The morning will start off with many soccer fans in the US wondering what might have been, had the USMNT been able to beat Ghana, they would be facing Uruguay for a shot at the semi finals of the World Cup. That didn't happen, so soccer fans can wake up to watch the Netherlands vs Brazil and then enjoy a lunchtime match between Uruguay and Ghana, both should be entertaining matches. When that dust has settled, it will be time to start the holiday weekend here in Utah and there is no better way to do that then to watch a little live MLS action.
For Real Salt Lake they not only play in the high air of the the Wasatch's, but they are playing in the rare air of MLS, 8 matches unbeaten in league play (longest in RSL history), no goals allowed in 318 minutes (2nd longest in RSL history, 355 is the longest), and 17 regular season matches unbeaten at home (tied for 3rd longest in league history). Those are impressive numbers, for a team that just two years was struggling. During that stretch RSL has looked great, 1-0 over then unbeaten LA, and very mediocre 0-0 against both DC United and San Jose, now they get to face a team that has been on the ropes since week 3.
New England started impressive with a 2-1-0 in their first 3 weeks, but since then they are 1-7-2. If you want to know the issue you only have to look at their list of injuries: OUT: FW Zak Boggs (concussion); GK Preston Burpo (R leg fracture); FW Edgaras Jankauskas (L adductor strain); MF Steve Ralston (L elbow dislocation); MF Khano Smith (R ankle sprain); FW Taylor Twellman (concussion); QUESTIONABLE: DF Darrius Barnes (R ankle/foot sprain). Then take a look at the names in their starting lineup and tell me how many of them you recognize: Marko Perovic, Zack Schilawski, Joesph Niouky, Chris Tierney, Emmanual Osei, or Kevin Alston, well maybe these are names you have heard of: Kenny Mansally, Sainey Nyassi, or Cory Gibbs, but the only two names that many MLS fans will recognize on this lineup are Shalrie Joseph and Matt Reis. It is clear that New England has had a rough season and now they return to Rio Tinto Stadium, a place last year where they suffered a 6-0 defeat.
After the jump you will find the Key Matchups, Wildcards, and my prediction:
Javier Morales vs. Shalrie Joseph
Joseph started as one of the best defensive midfielders in MLS, but in recent years he has been forced to take a more offensive role as the team has needed him. His 8 goals and 8 assists were both career highs for Shalrie, this year he has missed a good number of matches for personal reasons, but in the 5 matches he has played in he has already gotten 3 assists.
Javi had his 2009 season end in the first half of the MLS Cup with an injury that would force him to undergo off season surgery. He started off the 2010 season with a huge match against San Jose getting two goals and assisting on another, earning him player of the week honors. Since then he has added two more goals and another 3 assists, he did miss a few matches with a minor injury but has been back to form for a number of weeks. It is clear that his performance has been down a bit since his midfield partner Kyle Beckerman went out with an injury.
This will be a clash of two players who are the onfield generals for their teams, and two players who are dangerous no matter where they may find themselves on the pitch.
Nick Rimando vs. Matt Reis
Reis is coming back from a surgery that kept him out of action until just last week, the 35 year old is in his 11th MLS season and has a total of 97 wins between regular and post season. Last year his 0.96 GAA was his best ever and he added 8 clean sheets. He simply has been one of the best keepers in the league for a number of years.
Nick will be fighting for his 100th career win, while trying to get his 6th clean sheet of the season. Oh yeah and if he can keep New England from scoring for 38 minutes he will help the team set their longest stretch without allowing a goal. Nick's GAA this year is just 0.85, only LA's Donovan Ricketts has a lower GAA (0.29) has been harder to score on than so far this year.
It should be interesting to see which keeper has to work harder, San Jose kept Nick jumping as he had to make a season high 8 saves, while Reis made 3 saves in his teams 1 -0 loss.
OK, there is no such player but could RSL see the return of Robbie Findley and/or Kyle Beckerman to the pitch for RSL? Robbie is trying to get over some jet lag after his World Cup run, while Kyle has been recovering from injury. I don't expect either of them to be in the starting lineup, but don't be surprised if at least one of them is on the bench and maybe getting some minutes later in the match. I am putting my money on that being Robbie Findley.
Who? The 5'10 rookie striker leads New England with 5 goals scored, 3 of those in the teams April 10th win over Toronto. No rookie has scored more goals than Zack, and he has the game winning goal in two of New England's three wins. He is a quick players who isn't afraid to attack defenders, but he has never faced anyone like Jamison Olave.
I hate having to do it, but as we have all seen MLS isn't alone when it comes to officials making bad or questionable calls. While I have been impressed with Stott's performance this season and the job he did in last years MLS Cup match, he still has a long way to go before many fans will trust him. Kevin has been in charge of 191 matches, he issues and average of 3.4 yellows per match, he has issued 52 red cards (1 every 3.7 matches) and 39 times he has pointed to the PK spot (1 every 4.9 matches). Here is hoping that this wildcard has no impact on the result of the match.
On paper this is a huge mis-match, but so was the DC United match and the San Jose match, RSL has only found the back of the net once in their last 3 matches and remain tied with the Galaxy on 22 goals scored. The Rev's have an overall -8 goal differential, having allowed 21 goals while scoring just 13 this season.
After coming out very flat last week, look for RSL to come out early and put incredible pressure on the Revolution defense which has given up multiple goals in 2 of their last 3 matches and in 6 of their 13 matches. Look for RSL to add to their 12 first half goals, that is the same number New England have allowed in the first half. In the end this one will see RSL find their scoring touch again and get a 3-0 win, allowing the team to set a new record for longest stretch without allowing a goal and Nick Rimando to get his 100th career win.
OFF MY SOAPBOX