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.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Avaya Stadium

Way to go San Jose, beautiful stadium.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Sunday, October 25, 2015

2015 comes to an end

2015 was a rather gloomy year for RSL.

Failure to reach the playoffs for the first time in 8 years is rough, getting knocked out of the US Open Cup early on (although this happens to RSL almost every year) is rough too.

However there is something to keep RSL fans warm this winter, advancement to the knock-out stages of the CONCACAF Champions League.

A little bit of a rainbow to end this stormy year.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

RSL advances to CCL quarterfinals with 1-0 win over Municipal

(by Kyle Spencer 10-20-15)

Jamison Olave's 43rd minute header was enough to seal Real Salt Lake's passage into the CONCACAF Champions League knockout stage for the first time since 2011.

RSL's 1-0 win over Guatemalan side Municipal Tuesday night moved its record in home Champions League fixtures to 8-1-1 all time.  Javier Morales' inswinger off a corner in the 43rd minute gave RSL the lead, as Olave leaped the highest and buried his header inside the far post.

"I couldn't be more happy for (Olave), for out team and for our club, for our fans," RSL coach Jeff Cassar said. "That space was open all night - that front area to the top of the six. I really liked where Jamison started, he started a little bit deeper and was coming in rather than being already there, which we were on a few but beautiful service from Javi and a fantastic finish from Jamison."

RSL threatened all first half, holding a 60 to 40 edge in possession and outshooting Municipal seven to four, with two on goal to the visitors' zero.

But it took a precisely placed cross from Morales, who dictated how the home side played in the attacking third all night.

"Before that play, we had a corner kick and the No. 7, a small guy, he was marking me," Olave said. "I told Javier, ‘just put the ball here because he's too small for me. So the next play he put the ball there and that's how I scored."

Municipal was content to sit deep with the intent to try and catch RSL off-guard on a counterattack until the breakthrough, and then pressed much higher in the second half.  The Guatemalan club's attack finally amounted to a legitimate goal-scoring opportunity in the 76th minute, when it won a free kick around 30 yards out from RSL's goal.  Municipal's captain, Carlos Ruiz, shot off the set piece that appeared destined for the upper left corner of RSL's net, but Nick Rimando flew to his right to tip the ball over the bar.

"When you think of Nicky, you think of massive saves that keep us in games," Cassar said. "That was a huge save. Great technique, great free kick from Carlos Ruiz. (Rimando) had seen that one before so maybe he had an idea of it, but that was a critical time that we needed that play."

Chants of "Nick Rimando" echoed around Rio Tinto Stadium following the momentous denial from the announced 18,132 in attendance. The serenade was then replicated from those who remained in their seats after the final whistle blew.  Captain Kyle Beckerman made a lap around the stadium after the 90 minutes had concluded, high-fiving everyone left on the first row.

"(The fans) have been really great to us since the start, even before I got here," he said. "We knew it was a tough year for everyone, so it was just a thank you for them."

RSL's Champions League quarterfinal date and opponent are yet to be announced, with the final group-stage matches taking place Wednesday, but after finishing with 10 points it's tied for the most with D.C. United.  Last time RSL advanced past the group stage, it became the first-ever MLS team to make it to the final before dropping the second leg, 1-0, to fall 3-2 on aggregate to Monterrey.


Friday, October 16, 2015

Opinion: Jeff Cassar's leadership not good enough for RSL

(by Andy Larsen 10-16-15)

After seven straight years of making the playoffs, Real Salt Lake won't be participating in MLS's postseason this year. Adding insult to injury, RSL's likely failure (current models give them a 0.4 percent chance of squeaking out a playoff spot) comes in a year when MLS expanded the playoff structure, allowing 12 of the 20 teams to make the cutoff.

But RSL will be left out due to its own inadequacy, especially the curious decisions and leadership of head coach Jeff Cassar. Repeatedly, Cassar didn't chase after opportunities to get his team the points they needed. Instead, Cassar was overly satisfied with inept performances in critical situations.  That explicit approval of on-field failure meant that RSL had no drive to improve throughout the season. The team made the same critical mistakes in Wednesday night's critical match against Portland, the loss of which doomed RSL's season for good.

Overall, RSL has dropped 27 points at home, far too many for a team that considers itself a playoff contender. Here's a rundown of some critical home draws and losses, and Jeff Cassar's quote after each.

May 6, 0-0 home draw vs. Los Angeles Galaxy  Cassar: "To sum it up, it's improvement from last week. I thought that our possession was good tonight. I felt that we made good choices on the ball under difficult circumstances. Overall, really pleased with tonight. Obviously, the aim is to get three points at home, and I thought we pushed, but came up just a little bit short on the points, but not on the performance."

June 7, 0-0 home draw against Rapids — Nick Rimando saved a Colorado penalty in the 89th minute to preserve RSL's draw.  Cassar: "Without a doubt, it's a missed opportunity. That being said, I thought we had a good performance. I thought our offense clicked very well. We limited them to not too many opportunities.  We limited them, and created a lot of chances. If we get that one, I think things will open up, and we'll get more."

June 27, 2-2 home draw against Columbus — Jordan Allen's red card in the 77th minute prevented RSL from going for the win.  Cassar: "The guys showed a ton of character and fight today, and I was extremely proud of them. I thought we created enough chances to win this game and put it out of reach when it was 2-1, but we paid the price."

July 4, 1-1 home draw against Orlando — Orlando's Kaka picked up a red card in the first half, but RSL was unable to score in the second period.  Cassar: "We have to get three points at home. We didn't. But our attitude was right. The way we approached the game was right. I can't fault the guys' effort. We tried and we pushed. … Overall, I'm pleased with our guys' effort."

Aug. 15, 1-0 home loss to Portland — Former RSL man Nat Borchers scored a header in the 95th minute to win the game for Portland.  Cassar: "There was some beautiful soccer out there. I was really proud of watching our team play with that attacking style, that relentless style."

Oct. 14, 1-0 home loss to Portland — Jamison Olave's red card and penalty donated gave the Timbers the 1-0 win.  Cassar: "I'm not frustrated with the way we played. It was two teams that was battling extremely hard. Their goal came off of a long clearance. But I thought we moved the ball extremely well, we were missing the final ball again, but I'm not upset with the way our players played. Absolutely not." Cassar repeatedly commended his players' poor performances, and as a result, nothing changed.

RSL's head coach also stood by his new 4-3-3 formation throughout the season despite disappointing results, and occasionally, misfit personnel. RSL chose to switch to the 4-3-3 because the previous reliance on the 4-4-2 diamond caused problems in many matchups. But the similar tactical inflexibility RSL showed with the 4-3-3 created new problems that were far worse than the ones RSL faced a year ago.

That's not to say the problems are entirely Cassar's fault, of course they aren't. In many ways, RSL's roster wasn't good enough this season, and general manager Craig Waibel's squad showed its lack of depth in attack, midfield and defense. But RSL's performances when the squad was at or near full strength, including Wednesday's nail in the coffin, show that RSL's disappointment can't be blamed on injuries and callups alone.  This is nearly a carbon copy of the situation the Utah Jazz found themselves in two seasons ago.  Then, head coach Ty Corbin took over for franchise legend Jerry Sloan and lost in the first round of the playoffs in his first season. From then on, Corbin, too, made puzzling tactical and lineup choices, and seemed out of touch in public comments.  Cassar, just like Corbin, is a good man and a good assistant coach. But the role of head coach is too much for him, and it shows on nearly every level.  It's time for RSL to find a new, fresh, smart voice, one who keeps his players accountable through a rigid implementation of culture and process. RSL needs a leader who will only be satisfied when potential is met, not when the club falls drastically short.


Thursday, October 1, 2015

If every religion had a soccer team, this is what the jerseys would look like

(by Herb Scribner national/ 9-30-15)

Imagine a world where the globe's top soccer players were placed on teams based on their religious affiliations.

That world may not be too far away, as two men in Spain have designed football kits (soccer jerseys) and crests (team logos) for soccer teams based on different religions. The kits and their team crests were published on Behance.

“Football is our religion,” the Behance page reads. “Shouldn’t our religion be football, too?”
There are team kits for Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and even Orthodox believers, among others.

As the creators explained, each proposed team would be filled with professional soccer players who follow a specific faith. For example, stars Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo and Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez, who are Catholic, would compete for Catholic FC.

If that sounds like a star-studded team, you'd be correct. In fact, designers Miguel Sousa and Francisco Pancho Cassis told Deseret News National Catholic FC would likely make the religious World Cup Final, and would probably play AC Islam — which would include soccer stars such as Mesut Ozil, Yaya Toure and Marouane Fellaini.

"Just based on the players, maybe the Final would be played between Catholics and Muslims," Cassis and Sousa wrote in an email. "Most of the best players in the world believe in those two religions. So they would have very strong teams."

So far, this project has garnered more than 7,000 views to the designers' Behance page.
In fact, there's been such a positive reaction that fans have sent Sousa and Cassis design ideas and petitions for other religious soccer teams.

They said they plan on using the ideas for more designs.

"Honestly, we thought this crazy idea would create some controversy, but for now it has just created good vibes," they wrote in an email. "It’s a dream project."

Catholic Football Club

Athletic Club Islam


Football Club Orthodox

Protestants United Football Club

Jewish Association Football Club

Athletic Club Buddism

Hinduism Athletic Club