important games, so we can't relax and have an easy game,'' Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. "Every game is going to be a game that's going to require concentration and attention from the team, which is good because it keeps you sharp going into the playoffs.''

Only one other stand-alone MLS match has drawn more than 67,000 fans in league history. Los Angeles drew 69,255 for the first game in league history in 1996 and the Galaxy and New York played before 66,237 at Giants Stadium in 2007.

The league has seen larger crowds for doubleheaders featuring international clubs, but in terms of stand-alone matches Seattle will own two of the top four marks in league history after Sunday night.

"We've kind of become accustomed to having 3 or 4 games per year that were almost sellouts,'' Evans said. "Just a great opportunity. Like last year and games prior when we've had so many people, we've played well. For us this is a massive game once again. We're playing for a playoff spot and this will be a big one.''

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Champions League - current situation

-Remaining Matches-

October 23rd - Herediano @ RSL

-Current Standings-

Only the winner of the group advances to the next round.

RSL has to beat Herediano to win the group and advance.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Last-gasp penalty kick lifts RSL to vital CONCACAF victory

(by James Edwards 9-18-12)

For 90 minutes, Tauro FC keeper Vladimir Villareal turned away everything Real Salt Lake fired at him. All of that was wiped away with one clumsy challenge in stoppage time on Tuesday night.

Alvaro Saborio converted a 92nd-minute penalty kick after Villareal tripped him up in the box as RSL escaped with a 1-0 victory on a hot, humid night in Panama in CONCACAF Champions League group play.

"All in all, our quality wasn't good enough tonight, so I think we have to find ourselves very fortunate for Saborio at the end of the game that gets a penalty kick call," said RSL coach Jason Kreis.

Villareal got both hands on Saborio's penalty, but it still found the back of the net as Saborio improved to 12-for-12 all-time in PKs in an RSL uniform.

A tie would've been disastrous to RSL's chances of winning the three-team group and advancing to next February's CCL quarterfinals. Thanks to Saborio's dramatic penalty kick, though, the group's top spot will be up for grabs when RSL hosts Costa Rican club Herediano on Tuesday, Oct. 23.

A two-goal victory over Herediano would be enough to push Real Salt Lake onto the next round.

The win was RSL's first away from Rio Tinto Stadium since a 3-0 win at Chivas USA back on June 16.

"It feels good to go on the road and get a result," said RSL keeper Nick Rimando.

After a 2-0 victory at home against Tauro FC last month, Real Salt Lake was confident it could get a similar result in Panama — especially after traveling to Central America on Saturday to acclimate to the humid conditions.

Despite playing without suspended midfielder Kyle Beckerman, RSL enjoyed the better of the play throughout the match. Its quality in the final third, which has been a major problem the past two months, was again a struggle.

Despite a 57-43 edge in possession and 16 total shots, RSL failed to capitalize on the opportunities, as it took a penalty kick in stoppage time to keep its CCL hopes alive.

"For me, all night we're not finding the right numbers to get involved in the attacks, and that typically means we're not going to have very many successful ones," said Kreis.

"We got to figure out a way to get more numbers involved in our attack if we want to be effective in the attacking half of the field."

Coach Kreis' team came out with a patient attack on Tuesday, not wanting to get beat on the counter attack. After some clutch saves by Tauro's keeper kept the game scoreless, Real Salt Lake had no choice but to throw caution to the wind in the final 10 minutes.

In the 80th minute, Kreis took off defender Tony Beltran in favor of midfielder Sebastian Velasquez to push more bodies into the attack. Saborio was denied a great chance from the top of the box in the 82nd minute, and then Chris Wingert pushed a close-range header on a corner kick just wide in the 88th minute.

Tauro FC had two separate 5-on-2 counter-attack opportunities in the final five minutes, but it was denied both times by great desperate defending by Jamison Olave, who was making his first start in a month.

Unfortunately for RSL, PK hero Saborio will be suspended for the Herediano match next month after picking up a 65th yellow card on Tuesday — his second in CCL group play. Saborio will also be out this Saturday as RSL returns home to face Portland in Major League Soccer play as the striker picked up a shoulder injury on the foul that led to the penalty kick. He will be out 2-4 weeks.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Real Salt Lake faces CONCACAF must-win situation in Panama

(by James Edwards 9-18-12)

Four thousand miles away in Panama, Real Salt Lake is preparing for what Ned Grabavoy said is the team's biggest match of the season.

Success in the CONCACAF Champions League is one of RSL's highest priorities each season, but escaping Panama with a victory over equally desperate Tauro FC this evening at 6 p.m. is an absolute must if RSL has any realistic hope of advancing out of group play.

At the midway point of group play, Real Salt Lake (1-1-0) sits three points behind Costa Rican club Herediano (2-0-0), and three points clear of Tauro (0-2-0). Only the group winner advances.

Unless RSL secures the full three points in Panama, Herediano can clinch first place in the group on Sept. 25 with a victory over Tauro FC — rendering its match with RSL at Rio Tinto Stadium in late October meaningless.

RSL is well rested after coming off a 12-day layoff, and coach Jason Kreis is confident the way his team is playing lately.

"I feel like we've been performing well for several weeks. I feel like we've gotten past our summer doldrums. I feel like the group is feeling pretty confident, positive about what they're doing," Kreis said.

"I also feel like our team performs at its best when they have their backs against the wall, and we clearly have our backs against the wall for this one."

Tauro's hopes are more bleak after opening CCL play with two losses, but a victory over Real Salt Lake keeps its slim hopes alive.

"It's my feeling they are going to approach this game the way I would, which is they have to win. They're not dead yet. They have to beat us and then beat Herediano and then hope for some things to go right between Herediano and us. I would expect that means an ultra-, ultra-aggressive Tauro team come Tuesday night," Kreis said.

In the previous meeting between these two teams at Rio Tinto Stadium, Tauro FC largely sat back and tried to counter-attack. Nothing came of it as Real Salt Lake prevailed 2-0. A similar approach is unlikely at Estadio Rommel Fernandez.

Kyle Beckerman is suspended for the match after picking up a red card late in the Tauro victory last month. He's missed four league games this season and Real Salt Lake is 2-2-0 without him, including its most recent 1-0 loss at Houston.

Game-time temperature will be in the upper 80s to lower 90s, with up to 80 percent humidity. RSL hasn't fared well historically in humid climates, but Kreis hopes that by traveling to Panama on Saturday and getting in a Sunday and Monday training session, his players will be better prepared to handle the conditions.

Familiarity could help RSL as well. Back in September 2010, it ground out a 3-2 victory in Panama over Arabe Unido in the same stadium it will play in tonight.

If Kreis' team can duplicate that success, the CCL Group 2 finale at Rio Tinto Stadium on Oct. 25 between Real Salt Lake and Herediano will determine who advances to the Champions League quarterfinals next February.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Champions League - current situation

-Remaining Matches-

September 18th - RSL @ Tauro

October 23rd - Herediano @ RSL

-Current Standings-

USA beats Mexico in Mexico for the first time

( 8-15-12)

The United States defied expectations – and a rowdy crowd elated by Mexico's Olympic gold – to break a 75-year winless streak against its neighboring rival with an 80th minute goal and a series of saves that delivered a 1-0 victory.

Michael Orozco Fiscal's goal and Tim Howard's late sprawling saves left tens of thousands of fans at intimidating Azteca Stadium in stunned silence. The glum crowds filing out after the game Wednesday night were stark counterpoint to a first half marked by raucous booing, choruses of booing, tossed drinks and laser pointers, all aimed at the Americans or their few fans.

The stadium is one of soccer's toughest for road teams, but the 56,000 fans at the half-full Azteca seemed driven beyond their usual aggressiveness by Mexico's Olympic win on Saturday – some of the winners entered the stadium at halftime to an ear-splitting welcome and rounds of fireworks.

Then, overcoming the side that dominated them for most of the night, the Americans went ahead on a move created by a trio of second-half substitutes.

Brek Shea cut inside Severo Meza on the left flank and crossed to Terrence Boyd at the top of the 6-yard box. With his back to the goal, Boyd took a touch with his left foot and with his right made a quick backheel pass to Orozco Fiscal, who with his left foot poked it from 3 yards past goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa and defender Jorge Torres Nilo for his first international goal.

"The goal was for the U.S. fans and the whole U.S. We made history," said Orozco Fiscal, a 26-year-old defender from Orange, Calif., who plays in Mexico for San Luis.

He entered in the 77th minute for his fifth international appearance and first since October. Shea, back with the team for the first time since February following a season of turmoil in Major League Soccer, came on a minute later. Boyd had entered to start the second half.

"Just happy we won and made history," Shea said. "It's something we haven't done in a long time. Just to be on the roster is cool."

Howard preserved the lead, changing directions to stop a deflected shot by Javier Hernandez in the 85th, then pawing away a 4-yard downward header by Chicharito in the 89th.

"I think it's huge. It's huge for I think all American fans, it's huge for the team, and it's historic," U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. "We were very well aware that we've never won here at the Azteca Stadium. This is an amazing experience for the all the players. We told them before the game: This moment is for you, go and grab it."

The U.S. had been 0-23-1 against El Tri in 75 years of games at Mexico, including 0-19-1 in the thin air at altitude in Mexico City – where they had been outscored 81-14.

"You can shrivel up or you can accept it," Howard said. "We deserved a little bit of luck, and we got it tonight."

Mexico outshot the U.S. 15-6 and had a 10-0 advantage in corner kicks. But the Americans came away with their second big win this year, following February's first-ever victory over Italy, in a friendly at Genoa.

"Tim Howard kept us in the game I don't know how many times," said Klinsmann, who has been trying to change the defensive mindset the American had at times under Bob Bradley.

With the European clubs getting their seasons under way, the U.S. used a half-strength roster and a makeshift central defense.

Mexico also was below strength following the Olympics – Carlos Salcido, its regular left back, started in the win over Brazil in the gold-medal game. El Tri dominated possession but failed to connect on several open shots as the Americans paired Maurice Edu and Geoff Cameron in the center of their back line in the absence of Carlos Bocanegra, Clarence Goodson and Oguchi Onyewu.

"For me, it's a game that I grew up watching," Cameron said of the U.S.-Mexico rivalry. "To be a part of a win for the first time speaks for itself.'"'

The game marked the start of the Americans' second year under Klinsmann, who replaced Bradley last summer after Mexico overcame a two-goal deficit to win the CONCACAF Gold Cup final 4-2.

The U.S. figures to have a lineup closer to full strength for a pair of World Cup qualifiers against Jamaica next month, on the road on Sept. 7 and at Columbus, Ohio, four days later. Mexico plays Costa Rica on those same days.

"We know we have to improve in many, many elements," Klinsmann said. "We have to keep the ball longer. We have to create more chances. We have to do a lot of work still. But I think this gives us a lot of confidence."

Landon Donovan, searching for his 50th international goal, left at the start of the second half because of a tight hamstring and DaMarcus Beasley came in for his 97th international appearance. Boyd came in at the same time to replace an ineffective Jose Torres.

Cameron got his head on a cross from Elias Hernandez in the 56th minute, preventing Hernandez from an open shot in front. A minute later, Jesus Zavala put an open header over the crossbar.

With Ochoa off his line, Kyle Beckerman put a long, sliding shot just over the crossbar in the 60th.

Andres Guardado hooked a free kick just wide to Howard's right post in the 65th after Cameron fouled Hernandez just outside the penalty area. Hernandez then sent an open header wide in the 76th off a cross from Hernandez.

"It was very difficult in high altitude, with many of them flying in from Europe two days ago," Klinsmann said. "But we had a plan, and we tried to execute that plan and getting that win here, I mean it's quite enjoyable."

NOTES: The only previous U.S. non-loss against Mexico in Mexico was a 0-0 tie in a 1997 World Cup qualifier. At the 1999 FIFA Confederations Cup, the U.S. beat New Zealand and Germany in Guadalajara before losing to Mexico 1-0 in overtime at Azteca.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Real Salt Lake’s fan base keeps growing

(by Martin Renzhofer 8-29-12)

By almost any measurement, attendance for Real Salt Lake games has skyrocketed in 2012.

RSL president Bill Manning understood the exact moment when he knew that the franchise turned the corner — when 17,000 fans paid to see RSL play a minor league team in U.S. Open Cup competition in May.

"I said, ‘We’ve got something going,’ " Manning remembered. "The least of my worries now is attendance."

Manning can sit back and enjoy record fan numbers, including eight sellouts so far at Rio Tinto Stadium this season — with the promise of the same for the final four home dates before the start of the Major League Soccer playoffs, including Saturday’s 7 p.m. game against D.C. United.

So far, average attendance at Rio Tinto Stadium is 93 percent of its 20,008 capacity, which mirrors, for the most part, a league-wide trend. In 2011, MLS enjoyed the third-highest attendance among U.S.-based professional leagues.

"We’re killing it, we really are," Manning said of RSL. "We don’t even look at the [Utah] Jazz schedule anymore when we make our schedule. We don’t even look at BYU or Utah anymore. We’ve found we can still sell out when they do."

It’s not that RSL has stolen from the sports pie formerly shared by Utah’s NBA team or the state’s two prominent college football programs. Simply put, the pie has gotten larger.

A younger demographic, between ages 18 and 30, has discovered professional soccer in Utah. And the numbers show they like it.

"We’ve become their team," Manning said.

Part of it is the winning. Since 2008, RSL has become one of the most successful teams in the 19-team league, with an MLS Cup victory in 2009.

And RSL has helped in growing the league.

"Salt Lake has become an important part of the North American soccer landscape, and a market for that is regularly hosting key international soccer events such as the MLS All-Star Game, World Cup qualifying matches and CONCACAF events," said MLS president Mark Abbott. "The stadium is one of the finest soccer venues of its size, and RSL supporters provide an environment that often rivals great soccer crowds throughout the world."

"We had great faith in Salt Lake City, and the market has certainly delivered. We also have great owners in Dave Checketts and Del Loy Hansen."

By season’s end, average attendance at energetic, noisy Rio Tinto sometimes will be at or near 19,000 — a 10 percent jump from last season, which follows a 7.4 percent increase from 2010.

In fact, RSL attendance has increased each season since 2008. Don’t think the players haven’t noticed.

"It’s huge," RSL coach Jason Kreis said. "I continue to believe they are a big part of every success we’ve had here at Rio Tinto Stadium. It feels like a big surge when they’re singing the [team] song. … It’s awesome."

Certainly, the move in October 2008 from Rice-Eccles Stadium to soccer-specific Rio Tinto has been a big reason. Manning acknowledges that in the early years, beginning in 2005, Real "salted" the team’s attendance numbers by offering free tickets, up to 30 percent worth.

Since then, the team has created a department that strictly caters to season-ticket holders. It has worked. Season-ticket holders have increased by more than 50 percent since 2005 and Manning predicts the franchise will approach 10,000 season tickets sold for 2013.

"What we compete for is media," Manning said. "You guys are torn all over the place."

Media is the one hurdle remaining for RSL and the league. The MLS moved its television contract from Fox to NBC starting this season. And while the numbers are better overall, viewership remains negligible. According to the Nielsen ratings, six of the past seven MLS games on NBCSN have drawn an average audience of only about 200,000 viewers. Locally, it is only a bit better for games on CW30 or Ch. 4.

But one step at a time.

"This year, we’ve made a quantum leap," Manning said of RSL’s attendance. "The fan base has just reacted. Our fans really want to see the team succeed. They’re part of our fabric now. There is a good vibe right now.

"Now, it’s just figuring out how to keep the team on track."


RSL’s average yearly attendance

2005 » 18,030

2006 » 16,366

2007 » 15,960

2008 » 16,179

2009 » 16,375

2010 » 17,095

2011 » 17,591

2012 » 18,794

Note: RSL moved from Rice-Eccles Stadium to Rio Tinto Stadium in October 2008

RSL attendance records

20,762 » Largest soccer crowd at Rio Tinto Stadium (Sept. 28, 2011 vs. Chicago Fire)

45,511 » Largest soccer crowd at Rice-Eccles Stadium (Aug. 12, 2006 vs. Real Madrid)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

10-man Real Salt Lake earns huge Champions League victory over Tauro FC

(by Kira Terry 8-22-12)

Real Salt Lake ended its four-game losing streak with a 2-0 win over Champions League opponent Tauro FC Tuesday night, extending the club's CONCACAF hopes and giving the team badly needed momentum.

With the victory, the Salt Lake side looks to take that momentum and confidence gained Tuesday night into Major League Soccer play on Friday as it travels to face the Philadelphia Union.

“I think we try to take the confidence that we scored the goals and we were on top of things,” said RSL head coach Jason Kreis. “It was a night where finally things went right for us so I think when you do that often times the flood gates open — if we can continue with that confidence and say ‘OK, we’re playing well and we scored goals and we won and we had a shut out,’ and take all those positive things and roll them into the game on Friday.”

RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando agreed with his boss and said the club knows exactly what to do with the momentum gained Tuesday.

“If we go into Philly and knock the ball, keep the ball, you could see that we have a lot more energy out there because we kept the ball, we moved off the ball. So if we do that (Friday) I think the boys will be good,” said Rimando.

Both goals Tuesday night came within 10 minutes of each other just into the second half — in the 48th and 58th minutes. Costa Rican striker Alvaro Saborio and captain Kyle Beckerman each tallied a goal, respectively, to give the Claret and Cobalt to victory.

The Claret and Cobalt will return to Champions League play September 18 when it travels to Panama to face Tauro FC again. However, the club will travel without Beckerman due to a red card shown in the 72nd minute on a hard foul.

It's a foul that Kries believes kept RSL from scoring more goals against Tauro FC — something that is significant in Champions League play.

“I think you saw a team in Tauro that was really tiring and I think that if it hadn’t been for the ejection, I think perhaps we could have scored more goals,” said Kreis.

And it's a foul that Kreis also says could cost RSL in Panama.

“I think we’re in a good spot, but I wouldn’t go any further than that,” he said. “I think we did ourselves right tonight by getting a result and a 2-0 result as well that could be important, but it’s going to hurt to not have our captain available for the next match.”

Sunday, August 19, 2012


Espindola swings and misses.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

RSL falls to Herediano 1-0

( 8-1-12)

Real Salt Lake was in action Tuesday night in Central America, making its highly anticipated return to the CONCACAF Champions League.

It was the first time that the Claret and Cobalt fielded their first choice team, having logged just 59 minutes together in 2012.

It wasn't a picture perfect start for RSL, who conceded the only goal of the game in the 13th minute when Elias Aguilar slighted a left-footed shot past goalkeeper Nick Rimando to put Herediano up 1-0.

Yendrick Ruiz played a beautiful back heel to Aguilar near the top of the box, where Aguilar was able to beat RSL captain Kyle Beckerman for the game's only goal.

Fabian Espindola nearly equalized in the 30th minute, beating Herediano keeper Leonel Moreira with a shot that rolled just inches from the left post.

"I thought it was a little bit of a lackluster beginning for us," said RSL coach Jason Kreis. "We couldn't get a hold of the ball and couldn't get any really tempo on the game. Lacked a little bit of energy, and sometimes these things happen when you have to travel so far for a game."

Despite trailing at the half, RSL were able to get off five shots and were also the aggressors in the final 15 minutes before halftime.

That momentum carried over into the second half, but was short lived after the RSL backline was demolished when Nat Borchers was shown a red card for a late challenge in the 58th minute.

"I took a bad touch, went in hard on the tackle, and maybe in another place or another time that's a yellow card if anything," said Borchers. "I think it's really harsh to get sent off for that."

Just two minutes later, defender Jamison Olave had to be helped off the field with an apparent leg injury. He was replaced by Kwame Watson-Siriboe.

When asked about Olave's injury, Kreis was still uncertain about exactly what went wrong with the Colombian defender.

"We're not quite sure yet. It's way too early to tell," the RSL coach said. "He was icing the back of his knee, so I don't know if that's where his hamstring is connecting back there, or if it's actually a knee problem, so we will definitely be mindful about that in the next 24 hours."

Kreis was content to let his team hobble out of Costa Rica with a one-goal loss, which seemed to be confirmed when Espindola was replaced by Abdoulie Mansally in the 67th minute.

"Actually I'm okay with this," said Kreis. "To suffer a really harsh decision with the red card, and have to play a man down for the remaining 30 plus minutes, you have to feel OK with walking out of there down a goal basically in what's going to turn into a home-and-away series, if we can manage to take care of our business against Tauro — which we will hope to."

Although Herediano mustered just one shot in the second half, their one-man advantage was visible with the simple possession they were able to maintain. Waiting to make that clean pass, while controlling possession and the flow of the game was ultimately the end of the night for RSL.

With the new changes to the CONCACAF Champions League tournament, all the focus has been on winning the group to advance.

Tuesday night was just a setback that the Claret and Cobalt — the 2011 runner-up — and the visitors played 55 minutes with the same intensity that shook the soccer world during their last run at the title.

RSL finished with nine shots and will be looking to come out with no less than a point when it hosts Tauro FC on Aug. 21 at Rio Tinto Stadium.

NOTEBOOK: It seemed only fitting for captain Beckerman to be issued a yellow card, given his history of accumulating them in Champions League. RSL striker Alvaro Saborio was also shown yellow, and saw no love from his home country.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

New York Cosmos Join NASL

NEW YORK (July 12, 2012) ̶ The North American Soccer League (NASL) today announced that the New York Cosmos have joined the NASL and will begin league play in the 2013 season. The NASL Board of Governors unanimously approved the Cosmos’ membership during its meetings this week in New York.

It’s been nearly 30 years since the Cosmos, an iconic global soccer brand, have played in a professional league. Yet throughout the absence from the pitch, the franchise has maintained a loyal and dedicated fan following. The team expects to announce more details about its stadium, ticket sales, soccer operations staff and players in the near future.

Over two days of meetings, that concluded today, the NASL Board of Governors also addressed a variety of league matters, including hearing presentations from a record number of potential expansion team owners and discussing possible changes to the league’s competition structure for upcoming seasons.

The Cosmos ownership group New York Cosmos LLC is an international partnership led by industry veteran Seamus O’Brien. They are committed to putting the brand back at the forefront of North American soccer. The New York Cosmos began play in 1971, spending fourteen seasons in the earlier NASL, winning five Soccer Bowl trophies and bringing some of the biggest names in world soccer history to North America. The Cosmos last won the NASL Soccer Bowl in 1982.

"We are extremely proud to welcome the New York Cosmos to the North American Soccer League," said NASL Commissioner David Downs. "As we continue to expand the league and help grow professional soccer in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean, the Cosmos brand and their strong ownership group are a perfect fit with us. The history of the Cosmos and soccer in the New York City area are intertwined. Bringing the Cosmos into the NASL is a logical next step as we embrace the heritage of our own past and now reunite the Cosmos, Strikers, Rowdies and several markets with ties to the NASL’s early days. Most importantly, we look forward to the Cosmos enhancing the quality of our league both on and off the field.”

Seamus O’Brien, Chairman of the New York Cosmos, said, “We are delighted to return to our historic home with the NASL and bring the New York Cosmos back to the playing field. We are committed to running the franchise with the highest possible standards on and off the field, and look forward to putting together a competitive and entertaining team our fans can be proud of.”

Aaron Davidson, the Chairman of the NASL Board of Governors, stated, “The team owners are thrilled to welcome the Cosmos back to their birthplace and home, the NASL. The Cosmos ownership group’s decision to join the NASL is the ultimate validation of our efforts to bring back the league which laid the foundation for soccer in North America. We look forward to respectfully honoring the legacy of the NASL and Cosmos of the 1970’s – 1980’s as we grow today’s NASL and play our role in driving the further development and maturation of soccer in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean.”

NASL to expand to Ottawa

The North American Soccer League (NASL) today announced that Ottawa, Ontario has been awarded an expansion franchise. The new team will be owned by the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG) and play home games at Lansdowne Park. The franchise will commence League play upon the completion of a major stadium reconstruction project which is expected to commence later this year. The North American Soccer League is a Division II men's outdoor professional soccer league with teams based in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.

"We welcome Ottawa to the NASL," said League Commissioner David Downs. "As we continue to expand and collectively grow professional soccer in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean, Ottawa is a natural market with a vibrant business community, large soccer fan base and an exceptional ownership group."

OSEG partner John Pugh, who is also the CEO and Owner of the Ottawa Fury Soccer Club, has been named President of the new NASL franchise. Pugh says he's committed to building a successful team on and off the field: "This will be, by far, the highest calibre of soccer we'll have seen in Ottawa since the 2007 FIFA Men's U-20 World Cup," said Pugh. "We are committed to fielding a competitive team from the get-go, providing a lively, entertaining game day experience for families and establishing strong ties with all soccer players and fans across the region. It's a privilege to have this opportunity."

Ottawa's new 24,000 seat soccer-friendly downtown stadium will be built to exact FIFA specifications. The City of Ottawa and OSEG are partners in the project and Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson says it's an exciting time for the entire city: "Residents are excited about NASL soccer, our bid for the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup, CFL football and other events that will take place in Ottawa thanks to a newly redeveloped Lansdowne Park," said Mayor Watson. "With 65,000 registered players in our region playing the world's game, it's high time Ottawa had a professional soccer team and a world-class stadium."

OSEG is offering Ottawa soccer fans an opportunity to reserve the right to purchase season tickets for their NASL team before they become available to the public at large. A limited number of priority reservation numbers (PRNs) are now available for a fully-refundable $25 deposit or free for current season ticket holders for the Ottawa Fury and Ottawa 67's and PRN holders for Ottawa's new CFL football franchise

Thursday, July 5, 2012

San Jose tifo

San Jose tifo at Stanford Stadium vs LA

Portland madness