Well I have to believe that you all are like me and ready fro Real Salt Lake to get back to action and finally be able to rid ourselves of that bitter taste left after the US Open Cup. For me it almost seems fitting that we are playing at the Home Depot Center on Saturday, that is where our season ended in 2011, where it started in 2012, and now where the 2012 season will restart after the break. Add into that the fact that we could get a bit of revenge for the 1-0 loss that Chivas USA handed earlier this year, it should make this match a very interesting one.
In that earlier match, it was a very defensive minded Chivas USA that showed up at Rio Tinto Stadium that evening and while they were able to poach a goal in the final 20 minutes of the match that allowed them to secure a 1-0 win, for RSL it was a rare loss at home and a loss in a match in which they were the more dominant team but unable to convert any of their 13 shots. It should be interesting to see how a Chivas team that has struggled to score goals in fact no team in the West has scored fewer goals than the 9 that Chivas have so far this year, but on the defensive side they are much more solid as they have allowed just 14 goals, the same total as RSL.
Chivas USA is 4-6-3 in their 13 matches played, but they are just 1-5-1 at home which is surprising as most MLS teams are better at home than they are on the road. RSL on the other hand are 9-3-2 overall and 3-2-2 on the road, the upside for RSL is that RSL have scored in 11 of the matches so far this season, and in 7 of them they have scored multiple goals, while Chivas USA have only scored multiple goals once this year. For Real Salt Lake the biggest difference may be some of the players who didn't play in the last match, There was no Nat Borchers, or Will Johnson, and Javier Morales and Alvaro Saborio only played 45 minutes, a look at Saturday's match after the jump.
After the jump the Key Match Up, Wildcard, and more:
Key Match Up:
The new faces of Chivas USA vs. RSL' s returning National Team players - Perhaps no team did more to help themselves out during the first portion of the season than did Chivas USA by picking up a veteran defender in Danny Califf, a potential offensive superstar in Juan Agudelo to go alongside their other young import Jose Correa. Those three added a quick spark, in fact in the last 5 matches the 3 have either played in or been available Chivas is 1-1-3, with Correa adding 2 goals and Agudelo adding one himself.
For Real Salt Lake the return of Nick Rimando, Kyle Beckerman, Will Johnson, and Alvaro Saborio should supply a real boost to the consistency of play and veteran leadership. No player was hotter with their national team than Sabo, who scored 4 goals in the 2 group stage matches played in the last week. Will Johnson played a huge role for Canada, who were able to pick up 4 points in their two matches. Nick and Kyle didn't see much of the pitch with the USMNT but by being available they added a good amount of depth to the roster of the US.
So it will be interesting to see who makes more of an impact on Saturday, the new faces who have had the weeks off to become more familiar with their new team and teammates, or the returning stars ready to step back into their roles and help their team hold on to first place in MLS? It should be interesting to see how it all plays out.
Javier Morales - It is hard to list Javier as a wildcard but the reality is that he is still battling to recover from a number of injuries. When Javi is on he is one of the best players in the league, and we have seen minutes of that each time he has stepped on the pitch this year. Still we know that Javi is still recovering from an injury but was able to play 45 minutes on Tuesday in the reserve league match, so if he starts or comes off the bench we know that he can add a special type of energy to his teammates, his return to the pitch with the first team is a very welcomed thing for RSL fans, and likely something Chivas USA won't want to see.
Ryan Smith - It was a bit surprising when late last year Chivas USA picked up the rights for Ryan Smith from Sporting KC, Smith had left Sporting early on in the 2011 season and returned to England, most expected his MLS career was over. So when he joined Chivas USA it was a bit of a surprise and while his impact hasn't been huge yet, with just 2 assists in his 6 starts and 634 overall minutes, but one only has to remember how he looked in 2010. When he came to KC in 2010 he made a quick impact with 3 goals and 7 assists in 26 matches. He has quality on the ball and a good bit of pace, he is a player who you always need to keep an eye on.
Yader Reyes - As we have seen this year the officials often play a role in the matches and while the controversial calls seem to have lessened over the recent MLS matches, you simply never know what you get from match to match. Yader Reyes will be heading up his 18th match in MLS, he averages 26.7 fouls per match and 3.8 yellow cards per match, what concerns me a bit is the 6 red cards (better than 1 per every 3 matches) he has issued. At least we can hope there won't be a PK call, as he has only pointed to the PK spot 3 times. Each match my hope is that we get a match called fairly and consistently for each team.
My RSL Starting XI:
With players still getting healthy and just getting back to the team, it is hard to predict what Jason will do but here is the lineup I would love to see:
Nick Rimando, Chris Wingert, Jamison Olave, Nat Borchers, Tony Beltran, Ned Grabavoy, Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales, Sebastian Velasquez, Fabian Espindola, and Alvaro Saborio
This would let get out to a fast start as well as to have some depth to come on in the second half and provide fresh legs and a bit of a different look, while adjusting to the match.
Well after having to see what could happen in that US Open Cup match, I have to believe that you will see a very motivated, very focused and aggressive RSL take the pitch. I fully expect them to push early and often against a side that will likely focus on trying to not give up anything early and hope to capitalize on any mistakes RSL might make. This means RSL has to get back to what they do best, fast, short, accurate passes, we know when RSL does that it leads to them controlling possession and the pace of matches and that should open up offensive chances. Let's look for 425-450 passes attempted, a completion rate of over 80%, that should lead to 58-60% of the posses and at least 14 shots with 6 on goal. Should RSL be able to do that a very in form Saborio and Espindola should be able to help RSL secure a 2-0 win over Chivas USA.
OFF MY SOAPBOX