Welcome to the RSL Cup blog

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. Lately however I've started to worry about the path MLS is taking and the poor decisions they are making that in my mind threaten the growth of soccer as a whole in the US. (see "Columbus conspiracy" section) Soccer in America will grow only when we have a vibrant and diverse minor league system, something that MLS seems to be smothering at the moment. (see "American soccer wars" section) Let's keep our eyes on the situation and hope for the best, a future where grass-roots soccer and the minor leagues can not only exist but flourish, as well as where the contributions and history of the league's early clubs are appreciated and preserved.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Real Salt Lake has a warm, fuzzy coach


(by Brad Rock deseretnews.com 12-19-13)

The only time Jason Kreis cried was at the end, after Real Salt Lake had narrowly missed winning another MLS Cup, and he knew he was leaving.

Jeff Cassar, on the other hand, was choking up on Thursday before he had left his house.

Welcome to the tender side of RSL.

“Jeff is much more affable; he cracks a joke more, and he shows his emotions on his sleeve,” said team president Bill Manning. “Jason never would have done that.”

Imagine that — a coach you want to hug.

RSL introduced its new head coach at snowy Rio Tinto, and it appears this will be a feelings-on-the-shirtsleeves team. Kreis had emotion, too, but when the media was around it was on simmer. Even when he publicly criticized his team, which wasn’t often, he did so in a distant monotone.

Real management says Kreis was great to work with, which was true if you were in his inner circle.

Cassar just has a bigger circle, which apparently extends to nearly everyone. On Thursday he tearfully thanked his wife, as well as owner Dell Loy Hansen, the players, management, fans and even the media.

“Because you’re what’s driving this team,” Cassar said.

He forgot to thank the parking staff, but it was his first day.

He’ll get around to it.

“Every time I think about it,” Cassar said, “I really start to cry, because there are so few opportunities in life and Dell Loy, thank you. Thank you.”

There was a lot of talk about RSL being a “family” on Thursday and it was hard to disagree. General manager Garth Lagerwey and Cassar played together in Miami, along with current RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando and midfielder Kyle Beckerman. Lagerwey and Cassar also were together a season in Dallas.

“I might not have had a pro career if Jeff hadn’t been kind enough to dislocate his elbow in 1997 and then tear his ACL in 1999 in Miami, so as teammates I think we were both healthy on the same team for just one year,” Lagerwey said.

In a sense, Cassar’s appointment is similar to Tyrone Corbin replacing Jerry Sloan with the Jazz. Kreis and Sloan each took their teams to the league finals twice. Both were disciplinarians, and were replaced by an assistant coach.

But that’s where the comparisons end, mainly because Corbin inherited a team in flux, living out the last days of a long run of prosperity. Cassar is inheriting the MLS Cup runner-up.

Hansen said the Salt Lake of 2014 will “never have had less change in RSL’s history.”

Corbin has a team of kids, trying to get respect, while RSL has a side combining national team players and MLS All-Stars with intriguing young talent.

So naturally on Thursday, no one was lowering expectations. Now that Real has one MLS Cup and a Cup final to its credit, management says it isn’t taking a breather.

“Literally nothing changes,” Lagerwey said of transitioning to Cassar. “We’ve been working together every day for six years, so transition on the management side was as easy as you can possibly have.”

It apparently went smoothly on the player side, too. When polled, players overwhelmingly recommended Cassar.

Hansen said he expects the team’s success to continue for at least a decade, thanks to its young players and its new coach. But unlike the Jazz, this isn’t meant to be long-term rebuilding.

“We want to win now,” said Manning.

So the new era of RSL is underway.

Same players, different boss.

“You never really know; in two years time we’ll be able to tell,” Manning said. “But I think we’re all very comfortable with the choice.”

The club waved good-bye to the guy with the hard stare and selected someone as likable as a golden retriever.

That will go a long way.

RSL tabs Jeff Cassar as new head coach in place of Jason Kreis



(by James Edwards deseretnews.com 12-18-13)

Real Salt Lake didn’t have to look far to find its new head coach. It was the guy sitting to Jason Kreis’ right the past seven years.

Jeff Cassar, 39, was promoted from RSL assistant coach to RSL head coach Wednesday afternoon, and he’ll be formally introduced at a press conference Thursday at Rio Tinto Stadium.

Cassar was an assistant to Kreis for all but one month of Kreis' tenure as Real Salt Lake's coach, and that continuity and his familiarity with the RSL culture were big reasons Cassar was tabbed as Kreis’ replacement.

“Jeff was under a really good head coach. Jeff had a very tight relationship with Jason, and was a very important part of our collective success the last couple of years,” said RSL general manager Garth Lagerwey.

Cassar and former RSL assistant Robin Fraser were the two finalists for the head coaching job, a clear indication ownership wanted to maintain the team-is-the-star mentality Kreis established. The club ultimately believed Cassar was the right man to maintain that culture.

“We’re going to reward success. Any successful organization and any successful culture has to reward success, and when people are loyal and do well for you over a long period of time they’re going to get their shot,” said Lagerwey.

Cassar, a former MLS goalkeeper, becomes the third head coach in RSL’s short history.

“Jeff’s been a crucial member of the RSL family since 2007. His terrific leadership abilities, strong character and understanding of our locker room, tactics and overarching club culture will allow us to continue to compete for trophies in 2014 and beyond,” said RSL owner Dell Loy Hansen in a press release.

During his seven years as RSL’s goalkeepers coach, Cassar was instrumental in helping Nick Rimando elevate himself into a U.S. national team-caliber 'keeper who will likely be on the U.S. World Cup roster next summer.

Over the past seven years Cassar also served as RSL’s top assistant coach, which gives him tremendous insight into the ins and outs of the organization.

“He’s been intimately involved with many aspects of the coaching staff and organization for a while,” said Lagerwey. “He’s been our top minor league scout. He has a tremendous network in terms of kids filtering up through the lower levels. He’s really dialed into the player pipeline and he’s really dialed into our academy, and those are all strengths that will help him and a foundation to build on.”

Cassar's MLS playing career spanned 11 seasons, including two stints with Dallas (1996-97 and 2003-06), one with Miami (1998-2001) and one with the MetroStars (2002). During that time, he made 79 appearances, finishing with 13 shutouts, a 28-36-10 record and a career goals-against average of 1.76.

It was a good career, but by no means a great career. What separated him from others was his work ethic, a big reason why he spent half a season in the English Premier League with Ipswich Town and the Bolton Wanderers. Even though he never made an appearance with a senior EPL squad, Cassar started in seven reserve games.

Real Salt Lake said Cassar won’t make public comments about his hiring until Thursday’s press conference. However, when he joined RSL back in May 2007, he said the family culture in Utah was a big reason he took the job, and that likely hasn’t changed.

"The people are great, and I'm a massive family guy, and this place just oozes family. It oozes being outside and mingling and meeting people. It's not like everyone's in their own hole,” said Cassar back in 2007.

Cassar has big shoes to fill replacing Kreis, who led RSL to six straight playoff appearances from 2008 to 2013. Cassar was his right-hand man throughout it all.

If Cassar is able to maintain and build on that success in 2014 and beyond, the $20,000 tampering fine that RSL paid back in 2007 for hiring Cassar away from FC Dallas will continue to be some of the best money ever spent by the club.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

RSL's 2013 season - one gigantic kick in the crotch

RSL's 2013 has been one gigantic kick in the crotch!
 
Sure, 2013 was supposed to be a "rebuilding" year and we made it all the way to the final. Not only that but we had a chance at the every other possible title available to MLS teams.
 
First we had a shot at the Supporters Shield, an outside shot but a shot nonetheless.
 
Second, the US Open Cup was ours for the taking, a game played on our home turf against this year's Relegation Boot recipient.
 
Third, we made it all the way to MLS Cup.
 
Finally, according to the rules since the inception of the CONCACAF Champions League we would qualify for next year's tournament since we made it to MLS Cup.
 
But no, the planets were out of alignment, our chi was off, and we finished the year with nothing but a kick in the crotch and a thank you sir.
 
The Supporters Shield came down to the last weekend but we were beat out, we lost the US Open Cup to DC United by a score of 1 - 0, we lost MLS Cup in a shootout to Sporting Kansas City, and thanks to a change of rules not approved until after the season was over Portland will play in the Champions League since they finished with the best record in the Western Conference (NY Red Bulls finished with the best record in the East and won the Supporters Shield.)
 
Anyway, goodbye 2013, thank heavens for the off-season. I need to get my mind on something else and forget this year.
 
 
 
RSL won't participate in 2014-2015 tourney after CONCACAF vote     
 
(realsaltlake.com 12-13-13)
 
 Real Salt Lake announced on Friday that the club will not participate in the 2014-2015 CONCACAF Champions League. The CONCACAF executive committee voted today to adopt U.S. Soccer’s and Major League Soccer’s proposal to alter the USA’s qualification rules and that the changes will be implemented in the 2014-2015 round of the tournament.
 
Last January, Major League Soccer proposed a change to the USA’s qualification rules that was officially submitted by the U.S. Soccer Federation for CONCACAF approval. MLS proposed that the berth given to the MLS Cup runner-up be given instead to the MLS team that has the best regular season finish in the conference opposite of the Supporters’ Shield winner. The league believes that this change would make finishing first in each conference more significant. If one team were to qualify with multiple berths or a Canadian MLS team were to qualify, the berth would then go to the U.S. MLS team with the next best regular season record.

Real Salt Lake would have qualified under the old rules as 2013 MLS Cup runner-ups but that berth will now be awarded to Portland Timbers who finished the regular season first in the Western Conference – opposite of Supporters’ Shield winners New York Red Bulls.

Portland Timbers will join MLS Cup winners Sporting Kansas City, Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup winners D.C. United and New York as the four U.S. based MLS representatives in the 2014-2015 CONCACAF Champions League. The winner of the 2014 Canadian Championship – contested between MLS clubs Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Toronto FC and Montreal Impact and NASL side FC Edmonton – will also qualify for the 2014-2015 CONCACAF Champions League.

The winner of the CCL advances to the FIFA Club World Cup. Real Salt Lake reached the final of the 2010-2011 CONCACAF Champions League but ultimately lost to Mexican side Monterrey. RSL is the only MLS team to ever reach the CCL Final.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Coach Jason Kreis officially leaves RSL to become the new coach of New York City FC


(by Mike Sorensen deseretnews.com 12-10-13)

To almost no one’s surprise, Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis is leaving RSL to take over as the new coach of New York City FC, a 2015 Major League Soccer expansion franchise.

"I'd like to thank Jason for a remarkably successful run during his nine years with Real Salt Lake as both a player and as a head coach," RSL owner Dell Loy Hansen said in a statement Tuesday night. "Jason obviously leaves the Utah soccer scene significantly better than he found it, building the competitive foundation of one of Major League Soccer's elite organizations.’’

Hansen said the club would name a new coach as soon as the end of next week.

“We will continue to move forward — quickly — with the 'team is the star' ethos that he and our general manager Garth Lagerwey implemented back in 2007," Hansen said. “We are certain that the job Jason leaves behind — with both the accomplished veteran core and the glut of promising youth — is quite attractive to potential candidates.’’

It has been no secret that Kreis was the top candidate for the New York job and rumors have been circulating since September. Kreis even addressed the possibility after Saturday’s MLS Cup loss to Kansas City, saying he was “going into hiding for three days" and adding, “What happens over the next couple of days is real hard.’’

According to a report on MLSsoccer.com, Kreis informed his players of his decision over dinner at his house Tuesday night.

“I would like to thank everyone associated with Real Salt Lake, including the fantastic fans, for the many special years I spent there,’’ Kreis said in a statement from the New York club. “I wish them the very best for the future.’’

The New York franchise is owned by the same owners of Manchester City FC of the English Premier League and Kreis said he will “immerse myself in football in the football operations in Manchester, observing some of the leading figures of European football.’’

“I am looking forward to making my contribution to New York City FC from the very outset,’’ Kreis also said. “The opportunity to develop the first professional club based in New York City was impossible to pass up. There will be a lot to do before our inaugural season in 2015, but I am confident that with the support teams in the (Manchester) City organization, we will be well-placed to hit the ground running.’’

Kreis, who turns 41 at the end of this month, played college soccer at Duke and then competed in Major League Soccer for 12 seasons. He played nine years with the Dallas Burn before finishing his playing career with Real Salt Lake. He retired early in the 2007 season to take over as RSL's head coach, replacing John Ellinger.

Kreis’ biggest accomplishment was winning the MLS championship in 2009 over the L.A. Galaxy. Besides last week’s second-place finish in MLS Cup, he also led RSL to a CONCACAF Champions League final appearance in 2011 and a U.S. Open Cup final appearance this past fall. His record with RSL over all competitions was 111-87-69. His No. 9 jersey was retired by RSL in 2011.

In his postgame remarks Saturday, Kreis said the future looks bright for RSL.

“I don’t think this team is going to be changed in any large way,’’ Kreis said. “There’s a ton of really young talented players with this group.’’
The 20th Major League Soccer club, New York City FC, announced Tuesday that it had appointed former Real Salt Lake head coach Jason Kreis as its first head coach in club history as it is set to open its inaugural season in 2015. “Jason is one of the true pioneers of Major League Soccer, and a leader any team would be proud to have at the helm,” NYCFC Sporting Director Claudio Reyna said in the NYCFC release. “His skills and experience, together with his commitment to quality football, make him the ideal choice to lead New York City FC in its first season and beyond. He has already left a historic mark on the league, both as a player and coach, and we have every confidence in him continuing to do so at New York City FC.” As NYCFC is not set to kick off in MLS competition until the 2015 season, NYCFC announced in the release that Kreis will officially begin his new venture with the expansion MLS club in January 2014. The New York City based club said Kreis will first travel to England where its English Premier League, Manchester City FC, is located where he will work closely with its head coach, Manuel Pellegrini. NYCFC also stated in the release that during Kreis’ time in England with Manchester City FC he will observe “the club’s approach to coaching, training and player development, with the goal of applying similar approaches to New York City FC.”

Read more at http://www.ksl.com/?nid=854&sid=27981827#2cMQqvQ8kZ1c2fIF.99

Monday, December 9, 2013

RSL's quest to win MLS Cup comes up agonizingly short in Kansas City

 
 

 (by James Edwards deseretnews.com 12-7-13)
 
Shootouts provide drama unlike anything else in sports.
 
Five years ago penalty kicks provided Real Salt Lake with the absolute highest of highs and delivered the franchise’s only title. Saturday afternoon, however, RSL experienced the absolute agony of penalties.

In a wildly entertaining MLS Cup level at 1-1 after regulation and overtime — a game that saw RSL hit the post three times — Sporting Kansas City prevailed 7-6 in a marathon shootout that went to the 10th round of penalties at Sporting Park.

The final dagger for Real Salt Lake came when Lovel Palmer banged the team’s 10th penalty off the crossbar, securing Kansas City’s first MLS Cup since 2000 in front of a passionate sellout crowd of 21,650.

“In 2009 we were the happy guys and tonight not,” said RSL midfielder Javier Morales.
As difficult as swallowing another runner-up finish was, coach Jason Kreis said the 20-kick shootout in no way defines his team this season.

“For me there was no way for this group to lose. We were in a no-lose situation in this match. Just by getting to this final was a remarkable statement about what this group of players has been able to do,” said Kreis, whose team also lost the U.S. Open Cup final a couple of months ago. “Very easy to look at that in a negative way, but I don’t think we should because frankly I thought we played outstanding tonight. It wasn’t like we came here to defend or bunker in or break them on a counter.”

In a match that featured fantastic momentum swings throughout 90 minutes of regulation and 30 minutes of overtime, the shootout was no different.

Kansas City had an opportunity to win in the fifth round, but didn’t. Real Salt Lake had a chance to win in the eighth round, but didn’t.

The 10th round of kicks eventually determined the cup winner as Aurelien Collin buried his kick for Sporting Kansas City and Palmer caromed his off the bar.

“The amount of close plays, goals called back, you just look back on it, I don’t think I’ve ever played in a game where there was that many momentum changes and close plays,” said RSL midfielder Ned Grabavoy.

Alvaro Saborio — RSL’s regulation goal scorer — and Grabavoy quickly put RSL in a big hole in the shootout when Saborio went high and Grabavoy was saved with Kansas City taking a quick 2-0 lead.

A Nick Rimando save and makes by Kyle Beckerman and Joao Plata helped RSL close the deficit to 3-2, which seemed to merely set the stage for Graham Zusi to steal the spotlight with a championship-winning PK. However, he pushed his shot well over the crossbar. Morales calmly converted his penalty to send it into extra kicks.

After two rounds of makes, Kansas City’s Lawrence Olum put his penalty in the eighth round wide, which set the stage for Sebastian Velasquez to be the Robbie Russell-esque hero of 2013. However, his shot was saved by Kansas City 'keeper Jimmy Nielsen.

“For me those penalty kick situations are like flipping a coin,” said Kreis.

Well before it got to penalties though, there were opportunities for Real Salt Lake to seize its second championship in franchise history. After all, it hit three posts over the course of the game — something that’s plagued the franchise in big matches through the years.

The first post came in the 29th minute when Chris Wingert’s dangerous service forced Nielsen to punch the ball. He ended up punching it straight up and slightly behind him. Findley tried tapping it home out of midair, but hit the inside of the post instead.

On a frozen field that made conditions very difficult to deal with, both teams struggled to settle into any rhythm.

“Both teams couldn’t settle things down at all. We were panic stations when we got the ball, giving it away too cheaply. Both teams played very direct in the first half,” said Kreis.

Early in the second half Real Salt Lake settled into the game, and not surprisingly its goal game shortly thereafter.

RSL broke the deadlock in the 52nd minute when Saborio chested down a cheeky chip from Beckerman and blasted it past Nielsen for the 1-0 lead.

The goal sent RSL’s 1,500 fans in the corner of Sporting Park into pandemonium as their club was 38 minutes from lifting MLS Cup.

Over the next 21 minutes RSL twice came agonizingly close to doubling that advantage, but was denied by the post each time. Beckerman’s shot in the 62nd minute caromed off the post and over the end line, and then in the 73rd minute Morales chipped a shot over Nielsen that hit the left post and then trickled across the goalmouth and out over the end line again.

“To be honest I think this group is a little bit used to that. We’ve had a lot of games where the ball comes off the woodwork,” said Kreis, who quickly added: “Kansas City had a couple clear-cut chances they didn’t put on the frame. I could whine about hitting the posts. (Kansas City coach Peter Vermes) could whine (that) his players should’ve put them on frame.”

Just three minutes after Morales was denied, Collin injected life into a dormant Kansas City side by heading home a Zusi corner kick to level the proceedings at 1-1.

The last 10 minutes of regulation were shaky for both sides, but particularly for RSL with Kansas City trying to build on the late momentum.

The fatigue of playing on a frozen field started to catch up with both teams in overtime, which quickly set the stage for penalties.


Saturday, December 7, 2013

Real Salt Lake: RSL looking to impose will on Kansas City in MLS Cup

(by Brad Rock deseretnews.com 12-6-13)

 A month ago when Real Salt Lake opened the playoffs at Los Angeles, it approached the match with a very conservative, defensive posture and was incredibly lucky to only lose 1-0. On a different night, the Galaxy could've scored three or four goals and won the series in the first leg.

In RSL's three playoffs games since, the club has wisely reverted back to its aggressive, attack-first mentality, and the results have followed suit with three straight victories and a 7-2 goal differential.

Heading into Saturday’s MLS Cup at Sporting Park, affectionately referred to as Blue Hell, Real Salt Lake knows from experience it can’t afford to sit back.

“For me it seems like the players are more relaxed and enjoying the moment and playing more free, which is when we’re at our best,” said RSL midfielder Ned Grabavoy.

When Real Salt Lake is on top of its game, it’s pinging the ball around the midfield and the opponent is doing a lot of chasing.

That’s how Kansas City likes to play at home too, and Saturday’s championship is all about which side can impose its will on the other — not to mention push aside the misery mother nature has in store with forecasted temperatures in the teens.

“One thing that will be important for them playing here is to try and possess the ball a little bit because typically we outpossess our opponents at home, and they’re known to be a possession team,” said Kansas City midfielder Benny Feilhaber. “If they’re able to possess the ball a little bit, that will help them and obviously our goal is not let them do that.”

Fellow Kansas City midfielder Paulo Nagamura said making life difficult for RSL midfielder Javier Morales is the key to slowing down Real Salt Lake.

“They’re a very creative team, especially with Morales. He’s a guy that we always have to keep an eye on him and don’t let him create much. He’s the most dangerous guy on that team. If you give him an inch or so he’ll make you pay,” said Nagamura.

Kansas City beat Real Salt Lake 2-1 in the only regular-season meeting between the teams at Rio Tinto Stadium back in June, and the visitors had success by frustrating Morales.

RSL was missing four regulars — Alvaro Saborio, Nick Rimando, Kyle Beckerman and Tony Beltran — because of international duty, but Jason Kreis’ team could be at full strength for Saturday’s 2 p.m. MST kickoff on ESPN.

Saborio and Chris Wingert were the only two RSL regulars who missed Game 2 of the Western Conference final against Portland, but they’ve trained all week and are available.

“I’m good to go, absolutely. I don’t know if I’m in the lineup or the 18, but I’ll be looking to help the team in any capacity I can,” said Wingert.

The return of leading-scorer Saborio to the attack could be a boost as well, especially if he’s paired with Robbie Findley. Even though players like Joao Plata and Olmes Garcia might bring a bit more flare to the match, RSL has only lost one match this season (3-1-5) when Findley and Saborio are in the starting lineup together.

Saborio and Findley can only be successful if the nine guys behind them do their job, and Wingert said he’s looking forward to the challenge of trying to do that on the biggest of MLS stages.

“We’re going to try and do our best to impose our will on them. Obviously we like to possess the ball and try and take it to the other team and press them a little bit — even though of course they’re going to have the crowd behind them and they’re going to be trying to put us back into our end,” said Wingert. “If we’re capable of doing that like the team did last week … we’ll be in good shape.”

Both franchises have hoisted MLS hardware before, most recently with Real Salt Lake in 2009. Kansas City's last title came in 2000, a drought home-field advantage could play a big role in ending Saturday.

Friday, December 6, 2013

In our opinion: RSL's title hopes bode well for soccer's future in Utah


(deseretnews.com 12-2-13)

The skeptics who once doubted major league soccer could thrive in Utah are now drowned out by the roars of fans ready to celebrate another championship by Real Salt Lake.

Of course, the squad will have to make it past a team from Kansas City to claim its second Major League Soccer Cup in five years. But win or lose, the RSL franchise already has done its fans proud and proven that a sport beloved around the world can generate in Utah the same kind of loyalty bordering on fanaticism as it does in places like Liverpool, Madrid or Rio de Janiero.

To get to the season finale on Dec. 7, Real’s squad of savvy veterans and emerging new talent vanquished the top-seeded Portland Timbers in a two-match display of focus, confidence and strategic mastery. The Portland fans were no doubt disappointed by the outcome, but continued throughout the final match to chant their team’s fight song in a show of enthusiasm even the loudest NFL arenas don’t often exceed.

The same exuberance over the years has been displayed by sold-out RSL crowds chanting fight songs and anthems, which include a song from a few years ago that begins with the lyrics, “We are fighting as the mighty Real; we came together if you’re wondering how….”

Yes, there are those who might well be wondering how this came together – a franchise that started with shaky expectations but has since given the world’s most popular sport a firm foothold in the Rocky Mountains.

Utah is, in many ways, a natural place to promote soccer, which is known in many other nations as football. Not only is there a large and growing Hispanic population here that appreciates the sport, the area also is home to many people who served church missions in areas where the sport dominates. They come home with a newfound appreciation for the game. In addition, youth soccer leagues thrive along the Wasatch Front, building a ready made base of young and excited fans.

We were not happy with the way RSL and state lawmakers pushed a public financing deal on taxpayers to help with construction of Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy. Such public support seems to be built into the pro forma of many major league franchises in virtually all sports these days, which is particularly unfortunate at a time of tight budgets and economic hardship. Despite their connection to civic pride, sports ought to be able to survive on their own, as any other business. There is no denying, however, that soccer has a loyal following in Utah and that RSL’s success feeds that enthusiasm.

Of course, in the world of professional sports, nothing is certain (which is another reason taxpayer involvement ought to be avoided). Financial concerns perennially challenge small-market franchises like RSL, which recently underwent an ownership change and is now in the midst of a change involving a major corporate sponsorship. All of that aside, RSL has proven its viability as a source of local pride and civic identity.

That bodes well for the future of the sport in Utah — just as the team’s gritty, never-give-up attitude on the field bodes well for its chances in December to further secure a place of prominence in what’s known as the world’s “beautiful game.”

Real Salt Lake grabs Western Conference title, books trip to MLS Cup


(by Kira Terry ksl.com 11-24-13)

Real Salt Lake was crowned the Major League Soccer Western Conference Champion Sunday night and punched its ticket to the 2013 MLS Cup final with a 1-0 win over the Portland Timbers in the Rose City.

The Salt Lake club entered the second leg of the Western Conference final up 4-2 on the aggregate score from the first leg of the series Nov. 10 with the Timbers.

RSL forward Robbie Findley increased the Salt Lake club's aggregate spread to 5-2 in the 29th minute when he put a ball past Portland goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts. Just moments before, RSL midfielder Luis Gil took a strike at Ricketts and it was blocked, but Findley got a foot on it putting it past Ricketts and into the back of the net.

The Timbers had two first-half goals from defender Pa-Modou Kah called back by the official due to a foul called on forward Rodney Wallace and then an offside’s call to Kah.

 With the 1-0 win, the Claret and Cobalt broke the Timbers' 16-game unbeaten home streak in MLS competition at JELD-WEN Field dating back to April 6. The Timbers went 14-1-5 in the MLS regular season at its fortress.  Portland finished the match with the majority of the possession at 54.9 percent to 45.1 percent for the Salt Lake club, but the Timbers failed to convert any of its 18 attempts on goal. The Claret and Cobalt’s single goal on the night was enough to take the series and grab the Western Conference title, the trophy and a trip to the MLS Cup.

RSL went 1-0-2 at JELD-WEN Field this season and increased to 4-0-2 in all competitions against the Timbers this season. RSL is now 7-1-3 all-time against the Timbers.  The Salt Lake club played without two regulars — forward Alvaro Saborio and defender Chris Wingert — due to injuries. Defender Lovel Palmer and rookie forward Devon Sandoval got the starting nods from RSL head coach Jason Kreis. Palmer went 59 minutes before being relieved by defender Abdoulie Mansally, and Sandoval left the match in the 85th minute when he was subbed out for forward Olmes Garcia.

RSL will travel to face Sporting Kansas City in the MLS Cup final on Dec. 7. Sporting Kansas City advanced as the Eastern Conference victor Saturday night with a 2-1 over the Houston Dynamo.


Real Salt Lake was crowned the Major League Soccer Western Conference Champion Sunday night and punched its ticket to the 2013 MLS Cup final with a 1-0 win over the Portland Timbers in the Rose City. The Salt Lake club entered the second leg of the Western Conference final up 4-2 on the aggregate score from the first leg of the series Nov. 10 with the Timbers. RSL forward Robbie Findley increased the Salt Lake club's aggregate spread to 5-2 in the 29th minute when he put a ball past Portland goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts. Just moments before, RSL midfielder Luis Gil took a strike at Ricketts and it was blocked, but Findley got a foot on it putting it past Ricketts and into the back of the net. The Timbers had two first-half goals from defender Pa-Modou Kah called back by the official due to a foul called on forward Rodney Wallace and then an offside’s call to Kah. With the 1-0 win, the Claret and Cobalt broke the Timbers' 16-game unbeaten home streak in MLS competition at JELD-WEN Field dating back to April 6. The Timbers went 14-1-5 in the MLS regular season at its fortress. Portland finished the match with the majority of the possession at 54.9 percent to 45.1 percent for the Salt Lake club, but the Timbers failed to convert any of its 18 attempts on goal. The Claret and Cobalt’s single goal on the night was enough to take the series and grab the Western Conference title, the trophy and a trip to the MLS Cup. RSL went 1-0-2 at JELD-WEN Field this season and increased to 4-0-2 in all competitions against the Timbers this season. RSL is now 7-1-3 all-time against the Timbers. The Salt Lake club played without two regulars — forward Alvaro Saborio and defender Chris Wingert — due to injuries. Defender Lovel Palmer and rookie forward Devon Sandoval got the starting nods from RSL head coach Jason Kreis. Palmer went 59 minutes before being relieved by defender Abdoulie Mansally, and Sandoval left the match in the 85th minute when he was subbed out for forward Olmes Garcia. RSL will travel to face Sporting Kansas City in the MLS Cup final on Dec. 7. Sporting Kansas City advanced as the Eastern Conference victor Saturday night with a 2-1 over the Houston Dynamo.

Read more at http://www.ksl.com/?nid=857&sid=27776798#8vXC1OPYvKMLKJKk.99