I get that this is the pre-season, and clearly for the officials it must be their preseason as well, as some questionable calls turned what had been a good RSL performance into a typical debacle of officiating that we saw far too often in 2011. Before I get into my thoughts on the match, here is the official post match communications from RSL:
AFTER LOSING TWO MEN, REAL SALT LAKE LOSES 2-0 TO LA GALAXY
Los Angeles Scores Twice in Final 10 Minutes after Claret-and-Cobalt Drop to Nine Men
TUCSON, Ariz. (Saturday, February 25, 2012) - Real Salt Lake suffered its first taste of defeat during the 2012 preseason tonight in the FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup, dropping a 2-0 result to the Los Angeles Galaxy at Kino Sports Complex. Real Salt Lake was standing toe-to-toe with the Galaxy through 70 minutes of play, but red cards issued seven minutes apart to midfielders Ned Grabavoy and Yordany Alvarez tipped the scales, with LA able to exploit the two-man advantage and tally twice in the final 10 minutes.
Real Salt Lake rolled out its first-choice XI for significant minutes for the first time this preseason, and it took about a quarter-hour for the group to start clicking and slowly take control of the possession battle. Steady forays into the final third would soon follow, with lengthy runs up the middle of the field by Grabavoy and wide attacks by forwards Fabian Espíndola andPaulo Jr. tilting things in RSL's favor. However, it was stellar dead ball service by captain Kyle Beckerman that would provide the most danger for the Claret-and-Cobalt, with DF Chris Schuler's glancing header off a free kick in the 45th minute that missed just wide marking the best chance for RSL in the first half.
The second half was a choppier affair, with Alvarez picking up his first caution five minutes into the stanza for a challenge from behind in midfield. The Galaxy were able to create numerous set piece chances as the match wore on, but RSL nearly took advantage off one via a quick counterattack and cross by Espíndola, only to see DF Jamison Olave's header just miss the target around the hour mark.
The rest of RSL's communications after the jump:
The usual substitutions would start soon after, but it was an unplanned change in the 70th minute that changed the course of the match for RSL, as Grabavoy would be sent off for a disputed 50-50 challenge that involved a pair of LA players just outside the Galaxy penalty area. Things would go from bad to worse in the numbers department seven minutes later when Alvarez was shown his second yellow card, forcing another early exit for RSL and ample space to explore for Los Angeles.
The Galaxy would indeed exploit the two-man advantage when FW Paulo Cardozo put the SoCal side on the board in the 81st minute, his 20-yard shot glancing off the hands of GK Nick Rimando before bouncing across the goalline. The Utahns had a quality chance to get one back in the 85th minute when a free kick bounced through the far side of the penalty area and into space at the feet of DF Diogo de Almeida, but the rookie's poke from 10 yards bounced just wide of the target.
Two minutes later it was a well-placed service from the left flank by MF David Beckham creating havoc, but FW Mike Magee's first-touch volley was even better, his finish just inside the right post doubling the Galaxy advantage and bringing the scoreline to its eventual 2-0 finish.
RSL Match Notes
- RSL Head Coach Jason Kreis on the match: "I was very pleased with things when we were on level terms. I thought we did a great job of maintaining the rhythm of the game, keeping the ball and creating chances. The result, of course we don't like, but I'll chalk that up to some difficult choices."
- Kreis on RSL's defensive effort: "I think [Los Angeles] created two chances against us when we were level in numbers, one in the first half that was a giveaway in our own half and one in the second half off a throw-in. We continue to talk to our players about recognizing situations such that we don't give away chances and move forward."
- Real Salt Lake's first loss of the 2012 preseason dropped its record in exhibition play to an even 1-1-2 with a pair of contests left to go before its MLS First Kick contest on Saturday, March 10 against the same LA Galaxy side (8:30 p.m. kickoff, live coverage on ABC4 beginning at 8:00 p.m.). RSL's opener in the Desert Diamond Cup on Wednesday came against the New York Red Bulls, who will be the first team to visit Sandy in regular season play a week later on March 17 (8:00 p.m. MT, click here for ticket information).
- Click here for the MLSsoccer.com recap of tonight's RSL-LA contest. In the upcoming hours, MLSsoccer.com's Video Homepage will post highlights of the contest, while RSL's Facebook home will house a photo gallery including images from tonight's match at the Kino Sports Complex.
- The same three members of RSL's regular starting XI that missed Wednesday's opener vs. New York were again on the bench for the contest as they nurse themselves back towards full health - DF Nat Borchers (L quadriceps strain), MF Javier Morales (R quad strain) and FW Álvaro Saborío (R knee internal injury). In addition, MF Jonny Steele and trialist DF Kasali Casal sat out due to injury.
- Thankfully for Real Salt Lake, the red cards issued to Grabavoy and Alvarez tonight will not force the midfield duo to sit out of Wednesday's round-robin closer against the New England Revolution, which kicks off at 6:00 p.m. MT and can again be seen live online courtesy of the streaming video feed at MLSsoccer.com.
- With New England taking the second contest of tonight's doubleheader 2-0 over New York, the Desert Diamond Cup standings look as such heading into Wednesday's Matchday #3. The first tie-breaker to determine the championship is goal differential, followed by head-to-head result, then goals for and finally goals against.
Pts Record GD GF/GA
NE 6 2-0-0 +3 5/2
LA 3 1-1-0 +1 4/3
RSL 3 1-1-0 -1 1/2
NY 0 0-2-0 -3 0/3
Real Salt Lake 0 : 2 LA Galaxy
LA - Paulo Cardozo (unassisted) 81
LA - Mike Magee (David Beckham) 87
RSL - Yordany Alvarez (caution, tackle from behind) 50
LA - Andrew Boyens (caution) 53
RSL - Ned Grabavoy (ejection, reckless challenge) 70
RSL - Yordany Alvarez (ejection, second caution) 77
Real Salt Lake Line-up
Nick Rimando; Tony Beltran (Terukazu Tanaka 64), Jamison Olave (Leone Cruz 84), Chris Shuler (*Carlos Salcedo 84), Chris Wingert (Diogo de Almeida 64); Yordany Alvarez (red card 77), Kyle Beckerman (Sebastian Velasquez 64), Luis Gil (Enzo Martinez 81'), Ned Grabavoy (red card 70); Paulo Jr. (Emiliano Bonfigli 64), Fabian Espíndola (Cody Arnoux 73)
* - RSL-Arizona Academy player
Los Angeles Galaxy Line-up
Referee: Allen Chapman
Referee's Assistant: Peter Balciunas, Mark Boyko
Fourth Official: Tyler Ploeger
So for 60 plus minutes we saw what could well be the RSL staring lineup against LA in the MLS season opener and while they didn't convert their chances on goal, they did look good as a unit. I was very impressed with the play of Ned Grabavoy, who has shown this preseason that he might be ready to really step up to another level for RSL this year. I thought Yordany played well on the outside of the diamond, but clearly that is a role that he is still adjusting to, as was Luis Gil who wasn't bad but I have come to expect more from him. It could be that adjustment to the off season growth spurt that might have him a bit off his form from last year.
I thought Tony Beltran and Chris Schuler showed why they will be forces to be reckoned with in 2012, and of course Jamison Olave is simply one of the most dominant players in MLS. I thought the combination of Fabian Espindola and Paulo Jr. up top was interesting and while their styles are similar I could see them being a dangerous duo. I was very happy again to see the bursts of speed from Paulo Jr. that show me that he is indeed back and healthy to where he was at the start of last year.
Now to the questions on everyone's mind, was it a red card? Nope, and to be honest if Ned wasn't pushed into the play by Beckham there wouldn't have even been foul, but clearly when David Beckham jumps up and yells at the official, who I believe this is some of his first action as the head official in a match with MLS teams, and all of a sudden a red card is pulled out. Remembering that this is a pre-season match it seems a bit harsh to me. I did like that RSL even down a man and with a bunch of subs, still was playing a fairly attacking style and didn't go to bunkering.
Now in a pre-season match, when a team is a man down you will usually see an official go out of his way to not send off another player if possible but a rough tackle by Yordany Alvarez left the official little room and gave LA all the advantage they would need for the final 13 minutes of the match. If LA hadn't been able to score a couple goals with a fresh David Beckham and a two man advantage I would have really had to scratch my head but they did and it was little surprise given the last 20 minutes of the match.
So what can RSL fans take away from this loss? First we see as we did a bunch of times last year, that the premium of actually finishing your chances is the difference between getting results and losing matches. RSL could and should have had at least a one goal advantage in the first half, which likely changes how you play the second half. So the focus has to be on two things, finishing and decision making, both things that had a huge impact on the final score. I imagine both will be a focus of the practice sessions heading into RSL's next match, which will take place on Wednesday at 6pm MT when they will face the 2-0 New England Revolution.
OFF MY SOAPBOX